Saturday, May 10, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> JL Charter puts six in track MOC

Leader sports editor

In just the second year of athletics at Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter, the Wolves’ track team made a strong showing at the class 1A meet at Alpena on Tuesday. Sophomore sprinter Jordan McNair won the 100- and 200-meter dashes while the girls’ 4x100-meter relay team also took first place.

The boys’ team finished with 37 total points to finish in seventh place out of 40 teams. The 10 points scored by the girls’ spring relay team were the only 10 points they scored, but it was still good for 17th.

Jacksonville coach Kelvin Parker had a good idea that McNair stood a good chance of at least showing very well. The girls’ relay team, however, caught him by surprise.

“That was out of nowhere,” said Parker about the relay time. The team of Jayla Bobo, Rachel Johnson, Jada Miller and Kaitlyn Melton posted a time of 55.65 sec onds for the win. They had not approached that time until the prelims that same day.

“Coming in to this meet their best time was right around 59 seconds at the conference meet,” Parker said. “They hit 56 seconds in the prelims at state and that already blew away their previous best. Then they beat that by almost a whole second in the finals. I knew they had been getting better and better since the season began. But that right there really caught me by surprise. They ran a perfect race as far as exchanges and handoffs and all that.”

McNair won the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.57 and won the 200 with a 23.49. He hasn’t lost in five meets this year, including when he faced Justin Bailey of Mayflower at a meet at Heber Springs earlier this season. Bailey won the class 3A state championship in the 100-meter dash on Tuesday as well.

“When he raced the kid from Mayflower, he ran a 10.87,” Parker said of McNair. “That’s really the only time he’s been pushed. He hasn’t run that fast since, but he hasn’t faced anyone that can push him since then. At state he was looking back to see if anyone was up there with him. I was hollering at him to quit looking and keep moving forward. He’s one of them that runs faster when he’s got faster kids next to him.”

McNair will have plenty of speed to contend with at the Meet of Champions next week at Heber Springs. Five of the other qualifiers have run multiple sub 11’s this season.

“It will be interesting,” Parker said. “He knows he’s going to have to get after it, but I think he can do it. If not, he’s just a sophomore. He’s just going to keep getting better.”

Parker’s teammate Darius Shepard also qualified for the MOC in the 110-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles. The freshman took second place in the short race and fourth in the brutal distance sprint. His time of 17.61 was just .23 seconds behind winner Garrett Collums of Southside Bee Branch.

“He’s just a ninth-grader,” Parker said. “He barely lost but he ran his personal best time, too.”

McNair also placed fifth in the long jump. Though it did not qualify for the MOC, it did bring in four more points for the Wolves.

SPORTS STORY >> NP Falcons battle hard with Bears

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills found itself in a tussle with rival North Pulaski in the 5A-Central finale for both teams on Tuesday. The Bears trailed 2-0 after two innings but put together a six-run third to take a 6-2 victory.

North Pulaski coach Michael Dean called it, “the best game we’ve played all year.” Falcon freshman Caleb McMunn started on the mound and had the Bears off balance in all but the third inning. Jordan Walter threw the last four innings of shutout ball for North Pulaski.

The Falcons took the lead in the top of the second inning after a leadoff walk and a base hit by Hunter McPherson was followed by an error at second base. They added another run in the top of the third when Sylvan Hills flubbed a grounder to shortstop to start the top of the third inning. Fred Thomas doubled two batters later to drive in Walter for the two-run lead.

But McMunn began struggling to find the strike zone in the third inning and issued four walks. The Falcons’ defense also committed two errors and the Bears picked up three base hits. The frame started with leadoff hitter Chase Imhoff reaching second base on an error in left field. After an out, an error at first base scored Imhoff and left Jacob White safe at second. McMunn walked Blake Maddox and Hunter Heslep to load the bases and Charlie Roberts drove in two runs with a single to left.

McMunn walked Reid Fawcett to load them again, then walked Connor Poteet to drive in a third run and put the Bears on top for the first time in the game. Nine-hole hitter Brandon Baioni cleared the bases with a three-RBI double that made it 6-2.

The Bears loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but Walter got Fawcett to pop up to first base to get out of the jam.

North Pulaski got two on in the fifth inning on base hits by Christopher Penn and McMunn, but weren’t able to push any more runs across the plate.

Despite the losses, Dean was pleased with how his team closed what’s been a trying season with rainouts and difficulty getting practices in. His team lost in similar fashion to Lonoke on Monday, leading 8-5 until the Jackrabbits’ last at-bat.

“I’m so proud of our guys,” Dean said. “We could’ve shut it down after that heartbreaking loss to Lonoke the night before. But our guys showed up and almost pulled off an upset. We played our hearts out.”

North Pulaski was in business with runners on in two other innings, but got thrown out at the plate twice. Dean took responsibility for those outs and the loss.

“That first game was on me,” Dean said. “I sent a couple kids home when we had the lead that I probably wouldn’t have any other time. But when you have a rival on the ropes, you look for a knockout. It just didn’t work out for us.”

McPherson went 2 for 3 at the plate to lead the Falcons, who had six total base hits.

Sylvan Hills picked up seven hits. Maddox went 2 for 2 with a double and two walks. Imhoff went 2 for 4 with a double.

The Bears won game two 13-1 and finish conference play 10-4 and tied for second place with Pulaski Academy. They will get the No. 4 seed in the state tournament next week at Jacksonville. Jacksonville and Little Rock Christian Academy tied for first place at 12-2 and the Warriors will get the top seed at state.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS gets past PA antics, sweeps

Leader sports editor

A number of antics and ludicrous disputes by Pulaski Academy coach Billy Adams didn’t distract the Jacksonville baseball team from its task on Tuesday. Adams disputed everything from dropped third strikes, to running in or out of baselines to the lines drawn for the batter’s box. It was all a big display, but it was all for naught as the Red Devils swept the Bruins 2-1 and 11-2 at Dupree Park to lock up a share of the 5A-Central championship and No. 2 seed in the state tournament they will host next week.

“We just don’t pay any attention to it,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows of Adams’ arguments. “We tell them from the beginning, you signed up to play baseball and that’s all you need to worry about. We don’t get involved in all that stuff. And this team does a good job of ignoring it.”

A pair of home runs accounted for all the scoring in game one. Courtland McDonald hit a two-run shot in the third inning that scored Blake Perry, who had led off with a single.

Pulaski Academy’s Razorback signee Blake Wiggins then hit a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning.

Bruin pitcher Colin Castleberry gave up leadoff base hits in the fourth and fifth innings, but worked out of the trouble. He then struck out the side to complete his work in the sixth.

Jacksonville pitcher Derek St. Clair put the Bruins down in order in the fifth and sixth, but had to battle through some adversity to hold off the tying run in the seventh inning. Chris Hays drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. He then made it to third on a pitch in the dirt with one out.

Castleberry hit a hard ground ball to first base where Jacksonville’s Deaundray Harris made a great play, making the stop and looking Hays back to third base before backpedaling to the bag for the out.

St. Clair got Kyle Kollander into a 0-2 hole before the right fielder fought off three foul balls. Facing a 1-2 count, Kollander swung and missed a bender that hit catcher Greg Jones’ motionless glove in the middle of the strike zone for the out.

That’s when Adams made his second major scene. He rushed the plate from the third-base coaches’ box and argued that the ball hit the ground, and that Kollander should be safe at first and Hay’s run count.

The argument, while vocal and vehement, didn’t last long. Amidst Adams’ protest and jeers and insults from the visitors’ side of the bleachers, the umpire simply said, “The game’s over coach,” before leaving the field.

