Friday, May 06, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Raid quiets our birthers

As President Obama enjoys a boost in his approval rating following the successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound last Sunday, the birther movement that questioned the president’s citizenship is lying low, at least for now.

Americans encountered the spectacle of the president making public a certified copy of his birth certificate in an effort, a vain one probably, to show skeptical citizens that he was born in America and was its legitimate leader. History records nothing like it, and you must hope that the level of hatred and distrust that led to this misadventure is momentary, for if it is not, the country is headed for terrible times.

The “birther” movement once was humorous. It was the occupation of conspiracy theorists and political dirty tricksters, two distinctly different groups that have had a marginal role in American politics since Jefferson and Hamilton. But the birther odyssey was different. Every time a wild rumor about Barack Obama’s birth, rearing or religion was dispelled as false, the movement seemed to grow rather than subside. Facts and proof never factored into the equation.

When the hundredth charge—that the president was hiding an ugly treason by not obtaining and releasing the “long form” of his Hawaiian birth certificate—seemed to catapult the birth controversy to the front of the national stage, the president apparently believed he had to act. The latest Republican presidential huckster, the billionaire clown Donald Trump, was making the birth issue the cornerstone of his campaign. Polls showed that almost half of Republican voters believed that the president was not born in the United States and thus his landslide election in 2008 was illegitimate.

There was never the slightest cause to believe that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii. Why millions of people would believe stories in the face of facts is the question that the country must confront. Is it merely because of his ethnic heritage—he is the first president of racially mixed parentage and of African-American descent—and the Middle Eastern name his parents gave him? What would cause people to suspend their trust to such a degree? It could not be his political philosophy and methods, which are more like Dwight Eisenhower’s than anyone else. The popular issues that he ran and were elected upon—universal health insurance, ending the war in Iraq, changing the course of the war in Afghanistan, stopping the country’s breathless slide into the economic abyss—have been the course of his presidency. His heavily reviled health-insurance law is framed upon the plan that Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford tried to push through Congress 37 years ago over the opposition of liberal Democrats.

Some history of the birther movement may be helpful. Unsourced reports that Obama was born in Kenya—his father was a Kenyan student at the University of Hawaii, where he met Obama’s mother—surfaced early in the presidential campaign, in 2007.

The campaign of Hillary Clinton, whom Obama had surpassed in the middle primaries, went to work on the birth question, hoping for a knockout blow. Every lead led nowhere. Honolulu neighbors recalled the baby Barack coming home from the hospital. A search of both Honolulu newspapers turned up the birth list the week of Obama’s birth. In both papers it included Barack Hussein Obama and named his parents. One would have to subscribe to a vast conspiracy to believe otherwise. The teenage mother in Kenya, hoping one day to have her baby become president of the United States, would have had to call back to Honolulu from Nairobi the day of the birth and persuade the physician on duty and hospital officials to record a fake birth and then arrange with two newspapers to print the fake birth. The birth list is in microfilm copies of the Hawaiian newspapers in archives across the country.

When the story persisted, Obama requested a birth certificate from the Hawaiian Bureau of Vital Statistics. It supplied a certificate of live birth, which is what most states, including Arkansas, now do, and the Obama campaign posted it on its website.

There were allegations on the Internet that the certificate was a forgery, that it did not have the raised state seal (it did), that it was a Photoshop job made somewhere besides Hawaii. The director of the Bureau of Vital Statistics and the head of the Health Department time and again affirmed that it was a correct and official certificate. Other stories surfaced about people in Kenya being present for the birth there, but those proved to be fraudulent.

Finally, the movement settled on a single bit of “proof.” If the certificate were correct, Obama and the Hawaiian Health Department would release the original long form made at the hospital at the time of birth, although it was against Hawaiian law to make public the confidential document. So last week, the president requested it. The agency obliged, sent the president a copy of the original form, signed by the attending physician and the baby’s mother, and made copies available to whoever asked.

But that will not end the story, for facts are not important.

We cannot say whether it is distrust of this president with the exotic and uncommon name and ethnic heritage or something else—the rampant irresponsibility of the new media perhaps—that accounts for the casual disregard and even hostility to the truth. It is evident here in Arkansas. We saw it last month in Mike Huckabee’s reckless accusations that Obama was reared in Kenya into the Islamic religion and culture. His staff would later explain that he simply misspoke and that he believed the president was born in the United States.

We see it in the mainstream media. Provably false rumors are passed along as fact. Take the full-dress editorial in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in March that accused the president of being dangerously irrational in his budget. It said the president was forecasting growth of a flat 5 percent in GDP every year for the next 11 years to justify his budget. A president so out of touch with reality is dangerous for the country, the editor said. Across the top of the page was a jagged chart showing the actual GDP growth the past couple of decades and a flat line across the top showing 5 percent, Obama’s budget assumption.

The only trouble was that the president never forecast growth of 5 percent, not even for one of the next 11 years. His budget, which anyone can access on the Internet, forecast a top growth rate of 4.4 percent in one year, 2013, and for six of the 11 years he forecast growth of less than 3 percent. The average was less than 2.8 percent a year, well below the growth rate of recovering economies the past half-century. But facts don’t matter. —Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY > >Salvation Army lunch fundraiser

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Salvation Army is having a spaghetti-lunch fundraiser Thursday.

The lunch is $7.50 per plate and consists of spaghetti, salad, bread and a dessert donated by local businesses.

Orders will be taken until Monday by calling 501-985-1331.

Lunches of five or more can be delivered to local businesses in Jacksonville, Cabot and Sherwood from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Salvation Army will deliver lunches to North Little Rock or Little Rock if a business orders more than 25 meals.

Lesser amounts can be picked up at the Salvation Army on 209 S. Oak St.

“This is the first spaghetti lunch. Depending on how successful it is, we may make it a regular thing. We are doing this now because we are financially strapped during the summer,” Maj. Diane Johnson said. Fewer donations are received for the food pantry during the summer because people are away on vacation.

The Jacksonville Salvation Army offers a food pantry to residents of Jacksonville, Lonoke and White counties. It is open 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Fridays.

She said most of the 30 to 60 people visiting the pantry each month are first timers who are seeking help due to the economy.

The Jacksonville Salvation Army has a small selection of clothing. If someone is needing furniture or household items, the Jacksonville Salvation Army will give out vouchers for goods at the Salvation Army thrift store on 4027 E. Kiehl Ave., in Sherwood.

The Jacksonville Salvation Army does more than assist people in need. It has character-building programs for youngsters ranging from 4 to 18 years old held on Monday nights. During the summer, the Salvation Army holds a camp for boys and girls twice a week for a few hours during the day. The youths work on service projects, go swimming, visit museums and other fun things, Johnson said.

The Salvation Army also has a chorus and a bell choir. Johnson said it would be a dream to someday have a brass band, but musical instruments are needed.

Non-denominational church worship services are held 11 a.m. on Sundays with Sunday school at 10 a.m. Bible studies are held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays.

“Anyone is invited if they don’t have a church of their own,” Johnson said.

TOP STORY > >Missing man found dead in floodwater

Leader staff writer

The body of a Butlerville man missing since Tuesday in floodwater along Hwy. 236 West in Lonoke County near the Woodlawn community was found around 4 p.m. Friday.

The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office and rescue crews recovered the body of Carl Hess, 56. The body was in the water 150 yards west of where his truck was found on the highway west of Glover Road.

Members of the sheriff’s office, along with the Game and Fish Commission, the Tri-Community, South Bend and CS and Z Volunteer Fire Departments and the Cabot Fire Department dive team, were involved in finding Hess.

The search for Hess began four days ago after he drove his white Chevy Silverado past the barricade and cones blocking Hwy. 236 West due to flooding.

The water was two to three feet deep on the roadway and deeper in the ditches where Hess’ truck had stopped in the rapid-flowing waters.

Hess called his wife, Patricia, on his cell phone at 7:19 a.m. and told her he needed a change of clothes. Hess said he was going to walk toward home and got out of his truck.

