Wednesday, June 05, 2013

TOP STORY >> Shooting involves woman

Cabot police are investigating a Sunday night shooting in an apartment at 898 W. Myrtle St. that they are calling first-degree domestic battery with serious physical injury.

Sgt. Keith Graham, police spokesman, said officer John Dodd II answered a 911 call at 10:54 p.m. and found Frederick Lamont Ford, 40, of 5705 Hwy. 161 in North Little Rock lying face down on the living room floor.

Ford appeared to have been shot three times and was taken by Med Flight to Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock. He was in critical condition on Tuesday, Graham said. The apparent shooter, Halelle Hooten, 31, who lived in the apartment, was sitting on the couch.

Hooten’s father, Toby Hooten, 64, of Ward was in the apartment when police arrived. Graham said the investigation had not shown whether he was there when Ford was shot.

The police report said a Rossi .38-caliber revolver that belonged to Halelle Hooten was recovered at the scene. She was read her Miranda rights, but no one has been arrested and no charges have been filed, Graham said.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Allman’s all right

I admire Joe Allman but not necessarily for anything I recall him doing while he was mayor of Cabot.

Sure, he did some things to try to keep up with the unprecedented growth Cabot was experiencing 15 years ago. What choice did he have? It was there and he had to react.

“Growth is good,” he told me years ago when I asked if Cabot was ready for what was coming. I had my doubts but whether it was good or not, he did what he could with limited funds to supply the needs of a growing population.

A softball complex, a bridge here and there, a grant to straighten Main Street, where it jogged like a dog leg in front of city hall and a one-cent sales tax that paid for several water wells, a treatment plant and the lines to get the water into town were a few of the accomplishments of his administration.

But that was then and this is now and what I admire about Joe Allman is how he appears to thrive in retirement.

I saw him in April, on the evening the votes were counted for the second extension of his sales tax. He looked better than when I last saw him. He was thinner and, (if it’s even possible) more relaxed, and he seemed to have aged hardly at all. He was there because he supported the tax extension that will build another park and improve sewer so that the city can continue to grow because growth is good.

But what we talked about was his garden.

This spring has been the worst I’ve seen for gardens. I didn’t get anything planted until mid-May, but Joe had it all — the early vegetables that have to be in the ground while it’s still officially winter and hundreds of tomato plants that his wife Theta uses for homemade salsa.

Gardening is a pastime that requires dedication and a lot of forethought and preparation. But while I waited for the rain to stop and the temperature to rise, Joe was planting in beds he prepared last fall.

He told me when he lost his bid for a third term in office that he intended to travel some. And for a while he was active as a volunteer. But now, more than 10 years out of politics, it’s his home and family, his garden and long coffee breaks with his neighbor that take up most of his time.

And talking with him, I could tell he loved the freedom of it all.

Maybe because I’m nearing retirement age, I’ve had to listen to a lot of woeful tales lately about people who have been eager to retire only to die before they could enjoy it. Or they retire only to realize their work was their life.

My dad was a farmer. My brothers all worked construction at one time or another. My sisters are nurses except for the one who raises cattle and paints houses. Your job is one of the first things others ask about. And to a certain extent the answer does give some insight into the person you are. But Joe is proof that it’s not the whole picture.

In his 70-plus years, he’s been known as a country boy in Texas, a postmaster and a mayor. Now he is retired and in my opinion he’s doing a great job at it.

— Joan McCoy

EDITORIAL >> New era at Vertac

The Vertac Superfund site reached a milestone last week when a federal judge ended court supervision at the old chemical plant in Jacksonville after more than 30 years.

Hercules, Inc., the longtime operator of the herbicide plant, spent more than $120 million during the decades-long cleanup, but it must still monitor the 93-acre site for possible contamination. Monitoring will continue for at least five more years.

U.S. District Judge Price Marshall has ruled that East Bay Realty Services, a subsidiary of Hercules, has to treat the ground water and monitor the property until the site is no longer hazardous.

The company will also submit a follow-up written report to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The property cannot be used for residential purposes or a nursing home, daycare center, playground or church. The site’s groundwater and surface water can’t be used and other prohibitions apply.

The prognosis looks good: No contaminated runoff has been detected there since the incineration of chemical wastes was completed at a cost of some $150 million. The site along Marshall Road now includes the new police headquarters, police and fire department training, the recycling center and more.

Several more acres outside a fenced-off area are suitable for development, perhaps a recycled glass factory or light industry. City officials should make it a priority for further development of perhaps as much as a third of the land, which is now designated a brownfield.

Mayor Gary Fletcher, who was a Jacksonville alderman while the site was remediated, told us last week, “The site is clean, has been clean, for years. It’s a beautiful site. The wildlife, the vegetation is as healthy here as it is anywhere else.”

Jim Durham, the city’s director of administration, said, “Most people don’t realize that the chemicals were not made or stored over the entire site. The chemicals were incinerated and the remaining ash entombed in concrete and fenced off.”

Even as monitoring continues, future development along Marshall Road would serve as a buffer between the old plant and a revitalized community is overcoming the stigmas of the past and moving forward.

TOP STORY >> City’s new event June 21-22

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

The big-name entertainment is still not locked in, but there are big plans for Jacksonville’s first FestiVille.

The city has been without a festival for almost two years since the chamber dropped the Wing Ding because of its expense and excessive man-hours. Before that the city had Mums, Music and Muscadine, and before that CityFest.

The city’s parks and recreation department is now running the festival and hitting a few bumps on their first effort, like with the main entertainment, which should be worked out by the end of the week.

With help from 18 sponsors, the rest of the festival, set for June 21-22 at Dupree Park, is locked in.

Local entertainment will include a martial-arts group performance, Sharon’s School of Dance, the finals of the Buffalo Wild Wings karaoke contest, a variety of music by Dog Town Media and the band Eddie and the Defianz.

Besides music, dance and martial arts, the festival will also feature a 5K run open to everyone and 1K walk/run open to children. There’ll be a fishing derby at Lake Dupree open to all ages, a coed volleyball tournament, a beauty contest for canines as well as the human version, the Mr. and Mrs. FestiVille pageant, which is for babies up to 18-year-olds.

Dana Rozenski, the coordinator of the event, said there will also be a children’s area, plenty of food, arts and crafts and commercial vendors.

A carnival will set up at Dupree Park, starting June 19 and stay through Saturday night. Tickets are $1 each, a family pack of 24 is available for $20 and armbands can be purchased for $15, Rozenski said.

Even though the carnival rides cost money, the festival is free and so is the parking.

Besides finalizing the “big act” for the festival, Rozenski and her staff are keeping an eye on the weather, which lately has developed into a weekend rain pattern, and Dupree Park is known for its flooding issues. “The good news is with all the rain we received last weekend, we were able to drive out to the lake without a problem,” she said.

The organizers are expecting a crowd of about 10,000 to enjoy all the activities.

“We are trying to provide a mix of entertainment, activities and booths for the whole family,” Rozenski said.

Festival activities will run all day June 21 and June 22. “We’ll close with the finals of the Buffalo Wild Wings karaoke finals,” Rozenski said.