Adams’ first display of nonsense took place after Brandon Hickingbotham was hit by a pitch in the third inning. Adams argued that Hickingbotham was out of the batter’s box and standing over the plate, and demanded the boxes be redrawn, but to no avail.

Jacksonville got just five hits off Castleberry, with Perry going 2 for 2. The Bruin hurler had only two strikeouts before the sixth inning to finish with five Ks and no walks.

St. Clair gave up just three hits, two to Wiggins, while walking two and striking out six.

Jacksonville got on the board first in game two as well. Playing as the visiting team, McDonald led the game off with a single to center field and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Perry.

Kaleb Reeves then singled to put runners on the corner and Jones hit a deep fly ball to center field to score McDonald.

McDonald scored again in the third inning after a leadoff double down the right field line. Three batters later, Jones singled to center field to again drive in McDonald.

James Tucker then hit a towering shot that bounced off the fence in left field just beneath the top rail.

Jones’ courtesy runner Tyson Flowers tried to score all the way from first base, but was thrown out at home by a perfect relay throw by Hays that hit Wiggins’ mitt right in front of the plate to end the inning.

Adams’ next and last great debate came in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Wiggins singled down the left field line and stole second and third before cleanup hitter Merritt Osmond walked to put runners on the corners. Adams called for the bluff stolen base by Osmond.

Jones calmly walked out from behind the plate, waiting to see which way Osmond would commit. The runner finally broke for second base. As Jones threw to second, Wiggins took off for home.

Ryan Mallison received Jones’ throw and attempted to tag Osmond, but the lanky six-and-a-half footer ran around Mallison towards right field and was called out for leaving the base path to end the inning.

That led to Adams’ arguing with the field umpire for the duration of the inning break until he was threatened with ejection.

There was little reason for dispute for very much longer.

The Red Devils made it 4-0 in the top of the fourth. Mallison hit a leadoff single to right field, and moved to second base when pitcher Tony Chacko’s pickoff throw to first base caught Osmond off guard and rolled to the fence. It was the first of five major blunders by the crumbling Bruins.

Mallison moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on an infield single by Laderrious Perry, who beat out a high bouncer down the third baseline.

PA got one back after leadoff hits by Hays and Cayden Haas was followed by a flyout and sacrifice grounder to second base by Kollander that scored Hays in the bottom of the fourth.

Jacksonville then scored five in the fifth and two more in the sixth to make it 11-1 and end any hopes of a Bruin comeback.

Four base hits and two errors led to the fifth-inning rally. St. Clair got a leadoff single and reached second on another errant pickoff throw by Chacko. Harris reached on a bunt single and St. Clair scored on a sacrifice grounder by Laderrious Perry.

McDonald singled in a run before the first out was recorded. Reeves hit a grounder to second base that turned into an error. Jones walked and Tucker again doubled to left field to drive in two more runs.

Harris and Laderrious Perry led off the sixth inning with consecutive singles before McDonald finally made an out with a sacrifice grounder to first base.

Blake Perry was in position to drive in some more runs, but two wild pitches by reliever Hays scored Harris and Laderrious Perry. It was a bad break for Blake Perry, whose subsequent single would have been two more RBIs for the senior infielder.

The Bruins scored one run in the bottom of the seventh inning due to an error in center field to set the final margin.

Jacksonville, 22-4, added an 8-7 win over Greenbrier on Thursday in Faulkner County. The Red Devils scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to take the lead. Sophomore Brandon Hawkins took the mound in the bottom of the seventh and retired the Panthers in order to get the save.

Reeves pitched the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to get the win on the mound.

Tucker got a two-out, two-RBI double for the game-winning base hit.

Jacksonville will travel to Little Rock to play Catholic at Lamar Porter Field on Monday before the state tournament begins Thursday at Dupree Park.

SPORTS STORY >> Russell resigns football position

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville head football coach Rick Russell handed in his resignation on Wednesday. The fourth-year Red Devil head coach spent one season at North Pulaski before taking over for Mark Whatley in 2010. Before that, he spent 17 years as an assistant for former coach Johnny Watson and Whatley, most of those years as the defensive coordinator.

It was his tenure as the defensive coordinator that made the Red Devils known for their defense, and that didn’t change after he became head coach. But the offenses struggled all four years under Russell and three different offensive coordinators.

The team missed the playoffs this past season for the first time since 2009. Russell compiled an overall record of 22-21 and made three-straight playoff appearances before this season.

Spring football practice period began this week with most teams electing to wait until baseball season is over to begin work. Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson will oversee the team through spring practice before beginning in earnest to search for a new head football coach.

SPORTS STORY >> Vault record falls

Leader sports editor

Several school records and one state record fell at the hands of Panther athletes Thursday at the class 7A state track meet at Panther Stadium in Cabot.

Junior pole-vaulter Lexi Weeks highlighted the day’s events for the host school, breaking the state record by a half inch, clearing 13-feet, 6.5-inches. She has actually gone 3.5 inches higher than that this season, but Arkansas rules dictate that state records can only be set in state meets.

Bentonville won the boys and girls team state championships. The Lady Tigers and Springdale Har-Ber ran away from the rest of the field in the girls’ meet, scoring 160 and 133 points respectively. Fayetteville was third with 83 points and the Lady Panthers came in fourth with 78. The Cabot ladies almost certainly would have finished third if not for some very bad luck in the 100-meter hurdles in which one runner fell and another got tripped up on the eighth hurdle and lost several places to finish seventh.

But the story of the meet was the girls’ pole vault. When Weeks cleared 13-10 at Bryant on March 19, it was the second-highest vault by a high school girl in the nation this year. It’s now the third, but after breaking the state record, she went for 14-feet.

She almost made it on her third vault, but was still very happy with the state record.

“It’s very exciting,” said Weeks. “I’ve actually gone higher than that about a month and a half ago. But it’s still very exciting to go that high here and get that record.”

Her sister Tori Weeks took second place with a vault of 13-0.75. Third place was Isabel Neal of Bentonville, who cleared a personal best 11-6. Her teammate Jade Donnell was fourth at 10-6 and Cabot freshman Sydnie Shumate took fifth with a personal best 10-feet.

The Weeks sisters are the hurdlers who stumbled in the 100. Lexi was on pace to break a school record when she fell after the last hurdle. Tori was very close behind when she stumbled and lost spots.

“Fourth place finished fast enough for our school record, and Lexi was in third,” said Cabot coach Leon White. “Tori was right there too and that hurt our points. We thought we’d easily get 10 out of that event and instead we ended up with two.”

The sisters ran the third and fourth leg of the school record-breaking 4x400-meter relay, but not without some drama.

Tori Weeks, who was slated to run the second leg, began vomiting a few minutes before the race began, and didn’t stop until after the starting gun. White decided to move Danielle McWilliams up from the third leg to the second, and was prepared to move Lexi Weeks from the anchor to third leg, but Tori gained her composure in time for the third leg.

After Rachael Hall ran the lead leg to get the team off to a strong start, Tori Weeks took the handoff from McWilliams, trailing Fayetteville by a couple of paces. She momentarily took the lead and handed off to Lexi in almost a dead heat with Fayetteville. Lexi took the lead until the final 70 meters when Fayetteville’s anchor runner pulled even and won by .1 seconds with a time of 3:56.66. Cabot’s time of 3:56.76 was still a school record by a wide margin.

“Before today we’d never run below four minutes before,” White said. “We ran a 3:59 in the prelims and then just had an outstanding race in the final.”