His son and son-in-law went to the area and did not find Hess. It was the last time anyone had heard from Hess. The sheriff’s office and rescue crews went to the scene around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

By Friday, the high water on Hwy. 236 West receded and the road was open to drivers.

Hess had five children and three stepchildren. He was a groundskeeper for the VA Hospital in North Little Rock.

TOP STORY > >Residents blame landfill for floods

Leader editor

For the second time in less than two years, flooding struck southern Jacksonville this week, and the landfill is taking most of the blame again.

Many residents of the Dick Jeter community were forced from their homes, while others held their breath as the water halted at their front doors.

On Thursday, they repeatedly said flooding was not a problem until recently.

“I’m 54 years old, and never saw floods,” Janice Hobson, a lifelong Dick Jeter resident, said.

People who have lived in the area all of their lives say they had no flooding there until 2009. They believe overdevelopment along the Bayou Meto, a watershed that could once hold millions of gallons of water, is the cause. Waste Management’s Two Pine Landfill and the I-440 interchange have redirected the water toward the rural Jacksonville community, Dick Jeter residents said.

The landfill’s spokesman, David Conrad, did not respond to calls for comment. But early last year, he denied that Waste Management’s massive dump site was to blame for the floods.

“I truly don’t believe we were the cause of the increase in flooding recently,” Conrad told a meeting of the Jacksonville NAACP.

He said the 2009 flood was caused by a combination of heavy rainfall and an increase in building near the Bayou Meto. He speculated that beaver dams might have been partially responsible.

Conrad acknowledged then that the landfill’s area once held more than 3.4 million gallons of water, and some of it now has to go elsewhere.

He said the landfill dug out 43 acres of wetland to help with overflow. Dick Jeter residents are now asking if that was enough.

The west side of the landfill also flooded this week. Hwy. 67/167 had to be closed for two days between Jacksonville and Sherwood. Commuters were sent on lengthy detours. The highway recently underwent a multimillion-dollar construc tion project that made it six lanes. The new asphalt may have been damaged.

Arkansas Rice Depot, the Red Cross and Salvation Army, all Little Rock-based charities, distributed food and water in Dick Jeter on Thursday.

Members of the Valentine/Wooten Awareness Council gathered Thursday at Ms. Toni’s Barber and Style Shop, which served as a headquarters for the charities, on Valentine Road.

Hobson, the lifetime resident, described the Dick Jeter Community as “very tight-knit that’s like family.” She worries flooding will become routine if state officials don’t do something.

“We’re looking for the governor to take care of this and reimburse us,” Hobson said.

The area was hit again 18 months after the last flood, just as they were beginning to recover. She said repairing flood damage is costly and tedious.

Hobson, though, is one of the lucky ones. The water began to recede centimeters from flooding into her home.

There were many people who weren’t as fortunate. Hobson said many residents haven’t left their homes despite several inches of water inside. Floodwater poses many health risks, and many of the residents have children.

State Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-North Little Rock) toured the area on Thursday. “It is heartbreaking and of great concern. We’ve got to do something,” she said.

She is hopeful that the problem can be addressed. “I have held meetings with the Army Corps of Engineers and the congressman (Tim Griffin). There has got to be a way to address flooding abatement,” Chesterfield said.

Chesterfield was pleased with the prompt response by state and county officials. “I thank the governor and Lamar Davis (Gov. Beebe’s deputy chief of staff), Rice Depot and Sheriff Doc Holladay.”

Many homes north of Hwy. 161 were also flooded, a repeat of what happened there in 2009.

As a pair of snow geese rested on the water in his backyard on Thursday, Michael Musselwhite described evacuating with his father for three days. The men rented a room at the Econo Lodge in Jacksonville. The bill came to $185, which the landlord will deduct from their rent.

Joey Price, who lives along Hwy. 161, said, “I called the Jacksonville city engineer, and they will never admit that that is the problem. But to see the evidence, it’s clearly Waste Management. I understand this may be a 100-year event, but when you take that many acres out of the flood plain, the water has to go somewhere and now we are seeing the results.”

Terry Luckadue, who lives on School Drive near Jacksonville Middle School, said the water got as close as it has ever been.

“I can’t remember Hwy. 67 ever flooding. I think it’s the landfill,” he said. Luckadue said that next time, his neighborhood might not be so lucky.

Luckadue has been reviewing Waste Management’s Two Pine application with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. The application is available online at

He believes that “Jacksonville changed the floodplain map to accommodate the landfill.” Luckadue said the landfill stated that it would redirect runoff into Brushy Creek and into Bayou Meto.

“We’re going to become an island because Hwy. 67 was the only way out of town,” Luckadue said.

The detour meant a three-hour commute home from work for his wife while Hwy. 67/167 was closed.

Christon Anderson, 18, fought to keep his balance in the deep, rushing water Sunday night as he went to check on his family’s chickens and dogs at their farmland on Valentine Road.

“I had to make sure my animals were safe,” he said.

On Thursday, Anderson and his friend Howard Boston again waded in knee-deep water to take dog food to his stranded pets.

Anderson said that the area didn’t have any flooding until 2009.

Further down Valentine Road, James Tidwell and Cedric Dobbins also said that flooding was never a problem in Dick Jeter until recently.

“I’ve been down here all my life, and never saw it this bad,” Dobbins said.

Red Cross workers drove a van, distributing care packages and snapping photos of the damage while Tidwell and Dobbins speculated about the cause of flooding.

“I think it’s because of the landfill,” Dobbins said.

TOP STORY > >Officials hear gripes about rising water

Leader staff writer

How best to repair the ceiling in the pool area of the community center was the only item on the Jacksonville City Council’s agenda Thursday night.

But the agenda had been set before the rains pummeled the area and floodwaters sprawled through portions of the city, closing schools, streets and even Hwy. 67/167 for days.

Jim Moore, president of the Stonewall Property Owners Association, told the council that flood recovery needed “to be priority No. 1 over the pool.”

Mayor Gary Fletcher, who had spent most of the day out talking to residents whose homes had flooded and checking water levels, said the damage and problems could have been much worse.

“Another inch or two of rain and we would have had another 200 to 400 homes flooded,” he said.

City Administration Director Jim Durham said homes on East View Drive, PiƱon and around Reed’s Bridge seem to have been hit the hardest.

Eastview Apartment residents were voluntarily evacuated Monday because of rising water.

A number of East View Drive residents were at the meeting to give the council a personal recap of last weekend’s rains, which dropped more than seven inches on the area less than a week behind a storm that spawned tornadoes and also dropped copious amounts of rain.

Tammy Newman, who lives on East View Drive, said she had a foot of standing water in her home. One of her neighbors, Peggy Sears, had three inches.

Sears was also upset by the largest trucks and other vehicles driving down the street sending waves of water into the homes. The street was barricaded, but with Hwy. 67/167 closed and 60,000 vehicles being diverted through the city, the mayor said many chose to circumvent the barricades as they tried to detour around the closed highway.

Barricades are gone now, but drivers are still speeding through. “We are just going to issue tickets until drivers get the idea and slow down or take different routes,” Durham said.

With the highway detour, the mayor said many heavy trucks used city streets not designed for that kind of weight or traffic. “Who knows what our future damage will be?” he asked.

The mayor said the city will do what it can, but that the flooding is also the problem of the Corps of Engineers, the state and the county. He said he called Rep. Tim Griffin’s office (R-Ark.) to see what FEMA and other federal agencies could do.

City Engineer Jay Whisker said water crested over the freeway in the 1960s and back in 2009. “This time it was two to three feet over Hwy. 67/167,” he said.

The mayor said earlier in the week that it was the second time in 18 months that water had reached or surpassed the 100-year flood stage. “We were looking for maps with the 500-year flood levels marked on it,” he said.

After the flooding in late 2009, Pulaski County supposedly spent $800,000 on a flood study and some residents wanted to know what the outcome of that study was.