All that is needed is for the department to lock in its headline entertainment and hope the rain stays away.

For more details or information about the festival, call Rozenski at 501-982-0818 or go to the event’s website, www.festiville.org.

TOP STORY >> Cypert pushes for road work

By JOHN HOFHEIMER 
Leader senior staff writer

Metroplan staff presented findings last week to Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert’s ad hoc Metroplan North Belt Freeway alternatives committee.

Cypert, president of the Metroplan board of directors, said the group now needs time to study those data-rich findings. The group is unlikely to make a decision until after completion of a $500,000 feasibility study on paying for the freeway by making it a toll road.

Metroplan and the High-way Department will split the cost of that study.

“Essentially, the presentations by the staff...includes statistical database and positive and negative impacts of each of five alternative routes, plus full-build and no-build options,” the mayor said.

“There was no option that surfaced that seemed to be a prime performer,” Cypert said.

The North Belt has been on the books since the 1950s, sometimes with money identified and promised, but more than half a century later, it is incomplete and completion estimates run as high as $700 million.

The roughly 13 miles from Hwy. 67/167 in Jacksonville to I-430/I-40 in North Little Rock is the only uncompleted segment of a patchwork of highways that would circle Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Most, if not all, large and major cities have such a bypass, although that’s not the primary benefit now, if it ever was.

The North Belt is now perceived of primarily as a good route to move people/employees from the bedroom communities in and near North Pulaski County to West Little Rock employers and those in and around the medical corridor along I-630, while alleviating congestion on Hwy. 67/167, I-30 and I-40.

According to Cypert, each option was evaluated on its impact to travel time, potential use, traffic reductions on other roadways (Hwy. 67/167, Hwy. 107, and I-40), cost and right of way acquisition.

By 2030, it is estimated that as many as 13,000 to 15,000 daily trips would use the full-build North Belt alignment to travel between Hwy. 67/167 and I-430/I-40.

The only option that provides these users with consistent travel time savings over the use of Hwy. 67/167 and I-40 (both peak and off-peak) is the construction of the North Belt as a freeway on the approved alignment.

It is the only alternative providing consistent travel time savings.

Of the arterial options proposed, Option 5 (Jacksonville Cutoff Extended) and Option 7 (Jacksonville Cut-off Extended and Coffelt Crossing Connection), provide the highest level of service.

To achieve these benefits, Jacksonville Cutoff and Main Street (Jacksonville) would have to be widened and access to abutting property controlled. The right-of-way acquisition would result in significant business and residential relocations (50+). Even if one assumes that Highway Department is willing and able to construct the portion of the roadway from I-430 to Batesville Pike, each of these alternatives would require a substantial financial commitment from local governments to complete ($125/$225 million).

Each scenario is described and discussed below, with most of the language verbatim from Metroplan’s Casey Covington, Central Arkansas Regional Arterial Study director, who authored the report.

Option 1 – No Build Alternative
The no-build option assumes that none of the North Belt is built by 2030. All other alternatives are compared with the No Build alternative.

Option 2 – North Belt Freeway Full Build

The full build alternative assumes that the North Belt will be built as a freeway consistent with the alignment approved in the environmental impact statement.

This option “provides both non-peak and peak travel time savings over the use of Hwy. 67/167 and I-40 to travel from northeast Pulaski County to I-430. No other option considered provides these savings. It maximizes the reduction in traffic on Hwy. 67/167, I-40 and Hwy. 107, completes the circumferential freeway network around the Little Rock/North Little Rock metro area, and provides the greatest flexibility in funding options, including tolling. Approximately 100 acres of developable (excluding flood plain) land would be consumed by this alternative. This could potentially be reduced if the freeway was pushed north into the Kellogg Creek, but this would have negative environmental impacts and likely increase the cost of the road’s construction.”

Option 3 – State Hwy. 89/Batesville Pike

This option “connects the North Belt Freeway with Cabot by improving Batesville Pike and Republican Road. A new link is added to connect Republican Road with the Hwy. 67/167-Hwy. 5 interchange in Cabot. Additionally, this alternative assumes that Hwy. 89 will be improved between Cabot and Mayflower to provide another option for east/west flow. This arterial alternative would connect with a freeway type roadway, for security purposes, across Camp Robinson.”

The study concluded that this “is the most expensive alternative considered and requires the most land for construction. This alternative provides few travel time savings and, consequently, its use is minimized. This alternative provides a desirable connection from northeast Pulaski County to Faulkner County and improvements to Batesville Pike should be considered if North Belt Freeway is constructed.”

Option 4 – Coffelt Connection/North Air Force Base

This option “extends a new arterial from a new interchange at Hwy. 67/167 and Coffelt Road along the north side of the Little Rock Air Force Base to Hwy. 107. Sharing a short section of Hwy. 107, the new arterial directly connects to the North Belt alignment at Kellogg Acres Road via new alignment.”

This option “provides a direct connection from Cabot to the North Belt Freeway but does not serve much of Jacksonville. This alternative is less effective than the freeway alternative as it serves less area and provides less travel time savings.

This alternative should be considered as a means to improve access to the Little Rock Air Force Base and areas between Batesville Pike and Hwy. 107 in northeast Pulaski County.”

Option 5 – Jacksonville Cut-off Extended (South Air Force Base)

It connects the North Belt Freeway with Hwy. 67/167 via improvements to Jacksonville Cutoff/Main Street and a new connection from Hwy. 107 west to Kellogg Acres Road. This new link would cross much of the current Kellogg Creek wetlands.

This option “comes closest to providing the benefits and travel time savings of the full build freeway. This is only the case if one is willing to reconstruct Main Street (west of Hwy. 67/167) and Jacksonville Cut-off as a four-lane divided arterial with access control to maximize travel speeds.

As a result, this alternative has higher right of way costs and existing business impacts than other alternatives as an estimated 50 residents/businesses along Jacksonville Cutoff/Main Street would require relocation. A significant bridge required to cross the Kellogg Creek Wetlands would result in additional environmental impacts.

This route (to Hwy. 107) is part of the regional arterial network and should be considered for improvements as an arterial route.”

Option 6 – Jacksonville Cut-off, Kiehl, and Hwy. 107

This option “uses two existing routes to connect Hwy. 67/167 with the proposed North Belt. The Jacksonville area is connected to the North Belt via improvements to Jacksonville Cutoff, Hwy. 107 and Maryland Avenue while Sherwood is connected via improvements to Kiehl and Maryland Avenues. Significant impacts to both existing business along Kiehl and Jacksonville Cutoff/Main Street would occur due to the required widening.

This option “results in few benefits for through traffic (no travel time savings) as the connection is less direct than other arterial options considered. This option is also associated with higher (right of way) and business impacts along Jacksonville Cutoff/Main Street. This option does demonstrate a need to consider improvements to Maryland Road west of Hwy. 107 to provide improved access to North Belt for areas of Sherwood.”

Option 7 – Coffelt and Jacksonville Cut-off Extended

This option “connects the North Belt to Hwy. 67/167 by using the Coffelt Connection (Option 4) and Jacksonville Cutoff extended (Option 6). This scenario would provide direct connections for both Cabot and Jacksonville by the construction of two separate arterial alignments.

