Stephenville was “Myles” better than most challengers on the high school football gridiron in 2009. Literally.

The Yellow Jackets won their first outright district championship since 2005, outscoring 8-4A opponents by an average of 29.3 points per game. They ripped Fort Worth Polytechnic 62-13 in the opening round of the 4A Division II playoffs before falling to eventual state champ Aledo 26-23 in overtime in the area round. Aledo won each of its remaining four playoff games by double digits.

Stephenville was that close to capturing its fifth state championship in school history. And the Jackets owe much of it to the success of James Myles, who accounted for 2,328 yards of offense and 31 touchdowns.

Myles, who rushed for 1,864 yards and 28 touchdowns and added 464 yards and three scores on receptions, has been named the 2009 Empire-Tribune Male Athlete of the Year, receiving first-place nods on six of the eight ballots.

The junior running back, who was part of an offensive unit that averaged 35.6 points per game, set school records for single-season rushing yards, single-season rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns.

If that’s not enough, Myles also tied then broke the single-game touchdowns mark. He scored six times against Arlington Seguin then topped that mark with seven scores against Fort Worth Poly in the playoffs. He rushed for 321 yards against Poly, the best single-game total in school history.

Myles’ accomplishments were crowned first when he was named the MVP of District 8-4A and later when the Associated Press Sports Editors listed him as an honorable-mention selection to its 4A All-State team. More honors are expected when the the Texas Sports Writers Association names it’s all-state teams.

Myles, who should become Stephenville’s career rushing and scoring leader next season, also ran track for Stephenville last spring, making him a two-sport standout.

He topped Tarleton kicker Garrett Lindholm, a Daktronics second-team All-American honoree, for the Athlete of the Year honor. Lindholm, received first place nods on the remaining two ballots. Rounding out the field of nominees were Tarleton quarterback Scott Grantham, Stephenville baseball and basketball standout Garrett Autrey and Stephenville defensive lineman T.R. Varnado.

She has led the recent resurgence in Hico girls athletics, helping both the volleyball and basketball programs to their deepest 2A playoff runs in school history.

She currently leads a Lady Tigers basketball team that is 14-3 and is state-ranked by both the Texas Girls Coaches Association and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.

She is valuable on the court as a player, and both on and off it as a leader at Hico High School. She is ranked second in her senior class academically. Her coaches say she is as competitive as they come - both in athletic and academic competitions.

Now, Cara Finstad takes the honor as the 2009 Empire-Tribune Female Athlete of the Year, receiving five first-place nods from the panel of eight voters.

Finstad stood strong at the net for a Hico volleyball team that began the 2009 season with 20 consecutive wins and won a 2A playoff match for the first time in school history.

Basketball is where she shows her greatest prowess - tall enough to play in the paint, a good enough ball handler to play the point, quick enough to defend opponents’ best scorers and versatile enough to shoot the trey or slash her way to the basket.

Finstad had multiple 30-point outbursts as a junior last spring, helping Hico reach the 2A regionals for the first time in school history. The Lady Tigers bowed out in the semifinals of Region II, widely regarded as the toughest region in 2A girls basketball. State champ Brock won the regional, which also included powerful Peaster.

Finstad is the type of player who can amass points in a hurry - she scored 11 in a six-minute span against Dublin recently - or can quietly work up a good total - as she did with 18 against Moody in a District 8-2A contest.

The senior guard/forward topped Stephenville basketball standout Brianna Bledsoe, who received two first place votes and Stephenville track star and volleyball player Senna Lasater who was given one top nod, as well as Tarleton basketball standout Brittnie Haley and Stephenville volleyball sensation Christina Murphy.