Friday, June 12, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Standardized flip-flop-flip

The state might have wasted nearly three months of students’, teachers’ and principals’ time this past school year administrating the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test.

Arkansas had scrapped it in favor of an ACT test called Aspire, or at least that’s what the governor and lieutenant governor thought before the state school board stomped on their recommendation and opted to keep the PARCC test even though complaints about the test are rampant through the state and the country.

“We’re not going to do PARCC anymore. It’s done,” Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin recently told a group of legislators.


Why not go with the governor and lieutenant governor’s suggestion, especially after Griffin and his task force, appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, have heard from hundreds of concerned parents around the state?

More than likely, it’s a money issue.

The PARCC group was given $350 million in federal funds to develop the test, and Arkansas is paying for part of that. `The Education Department has not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request asking for the exact figures.

Of all the complaints about Common Core, the testing problems resonated the most with the lieutenant governor and his task force assessing that curriculum.

When it came to testing this year, dozens of schools and districts cried foul. Most in the area did not do well, while Cabot excelled on the test. Counselors were used as test administrators and the task — not part of their job description — tied them up for almost three months during which time they conducted no classes and counseled very few students.

The test, which is administered on computers, at most schools tied up computer labs and classroom computers, too, because of broadband issues not allowing students to work on Powerpoints or even do simple research for projects.

But what was really being tested? Common Core knowledge or the ability to use the computer keyboard?

And many schools did not offer keyboarding instruction for students before the test.

The computerized format creates challenges, as it is more accessible to kids who’ve grown up with iPads in their hands and attended technologically-advanced schools.

A superintendent in New Jersey, one of many states not happy with the PARCC test, said, “It’s like telling our teachers, ‘We’ll teach you how to drive.’ But then the test says you won’t be driving cars. You’ll be driving boats.”

Testing has been a thorn in Arkansas’ side for the past couple of years.

Common Core has been the official curriculum of the state for three years, but this past year was the first time the state actually tested Common Core using a Common Core-based test.

So, how were students tested in the first two years of Common Core? With the state standard-based Benchmark exam, which was not aligned with Common Core even though one of the mantras of teaching is to test what is taught. Why was the Benchmark used?

Because the state had a seven-year contract with the company that produced the Benchmark exam and there were two years left on the contract when Common Core was being implemented. And there wasn’t a Common Core test available yet.

So the state changed the curriculum with no way of testing it.

Griffin has said that the ACT Aspire test requires less testing time (it can be done in a day) than PARCC, that it is geared toward college readiness, that ACT is well known in Arkansas and across the nation, and that switching from PARCC to ACT Aspire was acceptable to most of his review council’s members. Many lawmakers and educators in Colorado think it is foolish to give the PARCC and become a guinea pig for an unproven program.

Griffin and his task force are still on their listening tour with stops still planned in Batesville, Pine Bluff and Fort Smith. After that, the panel will make a decision on Common Core standards, which may be tweaked, repackaged or renamed, but it will still be Common Core.

Switching to the ACT test from the PARCC would have put us back to where we were two years ago — teaching one thing and testing another.

Just imagine if the state put students first. A student might say: “Every day I love to go to school. We learn, and learn, and learn. And then occasionally we take a test.” Do the tests effectively assess your learning? “Yes, absolutely!”

Rather than: “We do practice tests and practice tests and more practice tests. And then we do the real thing. We take a lot of tests.” But do you learn from the tests? “Not really.”

TOP STORY >> Learning from the great outdoors

Leader staff writer

On Thursday, Pathfinder celebrated opening the first two outdoor classrooms in the state to be certified by the national Nature Explore program at their preschools in Jacksonville and Little Rock.

None of it would have been possible for the nonprofit without generous cash and in-kind donations. “Community involvement is crucial,” Director Debbie Schoarbor said.

According to her, the classroom at the Jacksonville school, which serves about 150 kids with developmental delays or other disabilities, cost approximately $15,000 to set up.

The other classroom, at the Charles Bussey Child Development Center in Little Rock, cost around $8,000. It has about 45 students.

Schoarbor runs both preschools.

Tina Reeble with the national network of outdoor classrooms, Nature Explore, taught the Jacksonville teachers Thursday morning about how to take advantage of the new space. She then presented plaques for both schools at the preschool here, recognizing that they are now certified.

“This is thrilling. I know you’re overwhelmed, but you’re in for an amazing ride,” Reeble told the teachers, adding that parents would be “clambering” in the coming years for their kids to join the program.

The play areas at the new outdoor classrooms have Native American names. Schoarbor said she thought of that because Native Americans are known for their connection to nature and she wants to instill that in today’s students.

The director added that another goal is to make future generations understand the value of natural resources so that they will protect those resources in adulthood.

The Jacksonville classroom’s title, “Maka” classroom, is no exception to the rule. “Maka” means “earth,” Schoarbor continued.

Other sections in the classrooms include the Samoset (Motor Activities) Area, Sloh’-hon (Crawling) Area, Chochmo (Mud Mound) Area for messy materials, Ima’rata (Building) Area, Kala (Art) Area, Hototo/Nimeda (Music/Dance) Area, Cayuga (Starting Place/Garden) Area, Pow-wow (gathering) Area, Oka (Water) Area, Ga-da (Dirt Digging/Dinosaur Dig) Area, Chidi (Car/wheeled toy) Area and Ga-da (Mud Kitchen) Area.

From now on, Pathfinder preschool teachers will take as much indoor learning outside as possible, Schoarbor continued. Speech, occupational, physical and mental health therapists will also utilize the classroom, she said.

Schoarbor told The Leader she’d researched having an outdoor classroom for years, and that brainchild began to become a reality when the vegetable garden and a pair of chickens were placed at the Jacksonville facility about four years ago.

“I wanted to give children the freedom to learn in a truly natural environment,” the director explained. “I am always, and I’ll probably never stop, looking for ways to expand children’s learning and to see them (learn).”

Doing outdoor activities teaches the preschoolers their colors, measuring through making things like mud pies, sorting through using materials to construct things and more without the children realizing they’re learning, Schoarbor said. Activities the kids will be able to do in the outdoor classroom “make you think in a different way,” she emphasized.

“No other type of learning allows us as human beings to use all that we have,” the director continued. Going outside will help “some of our children who are challenged in the (indoor) classroom with the confinement of the classroom,” Schoarbor pointed out.

Volunteer Hollis Ready, who manages the garden for the Jacksonville site, said he enjoys having the kids help with it. “Their faces will light up because they’re actually getting to do something” and some “come out of their shells,” he said.

Ready is a retired Navy veteran, and his wife works at the Jacksonville preschool. He also said any group, organization or individual wanting to help out with any part of the outdoor classroom is welcome to do so.

The vegetables harvested from the garden are sold at the city’s farmers market to keep that project self-sustaining, Schoarbor added. Profits are used to buy seeds and materials for the next planting season.

TOP STORY >> Testing change advice rejected

Leader senior staff writer

Without a consistent measuring stick, how can the state grade schools or determine when to release a district or school from academic distress, state Board of Education Member Jay Barth asked Thursday.

In voting with the majority 7-1 to reject Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s directive to dump the PARCC test used this year in favor of the ACT and ACT Aspire, Barth said, “What we cannot have is inconsistency and instability.”

The ACT would have been the third different assessment test in Arkansas in as many years, comparing apples to oranges to grapefruits.