Cabot sprinter Jordan Burke set school records in the boys’ 100- and 200-meter dashes. He ran a 10.85 for third place in the 100 behind Central’s Tre James and North Little Rock’s Anthony Louden, who both clocked 10.74.

He ran 21.88 in the 200 behind the same two runners. Louden won that event by a wider margin with a time of 21.70, while James barely edged out Burke for second place with a time of 21.85.

Hall also ran a personal best in the girls’ 300 hurdles to finish fourth, just behind Tori Weeks. Hall finished at 47.38 and Weeks at 47.28. Payton Stumbaugh of Har-Ber ran away from the pack, breaking the state record with a time of 43.43.

Lexi Weeks also set a new school record in the long jump, breaking her old record of 18-2.75 by a quarter of an inch. That jump was good for third place.

Bentonville’s Logan Morton won with a leap 18-9 and Stumbaugh was second at 18-8.

EDITORIAL >> Rand report Encouraging

A tip of the hat to state Rep. Joe Farrer, who forwarded us another copy of the report that the Rand Corporation made 18 months ago analyzing the economic impact of the Affordable Care Act—aka Obamacare—on Arkansas. Rand’s findings were reported extensively at the time and gave Republican moderates in the Arkansas legislature the impetus to implement the one part of Obamacare that states could choose not to undertake—the expansion of Medicaid to cover low-income adults who previously were not eligible for the government insurance.

Examined with fresh eyes since the initial implementation of all the major features of the law, the research of the Rand economists may tell us whether Arkansas is on track to realize all those economic savings and stimulus that it once forecast for the year 2016 and beyond. We now have four months of subsidized health insurance for the middle class and seven months of Medicaid expansion for men and women whose incomes put them below 138 percent of the federal poverty line to compare with Rand’s longer-range forecast.

Things could change by the end of 2016, more than two and a half years away, but the verdict now is that, whatever you may think of Obamacare, it is an economic bonanza for Arkansans and also for the state government, which will in 2017 begin to share some of the cost of treating low-income adults who are getting medical insurance for the first time.

This is important knowledge because the biggest debate in this month’s primaries and in the general election in November is whether the state government will soon be heavily burdened by the cost of picking up a share of Medicaid that is borne at the outset by the federal government.

No, clearly, it will not. Rand predicted that by 2016 the additional money funneled into the Arkansas economy by widened health coverage will amount to $430 million and that the state’s gross domestic product will rise by $550 million that year as a result of the law. In 2017, the state government will pick up 5 percent of the cost of the adult Medicaid expansion, but the influx of all that new federal money into the Arkansas economy and into the state budget will far exceed the state’s new matching requirement. And it will continue to exceed it when the state’s Medicaid expansion rate tops out at 10 percent in 2021.

There are reasons a politician or any citizen might condemn Obamacare—principally that government has no business buying medical insurance for poor people and subsidizing those with more modest means—but the state budget is not one of them. When Gov. Mike Huckabee, in 1997, expanded Medicaid to cover far more people and at a much higher state matching rate and with a big impact on the state budget, no objections were heard. Huckabee was a Republican and Democrats and Republicans joined him.

If anything, the Rand Report greatly understated the economic advantages to the state from Obamacare. It did not calculate that the state would see some $130 million a year in state budget savings because, on Jan. 1 this year, Obamacare shifted all the state’s current costs of treating the “medically needy” population—those who spend nearly all of their income on medical bills to qualify for Medicaid—and coverage of poor pregnant women to the federal government. Also, state medical institutions like UAMS and local hospitals like our own will get paid for care that they have in the past been required to provide free for the poor and uninsured. The UAMS state budget next year draws lots fewer state taxes for that reason.

The Rand Report deducts from the Arkansas savings tens of millions of dollars for reductions in Medicare spending in Arkansas by the federal government, but that is a miscalculation. The cuts in federal Medicare spending are reductions in payments to insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage policies. None of the cuts will be felt by Arkansas Medicare recipients, so there is no economic downside for Arkansas.

But the crux of the Rand Report was its forecast of enrollment in Arkansas under both the Medicaid expansion and in the subsidized insurance exchanges—the two big and controversial features of Obamacare. It guessed that that there would be a surge in enrollment in the exchanges and in Medicaid at the beginning of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, so that some 400,000 people would be insured for the first time by the end of 2016.

Four months into 2014, more than 200,000 have enrolled. About 150,00 of those are new adult Medicaid enrollees, and that number probably will approach 200,000 by the end of this year. To state officials’ surprise, about 25,000 more children have been enrolled in Mike Huckabee’s ArKids First program, bringing the total to 431,000—by far the biggest Medicaid program of all.

More than 40,000 enrolled in the subsidized insurance exchange, and that figure will climb sharply this winter in spite of the legislature’s ban on all government outreach efforts to educate people about the availability of health insurance and to help them through the complicated enrollment process. That is where the Rand Report could be off—if, indeed, the legislature’s efforts to stop Arkansans from getting insurance actually succeeds.

Thursday, Rep. Farrer and Sen. Bryan King held a press conference to denounce their colleagues for extending insurance to some 150,000 of the state’s poor because they said it was costing more per enrollee than an actuary had estimated a year ago. They held up signs claiming the excess would be $100 million and that the state would be forced to pay it back to the feds.

Sen. David Sanders, the Little Rock Republican who worked on the Medicaid plan, called it a “cheap political stunt” by Farrer and King and that they were just wrong. The state is unlikely to be required to pay Washington for the private option’s exceeding the costs of straight Medicaid coverage. Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is an economic and fiscal bonanza for Arkansas, as the Rand report portended, and a life-changing development for tens of thousands of Arkansans.

This rosy scenario does not mean that the state will not face a budget crisis in 2017 and beyond. The legislature has almost demanded that Obamacare cause a fiscal crisis. Since the Rand Report and other studies showed a great fiscal stimulus and a great improvement in the state budget from Obamacare, legislators that the Obamacare savings allows them to cut taxes for corporations and people with wealth. So they ate up $100 million a year of those savings. So when 2017 or 2021 arrives and the state must pick up a bigger share, all that extra money generated by the changes will be gone and they can say, “Look what a crisis Obamacare has caused.” Remember the reason.

TOP STORY >> Teen moms left lasting impact

Leader staff writer

Nearly 150 guests at the Sherwood Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday prayed, listened to praise music and heard testimony from former Miss Arkansas Kristen Glover about how her life changed after accepting an unpaid internship with Promise House in 2009.

The Department of Human Services places the girls at Promise House, a Little Rock home for pregnant teenagers that is affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Glover told the crowd she learned, “You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be successful. You don’t have to have everything figured out to be a mentor. You just have to share your life and, when you do, I promise that you’re going to be blessed more than you’ll ever realize.”

The former Miss Arkansas recalled wearing a fake “pregnant belly” and bleaching toilets while mentoring six to seven pregnant teenagers, ages 12-18, for 10 weeks during the summer of 2009.

She also lived in the home with the girls.

Although Glover was crowned Miss Arkansas in 2011, she became discouraged after losing several preliminary pageants in 2009.

That’s when her parents suggested doing something different. That something different was working at Promise House.

Glover said, at first, she “didn’t really understand them or what they were going through or even where they came from.”

But Glover said she learned quickly after reading “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” by Ruby Payne and spending time with the girls at Promise House.

Glover told the crowd that, during the Miss Arkansas arrival ceremony she would have attended had she not lost the preliminary pageants, she was instead bleaching all the toilets and showers at Promise House.

Glover’s boss told her one of the girls had contracted a second sexually transmitted disease but had been treated for it and would be fine.