Residents blamed the flooding on the city, the railroad and Waste Management.

Some residents said the expansion of the Two Pine Landfill to the north side of I-440 caused an extra buildup of water. “Why couldn’t the company allow the water to flow onto some of its dry cells (reserved areas)?” one resident asked.

Joey Price, a former Jackson-ville parks and recreation commissioner, said the railroad tracks going through parts of the city created a dam. “If you would open a floodway under the tracks, it would help,” he said. To emphasize how high the water was, Price said he was able to boat through the woods from the Bayou Meto to Dupree Park.

In other council business:

 Alderman Reedie Ray thanked aldermen and the city for the cards, food and assistance in the wake of his wife’s death less than two weeks ago.

 Aldermen approved a resolution permitting the mayor to sign the necessary loan paperwork for the city to purchase trucks, trash containers and other items necessary to convert to an automated trash pickup.

 The city will borrow about $1.3 million at 3 percent for five years from Bancorp South. That financial institution offered the city the best rates.

The new automated system, supported by an increase in garbage rates passed earlier this year, should start mid summer.

 City Engineer Jay Whisker, in his monthly report, told the council that his department issued 16 building permits and 13 business licenses during April. The department also performed 169 inspections and wrote more than 250 letters to city residents or business owners for unkempt yards or structure concerns.

SPORTS>>Horse race a good bet for viewers

Leader sports editor

I won’t lie.

I have written more horse-racing stories the past three weeks than I have in my entire career as a sportswriter.

In fact, until Archarcharch won the Arkansas Derby on April 16 to enter today’s Kentucky Derby, I had written exactly zero stories about the horse game.

Not that I haven’t had some experience with the sport, and yes, I defend it as a sport — more on that in a minute.

Some of my most pleasant outings have been to Hot Springs to watch the horses run at beautiful Oaklawn Park, where Archarcharch, owned by Jacksonville’s Bob and Val Yagos, beat Nehro by a neck to win the Arkansas Derby.

There is something gritty and earthy about the environment at a horse track. Not only is it a stage for the exploits of some beautiful animals, Oaklawn and tracks like it around the country are fantastic places for people watching.

In fact, there may be no greater collection of winners and losers of all shapes and sizes than at the track. From the grizzled to the coiffed and pampered, they all come to play the ponies.

But it isn’t the crowd that makes horse racing unique. It is one of the few sports where gambling is encouraged and is part of the language, where fans can buy a piece of the action simply by putting down a $2 bet.

I was never a risk taker; I never bet to win and only not to lose. But I have found, even if it’s just an investment of a couple of bucks, having money on a horse makes the race much more exciting.

For a furious minute or two, a bettor sort of shares ownership of the horse he has bought in. For those fast-paced seconds, a guy with money down feels for all the world like the general manager of an NFL team watching the players he went out and purchased fight for a championship.

So, yes, I have spent some time at the track, but I just never had an opportunity to write about the horses. In my career it has always been someone else’s job, until Archarcharch came along.

He is a fine animal owned by genuinely nice people. Bob Yagos has said the real challenge in the three-week run-up to today’s Run for the Roses has been holding Archarcharch, a strong closer, in check.

Some detractors have said horse racing is not a sport because the animal does all the work and the human is just along for the ride. They would have us believe that Archarcharch’s jockey today, Jon Court, is nothing more than a silk-wearing hitchhiker.

While there is a dictionary definition of “sport,” that definition is up for grabs in American society. Some people, maybe the same ones who put down horse racing, might dismiss fishing as a hobby or bowling as a game or deny NASCAR its place in sports because it’s all about the car.

I submit that all of the above offer measurable results, with a human contribution, that give us a clear winner and are therefore sports. The outcome relies on some degree of skill or endurance or effort.

We can get into my definition of what is NOT a sport some other time, but here’s a hint: If it is played sitting down at a table or if judges are overwhelmingly involved, I’m thinking not.

But in horse racing, where a 100-pound man who has trained and fought to make his weight synthesizes his actions with a 1,000-pound animal at high speed, against others doing the same thing, well, to me all the elements of sport are there.

And it’s a race. Is there any more basic, clear-cut and thrilling competition than a race? It’s what we hope our other sports turn into, a pennant race, a footrace to the end zone.

I know I’ll be on the edge of my couch for the “fastest two minutes in sports” today.

You can bet on it.

SPORTS>>Bad weather gives way to even worse luck

Leader sports editor

The Arkansas Travelers are getting games played again, now the trick is to get some games won.

The Travelers dropped their fourth straight Thursday, losing 4-2 at Tulsa before 5,704 at ONEOK Field while the Drillers won their fifth in a row.

Mike Daniel hit a two-run home run for Tulsa, in first place in the Texas League North, and Tim Wheeler doubled twice, scored and drove in a run. Luis Jimenez represented most of the Travelers’ offense with a two-run home run.

Arkansas left-hander Trevor Reckling (0-4) continued to be the team’s hard-luck pitcher as he got the loss.

He entered with an ERA under 3.50 but left still seeking his first victory thanks in part to the lack of run support after giving up three runs in six innings.

Reckling suffered his latest hardships in the first when outfielder Ryan Mount misplayed a Wheeler fly ball for a double. Wheeler later scored on a groundout.

Daniel hit his two-run homer off Reckling in the second. With the score 3-2, Wheeler hit an RBI double off Travelers reliever Loek Van Mil in the seventh.

Drillers closer Dustin Molleken worked the ninth for his first save.

Jimenez gave the Travs all their runs in the fourth when he homered to drive in Mount, who walked, to make it 3-2. Arkansas had base runners erased or stranded in the first, second and third innings.

Reckling finished with five walks and five strikeouts. Tulsa starter Rob Cahill got the victory after scattering four hits, with a walk and three strikeouts, in six innings.

The Travs, who have endured multiple rainouts, last won when they beat Northwest Arkansas on April 29. The Naturals beat the Travelers the next night and then the teams were rained out on Sunday and Monday.

Tulsa hit three home runs in a 4-2 victory that opened the series on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Tulsa broke a tie with a three-run rally in the seventh on the way to an 8-4 victory, though Arkansas center fielder and Los Angeles Angels top prospect Mike Trout had three hits in the game.

Garrett Richards (2-1), pitching not far from his hometown of Edmund, Okla., got the loss on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Matt Shoemaker got the loss after giving up home runs to Scott Beerer, Willin Rosario and Wheeler.

The Angels released Travelers outfielder/designated hitter Marvin Lowrance and assigned infielder Matt Cusick to take his spot. Drafted by the Montreal Expos in the seventh round of the 2004 draft, Lowrance, 26, hit .150 with two RBI in 12 games with the Travs.

Lowrance spent seven years in the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos organization, reaching Class AAA Syracuse last year.

In eight seasons in the minors, Lowrance has 83 career home runs and 319 career RBI.

His best season came in 2008 when he hit .275 with 20 home runs and 63 RBI in 121 games with Class A Potomac and Class AA Harrisburg. The Expos became the Nationals in 2005.

Cusick, 25, was taken by the Houston Astros in the 10th round of the 2007 draft.

The Astros traded him to the New York Yankees in 2008 and assigned him to their Class A Tampa, Fla., team.

SPORTS>>State tournament looms

Leader sportswriter

Jay Fitch is looking for the first round of the 7A state baseball tournament to be a milestone event for his Cabot Panthers.

And for the coach himself.

The Panthers are 10-12 overall and 5-7 in the 7A-Central Conference, with a home doubleheader against Van Buren slated for Friday night to wrap up regular season play. As it stands, either a sweep or split would most likely make the Panthers a No. 4 seed for the tournament, whereas two losses would most likely bump them back to a No. 5 or a No. 6 depending on what happens elsewhere during the league’s closing weekend.

Two victories against Van Buren would also put the Panthers at .500 and could set the stage for another highlight in Fitch’s career.

Now at 197 career victories, Fitch doesn’t want to wait until 2012 to get that magical 200th.

