It was a tough year to be an Ellison Eagle.
Beginning with only its second winless season on the gridiron in Ellison's 34 year-history, Eagles athletics struggled with only boys and girls basketball and boys cross country even reaching the postseason.
But, despite all that, Ellison managed to end the year in championship style when senior distance runner Hector Hernandez won the Class 5A state championship in the boys 800-meter run at the UIL State Track and Field meet.
Continuing its running success, the Eagles cross country team claimed its second District 12-5A title in three years, taking thee of the top four spots at the district meet.
The year wasn't without its smaller victories as both boys and girls basketball teams extended playoff streaks. The big one was the Eagles advancing to an 18th consecutive playoff appearance by the skin of their teeth, securing the fourth and final seed in District 12-5A after being swept by rival Shoemaker. The Lady Eagles also secured the fourth seed with a victory over the Lady Grey Wolves in the season finale.
But with plenty of talent returning, the Eagles are hoping to find more success in 2012-13.
1. Hernandez heyday: Hector Hernandez capped a dominating senior campaign by fending off two challengers to win gold in the 800-meter run with a personal-best time of 1:49.33 in the Class 5A UIL State Track and Field Championships on May 12.
2. 18-and-growing: Despite an inexperienced squad, the Eagles basketball team continued a streak that's older than any of its players with a 74-52 win over Bryan on Feb. 10. Ojai Black scored 8 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter Malik Hawkins also had 18 points and Ellison locked up an 18th consecutive playoff appearance.
3. Century mark: Senior post Alayshia Hunter scored a combined 33 points in two games including a game-high 17 as the Lady Eagles shot 47 percent from the field in a 72-25 throttling of Abilene Cooper in the Key City Classic for coach Sherry McKinnon's 100th career victory at Ellison on Dec. 2.
4. Running away with 12-5A: Ellison's senior-laden boys cross country team collected its second district championship in three years with three of the top-four finishers in the District 12-5A meet on Oct. 27. Silvester Harrison, Sam Mayo and Hector Hernandez finished 1-3-4.
5. Playing spoiler: Despite a rough season and just three victories, one of those proved helped knock district rival Harker Heights out of playoff contention as the Eagles senior Tyler Bark pitched a complete-game, four-hit shutout (7-0) and Felix Marbury was 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs and two RBIs on April 13.
1. Ojai Black and Malik Hawkins, boys basketball: Often feeding off one another, Black and Hawkins were Ellison's very own Batman and Robin last season and will be a big reason if the Eagles secure a 19th straight playoff appearance.
2. Alyssa Conde, soccer: The sophomore came on late in the season, carrying the Lady Eagles offensively by scoring all five of Ellison's goals during a three-game stretch and will be counted on to shoulder even more of a load next season.
3. Isiah Cowan, football: Although the wins were hard to come by, if the Eagles are going to avoid a second straight 0-10 season it'll be because Cowan carries more of a load after rushing for 884 yards as a junior.
4. Dusti Douglas, softball: Just a freshman, the District 12-5A newcomer of the year helped the Lady Eagles come within a game of the playoffs with a team-high batting average (.473), OPS (1.159), hits (43), singles (33), triples (4) and stolen bases (19).
5. Deja Pointer, girls basketball: Soft-spoken, the junior guard is known for her accuracy from behind the arc. But if the Lady Eagles are going to get past the first round, the District 12-5A first-teamer will be expected to pick up her game.
Editor's Note: This is the third of a 10-part series detailing the past athletic year for each area school.