La Joya had school-best showings in various sports throughout the year, and will look to continue with improvements across the board into the new division alignment beginning this fall.

Athletic Director Remigio Gordillo said the school had a successful year.

“I think that it was a great year for La Joya athletics as a whole,” Gordillo said. “There were certainly some milestones that happened. I feel like all of our athletic programs are heading in the right direction.”

That certainly can be said about the football, boys basketball and track program. The football team finished 7-3, just missing the Division II playoffs. It was the second-best record in school history. The basketball team won the section tournament and hosted a second-round game for the first time in school history. La Joya girls track took first at the district meet for the second year in a row.

“You take that back to four years ago when [the football team] was 0-10, and you see the growth in the program,” Gordillo said. “I believe coach [Josh] Mitchell has that program in a place where we’ll continue to have successful seasons. Boys basketball, they had the best season in school history. Track had won the district championship for the second year in a row, first time that’s happened, and had a number of school records broken throughout this year in various events. As far as wins and losses go, those are the most successful programs.”

Gordillo said the administration and coaches are continuing to make sure each sport is headed in the right direction.

“I don’t think that wins and losses is always an indicator of having a program functioning correctly,” Gordillo said. “My personal philosophy is you need to build programs that are maximizing or exceeding potential. That potential is both on and off the courts, but year-to-year, it changes depending on where your program is at.”

It’s Gordillo's fourth year as athletic director. The first step in the process was to make sure each sport had the right coach for the job, he said.

“I think it’s extremely important that you hire and have the right people in place for the students,” Gordillo said. “It starts with that, it starts with the coaches. When I came on board four years ago, there was a lot of coaching turnover. Some made that choice on their own, some we had to make tough decisions. We wanted to make sure we got the right people in place to do the right things.”

Gordillo said the name of the game is maximizing potential.

“I’ve seen programs where schools won championships but didn’t maximize their potential,” Gordillo said. “I’ve seen teams that won two games that exceeded their potential.”

Gordillo said he feels like the school has the right coaches in place, even if the sport has not had the success in the standings yet.

“I feel like we have the right people in place for the program,” Gordillo said. “Even if they’re not having success, it may just be they’re not at that stage yet.”

Gordillo used golf and tennis as examples of that line of thinking.

“The majority of the students that play those sports at our school have never done them before,” Gordillo said. “They’re going out for the sports because it’s something new to try, or they have a connection with that coach and want to try because of that coach.”

Gordillo cited girls tennis coach Grace Wallace as an example.

“Coach Wallace is a chemistry teacher here,” Gordillo said. “She might have been the best coach on campus this year. Her record may not indicate that, but we’ve got kids bursting through the seams. She takes them all on and they all get better despite not much playing experience before.

“So there might not be a lot of success, but we have the right person in place. As a result, she’s exceeding the potential as a program.”

Division realignment

The Lobos will compete in Division II for all sports except for football and girls soccer, which will be in Division III.

Gordillo didn’t feel the need to petition the placements, he said.

“I’m old school,” Gordillo said. “Where they placed us, I feel like we belonged. We’re a school that will be pushing 2,200 kids next year. I didn’t think we needed to petition down. It’s up to us to rise to the level of our competition.”

Gordillo said the school thought about petitioning for placement in Division II for football and girls soccer, but ultimately decided the placements were fair.

The new placement is cause for some unfamiliar names on the schedule, something that will take a little bit of time to get used to, Gordillo said.

“It’ll be interesting because these are schools we haven’t played before,” Gordillo said. “They’re not necessarily rival schools, so there will be a feeling out process and [eventually] we’ll develop these new rivalries.”

The school attempting to petition down would have sent the wrong message to the athletes, Gordillo said.

“The goal at the end of the day is we’re here to teach and prepare kids for life after high school,” Gordillo said. “After high school, when things get tough, you can’t petition down to get away from it. You have to learn at some point. If you’re not at the same stage as everybody else, then you have to work that much harder to get there. It’s a conversation that our coaches have with our student athletes.”

Gordillo said he’s excited for the future, and feels like the students are, too.

“I think across the board, it’s been a great year,” Gordillo said. “There’s a great buzz on campus, kids are confident and we see that through the excitement of the students in our feeder schools about coming to La Joya. They’re excited to get here and participate.”