Throughout the summer, the Plano Star Courier sports staff will be taking a look at a trio of departing athletes from the three senior high schools in Plano ISD, along with three impactful returners that could be the next to take up the mantle.
Instead of one-to-one replacements, the series will look at three of the biggest names across all sports and what they meant to their schools as a whole, with the upcoming class centered around three athletes that may be poised to assume those leadership roles.
Next up is a look at Plano Senior, where there was plenty of success to be found for the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats.
The departures: Kyron Cumby, Ashlyn Hillyard and Czoey White
All three of these athletes had indelible impacts on their respective programs and, fittingly enough, will ply their craft at the college level pretty soon.
Cumby orchestrated one of the great careers of any Wildcat running back, totaling 4,550 yards and 56 touchdowns in just a shade over three seasons on varsity. With 3,429 of those yards tallied out of the backfield as a rusher, Cumby’s 8.6 yards-per-carry career average is 2.5 higher than Rex Burkhead – the gold standard for Plano running backs.
Also a star performer for the Wildcats’ track and field team, qualifying for state in the 100-meter dash as a junior, Cumby’s versatility on the football field won’t be easy to replace.
Ditto for what White brought to the fold for Plano’s softball team. Although the 2019 season foisted new roles and responsibilities on several Lady Wildcats, White seamlessly handled her move to the three-hole – leading her club in batting average (.412), hits (42), doubles (10), home runs (three), RBIs (28), all while posting an airtight fielding percentage of .989 behind the plate.
Plano doesn’t lose much in volume from its 2019 campaign, graduating only two players, but White’s impact on and off the field looms large heading into next year.
Hillyard, meanwhile, exits high school as one of Plano ISD’s most accomplished distance runners, capturing both a state championship in cross country and a bronze medal in the 3,200-meter run at state track in 2018. The Colorado State signee also has two school records to her name, setting program-best marks in both cross country (16:38.30) and the 3,200 (10:28.35).
Next up: Jack Bender, Jordyn Merritt and Alex Sanchez
These three Wildcats all earned district superlatives during their respective junior campaigns and are primed to spearhead their respective programs in 2019-20.
Bender was among the breakout stars in District 9-6A boys soccer last season, scoring 10 goals and assisting on three more en route to Newcomer of the Year honors for a Wildcat squad that fell one spot shy of a playoff spot. Part of that stemmed from a late-season injury suffered by Bender, with Plano operating without its lead goal-scorer for its final two matches of the year, and a clean bill of health for the forward should only buoy the Wildcats’ postseason prospects in 2020.
Merritt, meanwhile, has a chance to cement her status among the top girls basketball players to ever pass through Plano ISD. Already with more than 1,500 points scored in three years on varsity, coupled with 9-6A Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior, Merritt enters her senior campaign on the radar as not just the top player in her district but a surefire McDonald’s All-American candidate.
Lastly, Sanchez could find his way into the medal mix for his senior year in the pool after placing fifth overall in both the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke at the state meet last season. That kind of versatility pays dividends in relay races as well, with Sanchez being the Wildcats’ ultimate Swiss army knife for the 2019-20 season.