Athletics are often an outlet in high school for students to fulfill competitive drive and achieve goals.
For others, the classroom provides the student an environment needed to thrive and distinguish themselves in their teen years. Achieving success in either can establish confidence and build foundations for a bright future.
For Axtell’s Justin Stranacher and University’s Allison Thomas, this year’s Super Centex Student-Athletes of the Year, excelling at both became a dream early in life and became a goal achieved this season.
In the third year as an annual award, Stranacher and Thomas become the first Longhorn and Lady Trojan to be honored.
Eligible nominees from area coaches were required to maintain a 90 GPA or better and letter in one or more varsity sports.
This year’s duo were valedictorians of their respective schools and lettered in multiple sports, with each holding team captain positions. They were accomplished in their school, respected in their communities, and valued as role models.
Stranacher was a District 12-1A Division I first-team quarterback for the Longhorns, added first-team honors as a guard on the hardwood and finished with equal accolades as a pitcher. He was also a hurdler.
Thomas was a three-year soccer starter, earning all-district and Super Centex honors as a junior and senior. She played softball and spent three years as a cheerleader for the Trojans, including team captain this year.
Both will attend Texas A&M in the fall, where Stranacher will put his math and science knowledge to use with plans to study petroleum engineering. Thomas will spend her time studying English with hopes of being a novelist one day.
Juggling the daily tasks of academics and athletics is never easy. Success in both takes commitment and dedication.
Stranacher’s home life demanded education as a priority, but it was a shared goal by the family.
“Both of my parents are educators now, so doing well in the classroom has always come first,” Stranacher said, “They have both always pushed me in everything I try for and eventually (being the top student) became another goal I wanted to achieve.”
The Longhorn-turned-Aggie was top of his class throughout high school, earning the No. 1 spot in his class this year with a 102.32 GPA.
His competitive drive to be on top drove him athletically, as well.
“One of the best thing you can have in a player is reliability,” Axtell football coach Mike Caddell said. “He’s the type of kid you love to coach because you never have to worry about him being there. Even with all the classroom work he had or activities he was involved in, It never crossed our mind with him.”
Completing homework or studying on bus rides and at track meets as well as staying up long hours to study showed dedication. Not just participating in, but being a leader in his school as student body president and vice president of the National Honor Society showed leadership. Countless volunteer hours with programs and kids in his community showed character.
“He’s not just a good athlete,” Caddell said. “He was a great athlete for us. He isn’t just a good person. He’s a great person. Doesn’t matter whether it’s school or whatever, he puts the time and effort in and always gets it done.”
For Thomas, a full academic scholarship to Texas A&M started with an academic goal she started as early as her playing days.
“I’ve been wanting this since first grade,” Thomas said about wanting to be the best student in her class. “I was always known as the smart kid when I was young. I played sports, too, but I liked being the smart kid.”
Thomas started her senior year on track to be the runner-up in class rank of nearly 300 students, but sitting in second served as another means of motivation.
“She has the drive to be No. 1 in everything she does on and off the field,” University soccer coach Mike Chapman said. “It’s not just talent. It’s more than that. It’s never ending effort in everything she does.”
Thomas tries to pass on her academic desires to the younger kids she mentors.
“I see every kid as an opportunity to help,” Thomas said. “So many kids in Waco schools don’t make it to graduation. Hopefully, they can see what I have done in school and want to do the same.”
Thomas gives credit to her family especially her mother, Davilynn Thomas, and aunt, Denise Castro, for helping her keep academics in the front of her mind and supporting her in everything she has done.
While the goal of being a novelist is still top on her list, Thomas sees a possible career as a teacher and wants to coach soccer, which she has played since she was four.
She said winning the Nancy A. Price Scholarship was one of her favorite academic achievements.
The scholarship in its first year is awarded to UHS seniors for demonstrating outstanding academic achievement, community awareness and leadership, and is named for the late teacher who Thomas said really impacted her life as well as many others.
Thomas also continues a string of academic excellence for University girls’ soccer, as she is the third straight school valedictorian from the program. Chapman said he was fortunate to have coached a player like Thomas.