This option “provides the maximum benefits of all arterial options considered due to it providing direct connections to both Cabot and Jacksonville. Travel time savings would be realized during peak hours (future) with fewer benefits during non-peak periods. This option is the second most expensive option considered (more than the full build freeway) and has the same right of way/business impacts along Jacksonville Cutoff. Elements of this option might be considered to improve access to the freeway if it is ever constructed.”

TOP STORY >> Cabot church to the rescue

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

Pastor Spencer Dunlap of Re:New Community Church in Cabot felt a calling to do something when he heard the news about the monstrous killer tornado that decimated Moore, Okla., on May 20.

“My heart just broke about the parents who lost their kids at the school,” Dunlap said.

He told his wife that he was going to Moore. He made a post on Facebook for help. Within 10 hours, hundreds of people from the church and the community had organized a packing party. They filled more than 250 individual disaster-relief care boxes for men, women and children with food, hygiene products and toys.

People from all over the country donated $1,500 to the church to buy items that were needed by the tornado victims.

A group of eight people from the church borrowed a van from Little Rock Church and a 12-foot trailer because the church’s trailer was too small to haul all the supplies.

The next morning, they hit the road and headed west, where they met up with church friends from Indiana providing disaster relief in Moore.

“Annihilation. As far as the eye could see was leveled. It was unreal,” Dunlap said.

He said near one of the main intersections was a theater where cars were stacked two and three deep on top of each other in the parking lot.

“We fed people, prayed for people, picked up debris and helped families collect their personal effects. We were there to serve and do whatever was needed,” Dunlap said.

“What I saw besides physical destruction was emotional destruction. People were sort of wandering around and did not know what to do next. We tried to ask good questions, pray for people and help them get structure by cutting a tree in their yard, working side by side,” Dunlap said.

Since the church had a trailer, the Re:New group helped Tyson Foods distribute hamburgers and chicken wraps to families in the hardest hit areas.

One thing that caught Dunlap’s attention while driving into Moore was the number of American flags waving. He said entire neighborhoods were leveled to sticks of lumber, not even a tree standing and someone would find an American flag and put it out to fly.

“It was dramatic to see that,” Dunlap said.

He said the flags were a show of patriotism but also had deeper spiritual meaning of “In God We Trust.”

“People were looking for a symbol to hold on to, the belief that God was still there,” Dunlap said.

He saw many spray-painted messages written on damaged houses and posted on business marquees proclaiming a trust in God amidst the destruction.

“Everyone wanted to pray, hugged and wept. We didn’t come across anyone who refused to pray,” Dunlap said.

The group was there for two days so it was a fast turnaround for them. They plan on multiple return trips to continue to serve with different teams from Re:New church.

On the way to Moore they trained the team on crisis counseling. Dunlap said it is easy to say the wrong thing when people have just experienced a loss.

He said that next time the response team would be figuring out what people are going to need after their immediate needs have past and how they can be best utilized properly.

“We are creating a formal disaster relief ministry. It will have the resources, skills and be a first response team in the region and beyond,” Dunlap explained.

On the way back the Re:New Church group stopped to help out at Shawnee, Okla., which was hit by a tornado the day before Moore was struck.

“Shawnee didn’t have the news coverage as Moore. People felt left behind because the news crews weren’t there. There were lots of people on the ground already serving and ministering,” Dunlap said.

The crew from Re:New offered more spiritual and emotional support in Shawnee than anything else.

Dunlap said that if people want to help, the best thing is to connect with Re:New Church on Facebook and watch for an announcement about the next big disaster relief effort.

“Called to serve and love, that’s what we were doing,” Dunlap said.

SPORTS STORY >> AAA looking over new proposals

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

The Arkansas Activities Assocation’s Board of Directors’ summer workshop is being held this week in Conway, where the board will decide whether to give a do-pass or do-not pass recommendation to AAA voters concerning new classification alignment proposed by Mountain Home and Searcy high schools.

The new proposals will reduce the number of classifications from seven to six and will put the top 16 schools in their own division of two, eight-team conferences.

For the last 12 years, the AAA has done everything from tweaking to overhauling the alignment structure in an attempt to strike a balance and maintain competitiveness. The job hasn’t been easy with the rapid growth in northwest Arkansas that’s been causing huge disparities in enrollment numbers in the highest athletic classification.

Traditionally, the top 32 schools have been placed in one classification, but in recent years, that’s been the largest few being more than three times larger than the smallest few. If the top 32 teams were in the same classification for the upcoming 2014-2016 cycle, it would put the largest school, Bentonville with an enrollment of 2,878 students in grades nine through 11, in the same division with Greenwood, which has 828 students.

The current format puts the top 32 schools in the same division for regular-season play, but splits them for the playoffs, creating a power ratings system to determine seedings rather than tangible head-to-head competition.

Mountain Home and Searcy fall among the schools in between 17 and 32. Mountain Home’s enrollment is 26th largest with 925 students. Searcy is 28th with 906. Their proposals are identical in detail, but are presented from different angles.

Searcy approaches the need for realignment from the competitive numbers point of view. Mountain Home’s proposal primarily addresses travel problems with the current format.

The proposals ask that the top 16 schools make up class 6A, the top classification. The next four classifications would each consist for 48 teams based on enrollment numbers. Whatever is left, which would be around 50 schools, would make up class 1A, which are non-football schools.

Classes four, three, two and one are currently divided up in this same manner.

“We feel like this has a great chance to pass because it does not effect the bottom four classes at all,” Mountain Home athletic director Janet Wood said. “From what I gather almost all the current 7A schools like it, all the 6A schools like it, and of course the 5A schools right now don’t like it. But you know they have to ask themselves why they don’t like it.

“The only reason is that it adds 16 larger schools to their classification. But when you look at it logically, it’s a much more even playing field than we have now, and it solves most of the travel problems we currently have.”

The new proposal would put Russellville, 17th in enrollment with 1,148 students, in the same classification with Morrilton, which is 62nd in enrollment with 495 students.

The new proposal would effect four area schools that are currently in class 5A. Beebe is No. 40 in the state in enrollment with 721, Jacksonville is 46th with 680, Sylvan Hills is 50th with 639 and North Pulaski is 54th with 609. All four would be in the classification with Russellville and the other 16 schools that currently make up class 6A.

“I kind of have mixed feelings about it,” Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson said. “I feel like we’re now on a level playing field and we’re having a lot of success. I think we have what it takes to be competitive in this new division, but at the same time, some of those schools will be more than twice our size, and that’s quite a disadvantage.”

Jacksonville football coach Rick Russell doesn’t mind the change, but believes it should be based strictly on enrollment, with no exceptions made for travel.

There is currently one caveat in the plan, and that is West Memphis, on the Tennessee border, would be in the same conference with Fort Smith schools, which are on the Oklahoma border.

West Memphis is currently the smallest 7A school with 1,290 students. Allowing West Memphis and Russellville to swap classifications is one solution to the travel problem.