The board then instructed, by the same 7-1 vote, the state Education Department to negotiate a new contract with PARCC for statewide testing in the 2015-16 school year. The current contract expires at the end of July.

PARCC is Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It is closely tied to the Common Core curriculum, and the two have been widely disparaged, in part by a movement that claims it interferes with the ability of states to control their own curriculum.

Board of Education Chair-man Sam Ledbetter said he received some hateful emails Friday morning for failing to

support the governor’s effort to replace PARCC with the ACTs.

Terms expire at the end of this month for Ledbetter and Alice Williams Mahoney, and Kim Davis is accepting a job offer from the Walmart Foundation, so the governor will appoint three new board members. Former Gov. Mike Beebe appointed all of the current board members.

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who chairs the Council on Common Core Review, said his council was still gathering information on Common Core at hearings around the state.

The board also unanimously approved a proposal that could, in time, provide a road map to reconfigure Pulaski County into five school districts — one south of the Arkansas River, four north — and tidy up the boundaries.

The Little Rock School District could include all public schools and students south of the river, while Jacksonville-North Pulaski, Sherwood, Maumelle and North Little Rock might each have their own district. By that time, the Pulaski County Special School District would cease to exist.

Jacksonville-North Pulaski has been cleared by the judge in the federal desegregation case, the state Board of Education, voters and PCSSD itself to detach, and now has its own board, interim superintendent, superintendent-elect, deputy superintendents, lawyers, financial advisors, chief of staff and facilities experts on board in advance of actual operation, which will begin with the 2016-17 school year.

But, until PCSSD has been declared unitary – desegregated — in all categories, neither Sherwood nor Maumelle can detach and every other proposed change affecting the district must be approved by the judge to ensure that it either advances or is neutral in terms of desegregation.

Detachment of Sherwood and Maumelle would follow the course set by the courts and lawmakers to enable the Jacksonville detachment.

Ledbetter, who also served on Barth’s school district boundary committee, said he agreed with the proposal, but warned in a separate, attached statement, “I am concerned that this proposal has the potential to concentrate kids, particularly those in the district south of the river, into pockets of poverty and further exacerbate segregation along racial lines.

“We have learned from our experience with the detachment of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District that creating new districts from the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) is very complex,” according to Ledbetter.

He noted that issues relating to division of assets, debt and personnel have been very challenging. “The statute that deals with detachment may need to be revised in light of this experience,” he said.

Throughout Pulaski County, there’s “some real passion involved,” Ledbetter said. “People really care deeply about the current structure and have aspirations toward the future.

“It’s not going to go away, but we’ve learned through this detach with Jacksonville it’s an enormously complex task.”

Endorsing a process that — once unitary — is up to a future state board that will consider reassessment of the lines.

Timing will matter enormously. The state has special powers right now.

That’s because, with PCSSD in fiscal distress and Little Rock in academic distress, Education Commissioner Johnny Key is the de facto board of all Pulaski County districts except North Little Rock. If not for the desegregation agreement, it would be much easier to stand up new districts and move boundaries around.

“It’s not meant as a signal to the governor,” Ledbetter said about the vote on testing, “it’s just that there are concerns that we had. There’s not much question that this whole thing has become politicized by certain folks who see an agenda there.”

In discussing the governor’s proposal, much of the board’s concern was with the process and the compressed time frame to make such a change, and with how it lacked transparency and would allow the governor’s appointed Council on Common Core Review to make decisions that should be made by professionals at the state Education Department.

“The governor made a recommendation, but it’s the board’s authority to determine what (testing) tool to use,” Ledbetter said.

In supporting the change, the lieutenant governor’s Council on Common Core Review cited the national recognition of ACT; the comparability between states; the minimal time spent testing relative to PARCC (about half the time of PARCC); and the ACT’s and ACT-Aspire’s relevance to students.

Former Education Department assessment specialist Dana Breitweiser said she was “shocked at the governor’s decision to place the assessment of our students solely in the hands of an assessment company without oversight by the ADE.”

She challenged the recommendation. “Aspire’s stand-alone writing prompts are not aligned to Common Core Writing Standard 9, which requires students to write in response to texts,” she said. “In math, at the high school level, an alignment study would have shown the Aspire-integrated math test is not aligned to our Algebra I standards. “

“Had the (Council on Common Core Review) done its due diligence, it would have discovered that the Aspire test of combined ‘science practices’ is in no way aligned to Arkansas’ biology content standards,” Breitweiser said.

“This is arriving to us without a contract and bidding,” said Board Member Vicki Saviors. “They’ve taken away our power to negotiate.”

“Who dropped the ball on procurement?” asked Board Member Toyce Newton. “There was no process. It’s not clean, and it doesn’t align with good business practices.

“We don’t know as citizens and taxpayers that there isn’t another process that trumps that three fold,” she said.

“This is not an endorsement of PARCC, but a vote for processes,” Davis said.

TOP STORY >> Open-carry gun law prevailing

Leader staff writer

Several area legislators support open carry, and local law-enforcement agencies will not arrest individuals just for displaying firearms in plain view on their persons.

The issue came up in the media recently when Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was quoted as saying state law allows open carry. The governor agreed in a statement following that news.

State Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot), state Rep. Nate Bell (I-Mena) and state Sen. Jon Woods (R-Springdale) this week requested that Rutledge issue a formal opinion concerning the law some say is clear and others argue needs clarification.

The Attorney General’s communications director, Judd Deere, told The Leader Rutledge had been saying open carry is the law of the land for years, but she couldn’t comment now because a formal opinion is pending.

There is no deadline for her opinion to be issued, but 30 days is typically the office’s goal, he noted.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley, Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay, Sherwood Police Chief Jim Bedwell, Jacksonville Police Chief Kenny Boyd, Lt. Randy Mauk of the Lonoke Police Department and Ward Police Chief Steve Benton say they their agencies are not arresting people for carrying weapons openly if there is no indication the weapon’s owner is committing or planning to commit a crime.

The state law — Act 746 of 2013 — reads, “A person commits the offense of carrying a weapon if he or she possesses a handgun, knife, or club on or about his or her person, in a vehicle occupied by him or her, or otherwise readily available for use with a purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun, knife, or club as a weapon against a person.”

The Cabot Police Department, although no one returned a call from The Leader by press time, posted on its Facebook page Monday afternoon that the department would stand by former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s 2013 opinion that open carry was not legal.

The department issued a new statement Friday after Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham met with police chiefs that day to let them know that “you need more to be arrested for having a gun than just having a gun.”

The Cabot Police Department posted on Facebook on Friday that officers would “follow the law as written.”

Graham added that police still have the right to approach people who open carry and ask for identification to confirm they are not convicted felons or of another group not allowed by law to possess weapons. “Everybody’s trying to do the right thing,” the prosecutor said.


Graham also said a concealed carry permit holder might be violating the conditions of their permits if they choose to open carry. But, he noted, the State Police could best answer that question.

He would like Arkansas to have an open-carry bill, like other states, that would permit or prohibit it and list regulations if allowing open carry.

His personal feelings are, Graham said, “There’s no tactical reason to do that and I understand the constitutional arguments about it. But your rights and my rights have to be balanced. This causes alarm, and I don’t think this helps.

“My real concern is (police) have a tough enough job to do before this, and this makes their job even tougher.”

Sheriff Staley said, although people will not be arrested solely for openly carrying a firearm, his deputies will respond to calls from residents concerned about seeing others with weapons.