“Not only does she have the talent,” he said. “It’s more than that. She has a positive attitude, she accepts discipline, gives effort and gives heart. But that’s just one side of her. She’s the type of person you want your daughter to be. She’s a good person and a good mentor. Everybody looked up to her and she never let them down.”
Super Centex Academic Team
Chase Hood, Bosqueville: State champion pole vaulter finished third in class with 101.3 GPA
Mason Culver, Bruceville-Eddy: Academic all-state linebacker was class valedictorian
Hunter Hancock, China Spring: All-district quarterback headed to Air Force; 3.868 GPA
Cody Beaird, La Vega: Football team captain was class valedictorian with 4.437 GPA; headed to Tulane University
Dustin George, Lorena: Elite Academic Football all-state team was third in class with 101.5 GPA
Aaron Wible, Midway: First-Team Super Centex soccer; completed more than 100 hours with the high school PALS program
Harrison Miner, Midway: First-team all-district and academic all-state football and baseball; 102.69 GPA
Carson Earp, Robinson: Super Centex member for football and basketball; Class salutatorian with 4.03 GPA
Jake Schwartz, Vanguard: TAPPS Academic All-State in four sports (Basketball, baseball, tennis and track)
Keimon McDowell, Waco: Versatile football player was a leader on and off the field for the Lions; academic all-state, eighth in class
Brittany Wright, Bosqueville: Valedictorian with 106.3 GPA; played five sports
Stormi Call, Bruceville-Eddy: Super Centex member for volleyball and basketball; Class salutatorian
Kyley McLean, Groesbeck: Cheerleader and member of the track team; 5.21 GPA
Briana Gongora, La Vega: Soccer team defensive MVP was class salutatorian
Alex Warren, Lorena: Three-year all-district soccer player added academic all-state in basketball as a senior; 99.82 GPA
Ashley Nutter, Mart: First-team all-district and all-state academic volleyball; Class valedictorian
Natalie Poynter, Midway: School record holder in 100 meters (11.51); won more than 100 medals in high school; 101.4 GPA
Katie Glomb, Reicher: District softball offensive MVP; First-team all-state and academic all-state; class salutatorian
Reece Timmons, Robinson: Four-year state pole vaulter also played volleyball; attending Texas Tech for track
Maria Aguilar, University: First Team all-district thrid baseman was a four-year starter; 100.2 GPA
Boys — Dallas Rushing, Axtell; Cade Bradberry, Michael Stevenson, Bosqueville; Mason George, China Spring; Colten Claxton, Crawford; Michael Adams, Evan Ruen, Groesbeck; Das’Jaevian Dixon, Patrick Koon; La Vega; Nathaniel Eberlein, Live Oak; Eric Valis, Drew Keeney, Lorena; Tyler Clay, Mart; Rowan Meyer, Andrew Wible, Jeremy Petersen, Nathan Blattman, Josh Blattman, Colton Nixon, Carlos Leal, Forrest Whiddon, Keith Efferson, Nason McKnight, Devin Mercer, Chrishard Buhl, Midway; Alex O’Neil, Reicher; Andrew Mora, Brady Baker, Riesel; Jonah Hope, Andy McNew, Robinson; Darryl Hoelscher, Rosebud-Lott; Dominic DeLeon, University; Arturo Quintero, Julio Loredo, Carlos Tito-Martinez, Caleb Moreno, Justin Rodriguez, Adrian Norwood, Andrew Billings, Ben Diaz, Stefan White, Jov-van-ta Mason, Josh Owens, Anthony Carvajal, Waco High;
Girls — Katherine Reynolds, Angelique Briggs, Axtell; Taylor Jobe, Lauren Kate Waller, Groesbeck; Ashley Cooper, Denise Anderson, Yesenia Hernandez; La Vega; Summer Dolezel, Rachel Nicoletti, Lorena; Naomi Norwid, Midway; Blair Beene, Katie Marroquin, Marisol Robertson, Casie Sykora, Sarah Beth Toben, Reicher; Nikki Bright, Cassy Thompson, Kamry Wyddermyre, Katie Yarbro, Katy Alexander, Robinson; Asia Villrreal, University; Katie Stovall, Vanguard; Krysten Shavers, Shamiya Blake, Armani Pittman, Waco High