“I was kidding with them the other day,” Fitch said.

“I told them, ‘Not to put any pressure on you, but if you could win those last two, that would give me 199 wins in my coaching career.’

“It would be pretty cool if we could win those and then go into the state tournament with one to go. I hope that happens.”

Fitch has good reason to feel confident about his first-round tournament chances with senior ace Cole Nicholson waiting to take the mound.

Nicholson has shut down opponents most of the season, and is the only player on the roster with state tournament experience from his sophomore season.

“He’s been rock solid,” Fitch said. “But everybody in 7A has a really good No. 1, so you never know.”

Regardless of final seeding, the Panthers have had the peace of mind of knowing they are in regardless.

There were several questions entering the final weekend, from how it would be settled among top seeds Bryant, Conway and Catholic to how the Panthers would fall in with second-tier contenders North Little Rock and Central.

It has been far more comforting for Fitch and his Panthers this year after suffering late-season heartbreak a year ago.

The 7A-Central race in 2010 was one of the closest in the history of high-school baseball in the state. Six teams entered the final week with a shot at the championship, and all eight teams were still vying for tournament berths.

The Panthers took top-ranked Bryant, which went on to win the state championship, 14 innings before a hit batter with the bases loaded drove in a run and lifted the Hornets to victory.

The Panthers had one last shot to qualify against Van Buren last season before the Pointers hit a game-ending home run in the ninth inning, dropping Cabot to seventh and keeping them out of the tournament.

“It’s tight this year,” Fitch said.

“It’s probably not as tight as it was last year, but it’s tight. Last year, anybody could have been first or not made it, and that’s what happened to us.”

Nicholson’s experience has been invaluable to Cabot this year, and with the progression of underclassmen pitchers Dustin Morris and Ryan Logan, the Panthers could have the necessary depth in their bullpen to make a legitimate run in the state tournament.

Morris threw a complete game in a close loss to North Little Rock while Logan did the same in close games against Bryant and Conway.

With good defense and an expanding pitching roster, Fitch said there is still no accounting for baseball’s ultimate intangible — batting.

“Offense is so funny at times,” Fitch said.

“We’ve had games where we didn’t hit that well and scored four or five runs. Then, we’ve had games where we had quality hits, and hit it hard, but always to somebody.

“With pitching and defense, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. But offense is always going to be kind of that wildcard in baseball.”

SPORTS>>Riders try for place in history at Derby

Leader sports editor

Archarcharch jockey Jon Court will enjoy a bit of personal history today as he rides the Arkansas-owned colt in Court’s first Kentucky Derby appearance.

But while it is a first for Court just to be in the saddle at Churchill Downs, other jockeys need a victory to enter the horse-racing history books.

Watch Me Go trainer Kathleen O’Connell and Mucho Macho Man trainer Kathy Ritvo will be trying to become the first female trainers to have horses win the Derby, which starts today at 5:24 p.m., while Pants on Fire jockey Rosie Napravnik will be trying to become the first woman jockey to win.

Only 14 female trainers and five jockeys have competed in the Kentucky Derby, in its 137th running this year.

Ritvo has captured the nation’s attention not only because of her gender and her horse but because, in 2008, she received a heart transplant that saved her from the degenerative condition that killed her brother Lou in 1996.

“I’ve been on the track since 1970,” Ritvo told the Associated Press. “My first license said ‘exercise boy’ because there wasn’t even a category to check for a girl.”

Last year Napravnik was the first woman to win the riding title at Delaware Park and, on Pants on Fire, she won the $1 million Louisiana Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

Diane Crump was the first woman to ride in a pari-mutuel race and in the Kentucky Derby. She needed a police escort into Florida’s Hialeah Park for the pari-mutuel in 1969 and rode in the Kentucky Derby the following year.

Julie Krone is the most famous and successful female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby, and the last woman jockey was Rosemary Homeister Jr., in 2003. No female jockey has finished the Derby higher than 11th.

Napravnik said horse racing is still a man’s world, but that things are slowly changing.

“You still get that just about every day,” Napravnik said. “ ‘I don’t want to ride a girl. The owner doesn’t want to ride a girl. You’re not as strong, you’re not as this, you’re not as that.’

“It’s probably not nearly what it used to be, but it’s still out there.”

Watch Me Go is a 50-1 shot from post No. 20 and Mucho Macho Man will go off at 12-1 from post No. 13. Pants on Fire will start from Post No. 7 at 20-1.

Court and Archarcharch drew the unenviable No. 1 post position and will have to fight from the rail in the 20-horse field.

Court, 50, is the son in law of Archarcharch trainer Jinks Fires, also making his first Derby appearance.

“I’ll talk it over with Jinks and see what our tactical plan is,” Court said.

SPORTS>>Big day arrives at last for Archarcharch

Leader sports editor

It has been a long three weeks.

Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch, owned by Jacksonville salvage-yard owner Bob Yagos and his wife Val, will run in today’s $2.2 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Post time is 5:24 p.m.

Archarcharch will go off at 10-1 and run from the difficult, No. 20 post position in the 137th running of the race.

But at least the colt is finally running.

“The Arkansas Derby, it’s a long three weeks waiting for the Kentucky Derby,” Yagos said. “When you’ve got cheap horses you don’t worry about it so much, but when you’ve got a horse running in Grade I races you start worrying about the time between and what can happen and all that kind of stuff.”

And Archarcharch is definitely not a cheap horse, though compared to the offers the colt has drawn, his original sale price of $60,000 looks relatively inexpensive.

Yagos bought Archarcharch after trainer Rick Fires picked him out at the Keeneland September Yearling sale in Louisville.

Yagos left the actual evaluation up to Fires, 70, the veteran trainer.

Yagos said there are a couple of immediate factors a horse buyer considers — how the horse looks and how he acts.

“You first look at his conformation and his temperament and how he handles everything at the sale,” Yagos said. “Because usually at that one sale there’s 5,000 horses and probably 500 buyers standing around a small ring watching the horses.”

Obviously a well proportioned, athletic-looking horse who can handle himself in a crowd would seem ideally suited to the demands of racing, but a buyer must consider more, Yagos said.

“Then you go look at his pedigree,” Yagos said. “They’ve got sales books where you look at the pedigree and then decide.”

A buyer offered $500,000 after Archarcharch broke his maiden in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes on Dec. 18. The price went up to $800,000 heading into Archarcharch’s 3-year-old debut at the $100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Hot Springs’ Oaklawn Park in January.

After Archarcharch won the $250,000 Grade III Southwest Stakes in February, Yagos had three $2 million offers and was negotiating with a fourth, who planned to race Archarcharch in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

But in what has become a near legendary story, Val Yagos had a change of heart when the contract was held up on a deadline technicality, and Archarcharch came off the market.

The Yagoses didn’t want to break up Archarcharch, Fires, 70, and his son in law and jockey Jon Court, 50. Archarcharch, with Court aboard, then went on to win the Arkansas Derby to make today’s race.

“This is the first time for us, the first time for our trainer and the first time for our jockey,” Yagos said.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

OBITUARIES >> 6-1-11


Harold Crook Sr., 81, of Jacksonville died May 30.

He was born March 18, 1930, in Jacksonville to the late Sam and Ethel Trotter Crook.

For 39 years, Mr. Crook was a car man for the Missouri Pacific and later for the Union Pacific Railroad.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Helen Crook; one son, Harold Crook Jr., and one brother, J. C. Crook.

Mr. Crook is survived by his brother, Sammy Crook Jr. of Jacksonville; one grandson, Harold Crook III, and one great-grandson, Dalton James Crook.

The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 1 in the chapel of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with interment in Bayou Meto Cemetery.

Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Dorothy Jean Grissom Staley, 73, of Ward passed away May 29. She was born July 23, 1937, in Kokomo, Ind., to the late William and Gladys Meyers.

She was also preceded in death by her husband, Lloyd Staley; two brothers, Warren Myers and Willard Myers; grandson, Kevin Berry, and great-grandson, Kaleb Thames.

