Wednesday, July 03, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Not helping Jacksonville

(This November 2012 editorial by Jonathan Feldman about a Jacksonville City Council candidate won first place for editorial writing from the Arkansas Press Association.)

We are not often so disappointed in a city council candidate that we feel obligated to inform readers of the likely pitfalls if he were elected. But Rizelle Aaron’s behavior has been deceitful and erratic since he entered Jacksonville’s political arena in 2009.

Aaron is running against Alderman Terry Sansing in Ward 2, Position 2 in a divisive campaign that is similar to many of Aaron’s civic endeavors. Aaron has been a disruptive voice who has set racial relations back 40 years or more.

Aaron has accused The Leader of bias, although our readers know that we have supported the African-American community since we started this newspaper 25 years ago.

We lauded the late Dr. Charles Hopson, the former superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District, as he tried to improve the district before he was unfairly ousted by the state Education Department. We have recommended Jacksonville High School principal Henry Anderson as the next superintendent of PCSSD or as the head of a Jacksonville-area district when it wins approval in the courts.

The Leader has celebrated Arkansas’ African- American culture like no other newspaper in the state. We have covered the local chapter of the NAACP, the Dick Jeter community and a recent candidates forum at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. We also asked the hard questions about the fatal fire at the Max Howell Apartments where a black family of five perished.
Often we have written of the benefits of health-care reform, President Obama’s most controversial policy initiative that will help minorities and the poor.

We have written about the timeless music of the Arkansas Delta, from Albert King to Son Seals, who are seldom mentioned in the state media or in its history books.

Recently, we were informed by community members that Aaron was telling his supporters and opponents alike that he had sued the newspaper — presumably, The Leader — for reporting on his criminal background and false education credentials in 2010 when he briefly ran for mayor here. He denies saying he sued this newspaper, but we have reason to doubt him.

Aaron presumably felt we were pulling our punches because of the alleged lawsuit. Here are some highlights of his record that should concern Jacksonville residents:


Aaron often tells critics that he secretly records private conversations. It can be assumed he intends to embarrass anyone he felt had crossed him. The legality of secretly recording conversations aside, Aaron’s intentions are clear: He wants to threaten and intimidate his opponents, most of whom are city employees.


To address the challenges facing Jacksonville, city council members should have professional experience that can help provide insight for the development of the city’s economy, schools and infrastructure. Aaron hasn’t been employed during the few years that he has been politically active. These are hard times, but a professional background and experience are important for any candidate to bring to the council.

He says that he is a disabled veteran, yet he has campaigned all day in front of the community center. How can an under-employed candidate with little work experience help Jacksonville attract businesses?


We do not expect all city council members to have college degrees, but we do think they should be honest about their education. When he announced his candidacy for mayor, Aaron claimed to have a bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology from National University at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The school could not find him on their list of graduates.

To complicate matters further, on a Miranda warning waiver Aaron signed Nov. 19, 2007, he wrote that he had just one year of college.


During several Pulaski County Special School District board meetings that Aaron attended, he spoke against establishing an independent school district for Jacksonville, citing concerns that racial disparities could return if local officials were to manage the district. He would have us believe that school officials in Little Rock have Jacksonville’s educational interests in mind. More likely, he opposed an independent district because the mayor, like thousands of other Jacksonville residents, supports the plan.

Aaron would rather oppose city officials at every opportunity than see that he shares some goals with those he fervently wants to turn out of office. He has since changed his position and is now in favor of creating a separate Jacksonville district, as he said during a recent candidates forum. Jacksonville deserves better.

TOP STORY >> Principal is walking tall at JHS

Leader editor

(This column from July 2012 won first place in the Arkansas Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.)

Jacksonville High School was in awful shape last July when Henry Anderson took over the failed school in a failed school district.

The place was rundown, morale was terrible and test scores were falling along with graduating rates.

The state Education Department had just taken over the Pulaski County Special School District. Teachers and staff grumbled because their unions faced decertification.

Suddenly, Anderson, 41, showed up like a new sheriff in town and told his staff: Help me clean up this mess or go teach someplace else.

“It’s been an exciting, roller-coaster year,” Anderson told the Jacksonville Rotary Club meeting Monday at Southern Oaks Country Club. But, he said, he’s seeing some encouraging results.

Test scores have improved, he said. Math and literacy scores are up 9 to 10 percent. There’s still a long way to go, but Anderson has inspired teachers and students to care about test scores.

Graduation rates are way up. Only 15 of 166 seniors failed to earn diplomas this year, a big improvement over recent graduation rates of a little more than 50 percent. One of the 15 students who didn’t graduate, Anderson said, was only half a credit away.

“If we can get them on the right track, they’ll be able to graduate,” the principal said.

Anderson is tired of seeing the school called one of the worst in the state. He wants JHS off the needs-improvement list and make it as good as it was 30 and 40 years ago, when it offered advanced-placement courses that were among the best in the state.

“We got a clean bill of health this year,” he said. “We’ve become a model. The school district is sending principals to our school to see what we’re doing right,” Anderson said. “The U.S. Department of Education will visit us to see how the school is making these improvements.”

Back in June 2011, before Anderson showed up, the high school was so bad, it qualified for a multi-million school-improvement grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Jacksonville received a $2 million improvement grant from the department. Three other failing high schools — all in the poverty-stricken Delta — received slightly lesser amounts.

The four high schools — the others are Helena-West Helena, Marvell and Dollarway — were ranked in the bottom 5 percent in the state, which qualified them for the school-improvement grants.

This is a grant you don’t want to shout about, but Anderson doesn’t mind bringing it up. He said Jacksonville is doing so well, it will get an additional $1.7 million this year and $2 million more in 2013, or as much as $5.7 million over three years.

Students now have computers in labs and classrooms and several iPads. There’s campus-wide wireless Internet, Promethian interactive whiteboards, equipment for science labs, recording equipment for band, choir and television-production classes, access to on-campus licensed social workers, credit recovery and concurrent enrollment with Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock.

The school district is paying for a $750,000 remodeling this summer, which includes a new front entrance and improvements in the library and cafeteria.

The principal wants to reward teachers who do a good job. “We’ve got a school to turn around,” he said. “We want the best and the brightest.”

He expects teachers to do more and not take off as soon as the bell rings.

“When you’re paid $75,000 a year, and you say you don’t have to call anybody after 3:05 p.m. That’s got to change,” Anderson said. “If we don’t see improvement, they’re terminated. It is what it is.”

That’s his mantra: Teachers must teach and students must learn.

Anderson means business. “If you don’t like it here, you can go someplace else,” he said bluntly. He was talking about students and teachers.

“If you’re going to get into a fight, you’re going to get arrested,” he added, talking about students.

He’s rebuilding the math faculty so parents don’t have to hire tutors to teach their kids.

There’s more blunt talk: If kids go out to McDonald’s or Taco Bell for lunch and don’t come back, he’ll have them arrested because Jacksonville has a daytime curfew.

That means students can’t be out on the streets when schools are in session.

Jacksonville High School hasn’t had a parent-teachers organization in years. But now, it’s forming a parent-teacher-student group that will hold monthly meetings.

Barry Hickingbotham, the assistant football coach, told the Rotarians that Anderson is the real deal.

“If he wants something done, he means it. That’s why our school is turning around,” the coach said. “If you miss two weeks of school, you miss two weeks of sports.”

“He’s what we need. Our school is improving,” Hickingbotham said.

Anderson bought a house in Jacksonville. “I’m the first principal in years who’s done that. Kids know where I live. They toilet papered my house.”

But that’s all right with him as long as test scores improve and the school gets better and more kids graduate.

“I’m loving it,” he said.

Someone told Anderson he could be the next superintendent when the state gives back the district to local control.

“I’d love it,” he said.

“We’ve got a great school,” Anderson said. “We still have lots to do. Our kids deserve so much more.”

(Postscript: Anderson will be principal at McClellan High School in Little Rock this fall. He received a big raise and a signing bonus.)

