By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It - tangible, trophy-shimmering pride - has actually been at Shoemaker for awhile.
It's about to spill over. And not because Shoemaker head football coach/campus athletic coordinator Ken Gray retired.
So much focus has been on Shoemaker's struggles - no team has made the playoffs since the boys basketball team in the 2008-09 season - that the school's beacon of success, its Lady Grey Wolves' wrestling team, barely shone through the fog.
Led by top five individual champions - Rhianna Anderson (165 pounds), Adrianna Perez (95), Zana West (148), Dineesha Jones (110) and Mercedez Faris (138) - the Lady Grey Wolves won their second straight District 25 wrestling championship, their fifth in the last six years.
And now underclassmen, who were thrown into the limelight because Shoemaker coaches had no one else to turn to, are growing the program.
The Shoemaker girls basketball team snapped a 21-game district losing streak this season and, despite missing the playoffs, notched program-first wins over A&M Consolidated, Bryan and Copperas Cove and finished the season on a two-game win streak that included a 64-52 win against eventual Region II-5A semifinalist Ellison.
One of the Lady Grey Wolves' key players in almost every sport, Cion Hicks, after playing a big role in the girls basketball team's progress this season, placed ninth in the discus at that state track meet and narrowly missed qualifying for the shot put as a wild card.
1. Lady Grey Wolves win second straight district wrestling title - Winning five individual district championships, Shoemaker's girls wrestling team continued its dominance in District 25, winning its second straight district title and fifth in the last six years.
2. Hicks throws three beauties to qualify for state - After scratching on two of three preliminary attempts, Hicks has three competition-best throws in the finals to win the Region II-5A discus title with a 133-foot, 5-inch mark and qualify for the state meet.
3. Shoemaker girls basketball upsets A&M Consolidated - The Lady Grey Wolves hit key free throws down the stretch and avoided a meltdown, holding on for their first win against Consolidated, 52-42, after letting a 12-point lead dwindle to six.
It was the second straight 12-5A win for Shoemaker, which had won just two district games total in the previous two seasons.
4. Grey Wolves miss golden opportunity at goal-line - Shoemaker surrendered a 14-point lead and quarterback Jammie Blunt was dropped for a loss on the last play of the game that could've snapped a then-14-game losing streak.
Blunt was dropped for a two-yard loss at the Waco University 4-yard line and the 27-21 loss ended up being a turn-for-the-worse missed opportunity.
5. Shoemaker baseball rallies to beat Cove - The Grey Wolves plated eight runs in the final three innings, rallying from a 7-4 deficit to beat Copperas Cove, 12-9, for their first district win since 2009.
Shoemaker scored five runs in the fifth inning and then added three more go-ahead runs in the bottom of the sixth after Cove tied the game at 9 in the top of the inning.
Who to watch in 2011-12
1. Johnny Jefferson, football and track: Jefferson rushed for a team-best 330 yards and two touchdowns for the football team and was a track regional qualifier in the 100 and 200 meters last year a sophomore.
2. Kiara Rawls, volleyball and girls basketball: On the shoulders' of Rawls, who averaged almost 20 points a game this season, the Lady Grey Wolves basketball team finished tied for 5th in 12-5A after an 0-14 season in 2009 and had program-first wins against A&M Consolidated, Bryan and Copperas Cove.
3. Chris Runnels, basketball: The District 12-5A and Daily Herald Newcomer of the Year, a lanky 6-foot-2 forward, averaged 12 points and nine rebounds for Shoemaker last season as a junior and figures to play an even larger role this season replacing Malcolm McDonald.
4. Kadeja Walker, track: After running on relays for the majority of her prep career, Walker, who will be a senior this year, won the 100-meter district title in 12.26 seconds, becoming the Lady Grey Wolves' first 100-meter regional qualifier since Chaniqua Corinealdi (TCU) in 2009.
5. Cion Hicks, volleyball, girls basketball, soccer, track: She's a standout at nearly everything she does. The junior-to-be placed ninth in the discus at the state track meet and is also a two-time all-district honorable mention in basketball.