By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
Port Isabel High graduating senior Daniella Murchison won big at the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame Awards ceremonies last night in Harlingen. She took home the Sub-Class 6A Girls Athlete of the Year award for the third time in a row.
She won the Class 4A state title in the shot put at the UIL State High School Track and Field Meet in Austin last month. In doing so, she became the first Valley athlete, male or female, to ever win three consecutive gold medals at the state meet. Murchison is also the first Valley athlete to win three straight Athlete of the Year awards. RGVSports.com and the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame came together to present 13 different awards to Rio Grande Valley high school athletes, as well as their coaches and programs. This is the eighth year in a row that RGV Sports and the Hall of Fame have combined to recognize these athletes, their coaches and schools. For the third year in a row, the ceremony was held at Yeckel Memorial Auditorium on the campus of the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen.
“I’m just really honored to win this award,” Murchison told the PRESS afterwards. “It means a lot to me knowing that not only Port Isabel, but the whole Valley is supporting me. It feels really great,” she said.
“I think it’s amazing,” Port Isabel High girls track and field head coach Julie Breedlove said after the ceremony. “She’s had a good run the last four years. I think they made a good choice. All the nominees tonight were very deserving and hardworking boys and girls.”
“Anybody who wins state three years in a row ought to get some recognition,” Port Isabel head football coach and athletic director Monty Stumbaugh said. “And what a nice way for her to go out. I’m extremely happy for her. What can you say … nobody in the Valley’s ever done it. It couldn’t go to a more deserving person. We’re just thankful we were able to be a small part of her life.”
Murchison qualified as a thrower for the state meet all four years of her high school career. She made it in the discus event as a freshman and competed at state in both events the last three years. She was the bronze medalist in the discus last year and was 6th this year. Her winning state meet toss in the shot put last month was 44 feet 1 inch.
Earlier this season, at the Meet of Champions in Weslaco, Murchison set the Valley girls record for the shot put with a distance of 46 feet and 6.5 inches.
“It’s hard to find words,” Ivy Murchison, Daniella’s mom, said as we left the auditorium. “All the hard work she’s put in the last six years – she’s always wanted to be known as a great athlete.”
Her high school career may be over but Murchison will take her athletic endeavors to the college level this fall. She will be attending SMU in Dallas on a full scholarship. She plans to add the hammer throw to her repertoire, and will compete this summer in at least one meet in that event.
One of the best thank you speeches by an award winner, respectively, was given by Elias Martinez, who won Girls’ Coach of the Year for leading the San Benito softball team to the state tournament for the second time in three years. He made sure to thank his wife for all her support and was effusive in his praises of her afterwards.
“She’s my pride and joy,” Martinez told the Press. “She’s my backbone and when we go home she gets to hear everything – win, lose, or draw, and she never complains!”
The Lady Greyhounds finished the year with a 30-4 record and they are the only Valley softball team thus far to qualify for state competition.
The Class 6A Girls’ Team of the Year Award went to the San Benito softball team, and Lady Greyhound pitcher Crystal Castillo was named the 6A Girls Athlete of the Year. She won 26 games for the Lady ‘Hounds this year against only three losses. She struck out over 300 opposing batters and had an ERA of a little over 1.00.
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