TOP STORY >> Area to mark Fourth of July with Big Bang

Leader staff writer

Cabot’s Fourth of July celebration starts at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, 163 Mount Carmel Road.

There will be patriotic music. Hot dogs, chips and drinks will be for sale.

A bounce house, slides and an obstacle course will be set up for children.

Fireworks begin at 9 p.m.

Ward’s annual Fourth of July celebration starts at 4:30 p.m. when the vendors open for business and the car and motorcycle show begins.

The opening ceremony at 5 p.m. will feature the Little Rock Air Force base honor guard almost immediately followed by a lawn mower and lawn tractor driving competition.

The River Rats, a bluegrass band from Mountain View, will perform until 8:30 p.m. following the opening ceremony.

Vendors will have funnel cakes and fresh-squeezed lemonade for sale but the city will give away hamburgers and bottled water.

Dancers from Carla’s Dance of Ward will perform at 6:30 p.m. and the fireworks show will start at 9:15 or dark.

South Bend Fire Rescue will have a fireworks show at 4144 Hwy. 294, Military Road, on Thursday beginning with a 6:30 p.m. supper.

Sonny’s Auto Salvage is sponsoring the event.

Jimmie White Park, 115 Cheyenne in north Jacksonville off T.P. White Drive is July’s Park of the Month.

A family fun day is planned there from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, July 13. Admission is free. All ages are welcome.

There will be free food and lots of fun, according to Marlo Jackson, information and marketing manager for Jacksonville Parks and Recreation. She said there will be something for everyone.

Beebe will host its Fourth of July celebration beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Beebe City Park baseball fields with a fireworks show at dusk. 

The evening will feature two musical performances by Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers and Wine and Roses.

There will be free hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, water and slush puppies served.

Face painting and temporary tattoos will also be offered.

The swimming pool will be open at no charge and lifeguards will be on duty.

The Army’s Adventure Simulators will visit the Jacksonville Museum of Military History at 100 Veterans Circle from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

The group will offer free simulators for driving M1A1 Abrams tank, flying an Apache helicopter, a timed shooting event with a marksmanship trainer and a bomb squad exercise using an electronic ordnance disposal robotic arm.

There is no charge for admission to the museum that day.

The Army’s Adventure Simulators will also bring their 70-by-25-foot semi truck to Sherwood’s 14th annual Fourth of July Celebration from 6-9 p.m. Thursday at Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave.

There will be a kid zone with a bounce house and fireworks start at 9 p.m.

The city will provide free hot dogs, water, chips and giveaways while supplies last.

The Sherwood Sharks swim team will be selling additional items.

The entertainment is Patriotic Pamy, Paul Morphis, Fragile Elite and Top of the Rock Chorus. Top of the Rock will be inside the building while the other musical acts will be outside on a second stage.

Shuttles will be available from Sylvan Hills High School.

The new Crossroads Cow-boy Church and Two Bar Two Arena at 3071 Hwy. 5 in El Paso will be dedicated during a Fourth of July celebration with fireworks at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Participants are invited to enjoy food, fellowship and performances by the Crossroads Cowboy Church Band and other musical groups.

TOP STORY >> The burden of service

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Lugging his bags to the curb, contemplating innumerable what ifs, Tech. Sgt. Aaron Drain pauses for a moment and reassures his wife, Heather, that everything will be all right. Holding back her tears, she whispers softly that she loves him.

As midnight approaches, one of the military’s oldest rituals is renewed as Drain kisses his wife and their two sons goodbye and leaves for war.

“Saying goodbye is a hard emotion to capture,” said Drain, “especially because there is always the chance that it could be your last one. That goodbye hurts for at least a month. The first time I deployed, once Heather was gone, I cried for at least 15 minutes. I hid that emotion from her, I guess to try to be the strong one, but I think it might have hurt more than anything.”

For this rotation, Drain widened his outlook on preparation, making a concerted effort to provide every resource available to his recently expanded family.

Just three weeks before his departure, the couple celebrated the arrival of their second child, Everett.

“She just had a baby; she’s still healing,” said Drain. “If I put myself in her shoes, I’m basically abandoning her. I’m still here financially, but what good is that sometimes?”
Situations like Drain’s present a clear illustration of the resiliency that airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base exhibit every day in service to the nation. Regardless of length or location, the men and women fulfilling these deployment obligations have given up some measure of normalcy to do so.

“The hardest part about deploying is most definitely leaving your family,” said Drain. “Everett, my newest son, is three weeks old; he’ll never remember this, but leaving her with that responsibility, by herself, should not be like that. I’m going to potentially miss his first smile, probably, him sitting up, things like that. Possibly crawling, those are big milestones in a young child’s life, and I’m going to miss probably all of them. Ayden, he’s 4, so he gets that I’m leaving, but he doesn’t get exactly what’s going on or where I’m going. We try to explain it to him, war. It might be a little much for him at 4 years old, but what else do you tell him, work? You just do the best you can to explain it to him, war. It might be a little much for him at 4 years old, but what else do you tell him, work? You just do the best you can to explain it to him.”

For Drain, a flight engineer with the 53rd Airlift Squadron, this deployment represented an opportunity to improve on several missteps made during his first deployment.
Early in the life of his eldest son, Ayden, Drain was tapped for a deployment to Iraq.

“The first time I went, I had maybe a month’s notice,” said Drain. “I said, ‘Hey honey, I’ve got to deploy.’ It was good for my career, but I failed to see where it was good for my family, or make it good for my family by discussing it with her. I failed big time. That was one thing I knew I would not let happen this time.”

He attributes undue stress on the relationship during the deployment to a lack of communication. 

“One of the biggest things is communication,” Drain said. “The first time, in Iraq, we just didn’t talk about anything. I went over there, and it all just blew up because we never talked about it. We got it solved, we figured it out, but some couples don’t, and they never recover. Communication is number one; everything will fall apart otherwise.”

Another focal point for Drain was the comfort of his family during his absence.

“During this deployment, my preparations started much earlier,” Drain said. “It really started at the first hint of the possibility of deploying. The first step was talking with Heather. We knew the baby was coming, so making sure she could handle it was important.”

He continued, “After that, we started looking around the house to see what needed to be fixed or could potentially go bad. We replaced some appliances, made some repairs and took care of finances. I wanted her to be happy. The last thing you want on the road is to worry about their comfort.”

As dawn approached, the airmen sat quietly. Crammed into the darkest corners of the base passenger terminal, the fatigue of preparation had set in.  Some made small talk, but most spent their final moments on station in muted meditation. Some had embraced the expedition at hand; while others were adrift, transfixed by familiar reflections.

For Drain it was both.

“There are so many things that could go wrong,” he said. “All I could think about is how I could have prepared my wife and family better. There comes a point, though, where you have to focus energy on what is in front of you and what you are doing. For me it was that point. I was sad for leaving my family. They are the most important thing to me, but if you can’t or don’t shift gears to the task in front of you, you could really get people hurt, or worse.”
To see a video clip of this story, visit the Little Rock Air Force Base YouTube page.

TOP STORY >> Paper wins 31 awards

Leader staff writer

The Leader was honored as the best large weekly in the state for the sixth year in a row.

The announcement came at the Arkansas Press Association convention Saturday in Eureka Springs.

Besides garnering the coveted “general excellence” award again, the Leader took home 31 writing, photography and design awards.

Plus staff writer Sarah Campbell was honored as the best young journalist among all the state’s weekly newspapers.

In all, The Leader took seven first-place awards, 12 second, nine thirds and two honorable mentions.

The Leader took first in beat reporting with Sarah Campbell getting the honors, sports column writing by Ray Benton, editorial writing by Jonathan Feldman, general-interest column writing by Garrick Feldman, single news and single feature photography by David Scolli and best freelance writing by Peg Kenyon.

The judges called The Leader a “great paper that has excellent use of lines and white space.”