“We ask for cooperation (from those who open carry) and understand it may cause alarm…I think carrying openly is tactically unsound,” he continued. “The law is very clear about the carrying of a weapon being allowed…Personally, the Second Amendment gives them that right. I have no problem with people carrying a weapon as long as they do it responsibly.”

The sheriff said that means people who carry a firearm should have training in how to handle it and be educated on gun safety. “Taking somebody’s life is a very powerful thing, and it can happen in a split second with an accidental discharge.”

Staley added, “We have to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys.”

He does not believe the legislature intended to allow open carry and clarified that a person could still be arrested if there is evidence they committed, intended to commit a crime or are not allowed to carry a weapon. For example, felons are not allowed by law to own or carry a firearm.

Pulaski County’s Sheriff Holladay wrote in an email to The Leader, “Upon the opinion of our prosecuting attorney and the released statement from Attorney General Rutledge, we are not making arrests solely for open carry.

“There must be criminal intent to use the firearm to have charges pressed. However, each response to an open carry situation will have to be addressed on a case-by-case basis depending on the totality of the circumstances.

“It is our hope that the legislature will clarify the law as soon as possible to avoid conflicting interpretations as to the legality of open carry of a firearm.”


Jacksonville Police Chief Boyd agreed. “Nobody’s on the same page. That’s a problem.”

He also said Jacksonville has responded to two or three complaints about people carrying a firearm and the issue with the law is that it doesn’t specifically address open carry. As the law is now, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor who wants to charge someone with carrying a weapon, Boyd explained. They would have to show the person intended to use the weapon in an “unlawful” way.

The chief continued, “My fear is that we’re going to have someone open carry in an establishment and not (be) cooperative.”

Sherwood’s Chief Bedwell said of lawmakers, “I wish they would make the law clear on this for everyone to understand.”

Mauk of the Lonoke Police Department said, “Obviously, it’s going to be on a case-by-case basis. I’m not a fan of it by any means. I think we’re asking for trouble.”

He guarantees the department will get complaints and answer them. Mauk called that “more of a headache to the one who is doing open carry.”

He agreed with Bedwell that clarification is needed.

State Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) said he’s against open carry, while State Rep. Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood) says allowing it could lower crime rates.

Rep. Douglas House (R-North Little Rock) says he can’t argue with the interpretation that state law allows open carry, but did say that wasn’t the legislature’s intent.

He emphasized that people who carry firearms should have proper training and follow safe practices, such as holstering their guns.

Johnson told The Leader he is an NRA member and has a concealed carry permit, but “we’re not in the wild, wild West. We don’t need open carry.”

He continued, “Not everybody likes guns. Guns bother some people, and you need to respect their rights as well as yours.”

Johnson was also concerned about the potential hazards of people openly carrying firearms in public places. One example he used was a wife and husband arguing in Walmart and one of them grabbing a stranger’s gun to kill the other with.

The intent of the law was to let people transport weapons in their vehicles from one place to another, Johnson added.

Concealed carry, on the other hand, comes with regulations like background checks and places where the concealed gun can’t be carried — such as establishments that sell alcohol, governmental meetings, divorce court, etc.

But, even though he’s against open carry, Johnson doesn’t think the law needs to change.

Brown also has a concealed carry license because, she explained, her husband is disabled and she felt the two of them might appear “vulnerable” to criminals.

Brown said she believes statistics have shown lower crime rates in areas with fewer restrictions on gun ownership.

“I think people having weapons, honest people having weapons, curbs crime…I don’t have a problem with it, and I think we might be better off if we have open carry,” she said.


Joe Farrer (R-Austin) agreed. He said, “I think it’s a deterrent to crime.”

Brown added that the law is clear and there is no need to change it.

House said the law’s intent was to keep innocent people from having weapons carried in their vehicles confiscated by police for “less than good reasons,” such as them being “mouthy” to an officer.

About open carry, House continued, “No one in the legislature wants to tackle it. Right now, as time has gone by, I think it’s best to leave (the law) just the way it is.”

His son owns Arkansas Armory in Sherwood, and House said he liked his son’s advice that everyone wants to know three things about someone who chooses to open carry.

Those things that need to be known is whether that someone is a convicted felon or a mental patient; that they know how to handle a gun and won’t shoot someone unintentionally or intentionally without reason and whether they understand there are places where open carry is not appropriate.

Those places include in someone’s home without their permission, in a government building, businesses that do not allow them and more, House said.

Weapons should be holstered and, although the Second Amendment gives people the right to bear arms, it also says the militia should be “well regulated,” House pointed out.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville loses two coaches, appeal

Leader sports editor

It’s been a week of bad news for the Jacksonville High School athletic program. Two coaches departed for Maumelle and the school found out on Thursday that it will have to compete in a classification above its likely enrollment numbers beginning in the next classification cycle in 2016.

Head girls’ basketball coach William Rountree accepted the same position at Maumelle, and head boys’ soccer and assistant football coach Adam Thrash will be the football offensive coordinator and soccer coach for the Hornets.

Rountree coached the Lady Red Devils for two seasons. He inherited a senior-oriented team and advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament his first year. Last year, with only one returning player with significant varsity experience, Rountree got the Lady Devils back to the state tournament before losing in the first round to tournament host Greene County Tech.

Thrash joined Jacksonville’s football staff two years ago as offensive coordinator under former head coach Rick Russell. Last season, first-year head coach Barry Hickingbotham took over coordinator duties and Thrash coached quarterbacks and receivers.

Thrash also coached soccer for two years, and this past season, led Jacksonville to its best-ever season, going 12-4 and finishing second in the 5A-Central before losing in the first round of the state tournament in double overtime.


On Thursday, Jacksonville lost its appeal to the Arkansas High School Activities Association concerning the way the current North Pulaski High School student population will be counted for the two-year classification cycle that begins with the 2016-17 school year.

When the AHSAA released the numbers several weeks ago, it counted 100 percent of the NPHS student population as Jacksonville students, moving JHS from about the middle of the 5A classification to the second largest 6A school in the state.

That’s despite the fact that projections indicate that about 57 percent of current NP students entering grades 9-11 will attend Sylvan Hills in 2016.

Only about 42 percent will attend Jacksonville. Football coach Barry Hickingbotham, who spearheaded the appeal, was not available for comment on Friday. But athletic director Jerry Wilson, who was also heavily involved in the appeal process, was disappointed in the decision.

“We made a good case,” said Wilson. “The numbers are what they are. We presented the facts. We still lost, now we just have to move forward. The main thing is, we just wanted our kids to know we weren’t going to let them be put at a disadvantage and do nothing. We were going to try something and we were going to go to bat for them. But we lost this one, so now we move on.”

Jacksonville’s conference for 2016-17 and 2017-18 will be the 6A-East, and will include Jonesboro, Little Rock Hall, Marion, Mountain Home, Pine Bluff, Searcy and West Memphis.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers can learn from loss to Bryant

By GRAHAM POWELL Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School basketball team began its summer schedule this week, and after participating in a camp at Hendrix College in Conway on Tuesday, the Panthers hosted several exhibition games at Panther Arena on Thursday.

Cabot’s varsity and junior varsity teams opened play Thursday with a pair of comfortable victories over Little Rock Catholic, and ended the night with games against Bryant.

The JV Panthers beat the Hornets’ JV team 43-23 in their exhibition game, and the varsity Panthers lost a competitive 37-31 game to the Bryant varsity team. The varsity game was a physical one.