But, Glover’s boss explained, the girl’s shower and toilet needed to be bleached. And the other showers and toilets needed to be bleached too so that the other girls didn’t think something was wrong, her boss said.

Glover said it took her a week to do that job. The girls couldn’t do it because pregnant women shouldn’t inhale bleach fumes, she noted.

Glover said, “That above all is a reminder to me that when you open up your life and allow God to move, he’s going to bring you to a spot, where he’s going to teach you the most. And, like I said, I was there to mentor those girls, and I received so much from them in return. And I’m so thankful for the way that God broke me down to teach me who he is and that I was his.”

Glover also told the crowd, “Going out in public a few times, people looked at me kind of funny because here I was walking around with six very obviously pregnant teenagers.

She continued, “So I decided one day that I would buy a pregnant belly. And it was basically like this fancy pillow that you put under your shirt to give you a pregnant bump.

“So I would wear this from time to time when we were going out in public. And I would make comments very loudly that I had heard the other girls making comments about, like ‘Woo, I couldn’t sleep last night. This baby was just kicking me all night long.”’

Glover said the girls would laugh and giggle when she did this. “It’s just funny because they ended up really liking me, and I loved those girls too. But it was just funny because we came from opposite places. That was when I understood mentoring doesn’t have to be so much like a teacher-student setting. But sometimes it can just be sharing your life with someone else and opening up your life to someone else.

“We would just sit and talk sometimes, and they’d ask me questions, and I’d ask them questions. And we just shared our lives together,” Glover said.

Some of the questions the girls asked Glover were about boys. She said most of them didn’t know who the fathers of their babies were and didn’t expect them to be involved in the child’s life.

Glover told the girls that men would respect them if they respected themselves.

She also taught the girls to value education. Six out of 10 teen mothers don’t graduate from high school, Glover said.

But three of the 18-year-olds she mentored graduated from high school the year following her internship.

And, one time, Glover asked the girls how many people they knew who became pregnant before they were 18. Most of them listed four or five relatives and friends.

She said, “I would just pause and think, if this is the example that they had growing up, we shouldn’t really be surprised that they are in the situation that they’re in now.”
Glover then told the crowd about how the girls flocked to her mom when she visited Promise House. “It was obvious they craved that mother figure…and I loved sharing my mom with them,” the former Miss Arkansas said.

Glover also pointed out that there are several verses about mentoring in the Bible and the perfect example was Jesus, who mentored his 12 disciples by telling them to follow his example.

But not all of her talk was so serious. She had the crowd giggling when she talked about how she knew nothing about pregnancy before moving into Promise House.

On Glover’s first day, one of the residents went into labor.

She laughed as she said all she knew about labor was the “hee, hee, ooh” breathing shown in the movies. So that’s what Glover had the girl do until she was taken to the hospital. The baby was born healthy and the young mother was OK too.

Glover is enrolled in the pharmacy school at UAMS and will wed her fiancé in August.

Another highlight of the breakfast was Chopper Ward’s powerful singing voice. Ward is the music director at Rock City Harvest Church on Hwy. 107 in Sherwood.

And Mayor Virginia Hillman shared how residents saying that they were praying for her helped her get through many difficult times in office.

Circuit Court Judge Butch Hale III served as the master of ceremonies, welcoming guests and acknowledging the dignitaries who attended the event.

Pastor and Alderman Tim McMinn of Sylvan Hills Community Church, Pastor Hugh Yarbrough of Christian Assembly of God, Pastor Arthur Ward of Rock City Harvest Church, Guinn Massey of Massey and Wood CPA Group and Pastor Greg Clark of Sylvan Hills Church of Christ also participated.

Walt Barnhardt, David and Sherri Henry, Jason Akins, Karen Malmquist, Ricky and Tammy Carter and Alvin Finch volunteered to serve the breakfast.

TOP STORY >> Pawnshop or loan shark?

Toby Troutman, who owns US Pawn and Loan in Austin, is being sued by the state attorney general for allegedly selling dozens of illegal car loans with interest rates of more than 300 percent in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“US Pawn and Loan offered auto-title loans, also known as title pawns, to Arkansas consumers. Title pawns are short-term, high-interest loans in which the borrower provides the lender with the title and a key to his or her vehicle as collateral. In a title pawn, the borrower retains the vehicle, but the lender keeps the right to seize or sell the vehicle if the borrower fails to meet payment obligations,” according to a news release from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

The pawnshop is accused of engaging in at least 86 title-loan transactions with at least 63 customers. The interest rate for each loan exceeded 300 percent.

“For example, the business charged $375 a month in interest and fees on a $1,500 loan, with the monthly rate being assessed every month the loan was outstanding,” the release continued.

“These types of lending activities are bad for consumers and are illegal in Arkansas,” McDaniel said.

The lawsuit claims Troutman tried to disguise the type of loans as the sale of the borrower’s vehicle with the simultaneous sale or lease of the same car back to customers by using terms like “sales and leaseback loan.”

McDaniel filed the lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

The attorney general asked that US Pawn and Loan be required to cancel consumers’ debt obligations, return vehicle titles to their appropriate owners and pay restitution, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs.

In 2012, Troutman pleaded no contest to misdemeanor theft of property and was placed on probation for one year for forging his ex-wife’s signature on an insurance check for storm damage in the amount of $8,579.38.

He also ran unsuccessfully for Lonoke County justice of the peace that year.

He is the son of former longtime Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman.

TOP STORY >> Supporters roast Carter

Leader staff writer

Speaker of the House Davy Carter (R-Cabot) was in the hot seat during the Cabot Scholarship Foundation’s 19th annual Roast and Toast held Tuesday night at the Cabot Junior High North cafeteria.

“Davy’s hard to talk about because he is not very controversial. In fact, he is kind of boring. He’s as controversial as coleslaw,” Gov. Mike Beebe said.

“He reminds me of a young version of me. I had a Buster Brown haircut, just like he’s got. Difference is I got over it,” Beebe said.

Beebe said Carter has both Dale Bumpers’ and David Pryor’s mannerisms down. He says yes ma’am, shuffles his feet and is humble like Pryor and then lords it over the House of Representatives like Dale Bumpers, the governor joked.

Beebe said he’s been at the Capitol for nearly 32 years as governor, attorney general and state senator. He’s seen people come and go, talent wasted. He’s seen crooks and laziness but also saw hard-working people who deserve to be there, who are good public servants.

Carter is among the governor’s top six people he can name who define what public service is all about, Beebe said.

“It wasn’t easy what he did. He stole the House of Representatives’ speaker. It really was a coup. Those guys had their speaker picked out. They came out of the room, and it wasn’t the guy they picked out. It was the guy with the Buster Brown haircut. He had an impossible task. He had 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. The Republicans were divided between traditional business Republicans and the Tea Party. A lot of them were mad at him because he beat the guy some of them wanted,” Beebe said.

Bill Vickery, a political commentator, said, when Carter became speaker, it was the first time ever that the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.

“What’s the first move he does? He gets the former chairman of the Democratic party (Gabe Holmstrom, a Cabot High graduate) to be his chief of staff,” Vickery said.

Beebe said, “(Carter) had to manage all that with tough issues; a $24-billion budget, how to make things better for our students, parents and seniors, how to make Arkansas a better place.

“How do you balance this with competing interests? Some people who care and some people who care in a different direction didn’t like Davy and still don’t. How do you get that — honesty, hard work, perseverance, credibility and trustworthiness. Davy Carter is as good as it gets,” the governor said.

Vickery said, “In politics you often see the bad side of people, and that’s unfortunate. But you have a person here in this community that rose to the occasion. A lot of folks in politics, they do the right thing when everyone is looking. Davy Carter does the right thing when no one is looking. It is an honor to call Davy Carter my friend.”