She is survived by her eight children, Billy Edward Grissom Jr. and his wife Abbie of Ward, Myra Haugerud and her husband Chris of Gulfport, Miss., Robert Grissom of Florida, Vicki Coyle of Ward, Joe Staley and his wife Vera of Cabot, Randy Staley and his wife Deb, Ginger Tarno and her husband Bobby, both of Ward, and Connie Shaffer and his wife Loren of Kennsett; 10 siblings, Bill, Wayne, Jerry, Joe and Johnny Myers, Neva Slusher, Mary Sheppard, Sarah Murry, Marie Glunt and Lora Melton, all of Indiana, 21 grandchildren and 38 great-grandchildren.

The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 1 at Dogwood Cemetery in Griffithville.

Arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Athern Jasper “A.J.” Schultz, 90, of Clinton died May 31.

He is survived by his children, Martin, Willard, Cecil, James, John, David, Albert and his wife Daryl Schultz, Betty Charpentier and Mary Fulmer, 30 grandchildren and 50 great-grandchildren.

The family will receive friends beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 2 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe, with funeral to follow at 10 a.m.

Burial will be in Stoney Point Cemetery.


Leonard “Punk” Payne, 76, of Cabot died May 29.

He was a retired sign-crew foreman for the Arkansas Highway Department. He loved to camp and fish and was a member of First Assembly of God in North Little Rock. He was a Navy veteran.

Leonard was preceded in death by his parents, Clyde and Nettie Payne and a sister, Delta Payne.

He is survived by his wife, Susie Payne of Cabot; one son, Keith Boyett of Cabot; one brother, C. R. “Buddy” Cooper of Star City; one sister, Jean Breeding of San Antonio, Texas, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 2 at New Floyd Cemetery.


David Jenkins, 88, of Jacksonville passed away May 27. He was born Aug. 30, 1922, in Van.

He is survived by his wife, Mammie Cossey.

The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, June 2 at Arkansas State Veteran’s Cemetery in North Little Rock.

Arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Cecil “Lloyd” Adams, 87, of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord on May 28.

He was born Oct. 14, 1923, in Neosho, Mo., to the late Claude and Cenah Adams.

He was preceded in death by one son, John Adams, and two brothers, Glenn and Earl Adams.

Lloyd was in the Navy from 1943 to 1946, serving in Europe and the Pacific. He entered the Air Force in 1948 and retired in 1971 as a chief master sergeant.

After his military career, he worked for the Arkansas Department of Health as an accountant and as administrator of the tuberculosis program.

He is survived by his loving wife of 64 years, Faye; two sons, Frank Adams of Connce, Tenn., Joseph Adams and his wife Debbie of Van Buren; four grandchildren, Taylor, Michael, Alexandra and Lori; one sister, Marie Wallace of Joplin, Mo., and one brother, Elmer Adams of Anchorage, Alaska.

Lloyd and Faye have been active members of the United Methodist Church since January 1957. He served as chairman of the trustees, building maintenance and grounds.

The funeral was May 31 at First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville with Rev. Mark McDonald and Rev. Charles Watt officiating. Interment was in Rest Hills Memorial Park in Sherwood.

Arrangements by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

EDITORIAL >> The challenges that lie ahead

The long road that led to the capture and execution of Osama bin Laden started on the flightline at Little Rock Air Force Base and dozens of other military installations that joined the war against al-Qaida soon after 9/11.

As a grateful nation celebrates the death of one of history’s most notorious criminals, we know that the fight is not over. Little Rock Air Force Base continues its nearly decade-long participation in the war on terror in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Some 1,000 local airmen and several C-130s are on their way to combat zones to fight al-Qaida and eliminate it as a threat.

Sunday’s operation gives them renewed optimism that the war will be won and is worth the sacrifice. What’s more, the community has opened its hearts and its wallets following last week’s tornado that destroyed dozens of homes on base.

The Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council presented a check for $10,000. First Arkansas Bank and Trust gave away $5,000 in gift cards and fed the airmen and their families. Arkansas Federal Credit Union gave away approximately $7,300 in gift cards. Area chambers of commerce are also contributing to the recovery effort. Other organizations, such as the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, Air Force Aid and Little Rock Air Force Base partners, have also offered help. You, too, can help by making donations to the Good Samaritan Fund at First Arkansas Bank and Arkansas Federal Credit Union.

A generous gift will speed the recovery efforts at the base and show the men and women in uniform that their sacrifices are not taken for granted. They are the sentinels of freedom and the messengers of hope.

As we learned Sunday night, the fight against terror goes on every day, one mission and one air drop at a time. The men and women at LRAFB and those around the world work around the clock, usually without fanfare, but their reward is knowing that in this clash of civilizations, they will be the victors.

TOP STORY >> Areas to seek help after record storm

Leader staff writer

The six-plus inches of rain that started Saturday and continued into Monday closed streets and highways and some schools in The Leader’s coverage area.

On Monday, Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin completed the paperwork to declare his county a disaster in the hope of federal money to pay for an estimated $1 million in damage to roads across the county.

For example, a guard rail on Omni Farm Road near Austin was taken down by the water and on Kerr Station Road between Poppy Lane and Gun Club Road there is now a hole in the pavement big enough to hide a Volkswagen, he said.

There was no part of the county that was not hurt in some way by the fast and heavy rain, he said. But the southern part, where all that water will eventually run, will suffer longer as the water continues to rise and then stands.

Mayor Bill Cypert has asked Cabot residents with flood damage to fill out a form on the city website to help with the disaster declaration. The form can be found near the bottom of the homepage under quick links.

Erwin said he and his crews started to work at about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday barricading roads that the sheriff’s deputies said were under water.

Firefighters from across the county also helped and rescued residents in danger or stranded by the flooding, he said.

Cypert said Monday that he had never seen the water so high and in places where it had never been before. It was up to the railroad tracks at the discharge ditch at the sewer-treatment plant, which was operating during the heavy rain at it 16 million gallon a day capacity.

Water was four-feet deep inside the Asian restaurant just outside Cabot on Hwy. 5 near the intersection with Hwy. 89.

Cypert said he had also received calls from five residents with water in their homes, but the damage was not significant.

Water also covered the freeway between exit 16 and exit 19, something Cypert said he had never seen before.

“I think we had a near-record rain and flood event in Cabot,” he said.

Although the rain was heavy, the flooding wasn’t as bad as he feared it would be and he gives credit for that to state Sen. Eddie Joe William, the former mayor.

“Eddie Joe did a lot of drainage work over the past four years and I think it paid off big time,” Cypert said.

Cabot has a drainage plan calling for improvements that will cost several million dollars. Knowing the city didn’t have the money, Williams got out during heavy rainfall with his crew from public works and watched where the water flowed and where it backed up and then cleaned a lot of ditches and replaced a lot of culverts.

Raquel Espinoza, director of corporate relations and media for Union Pacific Railroad’s southern region, said the trains stopped Sunday on some tracks in the area.

Water was over the tracks in several places to the north and east of Little Rock and in some places the tracks were washed out, so the trains couldn’t run, Espinoza said.

But the heavy rain had been forecast so crews and material were already in place to make repairs. And the trains were moving again on Monday.

In Beebe, a group of residents from the Windwood subdivision are suing the railroad for damage to their homes during flooding late in 2009.

Over the past 20 years, two railroad bridges that let water run off the farmland that is now their subdivision, have been replaced with dirt beds.

Mayor Mike Robertson told the residents during a meeting at the end of December 2009 that water from the western part of Beebe and as far away as Ward and El Paso flows into their neighborhood causing the flooding. Construction all around the subdivision has changed the flow of water and takes up the ground where water was once absorbed, he said.

On Sunday and Monday, the rising water flowed into about 20 houses on Tori Lane, Birchwood and April Cove.