Cabot jumped out to a 9-1 lead to start the exhibition, but the Hornets responded with a 13-5 run to take its first lead at 14-13, and the visitors never relinquished the lead from there.

“We’re better than what we showed tonight, but we lost our head a little bit,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “I was disappointed we lost our composure, and I think that’s what took the game out of our hands.”

A pair of two-handed slams by Vilonia transfer Matt Stanley helped Cabot to its 9-1 lead. Bryant called timeout to regroup, and responded with its run that helped it to a six-point lead at the end of the 20-minute half.

A driving left-handed lay-in by Stanley with 3:30 remaining brought the Panthers within 32-30 of Bryant’s lead in the second half, and Stanley made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:44 left that made it a one-point game, with Cabot trailing 32-31. But that was as close as the Panthers would get.

Bryant made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to set the final score of the exhibition.

“We’re trying to develop more depth and they’re getting better,” Bridges said of his team. “We’re platooning. We’ve got in our head who we think our top six or seven is, and five of those best ones are what we’ll try to start the second half with, but we’re going to platoon the other group, too.

“They outplayed us that game, but there was a lot we can learn from that game, and if we learn from it, we’ll be all right.”

Stanley led all scorers with 16 points in that game.

The JV game wasn’t nearly as competitive, but it was competitive in the early goings. Consecutive buckets by Jaylin Brown, the second of which being a 3-pointer from the top of the key, gave the JV Panthers an 11-10 lead, and the hosts closed the opening half with an 8-0 run to lead 19-10 at the break.

Landon Vaught’s second bucket of the second half gave Cabot a 24-14 lead early on. The Panther lead grew to 15 on a three by Christian Weir with 6:41 to play, which made it a 33-18 game, and with 4:45 remaining, Jared Vance hit a three that pushed the Panthers’ lead to 20, with the score 38-18.

Cabot scored five more unanswered points to take its largest lead at 43-18, but the Hornets closed the game with five unanswered points to set the final score.

Vaught led all scorers with 11 points in the JV game. Brown and Vance contributed nine points apiece.

The Panthers will host more summer exhibition games on Tuesday at Panther Arena. The CHS varsity team will begin the day with a game against Pulaski Academy at 4 p.m., and the Cabot/PA JV game will follow at 4:45.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe’s Glaude to Blue Jays

Leader sports editor

Bitter disappointment turned to sheer jubilation for Beebe’s Griffin Glaude just minutes after the 2015 Major League Baseball draft ended on Wednesday. Glaude, who just finished his senior season at Lyon College, where he dominated the NAIA the past three months, was hoping to be one of the 1,215 players selected over the three-day draft period.

“When that ended I was pretty bummed out,” said Glaude on Thursday. “I thought I had done everything I could do, and it just didn’t work out.”

But then just minutes later, Glaude got a call from a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays, and agreed to terms to enter their farm system and become a professional baseball player.

“It was like, literally two minutes after the draft ended,” Glaude said. “He just asked if I was ready to become a part of the Blue Jays organization, and I said yes. He said, ‘OK, I’ll call you back in five minutes.’ A little later he called back and it was done. I mean, I was pretty ecstatic.”

Glaude, who graduated from Beebe in 2011, reports to the Blue Jays training facility in Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Glaude signed with Division I UCA out of high school. He started his freshman year, pitching and playing infield. His sophomore year, his role was limited to just pitching. Wishing to play every day, and enjoying playing the field and hitting, Glaude transferred to Lyon College in Batesville his junior year where he was an everyday player.

He had a good season at the plate, batting .407 with 13 doubles, one home run and 45 RBIs, but it’s his arm that attracted the Blue Jays, and his season on the mound this year was nothing less than dominant.

Glaude gave up just five earned runs in 80 2/3 innings and just six runs total, for a season ERA of 0.56. That led the nation in NAIA this season, as did the earned runs allowed. He was second in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings, with 12.94, and sixth in total strikeouts with 116.

He was named the American Midwest Conference Pitcher of the Year and made All-AMC first team as an infielder.

Even with all those accolades, it wasn’t until two weeks after the season, when he participated in a workout for the Blue Jays in Tulsa, that he began to receive serious interest from pro ball teams.

“That workout is where I first got on the radar,” Glaude said.

Glaude has little knowledge of what will happen in Tampa Bay, but he’s looking forward to it.

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen once I get there,” Glaude said. “I’ve got a few friends who have done it, and I know it’s going to pretty much be, wake up, and it’s baseball until bed. It’s a lot of work. I’m just going to keep living the dream. I get an opportunity to do something I love and get paid for it.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot mounts big comeback

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Centennial Bank senior American Legion team fell into an 8-0 hole at the start of its game against Jacksonville on Thursday at Brian Wade Conrade Memorial Field, but the hosts steadily chipped away at Jacksonville’s lead, and beat the Chevy Boys 12-11 in the bottom of the seventh on a walk-off, three-RBI triple by Brett Brockinton.

Centennial Bank trailed the Gwatney Chevrolet senior team 11-9 heading into the bottom of the seventh, but got its leadoff man on base when Dylan Bowers was hit by a pitch.

Lee Sullivan hit a line-drive single to right field the next at-bat to put runners at first and second for Cabot, and Logan Kirkendoll loaded the bases the following at-bat with a bloop single to right field that should’ve been caught, but wasn’t as no Jacksonville player called for the ball. That brought Brockinton, the team’s cleanup hitter, to the plate with no outs, and he hit his bases-clearing, walk-off triple to give Cabot its first lead of the night and the win.

“This team this year is clicking as a team better than any team I’ve seen,” said Cabot coach Chris Gross. “We might not have the overwhelming talent with an older bunch like last year. We had a bunch of older guys. This year, we’re a lot younger, and everybody’s attitudes are great. Everybody’s playing together great.

“They never got their heads down the entire game. Even after the first inning, they still went out there and kept hacking away. It was a great game.”

Gwatney (1-2) took advantage of multiple Cabot errors and miscues in the first inning. Courtland McDonald and Ryan Mallison both reached base on a couple of Cabot errors in the infield to start the game, and scored on back-to-back singles by Brandon Hickingbotham and D.J. Scott.

Hickingbotham, Scott, Deaundray Crudup, Chris Penn and Peyton Traywick scored the next five runs in the inning for Gwatney before McDonald scored his second run of the inning to make it 8-0 Jacksonville.

Cabot (3-3) scored a run in the bottom of the second before adding five more to its side of the board in the third to make the score 8-6. Jacksonville, though, responded with two more runs in the fourth.

Hickingbotham led off the fourth with a single, and two batters later, Laderrious Perry hit a two-run bomb over the fence in left field that gave Gwatney a 10-6 lead. Cabot answered with three more runs in the bottom half of the fourth inning to make it a one-run game.

After hitting a single to center field to get the offense going, Kirkendoll scored the first Cabot run in the fourth on an error at shortstop. That ground ball was off the bat of Gavin Tillery.

Before Tillery reached on the E6, Brockinton reached on an error at first base. Brockinton then scored on a one-out single by Collin Thames, which cut the Jacksonville lead to 10-8, and Tillery scored the next at-bat on an error at third base. That ground ball was hit by Hayden Vinson.