The judges, from the Texas Press Association, called Campbell’s Sherwood beat reporting “great work covering a beat and finding compelling issues.”

Judges said of Benton’s sports column, “Fans’ priorities are out of order:” “Chastising fans takes guts, especially rabid college boosters. This was concise and potent. Good job.”

Jonathan Feldman’s editorial, “Not helping Jacksonville,” had the judges saying, “Courageous and rational statement of both fact and opinion — the essence of an editorial.”

In reviewing Garrick Feldman’s general-interest column, “Principal is walking tall,” the judges said, “Love the insight into this principal. Your community is served well.” Feldman also nabbed second place honors in the political/news column with “First and last Vietnam casualties.”

Staff photographer Scolli took best in show with his single news photograph, “School remembers” young fire victims and his single feature photo, “Hugs and kisses,” about a girl and her mother on the first day in school.

Judges said his news photo “showed a good depiction of emotion for the victims.” Judges were attracted to Scolli’s feature photo because of the emotion.

“Who could not be drawn to this picture? Good crop. Good placement. Nice press work,” the judges said. Scolli also won third place for best sports feature photograph, “Coach Hide” and honorable mention in the sports action photograph category.

The Texas judges complimented Kenyon’s freelance article, “JPD hasn’t forgotten,” saying it was “very well written and excellent work.”

The newspaper took second in the best front page competition.

Besides being named young journalist of the year and garnering first place in beat reporting, Campbell  placed second in news stories with her article, “Driver has criminal past;”  and second in investigative reporting with “Confusion continues over alarms.”

Staff writer Rick Kron earned second place in feature stories with his “School remembers fire victims.” Kron and senior staff writer John Hofheimer also placed third in in-depth series reporting with their articles on the life and death of the North Belt freeway.

Kron and Hofheimer took second place in the state in coverage of politics. He and other staff members joined forces to also place second in medical and health coverage.

Aside from his editorial accolades, publisher Garrick Feldman also took second place in beat reporting with his Little Rock Air Force Base coverage. The judges said his work was an “excellent job in keeping readers abreast of a subject important to the community.”

Sports writer Jason King grabbed second place honors in the sports news category with his article, “Cabot grad gets taste of calling.” He also brought home a third-place award for sports column writing with his “No champions” article.

Freelance writer Stephen Steed took second place in the freelance arena with his article, “Long FDA Probe.”

Benton and his sports staff  also took home a second place award in special issue or section competition with their annual high school football section.

The sports staff placed third in the battle for the best sports page. Benton took third in the sports news story competition with “Morris bids adieu as champ” and third in sports features with “Coach Hicks—63 years of service.”

Editor Jonathan Feldman placed third in headline writing with “At 80, still roofing and tough as nails.”

Staff writer Joan McCoy took third place in the news story category with “Stalker leaves jail, kills woman.”

The newspaper won a third-place ribbon for its coverage of business and agriculture.
Managing editor Eileen Feldman won honorable mention for her editorial, “If we cease to grieve.”

SPORTS STORY >> Piranhas challenge sharks

Leader sports editor

The overwhelming numbers advantage led to another easy win for the Sherwood Sharks swim team on Saturday at the Harmon Center, but the Cabot Piranhas out-did all other Shark opponents this year, scoring 496 points against a Sherwood team that has not lost a Central Arkansas Swim League meet in more than 10 years. The Piranhas total was 198 points more than Sherwood’s next nearest competitor.

The Lonoke Sharkrockets also made a strong showing, scoring 100 points with a vastly outnumbered squad. Sherwood scored 1077 points for the lopsided win.

Cabot got many of its points in the freestyle relays, winning five of the seven to become the first team to take a majority of the free relays from Sherwood in many, many years. The meet saw several swimmers jump from the gold division, which was the highest division until this year, to the new standard platinum division.

The first to pull off the feat was Sherwood’s A.J. Clements, whose time of 18.03 in the 25-yard freestyle moved him into elite company in the 8-under division. Sherwood’s Michael Potts was already a platinum swimmer, and continues at a blistering pace with a meet best time of 16.84.

Carson Taylor of Sherwood jumped to platinum in the boys 12-under freestyle, winning the gold race with a time of 29 seconds flat. He would’ve been third in the two-person platinum race, but only by the thinnest of margins. Cabot’s Tristan Bowen’s time of 28.97 beat Sherwood’s Joseph Potts by one-one hundredth of a second, meaning just three-one hundredths separated the top three swimmers. The boys 12-under division will be an exciting one to watch at the CASL Meet of Champs on July 20.

Cabot’s Kyla Genenbacher was the only platinum swimmer in the girls 10-under freestyle, but she improved her time to 34.72 seconds, almost a full two seconds faster than the next best time in the meet.

Sherwood’s Christopher Heye jumped to platinum in the boys 18-under backstroke, swimming faster than two of the three previously platinum qualified racers. Heye’s time of 28.19 was more than two seconds faster than his own seed time, and only two-one hundredths of a second slower than Cabot’s Seth Fox. Heye also became his division’s only platinum swimmer in the breaststroke with a winning time of 30.35.

Shark 10-year-old Stanley Phillip jumped to platinum in the 50-yard breaststroke with a time of 45.90, almost three seconds faster than his seed time. Nicholas Heye swam in the gold division, but turned in the fastest official time, possibly with the help of a disqualifying foul by Bowen, who was swimming in the platinum race. Nicholas’ time of 39.40 was four-one hundredths better than Cabot’s platinum swimmer Jason Bongfeldt. Jessica Bongfeldt bested the girls 10-under breaststroke field by almost six seconds with a time of 41.31.

Andrew Rodriguez joined three Shark teammates in the platinum division in the 14-under breaststroke, winning the gold race with a 36.74 finish, still slower though than teammates Thomas Heye, Josh Hale and Jordan Woodson, who finished 1-2-3 in the platinum race.

CASL teams take the holiday weekend off, and will be back in action on July 13 for the last regular-season meet of the year. Sherwood travels to Bryant while Lonoke hosts Cabot and Otter Creek.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot Red knocks off Benton’s Jr. Sport Shop

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Red Centennial Bank junior American Legion team took advantage of Benton Sport Shop’s mistakes in the field en route to a 5-3 win Monday at the Cabot Sports Complex.

Cabot took a 1-0 lead after the first inning thanks to two of Benton’s five errors in the game. Two-hole hitter Josh Kelpine reached base on an E6 after the Benton shortstop dropped Kelpine’s high fly ball. A sacrifice bunt by Kayde Ridgeway moved Kelpine to second base for the second out of the inning.

The inning appeared to be over as cleanup hitter Jarrett Pitchford hit a routine grounder to shortstop. However, the throw to first base off the mark and Kelpine scored to give the Red team a 1-0 lead.

Benton responded in the top of the second inning with all three of its runs scored. It was the only inning that the Sport Shop team could find any offensive rhythm against winning pitcher Seth Cummings, who pitched all seven innings and gave up four hits, three walks, and recorded three strikeouts.

“Well, it’s been two weeks since I’ve seen them due to the dead period,” said Cabot Red coach David Smith of his team. “This is the first time I’ve gotten to do anything with them since that time frame, but the strong point that I’ve seen was Seth Cummings on the mound – hitting his spots, locating his pitches and things of that nature.

“He got a lot of ground balls, a lot of bloop pop flys. That second inning they got a couple of hits off of him and scored three runs, of course, we helped them out a little bit there.”

Cabot answered its next at bat in the bottom of the second with three runs of its own to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Tyler Fowler walked to start the inning. Wesley Brown singled to right-centerfield the next at bat and leadoff hitter Braden Jarnagin reached on another Benton E6 with two outs that allowed Fowler to score Cabot’s second run of the game.

Kelpine followed with an infield single to shortstop to drive in Brown, which tied the game at 3-3. With runners at the corners, Kelpine stole second base and on the Benton catcher’s throw to second, Jarnagin stole home to give Cabot the lead.

