CENTX PLAYERS1

Waco High’s Andrew Billings set a state record in powerlifting, while La Vega’s Chelsi Gill brought home several track medals.

Staff Photo— Jerry Larson

No two attributes in sports are more talked about than speed and power.

And no two senior athletes in all of Central Texas exemplified those better than La Vega’s Chelsi Gill and Waco High’s Andrew Billings.

So it’s no wonder they earned the nod as 2013’s Super Centex Athletes of the Year.

After all, their accomplishments weren’t only the best amongst their senior brethren in the area, they were historic on the state level.

Gill anchored the Lady Pirates to a pair of gold medals and a silver at the state track meet, as their 4x400-meter relay broke the 2007 La Vega team’s state mark to close her high school career.

Billings proved to be the strongest powerlifter ever to come through the state of Texas when he put up 805 pounds in the squat, 500 on the bench and 705 on the dead lift to record a record total of 2,010 pounds.

“It was crazy,” Billings said of the moment when he finished his last lift. “Everybody went off, and I went off, too. It was the last lift of the day, so everybody was coming up to me. It was just a great moment.”

Of course, it takes a little more than superior exploits in one sport to be named the athlete of the year, and both Gill and Billings were able to show they had more than just straight-line speed and sheer strength.

Gill was a key component

in a historic season for the La Vega volleyball team, as it reached the playoffs for the first time since 1995. But the Lady Pirates weren’t content just getting in, and rolled to the regional quarterfinals.

Gill’s versatility and leaping ability made her a valuable performer at every position. She averaged 10.1 kills, 15.2 assists and 12.3 digs and earned the Super Centex Volleyball Player of the Year award.

“She helped us a lot,” said La Vega volleyball and track coach, along with Chelsi’s mother, Suzette Gill. “We just really moved her around until we found that fit, what worked for us and how we could win games. It happened late in district play, but once we found it, it worked well.”

Billings’ strength is tailor-made for the football field, and he added plenty of quickness to be a dominant performer.

On the offensive line, Billings was a two-time all-state and Super Centex honoree and pancaked 132 foes. But it’s his work as a defensive lineman that caught the eye of college recruiters, and he was listed as a four-star prospect before signing with the hometown Baylor Bears.

He’s already enrolled in school and could help the team’s defense as early as this season.

“I’m real excited for this,” Billings said. “I came here ready to play and now my family gets to come watch me easier. I’m still in my hometown so people recognize me. I’m doing a little more here than I could do anywhere else.”

With Billings anchoring both lines, the Lions went 9-4 and made a three-round-deep run in the playoffs. He enjoyed the success on the gridiron, but his dreams of records were in the weight room.

Billings had the state record as his target from as early as his freshman year.

“In the summer after my eighth grade year, we came in and maxed,” Billings said. “I did pretty good, so I liked it.”

Still, he needed to hit all of his lifts to set the mark, and he tried to relax himself during the meet and convince himself there wasn’t that much weight on the bar.

“Every weight I did in the powerlifting meet, I’d already done at school,” Billings said. “So I knew I could do it.”

Incredibly, Billings is the first Lion athlete to earn the Super Centex Athlete of the Year honors. He had a stout field of competitors, including Midway’s dynamic football and baseball player Kramer Robertson, McGregor’s Marcus Irons, who starred in football and basketball, and Axtell’s Dallas Rushing, who claimed gold medals in cross country and both long-distance runs at the state meet.

“Everybody knows what Andrew does on the field, all the colleges have seen, our fans have seen and the people in the Waco area know how good of a player he is,” Waco High football coach Marty Herbst said. “What people don’t see is the kind of person he is off the field, too. He’s very active in the community. He does a lot of volunteer work, especially in the summertime with all the youth camps. He’s a great student, and those kind of guys don’t come around but maybe one or two in a coaching career. So he will be dearly missed. I’m anxious to see him play again locally at the college level, and know that with his work ethic and determination even see him playing on Sunday one day.”

Chasing Kennedale

As Chelsi Gill waited to get the baton in the 4x200 relay at the state meet, her anger continued to build.

All she could hear was the public address announcer telling the crowd Kennedale was in the lead over and over again.