It wasn’t as bad as the Christmas Eve flood of 2009 but it was worse than the one at Halloween of the same year, said Milton McCullar, head of Beebe’s Street Department.

In Ward, city employees and volunteers waded through waist-deep water like they did in 2009 to rescue dogs that were trapped at the animal shelter. But this time, the dogs as well as three cats were housed temporarily in the city’s new animal shelter which sits on a man-made hill near the highway.

In Austin, Police Chief John Staley said Old Austin Road was closed and reopened more than once as the water came up and went down. And although many yards flooded, no one reported water inside houses.

EDITORIAL >> Americans triumphant

After thousands of missions, perhaps as many false leads and dashed hopes, U.S. special forces on Sunday received orders from President Obama to get Osama bin Laden.

They eliminated the world’s top terrorist in a shabby villa in Abottabad, Pakistan, whose notorious intelligence services had protected bin Laden for several years. Perhaps he had become complacent or was tired of running, and it was just a matter of time before our intelligence agencies — determined to avenge the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people on 9/11 — found their man.

Navy Seals shot bin Laden in his guts and above his left eye, and not a moment too soon. They also killed several members of his entourage and injured his wife. Bin Laden’s corpse was flown out in a helicopter and taken to a U.S. carrier, where he was dumped into the sea, all in accordance with Islamic law — although you have to wonder: Why treat a mass murderer with respect?

The killing of Osama bin Laden has rekindled the spirit of 9/12, when all Americans felt as one after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

At airports around the country this week, service members were applauded. TSA employees were in a better mood. Passengers felt less besieged standing in security lines.

At least for now, there’s less partisan bickering as Democrats and Republicans have stopped sniping at each other and agreed that the killing of Osama bin Laden was a victory for all Americans.

Second District Cong. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, told us yesterday, “I commend President Obama for his deliberate and resourceful pursuit of Osama bin Laden and his personal engagement on this critical national security issue.”

The fight is not over. It may not even be the beginning of the end, as Winston Churchill said during the Second World War, but it could be the end of the beginning of our war on terror. We shall prevail.

TOP STORY >> Huge rain pummels area, then moves on

Leader staff writer

“It’s not going to take much to make us an island,” Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said late Monday from a command post inside city hall where the police chief, fire chief and other department heads were monitoring rain levels and flood levels.

“Hwy. 67/167 to the south is flooded and closed off, and part of the highway from Jacksonville to Cabot is also closed. We’ve got a number of streets underwater and two subdivisions already isolated,” the mayor explained.

“Even when the sun comes out, the waters will still be rising. We are getting backflow from Lonoke County with all their rains, plus what is coming downstream through us,” he said.

The mayor added, “This is the second time in 18 months that we have surpassed the 100-year flood levels. We are looking at maps with 500-year flood levels marked. There will be homes and areas that have never flooded before that will,” Fletcher said.

“We’ve been up and monitoring things since that vicious thunderstorm moved in Saturday night,” he said. The city turned the community center into an emergency shelter and had up to 30 people in there Sunday. Early Monday, the number dropped as the people sought out friends and relatives for help and support, but others started coming in late Monday as voluntary evacuations increased.

For the first two days of May—Sunday and Monday—the Jacksonville area received about four inches of rain, the average total for the entire month of nearly nine inches. Other Pulaski County areas received as much as ten inches of rain over the weekend.

Battalion Fire Chief Eddie Hill said the department had been on dozens of rescue calls. Luckily through Tuesday there had been no major injuries. “We were pretty active Sunday and early Monday, but as the rain eased, so did our calls.”

The fire department did have to help with some evacuations at Eastview Apartments off Redmond and some homes off James Street and School Drive because of rising waters. Those people were taken to the community shelter where cots where set up. They also had access to blankets, bottled water and other supplies.

Mayor Fletcher commended Col. Michael Minihan, the 19th Airlift Wing commander, and other base officials.

“I called them for assistance at about 4 a.m. Sunday, and they came out with 30 cots, bottled water, other supplies and said whatever we needed they were there. That’s just amazing because they are still working in recovery from last week’s tornado that hit the base and were still willing and able to help us. I can’t thank them enough,” the mayor said.

By late Tuesday afternoon, Jacksonville officials had re-turned the cots loaned from the air base, still leaving cots at the community center provided by the fire department and were working on placing the last two people who were using the community center as a refuge from the flood.

Jim Durham, the city’s director of administration, said roads were opening up north of the city, but Hwy. 67/167 South still remained closed.

“We’ve placed markers out there and can tell it has gone down. We are hoping the southbound lanes will be open in time for the morning rush hour,” he said Tuesday.

Sherwood Police Capt. Grady Russell said a number of roads were closed in Sherwood, and said the greatest danger was actually the southside of the city where all the water was running to. Trammel Road was closed and people were being evacuated from Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park, just off Hwy. 67/167 at the Kiehl exit.

“We got the flooded streets barricaded early and people have been real good about not trying to drive through flooded areas,” Russell said. “We can still get around most everywhere. But our concern is if something happens in a few of the areas blocked off by the high water, but so far no calls.”

In Sherwood, roads that were closed Monday into Tuesday included Jacksonville Cato, off Hwy. 107, Jacksonville Cut-Off in a couple of places, Trammel Road at Wildwood and Oneida, basically cutting off the Indianhead subdivision.

In the Jacksonville area, Hwy. 67/167 from I-440 through Redmond Road was blocked in both directions, the highway going through the city was open, but parts closed again from the air base exit to Cabot; John Harden north of the city was closed and large portions of West Main, Jacksonville Cato and Jacksonville Cut-Off.

The area had 6.58 inches of rain in April, most of it last week. That total is close to 2.5 inches more than the area normally gets in April.

In fact, almost every place in the state was oversaturated for the month, some more than others.

North Little Rock had officially received 7.27 inches of rain in April, almost three inches above its average for the month and Little Rock’s 7.22 inches is about 2.3 inches above average.

The entire month was one wave of severe storms after another with the worst outbreaks for the state hitting April 23-24, killing at least 11.

But the state was battered on April 4, 10-11, 14-15 and 19-21, before last week’s tornadoes.

TOP STORY >> Driver presumed drowned on road

Leader staff writer

A family waits as the search resumes today for a missing Butlerville man who disappeared Tuesday morning after driving through a flooded stretch of Hwy. 236 West in Lonoke County.

Carl Hess, 56, was driving a white Chevy Silverado truck as he drove past the road-closed sign and barricade at the corner of Hwy. 236 and Hwy. 31 near the Woodlawn community. The truck stalled in the swift water overflowing the highway west of Glover Road. Hess called his wife, Patricia, and then got out of the vehicle.

The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, the Cabot Fire Department dive team, the Lonoke Fire Department, the CS and Z, Tri-Community, Butlerville and South Bend volunteer fire departments, and the Game and Fish Commission were at the scene trying to locate Hess in the water.

The agencies used boats and a search/cadaver dog throughout the day trying to find Hess. A State Police helicopter circled in the air trying to locate Hess.

The last time anyone heard from Hess was at 7:19 a.m., when he called his wife on his cell phone and said he was stuck.

The water level was three to four feet on the highway where the truck was stopped. The cold, rapidly flowing water was deeper along the ditches off the highway.

When Hess called his wife, he said was going to walk toward home and asked for some clean clothes. His son and son-in-law went looking for him and did not find him. His wife called authorities and the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department around 7:30 a.m.

“He better be OK. I hope to God he is OK. I buried one husband in 1997 from asbestos,” Patricia Hess said.

“He always calls and lets me know where he is. All we are doing is waiting and hoping he shows up,” his wife said.

Hess has five children and three stepchildren. He works as a groundskeeper for the VA Hospital in North Little Rock.

“Don’t drive into the water for your safety and your family’s safety. Honor those barricades. There is a reason for them. Take the longer route,” Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson said.

Marineill Gillette, who lives on Hwy. 236, said she heard traffic on the road and thought the water went down. She considered parking her truck on the highway to block traffic from traveling into the flooded road.