The score remained 4-3 until the fifth inning when the Centennial Bank team set the final score. Kelpine singled to the gap in left field to lead off the inning and scored two batters later on a right-field single by Pitchford that put Cabot up 5-3.

Cabot narrowly outhit Benton 5-4. The Red Centennial Bank team finished with three errors in the field, but Benton’s five errors were the more costly.

“Throughout the game there were quite a few mistakes,” Smith said. “They made some errors and we capitalized on them. In the past when a team would make mistakes we didn’t capitalize on them and we took advantage of them today, which helped us out.”

Kelpine was the only player for either team with multiple hits. He went 2 for 2 at the plate, while Pitchford, Brown and catcher Lino Garcia had one hit apiece.

The Red Centennial Bank team (5-9) will play another home game today against Sheridan at 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Strikeout streak lifts Sherwood Gwatney

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney GMC Bears, which consists of next year’s Sylvan Hills varsity players, handed Lake Hamilton a 3-0 loss on Monday. The Bears aren’t playing in a league this year, instead playing as an extended high school team and facing teams that range from other extended high school teams, to showcase teams to American Legion teams. The team has compiled a non-tournament record of 5-3 and went 0-1-2 in a showcase tournament in Jonesboro.
Assistant coach Chris Foor says the decision not to play American Legion this year has resulted in a lot of benefits.

“It’s been a  great experience,” Foor said. “I think overall, for the age group of our kids, they’re playing some of the better talent. We’re seeing the highest level of competition in the state you could see.”

The key thing that Sylvan Hills has seen develop since summer ball began has been pitching. Three arms that coaches knew they would be relying on have gotten better, and another one is emerging rapidly.

The only player the Bears lost from last year’s state-tournament team was ace hurler J.D. Miller. The No. 2 pitcher in that rotation was Conner Poteet, and he has emerged as the clear No. 1 right now.

“His velocity is approaching the mid 80s right now,” Foor said. “His breaking ball is getting much better and he’s always had a great change up. He’s been really, really strong for us. He’s improved so much.”

After Poteet, coaches believe that Hunter Heslep and Marcus Long are both capable of starting in the No. 2 spot. Sylvan Hills went to Heslep more often as a spot or nonconference starter last year, using Long mainly in relief. But Foor says he’s confident in either one.

“Heslep was hurt early in the year so we went to him a lot more a lot out of needing to get him back and working at full strength,” Foor said. “Whereas with Marc, he was the guy we could rely on if we needed someone to pitch in both games. Maybe give us two innings in one game and another one or two in the next. Marcus’ velocity has gone up quite a bit too.”

Sophomore-to-be Joseph Craft has also improved in leaps and bounds since summer began, and he dazzled at times on the mound in earning Monday’s win.

After enduring a shaky start in which he gave up a run and had runners on second and third with no outs in the second inning, Craft got his second visit of the inning from coach Denny Tipton, who apparently spoke magic words. After the mound conversation, Craft struck out the next three batters, then fanned three-straight batters in the third inning.

He gave up a walk, a hit and hit a batter in the fourth, but not in a row. In between he got a groundout, a strikeout and a pop up to get out of the frame without allowing a run. He finished his four innings with eight strikeouts, three walks, a hit batter, three base hits and one earned run.

“He didn’t even know how to pitch until we started working with him in eighth grade,” Foor said. “He’s grown so much. We also have another young pup who’s showing us a lot, and that’s Carson Sanders. We feel like we’re going to have a pretty strong pitching staff and even some pretty good depth to it. With so many guys showing this jump in velocity as well as in mental maturity, we feel pretty good about right now.”

Jacob White has shown deftness in the field. He started at centerfield in the spring, but has swapped positions with Brandon Baioni and has played shortstop much of the summer.

“We’re experimenting with things like that, trying to develop some depth if need be and learning where we can play guys,” Foor said. “Jacob is really one of the better athletes on the team. We could put him just about anywhere on the field and he would compete as one of the better players at that position.”

Charlie Roberts leads the team in hitting with a batting average that approaches .500 so far this summer. All his junior classmates are swinging strong bats as well.

“All our kids that will be juniors were at least spot starters as freshmen,” Foor said. “So we’ve got experience coming back. Brandon (Baioni) has been starting at shortstop for us since he was a freshman. He really hit well for a freshman then got hurt a little bit last year. But he’s back to full strength and he’s swinging it really well now. And Joseph Craft is also swinging a really strong left-handed bat.”

The Bears begin play in a showcase tournament in Little Rock on Thursday. The split-site event takes place at Lamar Porter Field and Curran Conway Field on the campus at UALR.

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle's Rountree takes over JHS ladies

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville reached a short distance into Lonoke County to pluck one of its more successful coaches to take over the helm of the defending state champion girls’ basketball program. Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson on Friday offered the position to former Carlisle boys coach William Rountree, who has never had a losing season in his eight years of leading the Bison boys.

Rountree takes over a JHS girls program fresh off its first-ever state championship, led by recently resigned Katrina Mimms, and features four returning starters from that team. The one starter lost was perhaps the best player in the state, in 6-foot-3 guard-forward Jessica Jackson, who will suit up for the Arkansas Razorback women this fall. Coincidentally, Jackson’s father is from Carlisle.

Though only 30 miles separate the two schools, they are different in many ways. Jacksonville’s enrollment is almost quadruple of Carlisle’s, and is in an urban setting whereas Carlisle is a farming community.

Rountree embraces the opportunity, and the change that comes with it.

“Different is cool with me,” said Rountree. “I’m good with different. Any time you’re doing something new, it brings back the idea that we try to teach as educators of being lifelong learners. I’m very excited about this opportunity and am very much looking forward to it.”
Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson interviewed accepted dozens of applications and interviewed 14 candidates before deciding on the former head Bison.

“He was the best interview,” began Wilson. “He’s led successful programs and I was impressed with his attitude and work ethic. He’s committed for the long haul and he presented a good plan for maintaining a successful program. He’s personable and we’re going to have a lot of new coaches in our girls program that will have to work together. He seemed like just the right fit to lead all this transition.”

Though he’s spent the last five years coaching boys, Rountree doesn’t come to Jacksonville without experience coaching girls. His coaching career began in 1989 in Gravette as the head baseball coach, as well as head junior high boys football and basketball. After two years there, he left for Omaha, Ark., where he spent one year as the boys head basketball coach, and one year coaching the boys and girls high school and junior high teams.

After spending one year in the private sector, Rountree returned to coaching in 1996 as head boys basketball coach at Deer. After two years there, he took the boys and girls senior and junior high coaching positions at Winslow, and stayed there for six years. He spent the last three as high-school principal as well.

He spent eight of his most successful seasons coaching boys high school and junior high basketball at Carlisle starting in 2003 and interrupted by one season at Sylvan Hills and one in Cross County from 2006-08.

His first three years at Carlisle saw three conference and two district tournament championships, as well as two junior high conference and district titles.

“Of the 12 conference and district tournaments we played in those three years, we won nine of them,” Rountree said.

Rountree left Carlisle for two years while going through a divorce. While he says he developed good relationships and learned a lot during his time away from Carlisle, he calls those two years his only regret in his coaching career.

“It’s nothing against Sylvan Hills,” Rountree said. “I got to know Kevin Davis and Bee Rodden, and they’re wonderful people and great coaches. I just regret that I left, really, over nothing more than hurt pride. I had a pretty talented team coming back and we were on a great run. That’s really the only thing I regret about my whole career.”

Rountree came back to Carlisle, where he’s been for the last five seasons. It took this year’s team a few weeks to find its rhythm, with most of the starters still playing for the semifinal football team weeks into the season. Once it did hit its stride, it advanced all the way to the regionals, including a win over then No. 1 ranked Clarendon.

Rountree learned of the opening at Jacksonville while talking to Pulaski County athletic director Danny Ebbs, who Rountree has known for years and calls one of his mentors. After some consideration and conversations with his wife, he decided to apply.