“If they’re going to start changing things and making exceptions for this and that, I’m against it,” Russell said. “They say it’s about enrollment and that’s the way it should be. I have no problem with proposal. It makes things tougher for us, but we’re familiar with that level. We were just there two years ago and we had some success, made the playoffs fairly regularly. I think we can continue to do that.”

Beebe football coach John Shannon would like to stay in the same conference he is in now, but understands his alma mater, because of its location, has been moved around frequently among leagues.

“We fought last time to stay in the same conference because we’re always getting moved around,” Shannon said. “I don’t really mind playing the larger schools because if we keep growing like we are, we’ll be one of the larger schools before long.

“My problems is constantly changing conferences. There was one idea I saw that had us basically still playing the same teams. So if they can work that out I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

Shannon also pointed out that proposals similar to this one have failed to pass several times in the past several years. Sylvan Hills athletic director and baseball coach Denny Tipton sites that fact as one of the reasons he doesn’t think the measure will succeed.

“It’s been tried before and I think a lot of the people I’ve talked to don’t really like it,” Tipton said. “It kind of waters down the state title when you only have 16 teams in the divison. So I think some of the 7A schools will vote against it. I know some of the larger 4A schools who are looking at maybe moving up soon don’t like it either. It’s kind of like jumping up two classifications for them.

“I don’t really have a problem with it from a travel standpoint. It will make travel easier for most people, and I think we can be competitive. But if you’re asking me if I think it will pass, no I don’t.”

SPORTS STORY >> Seahawk lineman hosting camp

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Clinton McDonald is hosting his very first “Iron Sharpens Iron” Football Camp at Dupree Park in Jacksonville on Wednesday, June 19. McDonald is a 2005 graduate of Jacksonville High School, where he was a star linebacker for the Red Devils.

The title of the camp comes from the Old Testament book of Proverbs. Chapter 27 verse 17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

It’s a verse that’s frequently used by McDonald and one he uses in his approach to his profession. McDonald quoted the passage when talking with Seahawks Insiders reporter Tony Ventrella last season about how the Seahawks’ defensive linemen work together to make each other better players.

With the camp slogan being, “Fortitude through Family and Friends”, McDonald’s camp promises to be about more than football skills.

“God’s blessed me with this ability, great parents, a great family,” said McDonald. “I feel like any chance I have to give back, I need to do it.”

McDonald’s mother Bonnie McDonald, the passage from Proverbs is a scripture she gave her two oldest sons when they were very young. She often applies scripture to the lives of her six children to infuse meaning into all aspects of life.

“When Cleyton, 28, and Clinton, 26, were growing up, that was the scripture I gave them because they were always so competitive with each other,” Bonnie McDonald said. “It took it from being just a competition and one beating the other one, to the two of them helping to improve each other.”

When McDonald was drafted out of Memphis University by the Cincinnati Bengals, that scripture was on the wall in the team locker room.

McDonald just signed a one-year restricted free agent contract that will keep him in Seattle through the 2013-14 season. It will be his fifth season in the NFL after spending two with Cincinnati and two in Seattle.

At 6-foot-2, 297 pounds, Clinton started one game last season, but got plenty of playing time. He played 298 snaps on defense. Undersized for his position, but the strongest player on the team, McDonald is used primarily in run-stopping situations.

The camp was originally scheduled for two days at Jacksonville High School, but the dates fell in the dead period enforced by the Arkansas High School Activities Association. The dead period is a two-week period in the summer when high-school and junior high athletes are not allowed on high school campuses or any contact with high school coaches.

After initially canceling the event, Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson and Bonnie McDonald got together with the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation department and worked out the current date.

“It’s a skills camp and then he’s basically going to give his story of living through perseverance regardless of obstacles that come up in life,” Bonnie McDonald said.

She gave one example.

“When he was drafted, people told him of all the places Cincinnati is the worst one you could’ve gone to,” Bonnie said. “I told him don’t look at it like that, and I gave him the story of Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Israel. He was a son, but he was not among them. But he still accomplished great things and ended up saving his family’s life. So where you’re at has nothing to do with who you are. Joseph wasn’t among Israel, but he was still Joseph.

“Clinton wasn’t where he wanted to be, but he could still exemplify strong character. And even though he was cut and relegated to the practice squad his first year, he still went out and met the team plane every time they got back from a trip, because that was his team. And he was going to support his teammates.”

While at Cincinati, McDonald forged a strong friendship with fellow lineman Michael Johnson, who still plays with the Bengals.

Johnson will also be at the camp, returning the favor of Clinton helping with Johnson’s camp every year in his hometown of Selma, Ala.

Session one is for kids ages 8 to 12 and will run from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Session two is for ages 13 to 17 and will run from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Camp awards will be given out in the last few minutes of each session. Early registration fee is $25, with the early registration deadline being Friday, June 14.

After that date, registration will be $30.

Camp T-shirts will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last. All proceeds for the camp benefit the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.

All interested campers can register at the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation department at 5 Municipal Drive in Jacksonville.

For more information, contact the parks and recreation office at 501-982-4171 or Bonnie McDonald at 501-247-3295.

SPORTS STORY >> Errors bury Cabot in loss to Jonesboro

By GRAHAM POWELL
Leader sportswriter

The combination of timely hitting and six Cabot errors helped Jonesboro’s senior American Legion team beat the Centennial Bank squad 13-0 in five innings on Monday at the Cabot baseball complex.

Jonesboro’s Hunter Nelson picked up the win on the mound. He threw all five innings and allowed just four Cabot hits and two walks, while recording four strikeouts. The Centennial Bank team used three different pitchers in the five innings played, and the defense behind them struggled.

Only four of Jonesboro’s 13 runs were earned. Cabot also left more runners stranded on the bases, six, doubling Jonesboro’s total of three. Cameron Jones, Jonesboro’s leadoff hitter, led all players with a 3 for 4 showing at the plate. He also scored two runs.

Jones’ three hits accounted for half of his team’s hit total as the visitors narrowly outhit Cabot 6-4. Centennial Bank’s Bryson Morris was the only other player for either team with multiple hits as he finished 2 for 3 at the plate.

Riley Knudsen and Hayden Vinson had a hit apiece to round out the hit totals for Cabot. Hunter Simpson, Seth Hart and Alex Camp each had a hit for Jonesboro. The Centennial Bank team played at Pine Bluff last night, and will play again at home on Friday as it hosts Conway at 8 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Bruins lose to Pangburn

By GRAHAM POWELL 
Leader sportswriter

A late rally by Sylvan Hills’ junior American Legion team gave Pangburn a scare, but the visiting Rayburn Sports squad’s three-run sixth inning was enough of a cushion to outlast the Bruins 5-3 on Monday at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

Skylar Litaker earned the win on the mound for Pangburn (3-2) as he threw all seven innings and kept the Bruins’ lineup at bay for the majority of the game, but had moments where he struggled in the first and final inning.

“I’ve got a couple of older guys but that’s their high school varsity team,” said Bruins coach Matt Presson of Pangburn. “That was their number one guy (Litaker). He threw it pretty good. It didn’t seem like we were hitting his fastball well and we had a lotof strikeouts. We didn’t put the ball in play a lot and didn’t put as much pressure on him as I’d like to.”