After a scoreless fifth inning, Jacksonville scored its final run in the top of the sixth. Crudup got on base after being hit by a pitch. He advanced to second base on a passed ball before advancing to third on a 6-3 groundout by Penn. Crudup scored shortly after on a passed ball, which made the score 11-9 Jacksonville.

Caleb Harpole earned the official win on the mound. He took over pitching duties with two outs in the top of the sixth. He pitched the rest of the game, recorded three strikeouts and gave up no hits or runs.

Cabot outhit Jacksonville 14-9. Kirkendoll and Brockinton led Centennial Bank with three hits apiece. Bowers and Sullivan each had two hits, while teammates Easton Seidl, Vinson, Michael Shepherd and Thames had one each.

Caleb McMunn and Hickingbotham led Jacksonville with two hits each, and teammates McDonald, Penn, Crudup, Perry and Scott had one apiece.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Flix on the Bricks pure movie magic

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s new outdoor movie program called Flix on the Bricks at the Nixon Library pavilion started on Friday and attracted more than 60 people to see “Rio.”

A different movie will be shown at sunset every month: “Red Tails” on July 9, “Marley & Me” on Aug. 6, “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” on Sept. 10, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” in December after the Christmas parade.

It’s the kind of community activities Jacksonville needs more of.

In an email, chamber president Roger Sundermeier thanked the community for the big turnout. “With it being the first night of the series, it was very hard to know how many people to expect in attendance. I had resigned myself to the fact that any number above myself, Amy Mattison and Jinger Stewart was a success. Fortunately, we had over 60 people attend.

“If one more family stayed in our town that night because of what we did, then it’s a start. We have to lay the foundation one brick at a time. We had two families say that they had no idea that these types of things were available. We definitely made some strides last Friday,” he continued.

We give it two thumbs up, as another Roger might have put it.

EDITORIAL >> Honoring our nurses

National Nurses Week has been observed in some form since 1954 and in 1991 the American Nurses Association board of directors expanded the well-deserved recognition of nurses to a week-long celebration every year.

An educated group, from licensed practical nurses, to those with diplomas, two- and four-year degrees, and on to those with specialized master’s degrees, doctorates and a range of specialized postgraduate training including midwifery, education and administration, nurses are those who are called on to get the patient well, keep them and their families well and educate them on how to stay well, and provide resources and education on any number of health-related topics for the whole family through all the stages of life.

They are also at the frontline of the newer modes of delivery of health-care services, which include primary care and urgent care facilities, springing up in varied locations to take the burden off emergency rooms for day-to-day illnesses — sore throats, fevers, pink eye, flu — and a myriad of illnesses, which need care and treatment. Minor emergencies often need treatment during hours when physicians’ offices are closed or when appointments are unavailable. Advance practice nurses can step in to fill the gap.

Nurses today can obtain advanced practice designations and postgraduate training enabling them to function much as primary-care physicians do. They can prescribe medications within the framework of their expanded training.

They offer education, support and help for their patients through all phases of the life cycle — from birth to the final days in hospice. They direct ancillary caregivers as they deliver patient care, and they develop patient-care plans to ensure patients are cared for with a degree of uniformity. We admire their flexibility and ability to assume many roles.

Nurses today are also finding their ways into administrative roles, much like Cindy Stafford, the unceremoniously dismissed chief executive officer at North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville.

Stafford took over a troubled hospital, which was not on firm footing and had been losing money for years before she was named administrator by Allegiant. She seemed to be making changes for the better, seemed to be clearing up the past dues although more problems were constantly cropping up. She was respected mostly in the community that sensed her hard work. Her pace probably didn’t please the higher ups but repairing image is a painstaking process. We wish her the best.

Still North Metro is highly criticized and constantly seeking to repair its image in the community. We wish the new administration well. It is, after all, our hospital and we want to be proud of it.

It would be a sad loss to the area to lose the emergency room, which to all appearances functions well. It is the first stop for local victims of serious trauma, anaphylaxis, heart attacks and strokes. Many of these are stabilized and moved to Little Rock facilities for long-term treatment.

And who is caring for these patients? In addition to highly qualified physicians, you got it, it’s the nurses, a highly skilled group.

A big thank you is in order the next time a nurse takes care of you.

TOP STORY >> Carlisle Library June, July schedule

The Carlisle Public Library, 105 E. Fifth St., continues its summer reading program at 10 a.m. today with Toddler Time followed by a lunch and learn at noon.

Lunch-and-learn programs will be held at noon every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in June and July for all children. Children under the age of 10 must be accompanied by an adult. If a child cannot do the activity they will still be allowed to eat.

An Indian warrior and spear-throwing competition will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday for fourth graders and up.

A boating education course will be held from 5 until 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday for people 16 years old and up in BancorpSouth’s community room.

A Ninja training camp for kindergarteners through 12th graders will be held from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Toddler Time at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 17, and again on Wednesday, June 24.

“History in Your Backyard” will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 18 for fifth graders and over.

A crafts class will be held for fourth through seventh graders at 4 p.m. Monday, June 22.

Ninja Turtles will visit the library at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 23.

An event dedicated to “Star Wars” will be held in the city park from 6 until 7 p.m. Thursday, June 25.

The game Twister will be played outside at 4 p.m. Monday, June 29.

A superhero party will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 30.


Toddler Time will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 1 and again on Wednesday, July 8; Wednesday, July 15; Wednesday, July 22, and Wednesday, July 29.

A crafts class will be held for fourth through seventh graders at 4 p.m. Monday, July 13.

A magic show at 2 p.m. will be held Tuesday, July 21.

A pet show contest will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 23. A sleepover for stuffed animals at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 28.

TOP STORY >> Reporter eulogizes mom

Leader staff writer

This is the most difficult story I have ever written. I am fighting the stinging rogue waves of grief that suddenly wash over me.

My mom is finally pain-free and at peace after passing away Friday after a tough two-year battle with breast cancer. She won her fight seven years ago, but the cancer came back with a vengeance.

Mom died at the age of 66 in her home in Cabot. She was a career homemaker who raised two children; my sister, Marty, and me. Mom and Dad were married for 42 years. Their anniversary was Monday. We were her caregivers over the past months and in the last days of her life she was never left alone. Mom is now forever resting at Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens in Beebe.

Mom was undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Doctors could not get the cancer under control. Her quality of life was declining. Last Saturday the pain became too great. She told us it was time. The doctor said she would have three months.

Mom did not want any more chemo that made her sick or have her chest cavity drained of fluid. She had slowly stopped eating and drinking.

On Tuesday we called Arkansas Hospice. The next day a gel- and air-filled bed was set up in the living room. Mom received the oxygen system she requested to help her breathe easier and stronger medications to ease her anxiety and pain.

It was Thursday afternoon when the hospice nurse gave the gut-punch. Mom did not have weeks to days, but hours. Family and friends were notified. Stronger liquid narcotics were prescribed and given to her every two hours.

Mom was telling us her final wishes.

“I love you very, very much,” she told me.

Friday morning arrived and Mom was in the process of dying. We were watching her body naturally shutdown. Her arms and legs were getting colder and looking like a roadmap. The hospice nurse telling us what was happening and when to increase the medicine dosage. Mom was still speaking but her voice was becoming weaker.

We all told her we loved her, we would be strong and we will make it after she was gone.

She finally put her head back on a pillow around noon after not sleeping for the past two weeks because she feared she wouldn’t wake up.

Mom then gave the biggest smile we’ve seen in the last month.

