Local coaches, athletes discuss sudden end to seasons
BY MELISSA PERNER
THE OZONA STOCKMAN
Kaitlyn Tambunga was determined to win state in powerlifting.
The OHS Senior had broken regional records and set personal records at the regional meet in March.
On the softball field, she hit and first home run in front of her family and friends. Tambunga didn’t know that on that day in February, her first home run would be her last home run.
With the announcement on April 17 from Gov. Greg Abbott that all Texas schools are to remain closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year, the University Interscholastic League, state powerlifting associations and the Texas Math and Science Coaches Association announced the canceling of all remaining 2019-2020 spring activities and state championships. For Ozona athletes, especially the seniors, seasons got cut short.
“I’m upset, I’m sad and I’m heartbroken,” Tambunga said. “I’ve had one goal this season, and that was to win state my senior year. Although I was up against my biggest competitor, I was still determined to give it my all and leave it all at state. And then there is softball, a game that I fell in love with at the age of six. As a little girl, I couldn’t wait to play as an OHS Lady Lion. I stepped away from the plate for a year and when I came back, I came back determined to give it my all. And just like that everything I had been working for got taken away by COVID-19.”
Ozona was on track to have one of the best spring sports and academic seasons.
In powerlifting, seven Lady Lions and one Lion qualified for the state meet. The Lady Lions were in a position to win a team state championship, said Coach Paul Veirs.
“We won’t get that opportunity, and it is upsetting. Our four seniors would have all won medals and our three sophomores should have won medals. I am very proud of these ladies and all their hard work and who they have be-come as young ladies.”
In track, the team was two meets into the season when the state shut down due to the pandemic.
Coach Jeff Shelton said it is tough to speculate how the team could have been, but that he felt the Lady Lions had a chance at pushing Christoval for the team championship at the district meet.
Senior Kenzee Talamantez had been running well in the 800-meters and 1600-meters.
“I had goals of making it to the state track meet this year, as well as having personal records. As I did not get to accomplish my goals this track season, I look forward, with my head held high,” Talamantez said.
Talamantez said she plans on continuing her running career in college.
“As the track season was cut short, I am thankful for the opportunity to run at the next level. This makes me eager to start my new journey in cross country and track in college. I would like to thank the community for the endless support throughout my years at Ozona High School,” Talamantez said.
Natalie Rodriguez won the Ozona meet in the 100. Gina Garcia, Shelbie Galindo, Makennah Villarreal, Roslynn Mendez, Tambunga, Esperanza Castillo, Ysabella Flores, Mysti Mata and Krysten Webb all had chances to advance past district, Shelton said.
“It’s been tough not being around the girls every day, helping them grow, watching them improve, building those relationships and living what we knew as being a normal life – selfishly I miss the kids,” Shelton said.
For the Lions, Manuel Torralba was off to a great start winning both meets in the 800 and 1600. Humberto Torralba was second in the 1600 both meets and second in the 3200 at Junction. The goal was to get both Torralba brothers to the state meet this year. Manuel finished fifth last year at Austin in the 800.
“As hard as they work onthe track and in the weight room, as coachable as they’ve been since we’ve been here, it’s heart breaking for them to not get the opportunity,” Shelton said. “Obviously it’s disappointing, especially for our seniors, to not have the opportunity to complete their last season. I think that this lost season is a lesson that tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone, there may not be a ‘next year.’ Hopefully, when we are able to return to school, athletics and other extracurricular activities, we all appreciate the opportunity that we have every day to work and compete.”
On the baseball field, Coach Luke Wyatt was aiming for a long run in the playoffs. The team finished the sea-son 7-2 and ranked 24th in the state by Texas High School Baseball. This year’s seniors endwith 57 wins in the last four years and three playoff appearances, two area finalists and one regional quarterfinalist.
“I am disappointed that we were unable to finish this season this group was very capable of being one of the best baseball teams that Ozona has ever had,” Wyatt said.
In softball, the Lady Lions ended the season 4-6-1. Along with Tambunga, other seniors on the team are Alyiah Ortiz and Esmie Castillo.
“I cannot express how proud we are of this team. We played through a tough pre-district schedule and no doubt would have been in position to defend our district title and make a run in the playoffs,” said Coach Joe Moore.
For OHS Golf, Ozona had a shot to have both the girls and both teams advance past district.
“It’s disheartening considering how hard these athletes have worked, especially our seniors. Both teams had played and placed very well at the tournaments attended,” said Coach Lee Abbey.
In tennis, the Lions and Lady Lions competed well at Fort Stockton and Reagan County tournaments.
“We would like to thank our seniors Citlalli Cano and Joseph Vitela for their outstanding leadership, they will be greatly missed on the courts next season,” said Coach Daniel Cruz.
Along with athletics, Ozona students had also excelled in academics.
Seniors Rebecca Flores and Wendy Mata, along with Amber Moran and Michael Esparza were headed to the State UIL CX Debate Meet the week after spring break.
“I am beyond disappointed that these students who put in hours and hours of work to their debate season did not have an opportunity to compete at the highest level,” said Debate Coach Lisa Herring.
In academic events, the Torralba brothers, Cano and Melvyn Mejia were aiming for another state championship in computer science.
The Torralbas have been part of teams that won it the past three years with Manuel also having won as an individual the past three years.
Mata, Holly Munsell and Braeden Gutierrez had advanced in academics in years past, and were aiming to do so again.
The team was also aiming for another district championship.
The OHS One-Act Play had also been rehearsing, using the old Brown Furniture Building for rehearsal space, and were aiming to compete at district in March. This year’s play was “Taking Leave” by Nagel Jackson.
“I wish this season had turned out differently, but I am beyond proud of the competitive spirit and hard work these young people put in to this season,” Herring said.
At Ozona Middle School, 15 students were suppose to compete at the Texas Math and Science Coaches Association State Meet this month. The association tried to come up with a way to do online competition, but in the end had to cancel.
“It’s disappointing that we did not get to attend the state meet, but I am proud of all the students for all their hard work this year,” said Coach Deborah Ramon.
FFA’s season was cut short with the cancellation of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. All future FFA competitions were also cancelled.
“These are very interesting times, and we can only hope for a strong return and successful year next year," said FFA Coach Dustin Martin.
For the seniors, there is no next year.
“I never would’ve imagined senior year ending this way. Without my classmates, hugs and high fives from our teachers and staff. Without enjoying all our senior lasts (prom, meets, games, all night party and all the fun stuff seniors do) and a big we did it throwing our caps in the air together graduation night,” Tambunga said. “I hope that everyone stays safe and healthy through this pandemic. If I learned anything through this all is that you never know what tomorrow may bring so enjoy and live every single moment as if it were your last.”