The quality of athletes in the Rio Grande Valley was not bound by what class the athletes’ school was competing in. From the smallest to the largest classifications, RGV athletes found success — and plenty of it.
Below are the finalists for Sub-6A Male and Female Athletes of the Year. Winners will be announced June 13 at the All Valley Sports Awards Banquet, co-presented by DHR Health and Lone Star National Bank. Finalists are listed in alphabetical order.
SUB-6A FEMALE ATHLETE OF YEAR
Barbie Gutierrez, Hidalgo, Senior: Even in a lower classification, at 4A Hidalgo, Gutierrez earned recognition from all over the Valley for her dominance in two sports. Her “primary” sport was basketball but Guiterrez found a way to help the Pirates to a memorable, turnaround volleyball campaign. In volleyball, she took the lead on a junior-heavy club to go on a six-game win streak to start district. On the same hardwood, but for basketball, she was back to her usual self. She was named the Monitor Defensive Player of the Year. She had 11.1 rebounds, 5.3 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. Her all-around play, including 17.7 points per game, helped her win unanimous 32-4A most valuable player honors.
Jackie Howell, Mission Veterans, Senior: Mission Veterans senior Jackie Howell nearly averaged a double-double in basketball with 12.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.2 steals per game in her final season. The undersized post led the Lady Patriots to the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in District 31-5A and earned All-Valley Second Team Honors for her play on the court. The Mission Veterans Patriots volleyball team enjoyed four straight undefeated district championship seasons during Howell’s time in high school. On attack as a senior, she recorded 728 kills to eclipse 1,000 in her career. Her hitting percentage was at a staggering .499.
Mika Vento, Mercedes, Junior: Vento found the time to not only to compete in multiple sports and extracurricular activities, but to excel. As an individual, Vento won the 100-meter hurdles at the 32-5A district meet. As a teammate, she led the Tigers to the postseason on both the volleyball court and basketball court. As a hooper on the Tigers way to the district championship, she tallied 9.5 points game, 9.4 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 3.7 blocks per game. Vento starred on the softball diamond as well with a 9-2 record on the mound with a 0.746 ERA. At the plate, she hit .338 with 26 RBIs. In volleyball she had 192 kills, 82 blocks and a .655 kill percentage. Oh yeah and she cheers during the football season and raises livestock with FFA.
SUB 6A MALE ATHLETE OF YEAR
Landry Gilpin, Mission Veterans, Senior: Landry’s senior season was almost magical, except for the fact that it was really happening. His efforts were noticed not just in the RGV but by the state media as well. During the Patriots playoff run, he was compared to No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in a FoxSports Southwest segment on the dual-threat quarterback. He was awarded the 2018 Mr. Texas Football Player of the Year. Gilpin threw for 4,544 yards and 50 touchdowns while also rushing for 2,112 yards and 32 touchdowns. He was also named the Associated Press Sports Editors Class 5A Offensive player of the Year and was named to the Class 5A all-state football team.
Cruz Gomez, PSJA Memorial, Senior: Gomez has dazzled with his times in some of track and fields most demanding events, the distance races. He’s qualified for state in cross country and track each of his four seasons. In 2019, his first year running in Class 5A, he finished four at state cross country and earned double-gold in the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs at regionals. He then picked up gold in the 3,200 at state and took fifth place in the 1,600. He had the fastest 3,200 time in the Valley by nearly 15 seconds.
Tige Johnson, San Perlita, Junior: Although just a junior, Johnson took over the basketball world with a 28-point per game outburst along with 14.5 rebounds per game, 2.0 steals and 6.0 blocks per game. Along with being named all-district MVP, all-region team and named the RGVBCA MVP, Johnson also qualified to the Region IV-2A meet in the high jump, triple jump and long jump.
The banquet, hosted by RGVSports.com and AIM Media Texas in conjunction with the RGV Sports Hall of Fame, will see 33 awards presented to athletes, coaches and teams across all 12 UIL sports. The prestigious Tom Landry Award of Excellence will honor a student athlete for outstanding achievements.
Dallas Cowboys great Randy White, a Super Bowl MVP and NFL Hall of Famer, will be the guest speaker.
The banquet, which will run approximately 6 to 8 p.m., returns to Mario’s for a second consecutive year. The venue has a seating capacity of more than 500 people.
Tickets are on sale for $40 per person. For sponsorship opportunities, call Marcia Kitten at (956) 683-4463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.