She continued to fade as we gave her the medicine every 30 minutes. Low pulse rate, shallow breathing, skin changing colors; It was the most terrible thing to see as the minutes raced by. Everyone was just waiting for the moment.

I was in the kitchen putting the syringe back in the morphine bottle when I heard my aunt in the living room burst out in tears.

My mom’s soul had left the shell of her body and went to Heaven at 5 p.m.

It was extremely sad but a relief that Mom was no longer hurting. She had finished the race of her life faster than we expected.


Mom liked to make people feel special. She would send cards and letters for all the holidays during the year to family and friends.

She took pride in her handwriting and made sure to put a sticker on the envelope.

If you gave her something, she would always write a thank-you note. (Yes, Mom, I will thank everyone who sent flowers for your funeral.)

She thought of others first and would give to local charities.

Mom liked to read. She enjoyed checking out the newest Debbie Macomber books at the new Nixon Library in Jacksonville. When I was little she read, “Mother West Wind’s Animal Friends” and Little Golden Books stories to me at night. As I got older, I read them back to her. Many of the books were Mom’s when she was a child.

She looked forward to getting strawberries from The Cabot Patch or Barnhill Orchards and buying tomatoes from the Cabot Farmers Market for sandwiches.

Mom was always happy to see you and took pride in the accomplishments made by my sister and me.

I believe my mom is still looking after me. My arms are cold and the hairs stuck up. On Monday morning before the funeral I went outside along the path to the mulch pile in the woods. I was thinking about her. When I turned back next to the trail, there was a large copperhead snake. It was coiled with its head up. I don’t know how I didn’t step on it. Mom was looking out for me.

The thing that bothers me the most are the questions I want to ask her but can’t.

TOP STORY >> Ward prepares for growth with several projects

Leader staff writer

The Ward City Council on Monday set a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss wastewater treatment options.

Aldermen then heard the library may close and assured concerned residents a dilapidated trailer park would be cleaned up.

Mayor Art Brooke also proposed hiring a deputy operations maintenance officer as funds become available — either later this year or next year.


Bids for the wastewater treatment project came in at around $3.5 million for an Aero-Mod plant, $5.1 million for a Biorotor system and $4.7 million for an SDR plant.

The city plans to apply for financing through the USDA.

Upgrades are needed for Ward to stay within Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality permit limits and keep up with its growth. The ADEQ has not given a deadline, but — via litigation called a consent order — the city must be actively working to comply with permit requirements.

Ward has an older Aero-Mod plant, but Water Department Manager Mike Sipe told the aldermen in May that the company’s facilities had “changed dramatically from what they used to be.”

“From what I can see, this plant will work perfectly for what we need,” he said then. “It’s on maybe the same footprint, but it’s designed a lot different.”

The new Aero-Mod system would not require as much maintenance as the current plant does and it will be quieter, Sipe said previously.

The mayor told the council at its May meeting that the new plant would be twice as large as Ward’s current facility. It will be designed to last at least 15 years, based on the city’s projected growth, he noted then.

Brooke said at Monday’s meeting, “The Aero-Mod plant is a 1.5-million-gallon plant, which will give us long-term usage. The other plants are both 1 million, which are short-term plants for our city. We’ll make more decisions concerning that Thursday night.”


The mayor told aldermen that local legislators were working to keep the Ward Public Library open even though a closing date of Dec. 31 had been set.

One council member asked how the closing came about.

Brooke said, “Because of funds and usage, they’ve closed three libraries…The governor cut the funding this year.”

The mayor said he had asked for a breakdown of expenses and a scale showing how the usage compares to that of other cities based on population.

Brooke said he hadn’t received any of that information, but had been told it costs $62,000 a year to run the facility with $17,000 of that coming from the city’s budget.

Regional Director Deborah Moore, with the Lonoke/Prairie County Regional Library System, has agreed to try working something out with the system’s board, the mayor noted.

He said some options being considered are having the library open just three or four days a week, manning it with a part-time staff and supplementing it to a greater extent with the city’s budget.

Brooke was asked if Ward has a representative on the system’s board. He said the city did not and that point would be brought up in negotiations to keep the library open. “I think that what’s fair is fair. I think we need a representative, and (Moore) said she would look into that.”


The mayor’s proposal to add a new position will also be debated at Thursday’s meeting.

Brooke said he or she would work under his direction and make a $40,000 to $50,000 salary based on qualifications.

“The auditors have told us repeatedly for 17 years we don’t have enough people. This is one of the solutions to make things work better,” the mayor noted.

Although the job description isn’t locked in, the mayor said, the new hire could help schedule work orders, manage animal control, work on supply inventory, be over parks and recreation and conduct inspections for the street and fire departments.

That person could also be the first responder to a natural disaster, perform information technology functions and handle the city’s social media.

Alderman Jeff Shaver asked, “This is one man’s job?” The mayor responded, “Well, yeah. I’m doing it now, why can’t one other person help me do it?”

Alderman Lee Schoonover asked how many positions the city had now. Operations Manager Deborah Staley said, “We pay 40 positions each month, each payday.”


Tommy Sutton, at the mayor’s request, submitted a letter to the council. Sutton and his brother, Greg Sutton, own what used to be Norene Phillips’ trailer park between Hwys. 319 and 367, inside Ward city limits.

Phillips passed away a few years ago, Brooke said.

In the letter, Tommy Sutton states that he lives out of area and doesn’t visit often but had recently learned of criminal activity — theft, vandalism and dumping — taking place there.

He also wrote that the overgrown grass would be cut and unsecured trailers would be secured. “You will see evidence of this by your next meeting,” the letter states.

Only family members and one 85-year-old live in the park. None of them were involved in the crime occurring there, according to Sutton.

The mayor said it would be acceptable for the 85-year-old’s home to be left out of the trailer removals because moving would be difficult for the elderly woman and her trailer is in good shape. Neighbors present at the meeting agreed with that assessment of her home’s condition.

Tommy Sutton and his brother are “considering everything from selling to rezoning” and “will be working close with the city,” according to the letter.

Brooke told the council, “I think that they are willing to be a player, to get it cleaned up...This has become very much of a nuisance to us, and to the people out there in the area.”

The owners do want some time, but how much would be up to the aldermen, Brooke said. If no progress is made within the to-be-set timeline, the city will begin legal action, he noted.

The mayor added that laws in place to help cities deal with issues like this didn’t exist the last time Ward wanted to clean up the property.

One of about a dozen neighbors who showed up to hear his update about the situation asked numerous times that the cleanup begin with removing a commode in a front yard at the park.

The same woman said, “It’s a sad situation when you have a problem, then have to call the police and they say ‘oh you’re out here in the cesspool of Lonoke County.’”

The issue was tabled until the council’s next meeting, to which both owners will be invited.

Brooke also announced that Old Austin Road is being paved from Austin city limits to Hwy. 38 with state turnback money. The state Highway Department is doing that and resurfacing several city streets, he said.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Bank Juniors win the Jacksonville Invitational

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot junior American Legion team rolled through the Jacksonville Invitational Tournament at Dupree Park over the weekend. The Centennial Bank squad hammered Sheridan 12-3 in the championship game on Sunday after falling behind 2-0. The closest game the team played in the four games at Dupree was against the host team, Gwatney-Red. Cabot won that game 7-0 after beating Benton 16-4 and Hot Springs Lakeside 18-2.