Centennial Bank regional president Tracy French said Carter, “is a banker, a lawyer and politician, what are the odds of someone surviving all three of those.

“I met Davy 11 years ago working at Community Bank. He said he was in the neighborhood and dropped off his resume. I hired him on the spot. He is the 167th person I’ve ever done that to,” French said.

“Then he went into the lawyer business. I don’t think he won a case,” French said.

“I don’t know if you ever rode with (Carter). But he always has a shortcut. Remember this. I’ve put an extra 4,618 miles on my car, because of his shortcuts. Don’t ever do shortcuts with him because you are going to be late. But you do get there,” French said.

“How many of you heard (Carter) sing? He is really bad. But he doesn’t know that. He thinks he is good, so there’s nothing any better. One week in Florida we listened to Elvis all week long. He is not an Elvis guy, but thinks he is Garth Brooks,” French said.

Beebe said Carter thinks he is George Strait when he sings.

Carter said, “I was going to counter some of the things but Bill has the power of the radio to get me back, Tracy signs my paycheck and I didn’t become speaker without being smart enough to not make fun of the governor.”

Carter said his family moved to Cabot 11 years ago and that it’s a great community. He said what makes Cabot special is the quality of teachers. It didn’t start overnight, Carter noted.

“I hope (the community) doesn’t forget and (everyone) appreciates it. It’s not that way everywhere. Unfortunately, in our state, we have some school districts that struggle,” Carter said.

Beebe said the Cabot School District is a special place. He said he gets the chance to see 238 school districts in the state that have really good people who care about children and grandchildren and want them to have the best opportunities and teachers who work hard to teach them.

“For some reason they don’t have the community support like (Cabot). They don’t have a tax base, the facilities, the kinds of teachers and administration that is able to see and plan for down the road. They don’t have a school board that is so committed and takes the tough stances,” Beebe said.

“So you are very lucky. You should never take this for granted. That’s why so many people want to move to Cabot, because of your school system. It breeds other people like it. It breeds this importance and significance of education.

“If we’re ever going to improve the quality of life of our people, that’s the key. It is the reason I’m standing here. It’s the reason Davy is being honored. It’s the reason everybody on this dais had some degree of success in their professions. It’s because of education. Your commitment to it and to the students is pretty spectacular,” Beebe said.

TOP STORY >> Feelings hurt after base visit

Leader staff writer

Local mayors weren’t invited to greet President Barack Obama when he landed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville on Wednesday to hop aboard the Marine One helicopter that brought him to devastated Vilonia.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) invited the president to tour the damage there caused by the April 27 EF4 tornado, which sported winds between 166-200 mph and a 42-mile track.

The storm killed 16 people and affected more than 800 homes.

And FEMA officials have already approved $1.6 million in assistance, spokesman Daniel Martinez said.

The senator, along with Gov. Mike Beebe, Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), 19th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Patrick Rhatigan and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, met Air Force One on the flight line.

Jacksonville Alderman James Bolden told The Leader he was confused by Stodola’s presence. “That just isn’t right,” he said, noting that the base is not in Little Rock.

The alderman said he was told that the senator forgot to include Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher on the list of dignitaries who were to greet the president.

Bolden continued, “I think it was a slap in Jacksonville’s face by Mark Pryor’s office.”

He said he thought Pryor “snubbed” the city because the senator cares more about Little Rock votes than he does about Jacksonville votes.

Although Jacksonville was not affected by the deadly tornado, the city sent two ambulances to Vilonia during the search and rescue effort.

Nevertheless, Fletcher said, “We appreciate the president coming and reaching out and trying to, as president, encourage and help give some hope to those who lost so much...It seemed like it lifted quite a few people’s spirits out there.”

Fletcher said he thought politics took a back road to the visit’s focus. “It’s sad it takes a tragedy to do that,” he noted.

Fletcher also recalled greeting First Lady Michelle Obama two years ago, when she toured the new Hercules dining facility on the base and praised the nutritious food served there.

“I had the privilege of meeting the prettiest of the Obamas,” the mayor joked.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman and Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert were also among those who weren’t invited to meet the president.

Both said they understood that their cities weren’t involved in why Obama was here.

Hillman told The Leader, “I felt like that was for those communities. I would have assumed those were the mayors that would be invited.”

About the statement Obama read in Vilonia, the mayor said, “It was what I would have expected and hoped for, that the area would be able to receive federal funds…I felt like the focus should have been (and was) on those communities.”

Cypert agreed. “I think it was a positive thing to show support at a federal level.”

He noted, “It didn’t involve Cabot…I didn’t need an invitation and didn’t expect to get one.”

Obama met with victims, city officials and emergency personnel on his 20-minute tour of Vilonia. It was his first visit to Arkansas since being elected in 2008.

“When something happens like this to a community it happens to all of us,” he said. “The folks here are tough, and they look out for each other.”

He pointed out that this is the second time in three years Vilonia residents have experienced more than one kind of loss. An April 2011 tornado killed four people.

The recent tornado took a similar path, striking many of the houses that were hit in 2011 and had been rebuilt.

Obama continued, “I could not be more impressed by the spirit of the community that’s here. This is a testament to the strength of the community, the state of Arkansas and America.”

The president also said there would be federal help available for the city that lost 85 percent of its sales tax revenue when most businesses along Main Street were obliterated by the tornado.

Faulkner County was declared a disaster area two days after the tornado swept through it.

It also touched down in El Paso in White County, where Paula Blakemore was killed.

White County was declared a disaster area on Monday, along with Pulaski and Randolph counties.

There are two disaster recovery centers where people can register for assistance and get information from several sources. They are at 600 Hwy. 365 in Mayflower and at 300 Geneva Drive in Pocahontas.

Mobile units are at First Assembly of God Church at 851 Main St. in Vilonia, 607 Hwy. 365 in Mayflower, First Baptist Church at 1206 Main St. in Vilonia, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church at 27025 Kanis Road in Little Rock and 4103 Hwy. 36 West in Searcy. Victims can also register by calling 501-621-3362 or online.

FEMA spokesman Dan Martinez said 1,059 had registered as of Thursday.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Disaster aid is bipartisan

Arkansas’ bipartisan congressional delegation on Monday applauded FEMA’s decision adding Pulaski, Randolph and White counties to its list of disaster areas, joining Faulkner County, which made the list days after the April 27 tornado devastated much of Vilonia.

The declaration will make Arkansas eligible for low-interest loans and perhaps for additional funding from Washington. With two major tornadoes in three years, we need all the help we can get to rebuild hundreds of destroyed homes and build more badly needed tornado shelters..

FEMA has given Arkansas $1 million since the tornado, but much more is needed. Let’s hope President Obama will promise us more assistance when he lands at Little Rock Air Force Base today. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) invited the President to tour the hard-hit areas to the north of us.

The spirit of bipartisanship is reminiscent of Obama’s visit to storm-damaged New Jersey in 2012 with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. They got on well and may have helped each other’s chances when they ran for re-election that year. As we recall, millions of federal aid poured into New Jersey, which is still reaping the benefits of federal aid.

We could use more of the same. Pryor, the lone Democrat in the Arkansas delegation, was joined by Sen. John Boozman, as well as Reps. Tim Griffin, Rick Crawford, Tom Cotton and Steve Womack as they seek more aid for the state. Perhaps they were as surprised as we were that Obama accepted Pryor’s invitation since the President’s approval rating in Arkansas is among the lowest in the nation.