Jacob Riggs scored the first run of the game in the first inning to put Sylvan Hills (0-1) ahead 1-0, but Pangburn answered its next at bat with two more runs to take a 2-1 lead. That was the score until the top of the sixth.

Rayburn Sports’ three-hole hitter Sidney Owens led off the sixth with a single to the left-field gap off of Riggs, and he scored the next at bat thanks to a line-drive double to left-centerfield by Litaker.

Carson Sanders came in to relieve Riggs after Owens’ run and he retired the next two batters. But Pangburn second baseman Hunter Poe came through for the visiting team with a two-out single to right-centerfield, which allowed Litaker to score with ease.

The final run for Pangburn came the next at bat when catcher Alec Bourgieos drove in Poe with a stand-up double to deep right-centerfield, which put the Rayburn Sports squad up 5-1. Sylvan Hills failed to get anything going its next at bat, but the Bruins did what they could to make the visiting team sweat in the seventh and final inning.

Two walks and a single by Riggs in the bottom of the seventh inning loaded the bases for Sylvan Hills as cleanup hitter Derrick Fowler came to the plate. With two outs, Fowler came through with a hard-hit single to left field that allowed two runs to score, which cut Pangburn’s lead to 5-3.

With runners at first and second base, Dawson Heslep came to the plate, representing the winning run, and he got the bat on the ball, but got a little too far underneath it as he popped out to right field to end the game.

“With this being our first game and first live pitching, you could tell the rust was there,” Presson said. “There were a couple of errors. I wasn’t too upset about the errors, but there were a couple that costs us – a double-play ball we should’ve had, and an error at short that cost us a run or two. But 5-3 against a varsity team, I’m not too mad about that.”

The Bruins will try and get their first win of the summer at Cabot at 6 p.m. tomorrow in a doubleheader.

SPORTS STORY >> Hanging up the whistle

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Going out as a champion is the thing that everyone associated with sports dreams of. That dream is now a reality for Jacksonville girls basketball coach Katrina Mimms. A little less than three months after winning her first state championship, the 21-year coaching veteran is calling it quits as head Lady Red Devil.

Mimms handed in her resignation last week, and will now focus her professional attention on just being an algebra teacher.

Mimms’ final team went 26-4, winning its final 22 games in a row in earning the class 5A state championship on March 8. The Lady Devils beat Paragould in the title game at Barton Coliseum. Many factors went into Mimms’ decision, but that championship was certainly one of them.

“It’s the goal you work for your whole career, and when you reach it, you’re kind of like, what now?” said Mimms.

Though achieving the career ambition made the decision easier, resigning as coach is something that Mimms has been pondering for some time.

“I’ve been doing this for 21 years,” Mimms said. “I’ve been contemplating this for the last couple of years. I want to be with my kids more. They’re getting older and it’s time to spend more time being mom instead of coach.”

Mimms and her husband Rod have two boys, Caleb, age 11, and Caden, 8.

Even though the school gave her a new practice schedule this past year that worked out much better for her children, she still decided the time was right to hang up the whistle.

“I always said if I ever start dreading anything about this job, that would be the time to quit,” Mimms said. “During Christmas break, when it came time to leave the house and the family and open up the gym for practice, I started dreading that, even with this great team we had.

“It had nothing to do with the girls or basketball, it was just the time away from family. It’s not a situation where I can just say practice is at 10, and everybody will be there. I might have to go and pick up five of them, and then get them home. Calling a two-hour practice might take me five hours, and it ends up being almost a whole day. I just didn’t want to take that time away from home anymore. I just think this is a good time to break.”

Though Mimms has fully reconciled her decision to call it a career, she admits there are things she will greatly miss.

“You miss the game, the wins, the competition, you miss the feeling of all that,” Mimms said. “You miss the accomplishments, preparing for that team you’re maybe not supposed to beat, and seeing all that come together and winning that game.

“Mostly, though, I’m going to miss the kids. I won’t be as close to them as I have been. A lot of the ones on this team I pulled up as ninth graders. You watch them grow up and you’re a part of that. They’re my girls and I’d do anything for them. I always say I got my boys at home and my girls at school.”

Mimms closes her career with two programs resurrected. She started her career at North Pulaski at 22 years old. In three years she had that team in the state tournament.

It took her a little longer than three years at Jacksonville, but she leaves after its first-ever girls state championship.

Between the two schools, Mimms won five conference championships in basketball and volleyball, as well as this year’s state title.

TOP STORY >> Base shows flight crews how to use their iPads

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

It’s cheaper, lighter, faster and more efficient to provide 16,000 iPads to C-130, C-5 and other Air Mobility Command aircrews than to continue to load them down with maps, manuals and documents, according to Maj. Pete Birchenough, project manager for the Electronic Flight Bag, and the transition is complete.

 “Electronic flight bags allow our aircrews the ability to accomplish the mission more effectively, safely and efficiently with a single touch of their tablet. It’s another example of how we are continuing to find ways to be good stewards of taxpayer money by being innovative and efficient,” said Col. Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander.

A “pilot” project was launched at Little Rock Air Force base in July 2012, and a thorough study found that fuel, paper and printing savings more than offset the cost of the iPads, which were bought at a slight discount from Apple.

“We looked at dozens of devices,” according to Birchenough. They had to be fast and secure, and the transition was made more difficult in an otherwise Microsoft environment, he said.

“The biggest single tech hurdle was that our security people were unfamiliar (with Apple). There was unbelievable resistance.

“This is primarily an entertainment device and we were trying to use it as a war-fighting device,” he said of the iPad.

The spreadsheet used to prove the economy of the switch had about 65,000 lines of data, he said.

Air Mobility crews update and swap out documents and maps every 28 days.
Travis Air Force Base alone throws out 30 shopping carts of those documents every two months, he said.

The project was nominated for a Chief of Staff Air Excellence Award.

“It saves heads down time in the cockpit,” with crewmen looking for, and down at, maps and documents.” It’s all in one spot,” he said. And its easier to search for “engine fire” on an iPad than to looks through thousands of pages at a critical moment.

Air Force units had begun migrating to digital libraries, but there was no standard,” Birchenough said. Now it has 900 documents accessible anywhere in the world and managed by one person,” he said.

This is blazing the way for the Air Force and it opens the door for other initiatives.
Birchenough said his group was working now with all the services to improve data handling, plus the Department of Energy.

Little Rock received 721 iPads on July 2, 2012 for a six-month trial period.

A publication bag can weigh anywhere from 60 to 80 pounds, according to Master Sgt. Brandon Bowers, a 19th Operations Group evaluator flight engineer. “Just one of them costs more than an iPad he said.

Elimination of the paper will allow C-130s and other airframes to consume less fuel or carry slight larger loads.

The Air Force awarded a $9.6 million contract for as many as 18,000 tablets. The change is estimated to save AMC $750,000 annually in fuel costs alone.

The printing, paper and distribution costs are estimated at $5 million annually.

The iPads the Air Force is buying  are the WI-FI only (no cellular) 32 GB version. The cost per unit is about $520, which is a discount of about $80.

