Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Banquet a last hurrah for Encinias, booster president


June 1, 2022

Ron Warnick

Tucumcari wrestlers Reyes Garcia (left) and Xzander Garcia lift now-retired coach Eddie Encinias near the conclusion of the Diamondback Boosters Club athletic banquet on May 23 at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

The first Diamondback Booster Club athletic banquet since 2019 served as the last hurrah for the club's outgoing president and a retiring Hall-of-Fame wrestling coach at Tucumcari High School.

More than 300 people crowded into the Tucumcari Convention Center on May 23 so coaches and supporters could honor athletes from the 2021-2022 school year. It was the club's first such banquet in three years because of coronavirus restrictions.

Khobie Salvador was named Male Athlete of the Year, and Elena Gutierrez was Female Athlete of the Year.

The Male Academic Athlete of the Year was Dominic Jasper, and the Female Academic Athlete of the Year was Emma Rogers. Senior athletes also were honored.

Banquet organizers moved to the back of the program the presentation by THS wrestling coach Eddie Encinias, who recently announced his retirement after 22 years, 19 individual state champions and his induction into the New Mexico Wrestling Hall of Fame. He also resigned as assistant coach in track and football.

Encinias held up a manila envelope stuffed with notes his wife Brenda had given to him over the years before he departed on road trips with his wrestling team.

"She's been my rock and my greatest supporter," he said.

He said the 2021-2022 team was "the hardest-working group I've ever had" and that Xzander Garcia's unexpected state championship was a rare example of an athlete "in the zone."

"I want to thank everybody for all the years," Encinias said. "It's been great."

Noting Tucumcari's tradition of athletes hoisting a wrestler on their shoulders after winning a state championship, alums Xzander and Reyes Garcia each lifted Encinias on their shoulders to a standing ovation from the audience.

"It's been fun," Encinias said at the conclusion of his speech. "God bless America."

At the beginning of the ceremony, booster club President Michelle Shipley Jaynes announced she was resigning. She received a bouquet of flowers from April Shipley and a standing ovation.

"I promised my niece I wouldn't cry, but ..." Shipley Jaynes said.

Tracy Chavez and Jessica Goen will serve as co-presidents of the Diamondback Booster Club this coming school year.

In volleyball, coach Dana Benavidez received one of the biggest ovations of the night when she and her husband Patrick unveiled a new district-champion banner that will hang in the Snake Pit gymnasium. The Lady Rattlers won their first district title in more than 40 years last season.

The volleyball team's award winners: top hitter, Amber Owen; top setter and best blocker, Caylee Benavidez; top server, Madison Dysart; Ace Award and best passer, Alexus Lafferty; and most improved, Alexis Ramirez.

In girls basketball, coach Patrick Benavidez recounted a team that won the district tournament championship and qualified for the state tournament.

Award winners were: most assists, steals and blocks, Caylee Benavidez; most points, highest free-throw percentage and Sharpshooter Award, Alexus Lafferty; most rebounds, July Lafferty; and Most Improved, Elena Gutierrez. Benavidez, July Lafferty and Kyla Samaniego also logged double-double games, with Benavidez notching one triple-double.

In boys basketball, coach John Span told about his team's disappointing regular-season record but its surge to a district-tournament championship at Dexter that qualified the Rattlers to the state tourney.

Among the award winners were: most points, most charges taken, most blocked shots and most rebounds, Andrew Henderson-Clark; and most steals and assists, Curtis Gonzales.

Span also urged his returning players to train in the weight room during the offseason.

"If you want to be a winner, you have to train like a winner," he said.

In softball, coach CJ Oglesby praised a young team that qualified for the state tournament, adding: "You have all grown up so much."

He honored co-captains Amaya Infante and Mireya Estrada; leadoff hitter Harley McKinney; Most Valuable Players Alexus Lafferty and Sierra Valverde; and Most Improved Player Tayden Hyslop.

Oglesby vowed to have a district-champion banner hanging in the gym at the end of the 2023 season.

In football, coach Wayne Ferguson said his team won only one game, but the last-second, come-from-behind victory over Loving on a Hail Mary pass in the darkness was "the most exciting ending of a game in my life."

For track, Ferguson mentioned state champions Khobie Salvador in the boys discus, Haisley Huffman in the girls long jump and Delilah Acosta in the girls discus. Alexus Lafferty also broke a school record in the javelin throw.

In baseball, coach George Montano noted his team snapped a 42-game losing streak that dated back three years.

Among his award winners: Rookie of the Year, Luis Archuleta; Best Offensive Player, Johnathan Blea; Hustle Award, Jordan Rincones; Utility Player, Josh Griego; and Best Defensive Player, Nick Romero.

In cross country, coach Gary Hittson praised his "lone wolf" runner, senior Manny Hernandez, who finished in the top 10 in nearly all his races and qualified for the state meet.

Hernandez recently committed to run cross country with Mesalands Community College's new program.

"Yay, I can watch you run," Hittson said of Hernandez's decision.

In boys golf, coach Justin Garcia honored Kaden Brown as the team's top golfer.

In cheer, coach Jolene Marroquin praised a co-ed team that qualified for the state tournament.


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