The 29th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year, aired on Saturday.
It's the sports equivalent to the Oscars or Grammys, so Star Local Media has decided in recent years to put a high school spin on the concept.
The 2020-21 school year won’t be soon forgotten by the athletes, coaches and fans involved, as high schools adapted to the change brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and managed to play out a full year of high school sports.
During that time, Flower Mound showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it’s only appropriate to put the last year of local sports into an award-winning perspective. In the coming weeks, the city’s top athletes, teams and games will be recognized among nine different awards.
With that said, Star Local Media presents the ninth edition of The Varsitys.
Flower Mound vs. Allen softball, May 15
The regional quarterfinal series between the Lady Jaguars and Lady Eagles was a showcase all the way through — starting with a game that required two days to complete and ending with an extra-inning thriller defined by stout defense and timely hitting.
The nod goes to Game 3 of that third-round series, a contest won by Flower Mound in eight innings 3-1. The Lady Jaguars nearly doubled up Allen in the hit column, 11-6, but struggled to translate that offense into runs opposite Lady Eagle ace Alexis Telford.
But for all the work Allen’s defense did keeping the Lady Jaguars within arm’s reach, it was the bat of Flower Mound rising senior McKenna Andrews that turned the tide in the top of the eighth inning. Andrews led off the frame with a triple and scored moments later on a grounder by alum Jordyn Holland for a 2-1 lead. Rising senior Carsyn Lee, who was sidelined all week with a double ear infection and didn’t play in either of the first two games of the series, then came through as a pinch-hitter with an RBI single to up the count to 3-1.
That was enough breathing room for the tandem of Landrie Harris and Abigail Jennings, who teamed up to retire the Lady Eagles in order in the bottom of the eighth inning to send Flower Mound to the regional semifinals.
Emma Hoang, Flower Mound track and girls soccer
Just a freshman, Hoang didn’t have much time for rest during the spring.
The multi-sport star carved out significant minutes during the Lady Jaguar soccer team’s run to a Class 6A state championship. That included an assist on the go-ahead goal in Flower Mound’s third-round upset of No. 1-ranked, undefeated Prosper in the regional quarterfinals.
When not plying her craft on the pitch, Hoang put her speed to use as a Swiss army knife for Flower Mound’s track and field team. Contributing to the program’s first-ever district championship for its girls team, Hoang competed in seven different events as a freshman, including two at the Class 6A state meet.
The underclassman ran legs on the Lady Jaguars’ 4x200- and 4x400-meter relays, which respectively placed ninth and seventh at state.
High school sports return during COVID-19 pandemic
To what extent there would even be a high school athletics year was in question during the summer of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down springtime sports around the state in March 2020 and put local high school programs in limbo as to what would lie ahead.
A light at the end of the tunnel appeared in June when schools were given the go-ahead to conduct limited summer workouts with an added emphasis on hygiene and social distancing.
The next dominoes fell in mid-July when the UIL staggered the start of the athletics year for the state’s smallest and largest classifications — delaying the start of sports like football and volleyball until September for 5A and 6A schools.
As areas like Celina took to the playing field on schedule in August, it required adapting to myriad protocols — limitations on attendance, socially distanced crowds and sideline benches, plus athletes competing while masked.
It was the “new normal” of trying to afford student-athletes an opportunity to ply their crafts during a pandemic, and although it meant braving plenty of change, it was a welcome sight for the athletes, coaches and fans alike.
By the end of the school year, the UIL completed its entire athletics calendar and crowned state champions in every classification.