But she said that might be illegal and did not want anyone to hit her truck. She said now she wished she had.

“People think the bigger and heavier their vehicle is their vehicle can go through water like this,” Gillette said.

“I don’t drive around barricades. I’m very cautious. I try not to drive in deep water. There is always another way around,” Gillette said.

SPORTS >> Mallett will get chance to mature

Leader sportswriter

Ryan Mallett has yet to play a down in the NFL, and his name is already being used in the same sentence with Tom Brady.

But obviously not in a strict comparison kind of way, as the former University of Arkansas quarterback and 2010 Premier Player of College Football award winner was taken as the second pick of the third round by the New England Patriots, 74th overall.

The jury on when Mallett would be selected was split down the middle, with most people closer to home saying he was a sure thing for the first round, while others on the national scene believed his off-field hijinks made him a risk and would lower his stock.

But just as anyone with an objective eye would have suspected, Mallett was picked near the middle of the annual get-rich-quick weekend for college dropouts with a nose for the gridiron.

Experts and analysts were always quick to praise Mallett’s size and the strength of his throwing arm leading up to the draft, but it usually served as a segue into discussions of his laundry list of supposed troubles.

Yes, there were some causes for concern, including reported use of controlled substances, not to mention his public-intoxication charge shortly after arriving on the Hill. Former dorm buddies at Michigan did little to help Mallett’s public image at a time when it was apparent the young man was sincerely trying to clean up his act.

Mallett’s one season in Ann Arbor before transferring to Fayetteville was allegedly action packed, on the playing field and beyond, according to various accounts.

The endless kiss-and-tell stories that depicted Mallett, then a freshman, as the most prolific of backseat Romeos came mostly from convenient “anonymous” sources, and the stories were frankly not much different than those of a number of high-profile college or professional athletes throughout the years.

Remember Wilt Chamberlain?

But Mallett held his own in the NFL combines and handled the intense scrutiny with as much grace as a 23-year-old in his predicament could be expected to with so much on the line and so many eyes watching.

Of the four quarterbacks drafted in the first round, three were expected to go high, including top overall pick Cam Newton of Auburn. Newton quickly surpassed Mallett and a host of other potential Heisman Trophy candidates last fall when he led the Tigers to the BCS national championship with an unbeaten record.

But one of the biggest surprises of the first round was Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, who was nabbed by the Minnesota Vikings as the 12th overall pick.

Overall for quarterbacks, Mallett was the seventh pick of 12, and one of three chosen SEC quarterbacks, which included Alabama’s Greg McElroy.

Now that he’s headed for the land of the Pilgrims’ pride, what does it mean for Mallett’s future? For starters, there’s Brady, the two-time Super Bowl MVP and fellow former Wolverine who actually graduated from Michigan.

There could not be a better example for Mallett to follow as he works to develop into a Sunday-afternoon quarterback. Solid, consistent, and mostly uncontroversial, Brady has virtually set the bar for the modern-day NFL signal caller.

Yes, we do like Peyton Manning, Mike Vick and Ben Roethlisberger, but as the old adage goes, “check the rings, baby!”

Whether or not Mallett takes character lessons from the squeaky clean Brady remains to be seen, but how about this for the pragmatic among you: Tom Brady holds the record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception to start an NFL career (162) and also holds the regular-season record with 338 and counting, a streak began in late October.

Only 2.19 percent of Brady’s career passes have been intercepted, a number second to Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers starter who has played considerably less time in the league.

There are plenty of other numbers Brady has posted in his amazing career for us to gush over.

But the oversimplified analysis is based on good decision-making — Brady has it, Mallett needs it.

So for those of you still offended that Mallett was not scooped up in the first 10 draft picks, look at it this way, he landed in a place where he can be nurtured into becoming a top-caliber pro quarterback, and maybe pick up the line on enhanced maturity along the way.

SPORTS >> Panthers stop ’Cats

Leader sports editor

The miracle isn’t so much that Cabot essentially won the first game of its 7A-Central doubleheader sweep of North Little Rock on a two-run inning with no hits.

The miracle is that Cabot got the games played at all.

The Panthers beat the Charging Wildcats 5-0 in a long-delayed matchup at Conrade Field on Saturday, taking the lead it never lost thanks to North Little Rock miscues in the fourth, and squeaking out the game without a delay despite wind gusts and intermittent showers.

“We’ve been dodging it, man,” Panthers coach Jay Fitch said. “We kept looking at the radar.”

The game had been delayed twice by rain, forcing the rare Saturday matchup that followed Cabot’s doubleheader conference loss at Conway, 9-6 and 2-0 on Thursday, a meeting that was also pushed back by weather.

“Conway was throwing a kid I’d never seen before,” Fitch said Saturday. “Eighty-five to 90 percent of his pitches were curveballs but he kept it low, he wasn’t just floating them in there. They were good curveballs.

“We had opportunities early, left a lot of runners on, kind of like what we did today. We were a hit or two away of really opening this one up.”

The Panthers made the most of their chances in Game 2 with an 8-2 victory.

Cabot ace Cole Nicholson (6-1) started Saturday’s first game and went the distance, striking out five while allowing two walks and only two hits.

“We’ve been saving him as our No. 2 the whole time and he’s won every conference game except one,” Fitch said.

“We know going into that state tournament and next week against Van Buren, when he’s on the mound we’ve got a chance.”

North Little Rock dodged trouble over the first three as starter Brooks Howard walked two, hit another and gave up three hits, with another Panthers player reaching on an error.

But Cabot stranded five before North Little Rock created a mess it couldn’t escape in the fourth.

Howard walked Cabot’s bottom three hitters Nicholson, Tyler Cole and Daniel Fox consecutively with one out, then Howard balked to score Nicholson with the only run Cabot would need.

Dillon Howell relieved Howard, then Cole scored as first baseman Brian Chastain committed an error.

Howell walked Justin Goff to lead off the Cabot fifth and advanced him with two wild pitches. Nicholson helped himself again when he hit a single to drive in Goff and make it 3-0.

A wild pitch and an error put North Little Rock in a pinch again in the sixth, and Kason Kimbrell and Tyler Carter, who singled and scored respectively when Brandon Surdam hit into a fielder’s choice and Goff singled to center.

Fitch said he was glad Cabot was able to cash in on the North Little Rock miscues, but was hoping for more production with men on base.

“We still had a lot of missed opportunities,” he said.

After giving up Chastain’s one-out single in the seventh, Nicholson induced two flyouts to end the game.

Fitch felt entering last week Cabot needed a couple more victories to qualify for the state tournament and was keeping an eye on the power rankings.

“We’ve got like 58 points going into this so I think we’re in anyway,” Fitch said.

“But what can happen, we take care of business and then something could happen next week with Van Buren; we could be a three or a four seed still.”

SPORTS >> Travelers, Naturals play them when they can

Leader sports editor

The weather had a say in yet another Arkansas Travelers-Northwest Arkansas Naturals series, but they did get some games in at Dickey-Stephens Park.

The Naturals beat the Travelers 3-0 behind a solid group-pitching effort led by starter Mario Santigo and lone runs in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings.

It turned out to be the finale of yet another rain-shortened series as Sunday and Monday’s games were rained out and will be made up in doubleheaders June 8 and June 10. The Travelers and Naturals were forced to play a doubleheader during their first meeting in Springdale in April, and will have to make up another rainout in a doubleheader at Arvest Ballpark May 23.

Santigo pitched six innings Saturday, striking out six and giving up two hits and one walk. Reliever Eduardo Paulino struck out three in two innings and Patrick Keating survived two hits in the ninth to get the save.

Arkansas starter Eddie McKiernan pitched well over five innings as he struck out two and walked none, but among his three hits was an RBI single by Mario Lisson in the fourth that stuck McKiernan with the loss.

Jeff Bianchi added an RBI fielder’s choice off reliever Andrew Taylor in the sixth and Anthony Seratelli hit an RBI single off Taylor in the eighth.