But there’s nothing like a natural disaster to bring us together. Even Rep. Cotton, who is running against Pryor and has been critical of FEMA, joined the bipartisan bandwagon and said, “I am grateful for the continued swift action by FEMA to support Arkansas and will work with my colleagues to ensure that support is easily accessible for those who need it most.”

It took courage for Pryor to invite the unpopular Obama to Arkansas, but the President’s tour should lead to more emergency aid to help pay for the long recovery.

TOP STORY >> Recycling center gets new name

Managing editor

Jacksonville’s quintessential volunteer and volunteer extraordinaire, Ron Newport, was honored last week when city fathers named the recycling education park on Marshall Road in his honor.

Newport, who will be 84 in July, is Jacksonville’s father of recycling.

“Ron was instrumental in getting recycling up and going in Jacksonville,” Jim Durham, the city’s director of administration said.

The recycling effort seemed to be a natural offspring to Newport’s work with Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, which he founded.

Of having the recycling park named in his honor, Newport said, “I was really, really thrilled. It was a total surprise.”

“It was my concept,” said Newport, who began dreaming of and planning the recycling complex in 2006. Newport, a native of Kentucky, moved here with his wife, a Hot Springs native, in 1997 when he retired. The couple celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary May 9.

Newport talks up Jacksonville in a big way, “Looking into the future,” he says, “five years from now, Jacksonville is coming into its own. Look at what we’ve got, the shooting range on Graham Road, the land at I-440. The mayor is low key, but he surrounds himself with good, supportive people.”

Newport’s ‘concept’ evolved into a full-fledged center replete with a sculpture-filled educational park with stations of signs marking the basic materials and tenets of recycling — plastic, paper and cardboard, rubber, electronics, household chemicals, yard waste and aluminum.

“When recycling began here, it was a little shack. Now there are 15 big containers plus drive through recycling during weekdays,” Newport said. “There has been a tremendous increase in visitors,” he said pointing out the educational programs for visiting school children.

While he was being interviewed for this article at the recycling center last week, 150 children were visiting from Bayou Meto Elementary School and taking an entertaining, educational tour. It was just one of many such tours.

Newport is particularly proud of the whimsical sculptures dotting the park, a family of giraffes from recycled metal — park mascots Scrappy, ScrapAnnie and little Scrappy.

The trio, donated by the late Lonnie Turner of Ozark, were named by a class of first graders from Dupree Elementary in Jacksonville. A graceful metal Swan, reminiscent of Leda and her swan, by Fenton Shaw of Conway, and a joyful singing twosome named Glee, dot more of the landscape.

Newport has a long history in community volunteerism and stewardship. He recruited members for Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, was a long-time volunteer at the Jacksonville Senior Center, was a finalist for AARP’s volunteer of the year in 2012, was a delegate for CareLink in the last biennial Silver-Haired Legislature and was named an Outstanding Citizen of Arkansas by Gov. Mike Beebe.

Recently, he has been spearheading the Jacksonville Library’s acquisition of an $80,000 piece of metal sculpture in a collaboration with Arkansas artist Alice Guffey Miller of Monticello and Marvin Lindley’s Jacksonville High School students. The piece is expected to be completed next year, according to Newport, who was also instrumental in twin eagle sculptures, which have been placed at city hall and the police and public safety building on Marshall Road.

Getting back to Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, New-port said, “I was asked to put together a package and the timing was perfect. The city council, advertising and promotions commission, even code enforcement all picked up and came together. The Jacksonville Garden Club has been a long-time supporter.”

He also mentioned support from Alderman Bill Howard, former Alderman Bob Stroud, former Rep. Mike Wilson, and Donnie Farmer, the group’s treasurer.

Of Newport, Wilson said in an email, “I see his work and ‘fingerprints’ all over town, particularly the murals. I would observe that his work has been extremely dedicated and pursued for the benefit of all of us, pretty much by himself. We’re lucky to have a guy with such a good eye for the arts, and our community is better for his efforts.”

Reiterating those comments was Mayor Gary Fletcher, “It was under his leadership that Keep Jacksonville Beautiful took off expanding and developing from picking up litter to art and culture we now see around the city. I can’t think of anyone so worthy to recognize and pay tribute to than Ron Newport and I want his legacy to carry on for decades to inspire others.

“Those who truly make the greatest contributions and impact in our society many times are everyday citizens following their passion. They want the world to be a better place than they found it. That’s Ron Newport,” the mayor added.

TOP STORY >> Guilty of murder, Beebe man says in a plea bargain

Nicholas Ryan Holloway, 24, of Beebe has been sentenced to 35 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections for the role he played in the January 2013 shooting death of Hurbert Dewayne Jackson, 27.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said the victim’s family is aware and satisfied with the sentence.

Holloway pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, a felony count of tampering with physical evidence and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Jackson’s body was found on the side of Bevis Road off Hwy. 15 on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013.

Holloway, Jeremy Deshaun Davis, 29, and Davis’ girlfriend, 22-year-old Kayla Nicole Miller, were arrested a week later. She was charged with hindering apprehension for allegedly lying about where Davis was at the time of the murder.

Davis will be in court for his pre-trial hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

According to the plea agreement, Jackson’s nickname was “Lil Wayne.”

Davis was called “Grinch” and Holloway went by “Hustle.”

Jackson’s family said the two of them murdered him.

One witness told police he saw Davis and another man pick Jackson up the evening he was killed.

Another witness said Davis had been carrying a 9mm handgun and threatening to kill someone who owed him money.

Five 9mm shell casings were found near Jackson’s body, but he was also shot with a 22-caliber pistol.

A third witness said Davis called to tell him and others that a white Avalanche ran Jackson over and killed him on Hwy. 15.

When that call occurred, according to the plea agreement, police had not released the victim’s identity or that the person who found him drove a white Avalanche.

Police searched Davis’ and Holloway’s houses.

At Holloway’s house, they found a 9mm pistol and a 22-caliber rifle.

Holloway also confirmed a tip that Jackson had robbed him of $200 in the past.

Red-stained clothing was found at Davis’ house. He claimed that he, Holloway and another man went to Des Arc the day of the murder to shoot Holloway’s new 9mm pistol.

The other man told police Davis spoke then about how he would kill the victim.

Davis said he was in Beebe at the time of the murder, but phone records proved he was not in Beebe then.

TOP STORY >> Obama flies to base for storm visit

President Barack Obama will land at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville around 11:30 a.m. today as he prepares to tour tornado-ravaged areas of central Arkansas.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) invited the president to visit the hardest-hit towns, including Vilonia in Faulkner County.

Faulkner County was declared a disaster area two days after the tornado swept through on April 27.

It also touched down in El Paso in White County, where Paula Blakemore was killed.

White County was declared a disaster area on Monday, along with Pulaski and Randolph counties.

The 42-mile-long EF4 tornado with 166-200 mph winds killed 16 people, making it the deadliest in Arkansas since 1968, according to National Weather Service data.

It was the first EF4 in the U.S. this year and the third strongest in Arkansas since 2000.

Faulkner County officials on Sunday reported that more than 800 homes were destroyed or damaged by the tornado. Of those, 418 were completely destroyed.

FEMA had approved $1.2 million in assistance for 850 victims who registered to receive it as of Monday, according to public information officer Dan Martinez.

Of that, Martinez said $1.01 million was for damage to homes and $198,711 was for other needs, like personal belongings, medical and funeral expenses.

According to a FEMA news release, applicants who request an inspection can expect a quick response time of four hours and 48 minutes.

In fact, the first funds were approved and the FEMA staff completed the first inspection less than 26 hours after the tornado hit the area.