In Sunday’s game, four Cabot players totaled two hits, with Brian Tillery going 2 for 2 after entering the game in the sixth inning.Blake McCutchen went 2 for 3 with two walks, two RBIs and scored three runs.

Cabot made it three-straight against Sheridan on Monday, hosting a junior-senior doubleheader against the Yellowjackets at Brian Wade Conrade Memorial Field. Cabot again beat the Sheridan junior team 17-6 in five innings, but lost 4-1 to the senior team in the nightcap.

The Centennial Bank team played the Sheridan junior team in the first game of the twin bill, and trailed 3-2 after the first inning. Sheridan cleanup hitter Drew Austin gave the visitors a 3-0 lead in the top of the first with a three-run home run.

Cabot’s two runs scored in the bottom of the first were unearned. Bobby Joe Duncan and Blake McCutchen walked to start the game, and after a pair of strikeouts by Cabot’s three and four hitters, starting pitcher Taylor Higgins reached on an error at shortstop that allowed Duncan and McCutchen to score.

It was all Cabot from there. After holding Sheridan scoreless in the top of the second, Centennial Bank racked up 10 runs in the bottom half of the inning to take a commanding 12-3 lead.

Cabot scored its final five runs in the inning with two outs. Will Jerry drove in runs seven and eight with a two-out triple to deep left center, and he scored Cabot’s ninth run the next at-bat on a single up the middle by Skylar Weidman.

Weidman scored the following at-bat on a double to left center by Nicholas Belden. Belden was then driven in by Easton Seidl, who hit a ground-rule double, and Seidl scored on a single to center field by Duncan, which gave Cabot its 12-3 lead.

Sheridan scored its next two runs in the top of the third, but Cabot answered with three more in the bottom half of the inning to lead 15-5. Centennial Bank’s first run in the third was scored on a one-out single to center field off the bat of Jerry.

Dillon Thomas scored on the play after singling to left field earlier in the inning. The next two runs were scored on a two-RBI single to left field by Brian Tillery. He drove in Jerry and Weidman on the play. Jerry crossed the plate before Weidman, who walked earlier in the inning.

Cabot scored its final two runs in the fourth before giving up a run in the top of the fifth that set the final margin. Ty Cyr drove in the 16th run for Cabot on a sac fly to center field. McCutchen scored on the play after hitting a stand-up triple to lead off the bottom of the fourth.

Centennial Bank loaded the bases later in the inning, and with two outs, Tillery was hit by a pitch, which gave him an easy RBI as Thomas, who reached base via walk, scored Cabot’s final run of the game. The game ended after the fifth inning because of the sportsmanship rule.

The hosts racked up 14 hits in game one. McCutchen led the offense, going 3 for 3 with two runs scored. Duncan, Jerry, Belden and Seidl each had two hits in the first game, while Weidman, Thomas and Tillery had one apiece.

McCutchen got the official win on the mound. He took over pitching duties in the second inning, and struck out four Yellowjackets in two innings of work.

The second game proved to be a much tougher challenge, as the Cabot junior team could only muster three hits against Sheridan’s senior team, which comprises mostly of players that played for Sheridan’s Class 6A state championship team this spring.

Cabot starting pitcher Logan Gilbertson held the Sheridan seniors scoreless through the first four innings of play, but the Yellowjackets scored two runs in the fifth and sixth innings to take the lead and eventually get the win.

Centennial Bank scored its lone run in the fourth inning. That run was scored by Weidman on a two-out triple to deep right center off the bat of Brett Brockinton. Brockinton, Gilbertson and Belden had Cabot’s three hits.

“The first game, we did what we were supposed to do,” said Cabot coach David Smith. “That’s going to be a good bunch. That second group coming in here, that’s a very good club from Sheridan – senior bunch that just won a state championship.

“We saw what we were made of as far as putting ourselves on that level, and for the most part I thought they did a good job competing with them and hanging with them.”

With Monday’s doubleheader split, the Centennial Bank junior team’s overall record is now 10-2.

SPORTS STORY >> Voskamp hopes for NCAA crown

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ senior NCAA record-holding women’s pole vaulter and her heirs apparent will attempt to help vault coach Lance Harter’s Razorbacks to NCAA Indoor team championship heights at this week’s NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships Thursday and Saturday in Eugene, Ore.

Sandi Morris, the senior NCAA outdoor record-holder and NCAA indoor champion, and junior Ariel Voskamp of Cabot, a NCAA outdoor All-American last year and SEC outdoor runner-up to Morris this year, as well as freshman Desiree Freier vault this week.

Morris, Voskamp and Freier not only vaulted for the first national team championship in the history of the University of Arkansas’ entire women’s athletic program, but for the SEC indoor and outdoor champions, completing the women’s third-ever SEC triple crown that began with Harter’s cross country team winning the SEC meet last fall.

“To win our third triple crown and be a part of our first national championship, I want to do it again,” Voskamp said. “For me, it’s very special and has kept me going all season. I have had a few injuries and it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster, but knowing we are potential national champions and the triple crown, that has pushed me. I want to be a part of that.”

Enough so that she vaults despite a stress fracture in her foot.

“The stress fracture has been bothering me all year,” Voskamp said. “Two years ago I had foot surgery but I got over that. And about two weeks into the season I had a nasty ankle sprain. You just have to keep your head down and keep going through it.”

Voskamp vaulted a career best 14-2 3/4, placing second at the SEC outdoor to Morris’ women’s collegiate record-setting 15-5 3-4. Freier cleared 13-11 3/4 for fifth.

Morris’ heights played a part in pushing the other vaulters to peak performances, Voskamp said.

“She sets the bar so high for us,” Voskamp said. “It’s really good for everybody. All of our expectations are a lot higher just from jumping with her every day.”

Morris is the meet’s co-favorite with the great Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin University. Each has gone back and forth setting collegiate records indoors and outdoors in 2015. Morris touts Freier and says she knows from Voskamp’s past SEC and NCAA meets, including her All-American fifth-place jumps at last year’s NCAA Outdoor, to count on her contributing with Arkansas ranked No. 2 and host Oregon favored.

“Ariel has worked so hard,” Morris said. “She is just another whole ballgame coming back from injuries. She has scored at nationals and I think she has a good chance of placing in the top four or five at this outdoor nationals.”

Arkansas women’s vault coach Bryan Compton concurs, particularly after Voskamp gutted it out qualifying in the top 12 at the NCAA West Preliminary meet at Austin, Texas, which Morris achieved with a single vault.

“I look for Ariel like she did last year,” Compton said. “She always comes through at these big meets. We were down to our last jump at regionals and she ended up making it and made another bar to qualify. At SEC’s we were kind of struggling coming in and she comes through with a second place and a new PR. So I am hoping she does the same thing as last year and be fifth or even better at the NCAA Championships.”

The team title is huge to Morris, a North Carolina native and University of North Carolina transfer who has become thoroughly a Razorback.

“Gosh, we have already made history by winning indoor nationals,” Morris said. “If we were to win another one this outdoor it would be literally a dream come true.”

Morris set the collegiate indoor record at 15-1 1-2 in January in Fayetteville. Payne bettered that the next night, then smashed it, vaulting 15-7.

However, Payne’s form was off at the NCAA indoor and she didn’t clear a height while Morris won at 15-1.

Each has held the collegiate outdoor record in 2015, with Morris currently on top with her 15-5 3-4 SEC title.