Monday, June 03, 2013

TOP STORY >> Civilians receive notices

Approximately 657 civilian employees at Little Rock Air Force Base started receiving 11-day furlough notices Friday from their supervisors.

The unpaid leave will start July 8 and end with the start of  the fiscal year in October.

That’s approximately a day off per week, or about a 20 percent reduction in pay for nonessential civilian workers because of sequestration cuts in the federal budget.

A furlough means an employee is in a temporary unpaid status at least until fall. The furloughs will affect 800,000 civilians employed in the  military.

Col. Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander, said the impact of the furloughs will be felt across the base.

“We are deeply concerned about the negative effects furloughs will have on the morale and effectiveness of the valued civilian workforce,” Robinson said.

“The impacts on base operations from the furlough action are yet to be determined. We are currently assessing what limits the furloughs will place on the base and how we will best operate within the bounds of acceptable risk and safety,” Robinson said.

“Our foremost concern is the safety and welfare of our military and civilian airmen in getting our assigned missions done during this challenging time,” the colonel said.

The furloughs were triggered by the inability of Congress to come to a budget agreement, and it will cost the Defense Department an estimated $46 billion for the fiscal year.

The Pentagon was $30 billion short for operations and maintenance, necessitating the furloughs and other cutbacks. Since sequestration became law, Congress has allowed certain areas, such as the military, to shift funds around, and has restored funds for air-traffic controllers and food inspectors.

TOP STORY >> Waiver granted PCSSD

By SARAH CAMPBELL
Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District was granted an exemption this week from the Arkansas Public School Choice Act of 2013, a new law that was passed on April 16.

The new law allows students to enroll in schools other than those that they are zoned for based on where they live.

The exemption means that PCSSD will not approve any school choice transfers during the 2013-14 school year, Superintendent Jerry Guess said. He noted that this would affect an estimated 10 to 12 student transfers the district typically receives each year.

“We don’t get very many (school choice transfers),” Guess said.

The exemption was necessary because PCSSD is under court-ordered desegregation.

Students could be granted Opportunity School Choice transfers if the district were academically distressed, but that isn’t the case right now.

Guess noted that his office has taken five or six calls from parents who thought the new law gave them the choice to transfer their children to or from the district.

Guess said he had to tell them they couldn’t seek a transfer this year, at least not under the school choice act. For districts that are not exempt, the deadline to apply for a transfer is today.

“The state’s problem is that they have the responsibility to maintain desegregation,” the superintendent explained. “(And PCSSD) has the opportunity to protect against future litigation.”

Guess said he didn’t know how the new law would affect an independent school district in Jacksonville. He noted, “It’s premature to wonder.”

Guess said a Jacksonville school district would probably be exempt as well.

Petitions calling for an election to determine whether the city’s residents want a new independent school district are being circulated now.

State Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) explained that new law, which she voted for, didn’t give PCSSD a choice in the matter because it’s involved in the decades-old desegregation case.

“That has just tied them up,” she said.

The new law repealed the School Choice Act of 1989 because U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson ruled that it was unconstitutional for having a component based solely upon race. The old law prohibited transfers to districts where the percentage of the student’s race is higher than the percentage in the home district.

The ruling was prompted by a lawsuit a group of Malvern parents filed after their children weren’t allowed to enroll at Magnet Cove.

The students are white. Malvern is 60 percent white and Magnet Cove is 95 percent white. So they couldn’t transfer under the 1989 School Choice Act.

According to information released by the state after that law was thrown out, almost 14,000 students were enrolled at the end of the 2011-12 school year in districts other than the ones where they live.

English added, “We needed to change the law because it was unconstitutional. It’s important to me that people have a school choice. That’s the way it ought to be. We should not set a box that this is where you live and that is where you go to school.”

TOP STORY >> Vertac monitoring will continue

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville officials are glad the city owns the old Vertac site, even though a federal judge ruled this week that the old Vertac site must still be monitored for possible contaminants.

The site now includes the new police headquarters, police and fire department training, the recycling center and more.

U.S. District Judge Price Marshall has ruled that until it is declared that no environmental hazard remains at the old plant site, East Bay Realty Services, a subsidiary of Hercules, has to treat the ground water and monitor the property.

Hercules, which once owned the chemical plant, must respond immediately and appropriately to any incident that involves the release of a hazardous substance or threatens public health, welfare or the environment. The company is no longer under court supervision but must submit written reports to the Environmental Protection Agency for five more years.

The property cannot be used for residential purposes or any project that involves exposure to soils. So, a nursing home, day care center, playground or church cannot be built there without the written approval of environmental authorities. The site’s groundwater and surface water can’t be used. Drilling, mining, excavation and backfilling with untested or hazardous soil is also prohibited.

Jim Durham, the city’s director of administration, said, “Most people don’t realize that the chemicals were not made or stored over the entire site. The chemicals were incinerated and the remaining ash entombed in concrete and fenced off.”

He said the site is basically divided into three sections: The section with the entombed ash from incineration of chemical wastes, another area that never had any problems and another section that had some contamination, but the latest tests show it is cleared.

“We’ve built the new public facility building, the joint training center, the recycling center and public works department all on the grounds that were part of the site, but not affected or polluted.”

Durham said a documentary film crew was out on-site recently filming the work the city had done  to show how  one of these Superfund sites can become  an asset.

The new 37,000-square-foot police headquarters on Marshall Road is a $6 million investment in the land.

“It’s good property,” Dur-ham said. “Safe, clean and easily accessible to the public.”
Of course the land wasn’t so “good” in 1979, when the EPA found that it was contaminated with dioxin, a toxic waste. Herbicide manufacturers Hercules Inc., a Delaware company, and Vertac Chemical Corp. were blamed. Vertac bought the land in 1976 from Hercules, which had owned it since 1963.

The property was cleaned up in 1998 with $150 million from the federal Superfund program, which oversaw the destruction of thousands of contaminated barrels from the old chemical plant.

Hercules spent $120 million and Vertac contributed $3 million to the cleanup of the 93 acres. They finished paying their portions of the bill in 2007.

“Back then,” Durham said, “the contamination was measured in parts per billion. But tests done lately show the problem is down to parts per trillion.”

Durham said the good thing about Vertac and Hercules was that the chemicals they produced were all organic and eventually organic material breaks down. “That’s why they are no longer finding the levels that used to be there,” he said.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “For all of us who understood what took place here to clean the site, it’s already been put to bed. For most people, it’s a foggy memory. As far as we’re concerned, it’s a dead issue. This was just the legal, judiciary process. The site is clean, (and)has been clean, for years. It’s a beautiful site. The wildlife, the vegetation is as healthy here as it is anywhere else.”

Fletcher said federal agencies could take much of the credit for that. “They were here watching, making sure that process was taken care of. We got extra attention.”

He said people have more to fear from pesticides that are sprayed on residential lawns than they do from the brownfield, the designation Vertac acquired after the cleanup.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial seniors lose to Fort Smith

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Fort Smith Kerwins gave the Cabot senior American Legion team several chances, but the Centennial Bank squad couldn’t capitalize in a 3-2 Kerwins win Wednesday in Cabot.

