There can be no doubt that the Valley athletic scene is producing a healthy supply of college-bound kids these days, and Edinburg is no exception to the progress.
Two weeks back, when North shortstop Claire Garcia signed an agreement to attend Howard College in West Texas, it marked another case where an outstanding local product is getting the chance to extend to the next level. Her counterpart at EHS, outfielder Leeanne Hinojosa, is going to Mary Hardin-Baylor in the fall, and Lady Coog catcher Victoria Cardenas is sure to catch on somewhere, after a super senior season in which she drove in 51 runs and hit five home runs.
Back at EHS, two stars off the team's Sweet 16 entry in basketball are headed to the university setting to compete. Aaron Olvera will hit the court for Lon Morris Junior College in Jacksonville, over in East Texas, while Steve Guerrero is bound for Schreiner in Kerrville.
The Bobcat family got together last week to celebrate the signing of "Blue Eyes" Guerrero, one of the most dominant athletes in its history. A super performer in both football and hoops, Guerrero got the chance to say thanks to coaches, family and friends as he prepares to play the two-guard at Schreiner. His basketball coach, Zeke Cuellar, mentioned something that has become a pleasant reality in 2010-11 for the Red and Blue.
"This has to be, once you add it up, one of the best sports years we have ever had at EHS," said the coach whose ball club set a program record for wins last fall and went to the Sweet 16.
Girls hoops coach Rachel Carmona was in attendance at Guerrero's signing, after her outstanding squad also reached the Sweet 16, for the second time in a row actually. The star of that group, Laura Torres, is said to be staying close to home as a preferred walk-on at The University of Texas-Pan American. North sent Brandi Garcia to Texas A&M-Kingsville last year, while in the recent past, EHS scored heavily with the Big Three of Marah Guzman, Liz Olvera, and Gina Ferrer.
Not to be outdone, Econ has provided the only brother-sister hoops team, Becky and Josh Diaz, to advance past high school to join the ranks of the best and brightest.
"Sometimes the great ones come in waves, you get a bunch of kids who really have what it takes to be highly successful," Cuellar said, in reference to the Fab Four of Olvera, Guerrero, Cord Arriola, and Phillip de la Rosa.
The North signing of Garcia continued a great tradition of Lady Coog softball excellence, as she follows a number of talented kids to the college ranks. Katy Ortiz, Lauren Garza, Tressler's daughter, Andrea, Ili Hinojosa, Alyssa Granado: the list goes on with Garcia joining the parade this year.
Softball has been a real city strength through the years with EHS coming on lately to produce some great ones, like Mariah Ozuna and Sarina Rios, both playing at the university setting. And just wait until the next few years, when the finest crop of kids in program annals comes of age, including Hinojosa's younger sister, Myranda, who will be a junior in 2012.
As far as football is concerned, the city has sent a bevy of kids to the college game in recent seasons, including Angel Millan and probably Nelson Hampton of Econ, Manny Menchaca of EHS, plus David Torres and Marco Adriana (track) of North. The 2009 star strong safety, Manny Garcia, will be strapping it on for Howard Payne, while Rudy Trevino of the 2011 group has been highly courted by some major universities already.
From the realm of baseball, the tally of college-bound kids in recent memory includes J.D. Escobar, Ricky Villarreal, Michael Barajas, Austin Casas, and a few others.
All told, Guerrero may be the most outstanding of the lot, in terms of character and contribution to the overall athletic effort. A born leader with a rare combination of charisma and humility, he was simply a magical presence on the field or court, the guy who always had the answer in the clutch, and the type who inspired and motivated everyone around him to elevate their game to unforeseen heights.
Few athletes in the history of the Valley have captivated an audience like he did for three seasons, and to a man, the folks who spoke on his behalf at the signing Friday intoned as to the special nature of the city's folk hero.