“I jumped on the website, applied, and was fortunate enough to be called for an interview,” Rountree said. “I was extremely impressed with the athletic director Jerry Wilson. I met with coach Joyner (JHS boys coach Victor Joyner) and I was very impressed with him before I met him. I’ve seen some of his teams play and I know what kind of quality coach they have there. Coach Mimms has been very gracious and helpful and getting me information she thinks will benefit me. Everything has just been great so far. Everything has been all positive. I couldn’t be happier or more excited about this.”

SPORTS STORY >> NLR wins tournament title

Leader sportswriter

North Little Rock’s senior American Legion team dominated every team in its path on the way to the Jacksonville American Legion Classic tournament championship as the Colts closed the tournament with a dominant 12-1 mercy-rule win over Hot Springs Lakeside in the title game Sunday at Dupree Park.

The Colts (22-1) opened the tournament with a 9-3 win over the tournament host on Wednesday, came back Friday and scored 11 unanswered runs in the third inning of their second-round game against Conway to win 11-0 in four innings, and scored 11 more runs in the third inning of the championship game against Lakeside to all but clinch the tournament title.

The only downside to North Little Rock’s play in the tournament was that it took a couple of innings for the lineup to find any rhythm at the plate, but when it did, it was like a positive snowball effect.

“I’m disappointed that when we get runners on second and third and we have less than two outs, particularly when we have one out, you’ve got to put the bat on the ball and we’ve had trouble doing that several times this year,” said Colts coach Robert Hopkins.

“We’ve been hammering on that a little bit when that’s happened, and next inning they came out and responded with a big inning. That’s kind of how it’s been. They see the pitcher once around and then they seem to get it going after that.”

The Rams (8-7) scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the second inning, but North Little Rock responded its next at bat in a huge way. Nine-hole hitter Will Hopkins led off the top of the third with a single to left field and leadoff hitter Justin Weigle followed with a single to centerfield.

Dylan Huckaby grounded out the next at bat, but Dylan Boone followed with his second stand-up double to right-centerfield, which scored both Hopkins and Weigle to give the Colts a 2-1 lead.

Boone scored the next at bat on a single to centerfield by cleanup hitter Nick Cleveland. Designated hitter Landon Hearnes followed with a single to the gap in left field and J.D. Miller drove in Cleveland with a single to the same spot.

Left-fielder Jack Partlow then came to the plate and grounded into a 4-2 fielder’s choice, but catcher Gunner Allen drove in Miller the next at bat with a single to the right-field gap, which gave the Colts a 5-1 lead.

Hopkins then came back to the plate for the second time in the inning and hit a routine grounder to second base, but reached safely on an E4. Weigle made the Rams pay for it the next at bat with a double off the top of the fence in left field, which allowed Cody Hattabaugh, Allen’s courtesy runner, and Hopkins to score to make it an 8-1 game.

Weigle advanced to second base on a passed ball and scored the next at bat on a single to the left-field gap by Huckaby. Boone followed with his third stand-up double of the game, this one to right-centerfield, to score Huckaby.

With Cleveland at the plate, Boone advanced to third and scored on a pair of passed balls to make it an 11-1 game. Miller set the final score in the top of the fourth with a solo home run that towered over the fence in left-centerfield.

“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Hopkins said. “The thing I’ve enjoyed most about this team, which I’ve preached ever since I’ve coached Legion, is the two things you can control is the pitching and your defense, and our pitching and defense has been stellar, knock on wood, all year long.

“It was again in this tournament and we’ve got lots of moving parts still. We haven’t had our full complement of players except for one time against Benton at the start of the year. So I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the pitching staff has performed and our defense has just been excellent. If you do that and you scrap together a few runs here and there good things happen.”

The game was called at the conclusion of the fifth inning because of the sportsmanship rule. Connor Eller earned the win on the mound for North Little Rock. He gave up one run on four hits and recorded two strikeouts. He gave up no walks.

Boone’s three doubles led all batters. He also had three RBIs. Allen, Miller and Weigle had two hits each, while Huckaby, Cleveland, Hearnes and Hopkins had one hit apiece. The Colts outhit the Rams 13-4.

In the second round against Conway, Boone got the win on the mound as he gave up just three hits and recorded four strikeouts. Like Eller in the title game, he gave up no walks.

Hopkins led all hitters in that game, going 3 for 3 at the plate. Huckaby was 2 for 3 with four RBIs, and Miller, Eller, Allen and Evan Johnson each had one hit.

The Colts play at Paragould today before traveling to St. Louis on Friday for another tournament. They’ll play a total of four games on Friday and Saturday, and depending on how they do in those games, they could play Sunday.

Monday, July 01, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Support FestiVille

Our traveling correspondent Rick Kron reports the latest from the festival beat:

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce got out of the festival business two years ago, stating it was too costly and involved too much work. So after a one-year gap, the city’s parks and recreation department picked up the festival idea and came up with last weekend’s FestiVille.

The department earned an A for effort, but the outcome was a much lower grade.

But the question comes back to where was the Jacksonville chamber? Amy Mattison, the head of the chamber, simply said the chamber wasn’t asked.

Wasn’t asked?

Since when does the chamber have to be asked, invited, requested or cajoled into helping with a citywide event?

In all the years that the chamber ran the festival, it gained a ton of expertise that would have helped the parks department avoid some of last weekend’s mistakes.

 Now someone else said the chamber’s job is to focus on economic development, and that is true. But helping with citywide events puts the Jacksonville name out in pubic in a positive vein. The chamber did very little publicity for the event — not even a booth handing out pencils, fans and other Jacksonville souvenirs — and had it rallied its members to participate, the festival would have scored a much bigger hit. The chamber should have put this great divide it has with city officials aside and joined forces for the good of Jacksonville. Instead the gap has just widened—and developers and businesses do look at the political climate and relationships within a city — and Jacksonville’s is troubling.

The chamber was not the only important entity missing.

Where were the advertising and promotion commission, most of the aldermen and the major businesses in town? Where were Little Rock Air Force Base and the schools?

Again, they may not have been asked, but someone should have stepped up and said, “Hey, how can we help? How can we be involved?”

With all the restaurants in town, there should have been a Ronald McDonald, a Little Caesar or the Wendy’s girl running around the festival grounds handing out coupons good only at Jacksonville eateries.

The A&P commission, which funneled thousands of dollars into the festival, should have had a booth handing out information and Jacksonville coupons.

One of the local banks could have sponsored a sand pile money dig for children.

A school band or two should have performed. Political leaders should have spoken onstage about the great plans for the city or at least visited with vendors and customers as aldermen Barbara Mashburn and Mary Twitty did. Mayor Gary Fletcher was there Saturday afternoon and his secretary was a volunteer on Friday.

Everyone knew this was uncharted territory for the parks and recreation department and those in the know should have stepped forward whether asked or not.

There’ll be another FestiVille, and one can only hope festivalgoers won’t have to cross a great divide to get to the events.

TOP STORY >> Bond: Democrats poised for wins in '14

Leader senior staff writer

Arkansas Democrats have already recruited a lot of great candidates and expect to pick up seats in both the Senate and the House in the November 2014 election, said party chairman Will Bond, the former Jacksonville representative.

Bond, enthusiastic after the Democrats’ Jefferson-Jacksonville dinner, said announced candidates for constitutional offices so far are former congressman Mike Ross and former Lt. Governor Bill Halter for governor; Little Rock School Board president Dianne Curry and state Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter for lieutenant governor; and longtime election specialist Susan Inman for secretary of state. Inman is a member of the Pulaski County Election Commission and former member of the state Board of Election Commissioners.

After decades of Democratic control, Republicans currently have a 3-to-2 majority in the state Senate, a 51 percent majority in the House, all four congressional seats and one of two Senate seats, plus the lieutenant governor’s office and the secretary of state’s office. Republicans outnumber Democrats 51 to 48 in the House, with one member of the green party.