“They were saying, Kennedale, Kennedale, Kennedale is doing this. Kennedale is doing that,” Chelsi Gill said. “I just wanted to beat them because they beat us in the 4x100. And we did.”

Kennedale had run the best time in the event all season, but they weren’t ready for a determined Chelsi Gill, and she took the baton from her younger sister, Kobi, about even with Kennedale’s Chianne Lowe, but Gill outsprinted her to the finish line.

“It felt great,” Chelsi Gill said. “We were going to the awards stand, and I could hear (Lowe) saying, ‘I’m so sorry, guys.’ ”

But the best was yet to come.

A 4x400 relay team that was eerily reminiscent of the 2007 La Vega record-holders lined up and took that mark. Kobi Gill exemplified the confidence this year’s team took to the track, when she told some members of the 2007 team in attendance that their record was about to go down.

The Lady Pirates delivered on that promise, as Kobi again handed off to Chelsi and watched her sister take the team home to victory. The time was 3 minutes, 49.75 seconds, besting the 2007 team’s mark of 3.50.02 and beating Lubbock Estacado, its closest competition, by two and a half seconds.

“I had sisters on that team (Amber and Ashley White), I had sisters on this team,” Suzette Gill said. “Brianna Sanders was our leadoff leg, and her sister (LaCandice Sanders) was the leadoff leg in 2007. Then I had one other kid on this team that was exceptional (De’Aijha Hicks-Boyce), and it just worked out this year.”

Chelsi Gill will go on to compete on the track team at Stephen F. Austin, and she’s the third Lady Pirate to claim the Super Centex Athlete of the Year award. Stacey Bowers was the last in 1995, and Katrina Price and Amanda Mooney of Midway shared it the year before.

Chelsi Gill held off the likes of Mexia’s Brechelle Beachum, the top performer on its state championship-winning basketball team, and Lorena’s Miranda Prado, the state cross-country champion who grabbed a pair of silver medals at the state meet, for the honor.

“She was phenomenal,” Suzette Gill said. “She’s just such a hard worker, and she gave me everything she could. She did what she had to do for her team, and Chelsi likes to win. She’s upset when she doesn’t win, and she has great leadership. She had to get on her teammates sometimes, but she’s just awesome.”

Past Super Centex Athletes of the Year

11-12: Jake Blenden, Crawford; Paula Smith, Connally

10-11: Heath Harris, West; Robin Wimberly, Whitney

09-10: Trae Davis, Mexia; Makenzie Robertson, Midway

08-09: Danzel Wilson, La Vega; Ashley James, Robinson

07-08: Dustin Eskew, China Spring; Karlyn Meyers, China Spring

06-07: Randy Kitchens, Robinson; Raygan Feight, Bosqueville

05-06: Perrish Cox, University; Haylee Abbe, Robinson

04-05: Lee Murphy, Crawford; Hali Henderson, Clifton

03-04: Ramonce Taylor, Belton; Abbey Grubb, TCA

02-03: Matt Brown, McGregor; Terra Wagner, Franklin

01-02: Shawn Bell, China Spring; Bridgette Brackens, Connally

00-01: Quan Cosby, Mart; Tiffany Perkins, Groesbeck

99-00: John Garrett, Mart; Kristen Zaleski, Temple

98-99: John Glud, Robinson; Brooke Polansky, West

97-98: Brandon Johnson, Midway; Kara McCrory, Groesbeck

96-97: Derek Michaelis, Midway; Rashunda Johnson, Midway

95-96: Rocky Galindo, Hamilton; Chimika Carter, Groesbeck

94-95: P.J. Williams, Rockdale; Stacey Bowers, La Vega

93-94: Rodney Smith, University; Katrina Price, La Vega; Amanda Mooney, Midway

92-93: Tony Brackens, Fairfield; Pam Burns, Groesbeck

91-92: Lenoy Jones, Groesbeck; Kristen Armour, Robinson

90-91: Toby Rumfield, Belton; Tammy Wilkerson, Temple; Kelley Whitehead, West

89-90: Andre Dulin, McGregor; Pam Jones, Marlin

88-89: Maureia Crain, University; Kelly Lloyd, China Spring

87-88: Derek Clark, Lorena; Lori Gibson, Valley Mills

86-87: Brian Hand, Axtell; Peggy Allen, Mart

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