“I do not think I would have jumped so high this year if I didn’t have Demi right there pushing me,” Morris said. “It has kind of pushed both of us to our limits. To have two girls jumping around 15-6 in college, and the record before this year was 15-1 … we have upped the bar a lot this year. It’s really cool to be a part of history.”

Morris concludes her collegiate career in Oregon, but above 14-0 vaulting twins from Cabot, Lexi and Tori Weeks, are signed to arrive.

“They have gotten nearly every single record I set at Cabot High School, but that’s OK,” Voskamp said. “At least I gave them something to shoot for and they went up and beyond that. They are amazing athletes and going to be a really good addition to this team.”

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney Red loses on error in seventh

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet Red junior American Legion team made it to the bracket round of the Jacksonville tournament on Sunday, but an error in the bottom of the last inning cost the Red Chevy Boys a 4-3 decision against Benton-Sportshop.

To get to Sunday’s round, they went 2-1 to finish as runners-up in Pool A and earn the chance to play the winner of Pool B.

Jacksonville took the lead twice but never for very long. As runner-up, Gwatney had to play as the visiting team, and the game was scoreless until the top of the fifth inning, despite Jacksonville loading the bases with no outs in the fourth.

In the fifth inning, Jacksonville nine-hole hitter Chance Perry drew a leadoff walk before leadoff hitter Caleb Smith was hit by a pitch. Trent Toney sacrificed the runners into scoring position, but a strikeout threatened to make it another wasted opportunity for the Chevy Boys. But two wild pitches during a walk by Cody Johnson brought in Jacksonville’s two runs before another strikeout ended the inning.

The lead was gone by the end of the fifth. Jacksonville’s Johnson retired the first 12 Benton batters in order and carried a perfect game into the fifth. Benton got two hits and Jacksonville committed one error to tie the game at 2-2.

Gwatney took the lead again in the top of the sixth, but only scored one run despite getting two hits, a walk and a hit batter. Jonathan Smith walked to lead things off. With one out, he scored on a double by Jordan Wickersham. Perry was hit by a pitch before Smith lined out to shortstop. Toney then singled to shallow center field, but Wickersham was thrown out at home trying to score on the play to end the inning.

Again, Benton tied it in the bottom half of the same inning. Benton got a one-out base hit to center field, and made it a three-base play with a Gwatney error on the hard grounder. A passed ball scored the runner to make it 3-3.

Jacksonville went down in order in the top of the seventh, and Benton scored the game-winning run without a base hit. With one out, Benton’s Brian Westyn walked on four pitches and stole second base. He moved to third on a groundout to second. With two outs, a pickoff throw from home was in the dirt and bounced into the outfield, allowing Westyn to trot home for the win.

“I was OK with the throw,” said Jacksonville coach Marvin Helsley. “They had scored on a wild pitch earlier and he had taken about a 30-foot lead. It wasn’t supposed to be a hard pick, just to let him know we see him and get him closer to the bag. It just happened that it got away from us. It’s still a frustrating way to lose just the same.”

Jacksonville out-hit Benton 8-3 in the game, with Devin Dobson leading the way, going 2 for 4 at the plate.

In other tournament pool play games, Gwatney-Red beat Benton-Everett 8-5, beat Hot Springs Lakeside 15-4 and lost 7-0 to tournament winner Cabot.

Helsley was impressed with Cabot pitcher Brett Brockinton, who held Jacksonville to three hits in going the distance.

“He threw a gem,” said Helsley. “It’s just unfortunate that it was against us. They have a great team, but I thought it should’ve been closer. Our pitchers threw well, we just booted the ball around. We wouldn’t have won the game, but we could’ve held them to two or three without the unearned runs.”

The four games in the tournament leave Gwatney-Red with a record of 4-3 and they’ll host Benton on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils on display at Crow

Leader sports editor

The Red Devil football team took the field for its first fundraising spring football game Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The Clinton McDonald charity organization MACC-LID, which stands for McDonald Associates Collective Collaboration-Light Into Darkness, collected canned goods and household supplies as entry fee to the game, with donations going to Jacksonville Care Channel and Little Rock Ronald McDonald House.

The scrimmage was very controlled for the first hour, with no play clock and coaches taking as long as they wanted to call the next play and correct mistakes on previous ones.

Afterward, half the team donned red jerseys and each team took the ball for four overtime-type possessions that started at the 10-yard line.

The White team scored on its first two possessions while stopping the Red team twice with an interception and on downs. But the Red team bounced back, scoring on its last two possessions while holding the White team on downs two times, ending in a 14-14 tie.

Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham liked the effort, but wasn’t pleased with how many mistakes he saw, especially on offense.

“We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do,” said Hickingbotham. “I think we had a few that did better than we expected, but we had a couple of drops by people I thought we could count on. We threw into coverage a few times and gave up the ball – just forcing the football a little bit. Defensively, I thought we’d tackle better. We didn’t wrap up a lot of times.”

It wasn’t all negative, however. Hickingbotham did find bright spots.

“I think we got better from the first day of practice to the last,” Hickingbotham said. “You can see signs of progress. I thought Shawn Ellis looked good running the ball. He’s going to be a sophomore that looks like he can help us. Avery Wells made some plays for us on both sides. He’s going to be a senior and he’s one of them that’s going to have to step up for us on both sides of the football.”

Everyone made it through the scrimmage healthy, though two linemen sat out for precautionary reasons, resting nagging injuries.

On the White team’s first possession, Wells took a read handoff from Brandon Hickingbotham on a play designed to go left. That way was clogged, so Wells reversed field and outran the Red defense for the score.

On the ensuing possession, White defender Nate Robbins intercepted a Rowdy Weathers pass at the goal line after Weathers was forced to scramble to his right and fired just before being run out of bounds.

On White’s second possession, Ellis took a handoff on second and 10 up the middle, breaking one tackle and scoring to put the White team up two possessions.

The Red team scored on its third possession. A dropped snap on first down pushed them back before Quinlan Britt caught a screen pass for a 3-yard gain. The White defense jumped off-sides to set up third and goal from the 6. Weathers then hit Harderrious Martin on an in-route for the score.

The White team got six yards on first down of its next possession, but the Red defense pushed them back three yards with a sack on second down. Britt dropped a touchdown pass on third down, and Hickingbotham overthrew Wells in the flat on fourth down.

The White defense then sacked Weathers for an 8-yard loss on first down of the next possession, and pressured him again on second down. Only this time, Weathers scrambled backwards before finding running room up the middle and sprinting all the way to the end zone for the score.

“It was good to see him make a play after his mistake,” coach Hickingbotham said. “But we’re still in teaching mode, and I’d much rather have seen him take a sack or throw it away than give the ball up like that. If you look at it, that might’ve been the difference in his team winning that scrimmage instead of settling for the tie.”

The game also featured a half-dozen or so players in street clothes who were held out of practice because of lackluster classroom performance. There was one player who wasn’t in that situation that Hickingbotham singled out.

“We’re still changing mindsets around here trying to get guys to be uncommon,” Hickingbotham said. “By that I mean, if all your friends are hanging out and blowing off homework, be the uncommon guy and get that homework done. If everybody around you has no drive or no directions, set some goals and strive to achieve them. A perfect example of that is Devin Patterson. He was in our SIT program the first semester. By semester he had it up to about a 2.0, and by the end of the year he was all As and Bs. He’s getting the job done for himself, and it’s making him a better player and teammate.

“We never want to give up on a kid, but we’re reaching the point where they either have to get eligible or we have to move on.”