In an interview this week at the Bill Gwatney Democratic Headquarters building on Capitol Avenue in Little Rock, Bond said Democrats would be laser-focused on education and economic growth.

He said, “2010 was the toughest year for Arkansas Democrats. Great friends lost tough races.”

That was the year that dissatisfaction with the economy and the status quo unleashed a Tea Party tsunami that swept Democrats out of office across Arkansas and the United States, but Bond thinks Democratic fortunes are on the rise.

He said, “2014 will be even better.”

Democratic candidates were outspent last election, but not by as wide a margin as in 2010, Bond said.

“We’re going to recruit great candidates and help them get elected,” the chairman said.

On the biggest issues of the 2013 legislative session, Bond said neither the Big River Steel Mill nor the private-option health-care law could have passed without strong support from Democrats.

Bond, who admits to eventual interest in running again for office—but not yet—said the party will recruit strong candidates for congressional races, including the First and Fourth districts, particularly if freshman Cong. Tom Cotton challenges Sen. Mark Pryor for his Senate seat.

“The big challenge is making sure people know what to believe,” Bond said. Voters need to understand our core beliefs that “everybody should have an opportunity to realize their dreams.”

“We believe in lean, not mean, government,” Bond said. “We believe in the golden rule, we are our brothers’ keeper.”

“We need to stay focused on that, not on divisive social issues.”

Bond said Cotton voted against relief money for victims of hurricane Sandy and against the farm bill.

Many Democrats are unhappy with Pryor for some of his votes and positions—such as his vote against universal gun background checks. But Bond said Pryor championed the Affordable Care Act early and the reauthorization of the violence against women act.

“He’s always been a guy who read the bills and tried to do what’s best for average Arkansas people. He’s humble and hardworking.”

As for the suggestion that Democrats can’t win statewide races anymore, Bond noted that Gov. Beebe won every county in the state during his 2012 reelection campaign.

“People are back, focused on who is the best candidate for the job,” the chairman said.

TOP STORY >> Officers suspended in deadly shooting

Leader staff writer

Two Jacksonville police officers are on administrative leave after one of them shot and killed a man holding a knife who was moving toward them during a domestic dispute call Friday morning.

One of the officers shot Michael Goodman, 64, of 1709 Madden Road, in the upper torso after Goodman pulled a knife and moved toward the officers.

The Jacksonville Police Department will not release the names of the officers involved until all proper notifications have been made by early next week.

Goodman’s wife, Laura Phillips, had a no-contact order against Goodman, but he and Phillips got into a verbal altercation Friday morning and police were called.

Once the police verified the no-contact order, they started to place Goodman under arrest. It was at then that he pulled the knife.

Police Capt. Kenny Boyd, spokesman for the Jacksonville Police Department, said he was unsure where Phillips was at the time of the shooting.

He added that it was standard procedure to place everyone involved in a shooting on administrative leave with pay until all internal and external investigation are completed. He was unsure how long that would take.

The incident report of the shooting has not been released yet.

But three prior police reports show Goodman had a record of violence, breaking bones in both of his wife’s arms on June 1, when police got a call to the residence about a domestic dispute. Phillips was hiding behind bushes at a nearby church.

She told police the problem started when she arrived home and found dirty dishes on the counter. She asked Goodman about them and received no answer. She went into the living room and turned off the television and asked him to clean up. Goodman and Phillips walked into the kitchen, where he grabbed a plate, and, according to Phillips, told her he would “shove it down her throat and then shoot her.” An argument ensued.

Goodman grabbed Phillips by the hair and threw her down on the concrete, landing hard on her wrists.

Phillips told police that Goodman had firearms in the house.

In another incident, Goodman was found sitting in the living room and, because of the threats, was taken into custody at gunpoint.

According to Goodman, Phillips had said she would turn the television back on after he put a dirty plate in the dishwasher. Goodman said he picked up a plate and asked if that was the one. She snatched it and said yes. He grabbed it back and while tussling over the plate, Phillips fell.

Goodman was arrested. Judge Robert Batton issued a no-contact order, but Goodman made phone calls to Phillips on Wednesday and Phillips called the police and a report was filed. Police had to write out Phillips’ statement as both of her arms were in casts.

TOP STORY >> Special Fourth of July

Leader staff writer

Firecrackers, fountains, roman candles and more will cover the night sky next week as The Leader’s coverage area celebrates the nation’s Independence Day.

The new Crossroads Cowboy Church and covered Two Bar Two Arena at 3071 Hwy. 5 in El Paso will be dedicated during a Fourth of July celebration at 5 p.m. next Sunday, July 7.
Fireworks will be set off.

Participants are invited to enjoy food, fellowship and performances by the Crossroads Cowboy Church Band and other musical groups.

The North Arkansas Association of the Church of Nazarene one block from the intersection of Hwy. 5 and Hwy. 64 in El Paso sponsored the new church and arena.

Bro. Ron Riddle has been chosen as the new church’s pastor. 

For more information about the event or the church’s mission to start a “stampede back to God,” follow the church on Facebook, at or call 501-313-6323.

Thursday and Friday, the Army’s Adventure Simulators will visit events on Thursday and Friday at Sherwood Forest and the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.

The group will offer free simulators for driving M1A1 Abrams tank, flying an Apache helicopter, a timed shooting event with a marksmanship trainer and a bomb squad exercise using an electronic ordnance disposal robotic arm from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at the museum, 100 Veterans Circle.

There is no charge for admission to the museum that day.

Sherwood’s event is from 6-9 p.m. Thursday at Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave. The Army group plans to stop by the celebration in its 70-by-25-foot semi truck.

There will be a kid zone with a bounce house and fireworks start at 9 p.m.

The city will provide free hot dogs, water, chips and giveaways while supplies last.

The Sherwood Sharks swim team will be selling additional items.

The entertainment is Patriotic Pamy, Paul Morphis, Fragile Elite and Top of the Rock Chorus.

Top of the Rock will be inside the building while the other musical acts will be outside on a second stage.

Shuttles would be available from Sylvan Hills High School.

Cabot will also have a Fourth of July celebration starting at 6 p.m. at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, 163 Mount Carmel Road.

There will be patriotic music.

Hot dogs, chips and drinks will be for sale.

A bounce house, slides and an obstacle course will be set up for children. Fireworks begin at 9 p.m.

Beebe will host its Fourth of July celebration beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Beebe City Park baseball fields with a fireworks show at dusk. 

The evening will feature two musical performances by Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers and Wine and Roses.

There will be free hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, water and slush puppies served.

Face painting and temporary tattoos will also be offered.

The swimming pool will be open at no charge and lifeguards will be on duty.

Ward’s annual Fourth of July celebration starts at 4:30 p.m. when the vendors open for business and the car and motorcycle show begins.

The opening ceremony at 5 p.m. will feature the Little Rock Air Force base honor guard almost immediately followed by what can be loosely described as a tractor pull.

There are no big farm tractors in the competition. Instead, contestants drive lawn mowers and lawn tractors.

The River Rats, a bluegrass band from Mountain View, will perform until 8:30 p.m. following the opening ceremony.

Vendors will have funnel cakes and fresh-squeezed lemonade for sale but the city will give away hamburgers and bottled water.

Dancers from Carla’s Dance of Ward will perform at 6:30 p.m. and the firework show will start at 9:15 or dark.

South Bend Fire Rescue will have a fireworks show at 4144 Hwy. 294, Military Road, on Thursday, July 4, beginning with a 6:30 p.m. supper.

Sonny’s Auto Salvage is sponsoring the event.

Austin does not have an Independence Day celebration but residents are allowed to shoot their own fireworks on July 3 until 10 p.m. and on July 4 until 11 p.m.

Lonoke doesn’t have a celebration, but dealers are allowed to sell fireworks from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. July 2-4. Residents are allowed to shoot fireworks from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. July 2 and 3 and from 10 a.m. until midnight July 4.