The visiting Sportsmen were aggressive on the base paths, and that aggression got three runners thrown out at home plate. One poor decision directly cost Kerwins two runs, but Cabot could get nothing going for most of the game off Fort Smith pitcher Chris Hunt.

He carried a no hitter into the fourth inning before Ryan Logan and Riley Knudsen got back-to-back hits with one out. Casey Vaughan grounded out to shortstop to score Logan and tie the game at one run apiece.

Cabot coach Cody Whitworth had his pitchers on a strict pitch count, and removed Logan from the mound after three and a third innings despite being in the middle of a solid performance.

Logan had given up three hits and had just recorded his fifth strikeout when Whitworth replaced him with Bryson Morris.

Just like Logan, Morris gave up a double to the first batter he faced, Nate Whitson. He then issued a walk and gave up a single to leadoff hitter Hayden Harvey. Harvey’s shot to left field should have loaded the bases, but Whitson tried to score from second and was gunned down at the plate by Logan.

Morris then got Chris Davis to ground out to first base to get out of the jam.

Fort Smith got on the board quickly. Harvey doubled to the power alley in left field and reach third on a sacrifice bunt by Davis. Harvey then scored on a passed ball by catcher Tristan Bulice.

Cabot tied it in the fourth and Kerwins reclaimed the lead in the top of the seventh off reliever Kyle Kaufman. Harvey got his second double of the game. Kaufman then hit Davis with a pitch.

Harvey tried to steal third when new catcher Hayden Vinson blocked a pitch in the dirt. Vinson gathered the ball and fired to Bulice at third in plenty of time to get Harvey for the first out of the inning.

Another play at third on the next pitch didn’t go Cabot’s way. Fort Smith catcher Jordan Miller grounded to shortstop. Conner Vocque fielded the ball cleanly and threw to Bulice, who applied the tag to Miller’s foot. But Miller knocked Bulice’s glove off his hand, causing the umpire to first call the runner out, then safe.

Davis then scored on a deep fly ball to right field by cleanup hitter Max Schaeffer to give the Sportsmen a 2-1 lead.

Controversy struck again in the bottom of the seventh for Cabot. Grayson Cole singled with two outs to put runners at first and second. Miller made a strong pickoff throw from the plate to first base.

Sportsmen first baseman Houston Kennedy applied the tag and began to run off the field, but the field umpire called Cole safe. Fort Smith coaches argued that Cole never made it back to the bag. After a meeting of the umpire crew, Cole was called out, drawing protest from the Cabot coach. Whitworth’s arguments were to no avail, and the reversal stood.

Cabot (0-4) tied it in the eighth with an unearned run. Morris reached on an error at first base. After stealing second, he scored on a hit by Vocque with two outs.

Fort Smith got the game-winning run in the top of the ninth with no outs. Harvey walked and Davis singled to set things up for Miller, who doubled to left field to score Harvey.

Schaeffer then flew out to shallow right field and again Fort Smith tried to score. And again Cole threw Davis out easily for a 9-2 double play.

Kennedy then singled, which would have scored two runs if Davis had stayed put, but only left runners at first and third.

Cabot got its first two batters on base to start the bottom of the ninth, but couldn’t get the tying run across the plate.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot White lands NLR second loss

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Cabot White junior American Legion team picked up a solid win over North Little Rock on Wednesday in the first round of the Gwatney Chevrolet Invitational at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.

Starting pitcher Gavin Tillery threw a seven-hit shutout in six innings of work as the Centennial Bank squad won 5-0.

Cabot had just one more hit than the Colts, but were much more productive with those hits. Centennial Bank got two runs in the bottom of the first for all the runs it needed, but still added one more in the second and two in the sixth to set the final margin.

Tillery’s only major foe was North Little Rock pitcher Jason Askins, who went 3 for 3 to account for almost half of the Colts’ base hits. The rest of the North Little Rock lineup combined to go 4 for 19 with six strikeouts and no walks.

Askins wasn’t bad on the mound either in his four innings of work. He gave up four hits and two earned runs while striking out three and walking two.

Adam Hicks led Cabot’s offensive charge, going 2 for 3 with a run batted in. Jonathan Latture, Chris Odom, Tyler Tucker, Trent Frizzell, Tyler Gilbert and Jess Reed all had one base hit for Cabot (2-2).

It was North Little Rock’s second-straight loss after winning four straight to start the season. The Colts won their pool and semifinal game in their own Memorial Day tournament last weekend, but lost the championship game 2-1 to Texarkana.

Cabot White will play Benton at 1:30 p.m. today with a chance to advance to tomorrow’s semifinal round.

The Cabot Red team lost its first-round game 12-3 to Bryant.

Red pitcher Seth Cummings had trouble finding the strike zone early, walking the first three batters he faced and five total in the first inning as the Black Sox jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead.

The game was much more competitive the rest of the way, but the early hole was too deep for Cabot to dig out of.

Cabot got two back in the bottom of the first. Leadoff hitter Braden Jarnigan walked and Josh Kelpine singled to put two runners on base. They both scored with one out when  Jarrett Pitchford’s grounder to shortstop was mishandled.

Cabot added its last run in the fifth inning when Kayde Ridgeway singled, stole second base and scored on a single by Pitchford.

The Red team will face Conway at 3:45 today on field one at Dupree Park.

SPORTS STORY >> BMX champion teaches in Cabot

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Dominique Daniels, the world’s No. 1 female BMX racer, wowed the crowd and put on a riding clinic at the Cabot racetrack at Lonoke County Regional Park on Wednesday. 

Daniels, a 20-year-old from Phoenix, Ariz., is in the midst of a nationwide tour of local tracks in an effort to grow her sport. Racing since she was 12, Daniels said she has already seen exponential growth in BMX racing.

“The numbers of competitors has grown substantially since I started,” said Daniels just before the clinic began. “Even at the little track where I started, there were maybe 25 or so regular competitors out there, and now it’s easily over 100. These clinics have also grown, from the number of clinics themselves to the number of people participating in them.”

Daniels only does the clinics during the summer. She is also a full-time student at Grand Canyon University, where she recently won the NCAA national championship for the second-consecutive year.

On their way to a national event in Nashville, Tenn., Daniels’ father and head trainer Tim Daniels contacted the city of Cabot about stopping on the way for a clinic.
Cabot track operator Jeff Gray said they jumped at the opportunity.

“We’d been reaching out trying to get some clinics,” Gray said. “The elite racers are very good about contacting local tracks on the way to these big events and doing things like this.”

The threat of rain kept attendance numbers low, and rain did somewhat hamper the clinic. Just a few minutes into the clinic, a huge rain blew through the area. It was gone in just a few minutes, but the track was no longer suitable for demonstration.

Daniels didn’t cut things short though. Instead she took riders and parents into the parking lot and continued teaching.

According to Gray, one of the most helpful things about the clinic was how much the 15 or so parents learned.

“A lot of the things they went over with us was different from some of the things these kids have been taught,” Gray said. “For example, what we’ve been taught for years about thrusting your hips forward, that was totally wrong. They made it a point to include the parents so we could be better informed on how to coach these kids.”

