VAN WADE — Great student-athletes move on; new kiddos already getting to work

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

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It’s always nice to put a bow on another excellent school year, as so many athletes shined across Orange County during the 2021-22 campaign.

That is always the case for me when I have the opportunity to formulate the Orange Leader Athletes of the Year.

The two standouts who captured the honors this year are so well-deserving.

Bridge City’s Caryss Carpenter, our Female Athlete of the Year, was a treat to watch over the last four years on the volleyball courts and, especially, on the track.

Watching her leap her way to State in the high jump and 100-meter hurdles was awesome to see, because I know how much work she put forth.

She always has that gleaming smile of determination in everything she tried to accomplish. She even had that big smile on her face when she was digging up volleyballs and getting knee-burns while helping the Lady Cardinals to an undefeated district season in volleyball.

Little Cypress-Mauriceville’s Ashton Landry, our Male Athlete of the Year, electrified so many with his exploits as the Battlin’ Bears quarterback during his senior year.

No one expected Landry and the Bears to bolt to the fourth round of the postseason and go 11-3. After all, the boys in green and gold were just 1-7 in 2020.

Well, Landry juked, sprinted and passed his way to almost 3,000 total yards, and his hands were involved in 30 of the Bears’ touchdowns.

Not bad at all for a kid that wasn’t sure how much he could give after having an irregular heart condition in the spring of 2021. He came back real quick, and guess what, so did the Bears.

It’s intriguing to see how well our athletes do throughout the years.

I saw Caryss and Ashton at much younger ages. Did I think then that they would become future Athletes of the Year when they were in elementary school or junior high?

Not even close, and I’ve never predicted any kid to do that at such a young age.

To be really good though, kiddos should start learning the games at a young age.

That’s why many of the camps put on by our local schools in the summer are so beneficial.

Bridge City coach Jamie DeShazo instructs little campers at the Bridge City Lady Cardinal Volleyball Camp. (Van Wade/Orange Leader)

I’ve dropped by just about every Orangefield Bobcats Basketball Camp over the years, where they do such a good job. However, last week set a new bar. There were close to 100 little campers soaking everything in from the coaches. Usually 50 or 60 kids equals a strong camp, but 100, that’s incredible.

I know I saw a slew of future Bobcats varsity players ready to make their marks six or seven years down the road.

It has to be kind of bittersweet for the Bridge City Lady Cardinals softball players, yet they should be happy at the same time.

The Liberty Lady Panthers stormed to their second straight Class 4A State Softball title Saturday with a 5-0 shutout of Sweeny. Liberty downed Iowa Park 5-3 in the semifinals on Thursday.

Of course, it was the Lady Cardinals who were just two outs away from eliminating Liberty in the Region III Semifinals. Bridge City and Liberty return most of their key players. I see a rematch coming.

In baseball, ditto for the Orangefield Bobcats. Orangefield fell to the China Spring Cougars in two games in the 4A Region III Semifinals a couple weeks ago. China Spring is heading to the State Tournament this week after downing Carthage 3-2 and 3-2 in the Regional Finals.

If I were a Bobcats fan, I would be rooting for the Cougars. China Spring is going to need a lot of support, especially if they want to get past state juggernaut Argyle in the State Semifinals.

Van Wade is the Orange Leader sports editor. He can be reached at