SPORTS STORY >> Sharks earn huge victory, Piranhas get close second

Leader sportswriter

The Sherwood Sharks dominated the competition at last Saturday’s swim meet in Sherwood while the Cabot Piranhas took a close second in their meet at Bryant, which also took place last Saturday.

The Maumelle Marlins were the only team to make the trip to last Saturday’s event in Sherwood and the Sharks made them pay for it as they routed the visitors in the final points standings.

Sherwood finished the meet with an impressive 1,181 points. Maumelle totaled just 298.
At Bryant, the home team took first place in that event as the Saline County Swim team finished with 683 points. Cabot finished with 533 points, while the Conway Crocodiles finished a distant third with 255 points.

Sharks swimmer Brianna Hanley of the 11-12-year-old age group, had the best overall time in four different individual races for her division. 

She finished the 100-yard Individual Medley in 1:10.87, the 50-yard butterfly in 31.41 seconds, the 50-yard breaststroke in 39.72 seconds, and the 50-yard backstroke in 31.50 seconds.

Hanley was also a member of the 100-yard freestyle relay team that also finished first with a time of 59.28. Other members of that team include Adrienne Robinson, Savannah Scott and Alison Allgood.

Seven different Sharks swimmers finished with best overall times in three different individual events for their respective age groups.

Michael Potts took first overall in the 25-yard freestyle with a 16.82 time, the 25-yard backstroke with a 20.50 time, and the 25-yard breaststroke with a 25.34 time in the boys’ 7-8-year-old division.

Mikey Hathaway had the best times in the 50-yard butterfly with a 37.65 time, the 100-yard IM with a time of 1:26.88, and the 50-yard backstroke with a 39.78 time in the boys’ 9-10-year-old division.

Joseph Potts, of the 11-12-year-old age group, finished first overall in the 50-yard freestyle with a 29.91 time, the 50-yard backstroke with a 35.21 time, and the 50-yard butterfly with a 32.72 time.

Josh Hale, of the 13-14-year-old age group, took first in the 50-yard butterfly with a 29.09 time, the 50-yard breaststroke with a 34.38 time, and the 50-yard freestyle with a 25.72 time.

In the girls division, Olivia Dunn, Carly Morrow and Camryn Jenkins each finished first overall in three different events for the Sharks.

Dunn and Morrow both dominated their 25-yard events. Dunn, of the 6-under age group, took first overall in the freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly races.

Morrow, of the 7-8-year-old age group, won the backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Jenkins had the best time in three 50-yard events. She finished first in the freestyle, backstroke and butterfly.

For Cabot, Jessie Baldwin had the most impressive showing for the Piranhas. Like Sherwood’s Hanley, she had the best overall time in four different individual events and was part of the winning 100-yard freestyle relay girls’ team that represented the 15-18-year-old age group.

Piranhas coach Debbie Skidmore had nothing but positive things to say about Baldwin’s performance as well as her teammates in that age group.

“She’s been a real good swimmer and this year she’s really doing excellent,” Skidmore said of Baldwin. “The older kids are always our best workers and best swimmers. They’ve been swimming in high school and all year-round. So they don’t even really take a vacation.”

When describing how much time her veteran swimmers spend in the pool, Skidmore jokingly said, “They eat chlorine for breakfast.”

Baldwin’s best performances came in the 50-yard backstroke, where she finished with a time of 30 seconds flat, the 50-yard breaststroke, where she finished in 34.19 seconds, the 50-yard butterfly, where she finished in 29.78 seconds, and the 100-yard IM, where she finished in 1:07.69.

The winning relay team that featured Baldwin, Katie Frederick, Aeriel Lane and Catyee Wright finished with a 52.12 time.

In that same event and age group in the boys division, the Piranhas team of Payton Jones, Brent Brockel, John Santiago and Seth Fox posted the best overall time as they finished in 47.46 seconds.

Cabot had one other relay team finish first in the boys 12-under division. The relay team of Tristen Bowen, Coleman Manley, Jason Bongfeldt and Tyce Wright took first overall with a time of 1:01.69.

Bowen also finished with the best overall time in three different events for his age group (11-12-year-old). He took first in the 50-yard breaststroke with a 37.16 time, the 50-yard butterfly with a 33.06 time, and the 100-yard IM with a time of 1:11.91.

Jessica Bongfeldt also had the best time in three individual events. She finished the 50-yard backstroke with a 40.07 time, the 50-yard breaststroke with a 41.05 time, and the 100-yard IM in 1:31.19.

Grant Goodnight was the only other Cabot swimmer to post the best time in three individual events. Goodnight, of the 6-under division, finished first in the 25-yard freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke events.

SPORTS STORY >> Colts beat Gwatney again

Leader sports editor

The North Little Rock Colts kind of took two wins from the Jacksonville senior American Legion team on Wednesday, beating the Gwatney Chevy Boys 9-3 in the first round of the Jacksonville Classic at Dupree Park.

The game counts twice in a way. The two teams agreed to also count the game as one of the zone matchups that will determine seedings when postseason play begins.

North Little Rock’s Gunner Allen went the distance on the mound and got the win, pitching the entire game with a lead.

The Colts (21-1) scored three runs in the top of the first inning and never trailed. Leadoff hitter Justin Weigle got the first of his three base hits to start the game, but was thrown out at second on at 6-4 fielder’s choice by Dylan Huckaby. Dylan Boone was hit by Jacksonville pitcher James Tucker and Colt catcher Alex Gosser singled to drive in a run. L.J. Wallace then singled to score Boone and move Gosser to third. Gosser then scored on a passed ball to put the Colts up 3-1. Gwatney got one back in the bottom of the inning on two base hits off Allen. Leadoff hitter Derek St. Clair singled and third baseman Blake Perry doubled two batters later for the RBI.

Base hits by Weigle and Boone scored Weigle with two outs in the top of the second to make it 4-1. They made it 5-1 in the top of the third when an error at first base left Nick Cleveland on base to start the inning. Three batters later with two outs, Weigle got his third-straight base hit, this time an RBI-double to the gap in left field.

Jacksonville answered in the bottom of the third when Perry’s second base hit went for another RBI, this time scoring left fielder D.J. Scott, who reached on a leadoff walk.

No one scored again until the top of the sixth inning when Alex Broadwell went to the mound for Gwatney to relieve Tucker. Broadwell got off to a shaky start and the Colts all but put the game away with four runs. Evan Johnson walked on four pitches to start the inning and Mike Foster singled. Weigle was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Broadwell struck out Huckaby, but Boone and Johnson scored during the at bat on a wild pitch. Boone then hit a two-RBI single to left field, and scored two batters later on a passed ball.

Gwatney (3-9) got one run in the bottom of the sixth to set the final margin, but couldn’t mount a rally in the seventh. Allen hit Perry to start the inning and Courtland McDonald singled to right-centerfield to put two runners on with no outs. Allen then fanned the next two batters before Greg Jones singled to score Perry and set the final margin.

Perry, St. Clair and McDonald accounted for six of Jacksonville’s seven base hits, getting two each. Perry finished with a double and two RBIs. St. Clair also recorded a double.

Weigle went 3 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI to lead the Colts at the plate. Boone and Will Hopkins went 2 for 3 while Huckaby, Gosser, Wallace, Cleveland and Johnson each got one hit apiece.

Jacksonville stayed on the field for the nightcap game against Conway. Conway was scheduled to play Pine Bluff in the final game of the evening, but Pine Bluff dropped out of the tournament. Jacksonville won that game 7-6. However, the loss won’t affect Conway in the pool-style tournament.

SPORTS STORY >> NLR AA defeats Rayburn at Burns

Leader sportswriter

Tuesday’s matchup between North Little Rock’s AA American Legion team and Pangburn was tied at four apiece after four innings of play, but the Colts scored five unanswered runs over the next two innings to beat the visiting Rayburn Sporting Goods team 9-4 at Burns Park.

