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Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Recognize Greater Houston

Baseball - Bellaire

For Bellaire baseball coach Rocky Manuel, it's all about enjoying the journey. The 19th-year head coach has led the Cardinals to 15 district titles and a pair of state crowns in his tenure, but he's never talked to his team about aiming for those lofty achievements. The most important thing for Manuel is that his team works hard, has fun and gets better each day. "If you're looking ahead, you're not enjoying the present," Manuel says. "Winning championships is nice, but it's the little things along the way that stick with you."Bellaire's 2009 squad has the potential to make a boatload of fantastic memories. The team boasts a trio of ace pitchers, led by senior Rice signee Tyler Duffey. Following Duffey in the rotation will be senior Kyle Chaskin and sophomore Toller Boardman, who threw a no-hitter in his first career start as a freshman last spring. Senior Jarrett Higgins is next in a series of tremendous center fielders to come through Bellaire, most notably rising MLB star Chris Young of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Higgins will hit leadoff this year and is a threat to steal every time he gets on board. Senior Trace Knoblauch is a power-hitting first baseman who has committed to Cornell, while senior shortstop Alex Silver and senior second baseman Andrew Burns are solid up the middle. Junior Sean Washington and senior Chris Minifee will patrol the corner outfield spots for the Cardinals.

Softball - Alvin

Considering the Yellowjackets didn't clinch their postseason berth last spring until the final game of the regular season, it would have been safe to assume they would be making a quick postseason exit. Of course, that prediction would have turned out to be incorrect. Alvin stormed through the Region III-5A bracket and then won the Class 5A title with a pair of shutouts in the state tournament. Seniors Kelsi Kettler, a catcher, and Jessica Savage, a second baseman, return to lead the title defense.

Girls' Track St. Mary's

Legendary coach Allen Baker may have retired after the 2008 season, but the Bearkats should remain one of the state's top programs thanks to the hiring of John Lawhon. Lawhon guided Dallas-area school Coppell to four state tournaments and one state title, and Klein hasn't missed a beat under his leadership. Of course, it helps to have talented players leading the way like ESPN RISE All-Area picks Josh Roman and Jeremy Dillman, a duo that combined for 24 goals last year.

Girls' Track - Houston Episcopal

The Knights put on an absolute clinic at last spring's SPC Championship, racking up 186 points to dwarf St. John's second-place total of 117. Candace Springer and Taylor Buckner led the way with three golds a piece. Springer, now a senior, claimed titles in the 100 and 200 and anchored the 4x100 relay team to victory. Buckner, now a junior, was a member of the first-place finishing 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams and also nabbed the individual crown in the 400.


ESPN RISE All-Area picks Dijon Johnson and Emerson Sanders are state title contenders.

Junior OF Brandi Virgil, a Michigan commit, is one of the nation's top talents from the Class of 2010.

One of the state's top playmakers, senior attackman Mark Allison makes the Crusaders a dangerous team.

All-Americans Natalie Loutchaninoff and Whitney Nelson return with state title aspirations.