Sunday’s and Monday’s scheduled day games, including Arkansas’ second kids’ day game that was set for 11 a.m. Monday, were washed out to leave the Travs (9-10) 2 ½ games behind first-place Tulsa, where they were playing Tuesday night, and in third place in the Texas League North.

Northwest Arkansas (11-9) was in second, a game behind Tulsa (13-9).

In all, Arkansas has been rained out seven times in just under a month. The Travs are 2-2 against the Naturals, the defending Texas League champions.

In Friday’s series opener, the Travelers held the Naturals to just three hits while Luis Jimenez drove in three runs as Arkansas won 6-3.

Orangel Arenas pitched six innings to get the victory, giving up three runs on three hits, walking two and striking out three.

Northwest Arkansas led 3-1, but Arkansas posted a five-run fourth. Adam Younger hit a sacrifice fly, Jay Brossman scored on a wild pitch, Darwin Perez drove in a run with a bloop single and Jimenez hit a two-run single to left for the 6-3 lead.

Arkansas’ first run came when Jimenez drove in Perez with a sacrifice fly to cut it to 2-1 in the third. Northwest Arkansas’ Salvadore Perez singled and scored on a fielding error to make it 3-1 in the Naturals’ fourth.

Northwest Arkansas got its first two runs Nick Van Stratten’s RBI single and a run-scoring error by Travs shortstop Adam Younger in the third.

Northwest Arkansas starter Heath Rollins got the loss while Travs reliever Steven Geltz pitched two perfect innings with four strikeouts and Ryan Brasier worked the ninth for his fourth save of the year.

Brasier, who threw a nine-inning no-hitter at Dickey-Stephens Park last year, was moved to the bullpen this season.

SPORTS >> 5A status likely at Jacksonville

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville High School has been targeted for a move from 6A to 5A in the round of reclassification set to begin in 2012.

The Arkansas Activities Association last week released its revised list of the reclassification cycle for the 2012-14 school years. Classifications are based on student population.

Jacksonville, which currently plays in the 6A-East Conference in all sports, stands as the only local program to potentially be affected. Jacksonville has been close to the cutoff between 5A and 6A for the last two cycles along with 6A members Marion and Searcy.

But Marion’s student population has grown to 994, 23rd highest in the state, placing it in the middle of 6A pack, while Searcy has grown enough to maintain its 6A status with 851 students.

Jacksonville’s enrollment has shrunk to 805.

“I was a little shocked,” Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson said of the proposed reclassification, which has not been finalized. “We’ve always been close with Searcy and some of the other schools, and I knew we had lost some students. Hall and McClellan, of course, they’ve been up and down.

“We feel like we can compete regardless of what classification we end up in. It’s basically a numbers game right now.”

The Arkansas Activities Association will meet in June to determine conference lineups and final classification alignments. If class 6A is expanded to 32 teams instead of its current 16, and 7A stays at its current 16, it will put Jacksonville High School in the middle of the pack.

“It’s pretty hard to say right now,” Wilson said. “We don’t know the magnitude of the conference alignments just yet. If they go 16 and then 32, we’ll go back to 6A. It’s something we don’t really have a lot of control over at this standpoint.”

The growth of Greenwood High School has also been a factor. The school in the western part of the state now has 831 students, putting it ahead of Jacksonville by more than 25 students.

Other schools already in 6A, like Lake Hamilton, Sheridan and Little Rock Parkview have also increased their numbers to assure them a spot in 6A regardless of whether the classification expands to 32 schools or remains at 16.

“We kind of like being in the6A, but if you look at the other county schools, most of them are 5A,” Wilson said, referring to Mills University Studies, Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski. “So it’s not like it will make us any bigger or better.

“We’ve competed in football and basketball, and in baseball, we won the conference championship.”

Jacksonville was a 6A playoff team in football last season while the basketball team tied Parkview for the conference championship and went on to play the Patriots in the state final in March.

The possibility of Jacksonville landing in the same 5A conference with Mills, Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski could add to the rivalries among the Pulaski County Special School District programs, but Wilson’s eye is on how the change could affect travel expenses.

Jacksonville teams travel extensively in the 6A-East Conference with trips to Mountain Home, Jonesboro and West Memphis. A more local conference setup could save the athletic department money.

“It may be time for a change, who knows?” Wilson said. “It’s out of our hands, but we’ll try to make the best of it either way. We’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out when they vote in June.”

Other local schools will remain in their current classifications, including 7A-Central member Cabot, which stays near the top of the state’s enrollment numbers at 2,199, the third highest in the state behind Bentonville and North Little Rock high schools.

Beebe High School, of the 5A, is ranked 44th with 710 students, 5A member North Pulaski ranks 47th with 662 students and 5A member Sylvan Hills is 49th with 651 students.

Lonoke remains in the middle of Class 4A numbers with 418 students. Riverview has climbed to the top of Class 3A at 289, which is two students behind Bald Knob and West Fork Schools at the top of the classification, and only five fewer than Fountain Lake High School, the smallest of the public schools that could move up to 4A during the new cycle.

The 1.75 multiplier for private schools will keep Harding Academy near the bottom of Class 3A at 169 students, just behind Shiloh Christian and Episcopal Collegiate, while Abundant Life still sits in the middle of Class 2A with 97 students.

SPORTS >> Archarcharch tunes for Derby

Leader sports editor

Even at the Kentucky Derby, Arkansans can’t escape the weather.

While central Arkansas, and specifically Jacksonville, has been gripped by heavy rains and flooding, the storm fronts are also affecting preparation for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Louisville’s Churchill Downs.

Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch, owned by Jacksonville’s Bob and Val Yagos, has had to work out in the slop as he prepares for the 137th running of the $2 million race.

“They’ve had as much rain as we’ve had, so the track has been real muddy and real sloppy,” Bob Yagos said.

“So you’ve got to play to the track. You’ve got to take your workouts when you can get them.”

Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude, Blue Grass winner Brilliant Speed and Tampa Bay Derby winner Watch Me Go all went five furlongs in the mud Monday while Santiva and Nehro, who Archarcharch beat by a neck in the Arkansas Derby, had half-mile drills.

On a rare, clear day Friday, Archarcharch turned in one of the more impressive workouts, going five furlongs in 59.36 seconds and leaving stable mate Supreme Ruler in the dust.

Yagos figured Archarcharch, who has been doing two miles a day at a gallop, would maybe go top speed for a half mile on Thursday in preparation for the 1 ¼-mile race.

“And he doesn’t need a lot of workouts,” Yagos said. “He’s putting two miles a day in just at a gallop, that’s just as good as a workout. A workout puts a little muscle on him but he doesn’t need that right now, he just needs air in them to keep him fit.”

The rest of the Derby field includes Dialed In, (expected to be the favorite when the odds are announced today) Twinspired, Shackleford, Stay Thirsty, Animal Kingdom, Decisive Moment, Mucho Macho Man, Twice the Appeal, Soldat, Master of Hounds, Pants on Fire, Toby’s Corner, Comma to the Top and Uncle Mo.

Yagos is guessing Archarcharch, the only horse in the field coming in with two grades stakes victories, will go off at 10-1 or 12-1 odds after going off at 25-1 in the Arkansas Derby.

Archarcharch’s closing style may suit him for Kentucky Derby success, as the pace tends to break down and closers do well. The surface at Churchill Downs is similar to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, where Archarcharch won the Arkansas Derby.

“He’s got the highest speed figure coming out of this last race,” Yagos said. “He’s got a 98 speed figure. He’s been progressing. When he started running he was at an 88 speed figure and he’s progressed all the way to 98.

“In every race he’s getting better. He’s not backed up.”

The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown. Two weeks after the race is the 1 3/16th-mile Preakness Stakes followed three weeks later by the 1 ½-mile Belmont.

There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Another Derby storyline involves veteran race announcer Tom Durkin, who is stepping down from calling the “fastest two minutes” in sports and blaming the stress of the job.