WAELDER – It was a pleasant surprise for not just the Waelder athletic department, but Waelder ISD as a whole.
A family with three students moved into the district in January. Those students were Cody, Clay and Courtney Orona.
“It was nice to get more students, especially students who participate in athletics,” Waelder athletic director Jarvin Hall said. “It’s rare that we get high school move-ins, but we’re lucky to have them. They’re leaders who immediately contributed to the program.”
The Orona family moved to Waelder from Seguin where they attended Navarro schools. Navarro is a Class 3A district.
“Waelder is a different environment from Navarro,” Courtney said. “There’s no band or cheerleaders, but with Waelder being a smaller school, I get more one-on-one time with teachers and coaches. I like it a lot.”
Courtney is a freshman who participates in volleyball, girls basketball and girls track and field. She participated in those three sports at Navarro Junior High as well as band.
Going to a smaller school is nothing new to the Orona family, according to Clay. They went to a private school in San Marcos from kindergarten to sixth grade.
“We’re going to a small school again,” Clay said. “That school is similar to Waelder because their big sport was basketball, too.”
Speaking of basketball, both Cody and Clay are members of the Waelder boys basketball team. They joined the team in January, and saw limited action during last year’s 31-7 state semifinal run.
“It was always a dream of mine to make it to the state tournament, and it was a blessing to finally get there,” Cody said. “We peaked at the right time.”
Cody is the lone senior for the Wildcats, while Clay is a junior. According to Cody and Clay, one of the biggest differences between Waelder and Navarro is Waelder has no football program.
“Without football, basketball is the big sport here,” Clay said. “We always have plenty of people in the stands at the games. We don’t need cheerleaders with our crowd supporting us the way they do.”
Both Cody and Clay participated in football at Navarro, but gave it up after the 2009 season. While football wasn’t his favorite sport, Cody still remembers his playing days.
“Every once in a while I’ll think back on when I played,” he said. “But football was something I did because I was big and I was expected to play just because of my size.”
Cody stands 6-foot-5 and is the tallest player on the Waelder roster. His jersey number is 41, and he wears that number in honor of his favorite player – Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzski.
Being the only senior means Cody is expected to be a team leader. It’s a role he embraces, although he has his own way of leading.
“I’m not much of a vocal leader,” Cody said. “I’m pretty quiet and reserved, but when push comes to shove, I’ll step in and take responsibility for the team.”
The Wildcats are young with only one senior and just a handful of returning lettermen from last year’s state semifinalist team. While Waelder has won just once in its first four games, Cody believes the Wildcats can turn the corner.
“We’re playing a tough non-district schedule, but that’ll make us mature faster and it’ll prepare us for district,” he said. “We’re focused on getting better each day in practice and fixing our weaknesses.”
Having been to the state tournament once makes the Wildcats hungrier for a return trip this season. Cody has an idea on what will help make that happen.
“We have to do the little things right,” he said. “That’s what will make us a state-tournament team and not just a playoff team.”
In addition to basketball, Cody also participates in track and field and golf. His favorite subject in school is history, and he is considering attending the Merchant Marine Academy next fall.
Clay, like his older brother, also participates in track and field as well as cross country. Clay recently etched his name in the Waelder record books by becoming the first runner in school history to win a medal at the state cross country meet.
He finished ninth in the Class A boys race, and was one of three non-seniors to finish in the Top 10. Clay has high hopes for next season.
“My goal is to win state next year,” he said. “I have to keep training and improving.”
As a member of last year’s basketball team, Clay has a pair of state medals. He hopes to add a few more medals to his collection.
While Cody is the main inside presence for the Wildcats, Clay is more of an outside shooter. Clay enjoys both basketball and cross country, but he made one distinction between the two.
“Basketball is a team sport and one person can’t do everything,” Clay said. “In cross country, you’re only as successful as you make yourself to be. If you mess up, it’s all on you.”
While Courtney is just getting started with her high school days, she has had plenty of guidance in both athletics and in the classroom. Cody and Clay have given her some pointers.
“My brothers taught me to work hard, and that everything good that happens comes from hard work,” Courtney said.
That’s no surprise.