There are three mobile units where victims can register for assistance. They are at First Assembly of God Church, 851 Main St. in Vilonia; 607 Hwy. 365 in Mayflower and First Baptist Church, 1206 Main St. in Vilonia.

They can also register by calling 501-621-3362 or online.

Vilonia was also devastated by a 2011 tornado that killed four people. The town has been hit by five tornadoes since 1950, according to the National Weather Service.

There were 117 FEMA boots on the ground in Arkansas last week, Martinez noted, and more were on their way.

Volunteers are asked to check in at Beryl Baptist, 863 Hwy. 64B in Vilonia; Mayflower Outdoors, 57 Interstate Drive in Mayflower and Home Depot, 500 Elsinger Blvd. in Conway.

Today’s presidential tour will be the first time Obama has visited the state since being elected in 2008.

President Clinton flew into Little Rock Air Force Base on Air Force One in July 1998. He took time to talk to airmen and well-wishers on the flight line.

“I’m proud of the role this base is playing in advancing the cause of freedom,” Clinton told the large crowd.

Michelle Obama visited the air base in February 2012, when she toured the new Hercules dining facility and praised the nutritious food that is served there.

Little Rock Air Force Base was one of the first to introduce healthier menus on military bases. The program is spreading to some 1,000 other military dining halls. It is the first military-menu upgrade in two decades.

Col. Brian (Smokey) Robin-son, who has since been promoted to brigadier general, hosted the first lady’s visit and led a discussion about the importance of serving healthier meals to service members.

“You’re ahead of the curve,” Mrs. Obama told airmen at the base. “This is due to the foresight of your commanders.”

Vice President Al Gore flew into the air base in May 2000 to discuss veterans issues at VFW Post 4548 in north Jacksonville.

Vice President Dan Quayle landed at the air base in July 1990 on his way for a speech in Little Rock.

Leader publisher Garrick Feldman contributed to this report.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits win district

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits’ baseball team defended its 4A-2 District tournament title Saturday, beating Clinton 11-1 at the Lonoke Ball Park to earn the No. 1 seed in the upcoming East Regional tournament that will also be hosted by Lonoke.

Lonoke was already assured of a spot in the regional tournament by winning the regular-season title undefeated and earning a bye in the district tournament to the semifinals. There they handled Stuttgart 10-2 for the third time this season, then went on to hammer Clinton in the district championship game.

“The kids played well and hit the ball the whole game,” said Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery of the district final. “We were able to finally put some nice at-bats together in that last inning and pull away with it.”

Lonoke scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to put an early end to the championship game. It mirrored the way the team finished off Stuttgart on Friday.

In that game, Lonoke led 5-2 going into its last at-bat before posting five insurance runs for the win.

Mikey Shinn started on the mound and picked up the win in the semifinal game. Nick Watson threw a complete-game victory in the win over Clinton.

“Nick did a great job of keeping their hitters off balance,” Lowery said. “He kept them from ever really threatening until we were able to put some offense together.”

Lonoke closed its regular season with a road win over North Pulaski at Dupree Park on Monday. For the third-straight game, the Jackrabbits got a huge inning in their last at-bat. The difference on Monday was that they needed it to rally for the win.

Lonoke trailed 8-5 going into the seventh inning, but scored eight runs on three hits for a 13-8 win as the Falcons’ pitching and defense collapsed.

“I think we had a little bit of a letdown from Saturday,” Lowery said. “We did not come out focused. But give North Pulaski credit. They were focused and they played a good baseball game. They outplayed us for six innings. They made some mistakes in the seventh and we were able to capitalize on those.”

Lowery’s squad now prepares to face Gosnell at 10 a.m. Friday.

Gosnell had a disappointing district tournament, but should present a difficult matchup for the Jackrabbits, having beaten two teams that have beaten Lonoke.

“They’re not your typical four seed,” Lowery said. “We got a little bit of an unlucky draw there, but this group knows that.”

A senior-laden Lonoke squad lost its regional opener last year and missed out on the state tournament after winning the district tournament.

That team had its sights set on a second-straight run to the state championship game and got caught overlooking a four seed. Lowery doesn’t think that’ll happen this year.

“That team last year just expected to win and move on,” Lowery said. “This team is younger but they’re pretty mature. There wasn’t a lot of celebrating on Saturday. This team is different from last year. It’s two totally different attitudes. They know they’ve got a tough opponent ahead and a lot of work left to do.”

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons roll past Lions, falls to LHS

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Falcons picked up a pair of conference wins last Friday, beating Little Rock McCellan 20-5 and 23-3 at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.

Falcon coach Michael Dean put two seniors on the mound for Senior Night, and both came through with one-hitters.

Jordan Walters pitched all three innings of the game-one win, striking out five and giving up just one earned run.

The Falcons got all the runs they needed in the first two innings, scoring 11 in the first and nine in the second. Fred Thomas and Tyler Montgomery each went 2 for 2 with a double and Hunter McPherson got two hits and scored three runs.

In game two, the Falcons went 17 of 32 at the plate as a team, but took a little longer to reach the mercy-rule margin.

Thomas took the mound in the nightcap and threw four of the game’s five innings. He struck out seven and gave up no earned runs.

He also showcased a knuckleball in his career-ending appearance.

“He’s not one of our main starters, but he’s going to throw strikes and be smart,” said Dean. “Against a team like McClellan, if you’ll just throw strikes you’re going to be OK. Fred’s not going to try to overdo anything, but he did throw a knuckleball that was out of this world. I asked him why he didn’t throw that all year. We could’ve used that at times.”

Thomas was also 3 for 4 at the plate with two doubles, as was teammate Aaron Rambo. Caleb McMunn went 2 for 3 with one double and Ean Collie went 2 for 4 with a double. Collie also threw the last inning and put the Lions down in order.

The Falcons lost a heartbreaker 13-8 to Lonoke at home on Monday in a nonconference matchup.

They led that game 8-5 going into the last inning, but three hits, three walks, two errors and two hit batters aided the Jackrabbits’ game-winning rally.

“That team went undefeated in their conference, in their conference tournament and has just been wearing people out, and for six innings, we completely out-played them,” Dean said.

“In the seventh inning we just fall apart. It’s just typical of how our season has gone. We’ve shown at times how good we could’ve been, but we’re too inconsistent.”

SPORTS STORY >> NLR girls get their revenge on Cabot

Leader sportswriter

North Little Rock got payback for its loss to Cabot in the 7A/6A-East Conference opener back in March with a dominant 11-1 win over the Lady Panthers on Friday at Burns Park.

The Lady Charging Wildcats scored three runs in the first inning and four in the third and fourth innings to set their run total for the evening. Cabot scored its lone run in the third inning, and got its only hit of the game in that same inning – a single by sophomore shortstop Heather Hill.

Rachel Gregory went the distance in the circle for North Little Rock. She finished the game with three strikeouts while giving up just one base hit and one run. Cabot had little trouble with Gregory in its first meeting with the Lady Cats this season, hitting five home runs off her in that game, three of which came off the bat of freshman Hannah Montgomery.

Cabot coach Chris Cope said the biggest difference in the two games was simple; his team didn’t show up Friday ready to play, and the other team did.

“The bottom line is they came to play and we didn’t,” said Cope. “That’s the bottom line. The better team won today. They came to play and we didn’t.”

Cope gave credit to Gregory’s performance in the circle, as well as to his two freshmen pitchers, Montgomery and Lauren McCluskey, who came in to relieve Montgomery in the bottom of the fourth, but the errors Cabot committed in the field throughout the game were too plentiful.