Each team finished the game with seven hits, but North Little Rock had the more timely hits. Pangburn (15-5) led 4-2 after two innings of play, but the Colts scored two more runs in the bottom of the third to tie up the score until the fifth inning.

Two-hole hitter River Warnock walked to lead off the third, and three-hole hitter Preston Oberling followed with a towering two-run home run over the left-field wall that tied the game. It was Oberling’s second hit of the game.

“We started off a lot more focused than we were in Conway,” said North Little Rock coach Tim Dulin. “We came out hitting the ball a little better. I think the key was we stayed focused on playing the game, because in Conway we were a little bit too relaxed. Especially after we took the lead, we started playing good fundamental baseball.”

The Colts scored all the runs they would need in the bottom of the fifth. Leadoff hitter Danny Mitchell started the inning with a hard-hit double down the left-field line. Warnock followed with an infield single to shortstop.

Mitchell and Warnock advanced to second and third base on a passed ball with Oberling at the plate. Oberling struck out during his at bat, but the third strike got by Pangburn catcher Alec Bourgieous. Mitchell scored on the passed ball and Oberling made it safely to first base, while Warnock advanced to third.

Warnock also scored on a passed ball to put NLR up 6-4, and Oberling scored the final run of the inning on a sacrifice fly to centerfield by cleanup hitter Zac Rathburn. The Colts kept Pangburn off the board its next at bat and followed with two insurance runs in the sixth inning to set the final score.

Catcher Reed Shepard reached base on a 4-6 fielder’s choice, and Colton Naylor followed with a single up the middle. Warnock drove both base-runners in two batters later with a two-out bloop single to right field.

Winning pitcher Ty Houser walked Pangburn three-hole hitter Sidney Owens to begin the top of the seventh, but struck out cleanup hitter J.R. Miller the following at bat.

Chase Hopkins then came to the plate and hit a hard line drive near first base, but first baseman Dustin Blair reached out and caught the ball in the nick of time and stepped on first base for the unassisted double play that ended the game.

“We had good pitching tonight,” Dulin said. “Trey Kimbrell threw real well. He threw 80 pitches. We brought Ty in, which will be another senior, and he was a little rusty at first, but when he got warmed up he started throwing strikes.”

Warnock and Oberling led North Little Rock at the plate with two hits each, while Mitchell, Naylor and Kimbrell had one hit apiece.   

SPORTS STORY >> Seven-run fourth puts Remington in control

Leader sports editor

After facing one batter and giving up a double, Lane Moore was untouchable as the Remington Bullets (10-4-1) trounced the Sylvan Hills Bruins junior American Legion team 11-0 Tuesday at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

Sylvan Hills leadoff hitter Lamar Hardyman fouled off three pitches and worked the count full against Moore to start the game before lining a double down the first baseline. From that point, Moore retired nine in a row, all nine on strikeouts before yielding the fourth and final inning to Nick Watson, who struck out two in the fourth.

The Lonoke-based AA visitors put together a seven-run fourth inning to blow the game open, but they led from the top of the first inning.

Leadoff hitter Shane Pepper drew a walk to start the game before the Bruins recorded two quick outs. But Pepper stole two bases during those outs and when Guy Halbert sent a hard ground ball into left field, Pepper scored the first run of the game.

Madison James then hit a fly ball down the right field line that went for an RBI triple and made it 2-0.

Sylvan Hills kept Lonoke scoreless in the second inning, but the Bullets added two more in the top of the third. The rally started with a leadoff single by Moore before Halbert went down swinging. James then singled to put runners on the corners and Watson doubled to right field to score one run and leave runners on second and third.

James then scored on a passed ball and Watson advanced to third before Sylvan Hills pitcher Jacob Riggs fanned Christian James and Pierce Johnson to strike out the side.

The feast-or-famine performance by Riggs continued in the fourth, but it became more famine than feast, as the walks began to equal the strikeouts.

Lonoke’s Cody Martin drew a leadoff walk and Pepper drilled a line-drive triple to right field. Blake Gooden then reached on an error at shortstop, allowing Pepper to score. The Bruins could have been out of the inning sans the error, as Riggs struck out Moore and got Halbert to fly out to shallow centerfield. But with only two outs, Gooden tagged on the fly ball and scored to make it 7-0. That’s when the floodgates opened on the home team.

Madison James reached on another error at shortstop and Watson walked. Christian James then walked to load the bases and Johnson singled to drive in Madison James and Watson. Martin then singled to score Christian James and leave runners on first and second. Pepper got his second hit of the inning, a single to right field that left the bases loaded. Gooden then singled to right to score Johnson and set the final margin.

Every player in Remington’s lineup got at least one base hit, with Pepper and Madison James getting two apiece, including one triple each.

Riggs recorded eight strikeouts in just three-and-two-thirds innings, but gave up nine hits and walked five as the Bruins committed five errors.

Lonoke will be in action at 3:30 today at Camden. Sylvan Hills will play Wednesday at home against the Conway Cougars.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot falls in final inning

Leader sportswriter

After trailing the majority of the game, Cabot’s senior American Legion team battled back to take a one run lead in the top of the seventh inning against Hot Springs Lakeside, but the Rams responded their next at bat with a walk off, two-RBI single by cleanup hitter Spencer Hecke to beat the Panthers 5-4 on Thursday at the Jacksonville American Legion Baseball Classic.

“I thought we had it,” said Cabot coach Chris Gross after the game. “I don’t know how he (Hecke) hit that last pitch. I mean, he dug it out of the dirt. But it was a good game. We just had some bad breaks.” 

The game was tied at 3-3 entering the seventh and final inning. Cabot’s three-hole hitter Casey Vaughan started the inning with a stand-up double down the left-field line. First baseman Kason Kimbrell advanced Vaughan to third base two batters later with his second-straight single to centerfield.

Lakeside pitcher Marcus Fisher struck out Coleman McAtee the next at bat for the second out of the inning, and with Kyle Kaufman, the Panthers’ seven-hole hitter, at the plate, Kimbrell stole second base.

As the Rams catcher jumped up to make the throw to second, Vaughan, without any hesitation, took off for home. However, the throw was cut off by the Lakeside second baseman, and the throw home was in time to get Vaughan, but it was off the mark and Vaughan slid in safely to give Cabot (10-11) its first lead of the game at 4-3.

The double steal proved to be the right move as Kaufman struck out to end the inning. Lakeside’s offense had stalled ever since Grayson Cole took over pitching duties in the fifth inning. Cole didn’t give up a single walk or hit up to that point.

Rams nine-hole hitter Aidan Watson led off the inning and came through for his team with a single to centerfield. Christian Lopez then came to the plate to pinch-hit for leadoff hitter Bo Ritter and laid down an excellent sacrifice bunt to advance Watson to second base.

Fisher flew out to right field the next at bat for the second out of the inning. Cole then intentionally walked three-hole hitter Austin Softley for a force out opportunity at any bag with runners at first and second base.

Hecke, who was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in his first three plate appearances, then came to the plate. Cole’s first two pitches blew by Hecke, and the third pitch was outside for a ball, but on the next pitch, Hecke got his first hit of the game when Lakeside needed it the most.

Hecke sent Cole’s low and outside pitch the opposite way to right-centerfield, which allowed Watson and Fisher to score to end the game. The Panthers’ offense struggled early as they fell behind 3-1 after two innings of play, but they battled back to outhit the Rams 9-8 and put themselves in a position to win the game.

Fisher got the win on the mound after taking over pitching duties in the fifth inning. He gave up two runs, two walks, five hits, and recorded one strikeout.

Vaughan led all batters with a 3 for 4 showing at the plate. Two of Vaughan’s hits were stand-up doubles. Conner Vocque and Kimbrell had two hits apiece, while Bryson Morris and Hayden Vinson each had one hit.

Watson, Taylor Street and Chase Willingham led Lakeside (7-6) with two hits apiece.