Daniels said the clinic is very basic, but that the basics are the most important thing to know to be successful.

“I basically teach them the same things I do every day in training,” Daniels said. “And we promote parental involvement. My dad has been working with me since I started at age 12, and he’s still my main trainer today.”

While the rain didn’t stop the clinic, it was disappointing to Daniels in another way, according to Gray.

“She was not happy that it rained,” Gray said. “She told us that we really have one of the nicest local facilities she’s seen, and she really wanted to get out there and ride that track.”

The Cabot track hosts races every Saturday with signups beginning at 6 p.m. and racing starting at 7 p.m. Entry fee is $7 per rider and first-time participants race for free.

Practices are held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and the track is open every day except Monday when the whole park is shut down for police firing range practice.

SPORTS STORY >> Colts pound Vipers

By GRAHAM POWELL
Leader sportswriter

Stellar pitching and timely hitting led to another dominant win for the unbeaten North Little Rock Colts senior American Legion team as they routed the Little Rock Vipers 9-0 on Wednesday at Burns Park.

Former Sylvan Hills’ standout pitcher Connor Eller got the win on the mound for North Little Rock (4-0). He threw all seven innings and recorded 12 strikeouts to just two walks, and gave up four hits, two of which came in the first inning.

“I’m very pleased and not surprised with the team that I’ve got,” said North Little Rock coach Robert Hopkins. “What you saw tonight, we’ve played four games and all four games have been exactly that way. We started off slow, and about the third inning the bats came alive.”

Little Rock’s only real threat to score came in the first inning as they left two runners stranded at first and second base. Neither team could build any offensive momentum until the third inning when North Little Rock scored two runs.

Will Hopkins, the Colts’ nine-hole hitter, walked to start the inning. He stole second base before L.J. Wallace drove him in with a stand-up double to the wall in left-centerfield. The fleet-footed Wallace scored the next at bat on a line-drive single to centerfield by right fielder J.D. Miller, which put the Colts ahead 2-0 heading into the fourth inning.

It was that inning when the Colts’ bats really came alive. North Little Rock scored the rest of its runs in that time, and scored six before the Vipers could record an out. Landon Hearnes started things off with a stand-up triple to centerfield, thanks to an ill-advised dive by Vipers’ centerfielder Calvin Wilbon.

He scored two-batters later on a single up the middle by third baseman Nick Cleveland. Dylan Huckaby, who was hit by a pitch after Hearnes’ triple, scored the fourth run of the game on a single by Gunner Allen.

Hopkins then came to the plate and laid down a well-executed bunt to the left side of the infield. Vipers’ pitcher Jared Shepard fielded the ball cleanly, but instead of going for the sure out at first base, he threw the ball to third and the throw was far enough off the mark that third baseman Daniel Massiuer had to come off the bag, and as a result, all base runners were safe.

Colts’ leadoff hitter Justin Weigle then came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a routine ground ball to first base. However, the throw home for the force out was way off, and as the ball rolled to the backstop, Cleveland and Allen scored to put NLR up 6-0. 

Wallace followed with a two-RBI single to centerfield. Hopkins and Weigle scored on the play. Then Miller came to the plate and advanced Wallace to third base with a single to the left-field gap, and Wallace scored the next at bat on a sacrifice fly to left field by cleanup hitter Dylan Boone, which set the final score. Boone’s sacrifice was the first out of the inning.

“We played well there at the end I thought,” Hopkins said. “Back in 2005, I had Drew Smyly and several others that went on to play Division I baseball. That was probably the most talent-laden team I had. I was at Maumelle at the time. But here at North Little Rock I’ve had some good teams.

“You know, these guys have got to play well for a whole season. We won the Zone (Conference) for the past two years and I expect that we’ll compete for that this year, but as I told them at the start of the year, I’m just going to let them play.”

Miller led all batters with three hits. Wallace finished with two. Hearnes, Cleveland and Allen had a hit apiece.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devil heading to Fayetteville

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Recently graduated Jacksonville Red Devil Kevin Richardson begins his career as an Arkansas Razorback when he reports to Fayetteville on June 29.

Richardson officially decided to walk-on as a wide receiver for the Razorbacks instead of accepting a scholarship from other schools as a defensive safety.

While turning down scholarship offers, including one that exceeded $100,000 from Harding University, was a very tough decision, Richardson said the reasons were two fold.

“Well I’ve always wanted to be a Razorback,” said Richardson. “That’s been my dream since I was little. Plus they wanted me to play wide receiver and that’s where I want to play. The other schools were looking at me as a safety and I really didn’t want to play defense. I love having the ball in my hands.”

The two-time All-State selection admits, though, that if Arkansas wanted him as a safety, he’d probably have gone elsewhere.

“If it came down to walking on at Arkansas as a safety, or going somewhere else on scholarship as a safety, I’d probably be going somewhere else,” Richardson said.

Richardson first caught the attention of Arkansas coaches at last year’s FCA combine at North Little Rock High School. Then offensive coordinator Paul Petrino liked Richardson’s speed, 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, and precise route running ability.

He kept in touch with Richardson until the Razorbacks’ season began to fall apart and recruiting, not just of Richardson, but altogether, practically ceased. Petrino and the rest of the staff knew they wouldn’t be at the U of A next year, and focused on future employment instead of future Razorbacks.

Richardson’s speed and ability are SEC level, but his size is the main reason he was passed on by other major Division I schools.

Right at 6-feet tall, he says he is up to 160 pounds, but played most of his high-school career at around 150. 

Richardson, with the help of family and friends, most notable older brother Airic Hughes, made a late promotional push to get his name out among larger schools, focusing heavily on Arkansas.

Hughes, a former Jacksonville basketball player, UA graduate with a bachelor or arts degree in history, and current assistant director of the UA Student and Young Alumni Association, helped put together and highlight film and became a vocal advocate for Richardson on campus.

The Razorback coaching staff liked the film enough to send new tight end coach and director of recruiting for in-state talent Barry Lunney Jr. to Jacksonville to meet with Richardson, his family and the Jacksonville coaching staff.

“He said they had already signed two receivers and didn’t have any scholarships left because it was so late,” Richardson said. “But they wanted me to walk on and told me I had a really good chance of earning a scholarship. They lost a lot of receivers last year for different reasons and they think I have the ability to help.”

Richardson didn’t give an immediate answer. He knew there was real money waiting on him at other schools. But after visiting the campus, attending spring practice and sitting in on position and team meetings, he made up his mind.

“I loved everything about it,” Richardson said. “I loved the atmosphere, being on the field. I’ve just always wanted to be a Razorback and I got a little taste of it. I sat in on a receivers’ meeting, and there were only six or seven receivers in there. So I feel like I have a good chance of working my way into a scholarship.”

At such a light weight for the SEC, Richardson expects to be red shirted his first year. He is also aware that receivers won’t be quite as prominent in new coach Bret Bielema’s offense as they were in Petrino’s, but isn’t deterred by that fact, primarily because his main goal isn’t football related.

“I’d love to be able to take football to the next level, but the first goal I have for going up there is that I’m going to graduate,” Richardson said. “Even if I can keep playing, I’m going to graduate.”