“She (Gregory) pitched a great game,” Cope said. “They played good defense, we didn’t. We didn’t come to play tonight. Our pitchers I thought did a well job, but we had so many errors. The bottom line is the better team won tonight.”

North Little Rock led 7-1 entering the fourth inning, and Lady Cat leadoff hitter Sydney Parr kept things going for the host team with a solo home run to start the bottom of the fourth, making it an 8-1 game.

Shortstop Ashton Bobbitt walked the next at-bat, and two batters later, cleanup hitter Katy Kinnison hit a bloop single to shallow right field. Kinnison’s hit should’ve easily been caught, but miscommunication between the Cabot position players allowed the ball to drop cleanly.

Morgan Seaton then came to plate for NLR and she reached on an error at second base. That loaded the bases for Lydia Belew, who hit a line-drive single to right field, which allowed Bobbitt and Kinnison to score with ease and make it 10-1 Lady Cats.

Hannah Lovercheck grounded out to Hill at shortstop for the second out of the inning the next at-bat, but center fielder Reagan Sperling hit an infield single to shortstop following Lovercheck’s plate appearance, which drove in Seaton and ended the game because of the 10-run lead after five innings sportsmanship rule.

NLR got eight hits in the game. Parr, Kinnison and Belew had two hits each, while Sperling and catcher McKenzie Escovedo had one hit apiece.

Cabot and NLR entered this week tied for the top spot in the conference with two losses each, and if both teams win out in 7A/6A-East play, the Lady Cats will enter the state tournament as the top seed from the conference since their win was by a bigger margin.

Cabot added a nonconference loss to Benton on Monday, falling 6-1.

The Lady Panthers (14-10, 11-2) ended their conference schedule yesterday at home against Searcy, and will play two nonconference games against Bryant and Lake Hamilton before the state tournament begins May 15.

North Little Rock (15-4, 10-2) played Little Rock Central yesterday at home, and will close its conference schedule Friday with a home game against Jonesboro.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers runners-up

Leader sports editor

A little bit of bad luck got in the way, but the Cabot girls track team still made a strong push for a conference championship Friday at Panther Stadium. Fort Smith Southside won the meet by a mere five points, 169 to Cabot’s 164. Those two teams left everyone else far behind as Conway finished third with 98 points. Little Rock Central was fourth with 80, Mount St. Mary’s 49, North Little Rock 40, Fort Smith Northside 28 and West Memphis last with 21 points.

The boys’ meet was more competitive top to bottom with North Little Rock winning with 119.5 points while Cabot finished fifth with 81. Central was second with 117 and Catholic third with 113. Conway was five points better than Cabot. Southside took sixth with 55.5, Northside had 52 and the Blue Devils finished with 36.

Cabot coach Leon White believes if injuries had not hampered his team, it could come away with the 7A-Central championship.

“We only lost by five,” said White. “We couldn’t put Micah (Huckabee) in the 800 relays because we’re still nursing her injury. Ladaysha Evans broke her leg earlier this year and she would have given us some points in the sprints and jumps. Briley Quardstrom also would have scored some points for us but she was hurt. It takes a strong team and then it takes some luck. The good thing is, all these girls that scored for us will be back next year. All the ones that missed with injuries will be back, and we’re adding some good ones from ninth grade. So we’re looking forward to a great year next year.”

Cabot won more events than Southside, piling up six first-place finishes to Southside’s five. Depth was the key issue in the Lady Rebels’ victory.

“They just had more girls than we did,” White said. “That’s what it came down to. With us just a little bit shorthanded, we just didn’t have the numbers they did.”

The top eight finishers in each event score points, while the top six in each event qualify for the state meet that will also be held at Panther Stadium on Thursday.

Junior Lexi Weeks won two of those events outright. Junior Tori Weeks won one and would have won two outright if not for a mishap in the 100-meter hurdles. The twin sisters tied for first place in the pole vault, each clearing 13 feet, three and a half feet higher than the next highest vault. Cabot freshman Sydnie Shumate had the third-highest vault and finished fourth by clearing nine feet.

Tori Weeks won the 300-meter hurdles by nearly a second with a personal best and school record time of 46.01. Molly Sampson of Mount. St. Mary was second. Tori Weeks was also just ahead of her rival Sampson in the 100-meter hurdles, but hit the ninth hurdle and finished third behind Sampson and Lexi Weeks. Despite not winning, both runners’ times in the 100 hurdles were a personal best at 15.36 and 15.57.

“They had both run it 15.7 range, but they beat that by a considerable margin,” White said.

Sampson’s winning time was 15.32.

Lexi Weeks and junior teammate Danielle McWilliams turned in personal bests in finishing first and second in the 400-meter dash. Weeks finished in 59.21 and McWilliams in 59.81.

Huckabee won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races by wide margins, and didn’t run it hard. She finished the mile in 5:30.98, winning by five seconds over Southside’s Alondra Gomez. Cabot’s Ashley Gore finished fifth with a new personal record time of 5:45.66, and sophomore teammate Samantha Nickell took seventh.

Lexi Weeks also won the long jump with a leap of 18-2.25, a half-inch short of her personal best. Tori Weeks took third in the triple jump and Lexi Weeks was fifth in the 200-meter dash.

Huckabee won the two-mile with a time of 12:15.24, more than 18 seconds ahead of second place Elika Hamer of MSM. Nickell was fifth in that event and Gore took seventh.

“Micah pulled a hamstring and hasn’t been competing,” White said. “We just wanted her to run just fast enough to win. She didn’t really push it that much.”

Cabot didn’t get a win in the shot put, but had two athletes beat their previous best marks. Senior Lauren Backus took fifth place with a toss of 30-5.5, while sophomore Katie Wright reached 30-3.5 for sixth place.

Gore and Ashley Odom took fifth and sixth in the 800-meter run, and helped Cabot take second in a narrow loss to Conway in the 4x800 relay. Nickell and Seaton Howard were the other two competitors on that team. Cabot’s 4x100-meter relay team also took second place. The team of Rachel Hall, Lexi Weeks, McWilliams and Tori Weeks finished .53 seconds behind Southside. The 4x400 team of Hall, Miranda Walker, Marquetta Magwood and McWilliams took third place.

In the boys’ meet, Cabot senior Jordan Burke took third in the blazing fast 100-meter dash. The top three all finished under 11 seconds. Tre James of Central won with a time of 10.8. NLR’s Anthony Louden clocked 10.87 and Burke at 10.99. Senior Alley Layton was seventh at 11.29. Louden and James swapped places in the 200-meter dash while Burke was again third and Layton seventh. Louden beat James by the slimmest of margins, 22.21 to 22.22.

Junior Jake Ferguson turned in a personal best in the 400 to take fourth place with a time of 51.38. Brayden Mercantel took sixth in the 1,600 and Nick Davis was sixth in the 3,200 to qualify for state. Hayden Richey took fifth in the 300 hurdles with a time of 43.66.

Cabot showed some rising talent in the pole vault, with sophomore Rocky Burke and freshman Braxton Burton clearing the fourth-best height of 11-6 for sixth and seventh place, while freshman Dylan Smith was eighth at 11-feet.

Keith Pledger took third in the shot put with a toss of 50-3, while fellow senior Aaron Henry was fourth at 47-9.25. Henry also took third in the discus throw with a heave of 130-4. Heath Pledger took fourth and sophomore Brandon Jones fifth to all qualify for state. Keith Pledger added a point for Cabot by taking eighth place.

All of Cabot’s relay teams qualified, with the 400 and 800 teams taking fourth place and the 100 team finishing sixth.

The class 7A state meet begins at 10 a.m. Thursday.