Friday, May 04, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Farewell, C-130E

Little Rock Air Force Base this week retired its last active-duty C-130E, which was made in 1961, and flew it to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where the 51-year-old cargo plane will join a static display.

The C-130Es have turned out to be perhaps the best investment in Air Force history: The planes, made between 1961 and 1965 at the Lockheed assembly line in Marietta, Ga., cost about $2 million ($15.4 million in today’s dollars), or only about $40,000 a year, not counting fuel over the life of the plane: By comparison, the new C-130Js cost about $65 million, and although they have computerized navigational features unheard of in 1961, they’re still about four times as expensive as the old planes even when accounting for inflation.

The C-130s were rebuilt, repainted and refitted over the decades, and like a priceless 1962 T-Bird, they never faltered. It’s a tribute to American engineering: Designed back in 1954, the C-130s could fly for another generation if needed. They are the favored transport plane among our allies—far better than the old Soviet cargo planes, which are prone to frequent crashes.

The C-130E saw action in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world. The C-130s have delivered personnel and cargo and reduced the need for dangerous ground transports that are often threatened with roadside bombs and snipers.

Having flown for a half-century from Antarctica to South America, the old C-130s did more than their share of humanitarian relief: From Albania to Haiti, from Afghanistan to Serbia, from Burma to Libya, from Japan to Kosovo and dozens of places in between, they were there when people were cold and hungry and homeless.

Col. Brian Robinson, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, led a retirement ceremony Tuesday at Little Rock Air Force Base before the C-130E took off for California. “This plane represents a milestone in the history of the C-130 and the history of the Air Force,” Robinson said. “It’s been to every remote corner of the planet. She never rested. She did her mission to the end.”

They were a grand bargain indeed. Even as Little Rock Air Force Base transitions to an all-C-130J active-duty fleet, some C-130Es will still remain with the Air National Guard and Reserves at the base. But every time an old plane is retired, we start missing them. A big bang for the buck for sure.

TOP STORY >> Water contractor delays Graham Road widening

Leader staff writer

The relocation of water lines to make way for the widening of Graham Road is four months behind schedule and projected to cost about $63,000 more than the lowest bid that Jacksonville Waterworks accepted.

The original bid from CoBar Contracting, a North Little Rock company, was about $436,000. The project is expected to cost close to $499,000, said Jake Short, the water department’s new general manager.

He said that amount is 100 percent reimbursable to Jacksonville Waterworks. The state pays the department back for the relocation.

For decades, the Jackson-ville street plan and other area maps have shown a four-lane roadway connecting Hwy. 89 in Lonoke County to Hwy. 107 in Pulaski County. The $7 million widening of Graham to four lanes from Loop Road to Elm and Oak streets, a distance of about a mile, is part of that master plan. The project is 80 percent federally funded.

Work on moving the water lines began in October and was supposed to be done by Jan. 1, Short said.

The contracting company got its first extension — 43 days — when it failed to meet that deadline, he said.

Short said the contractor told the department the work was delayed by more than 30 days when they had difficulty getting materials. Another few days of delays were blamed on bad weather, Short said.

After the contractor didn’t meet a second deadline, the company was granted another extension — 48 days — for “more of the same” problems, Short said.

Monday was the most recent deadline and the contractor did not meet that one either.

Short said on Tuesday, “They’re progressing. I know that they’re out there working.”

He said the department would be meeting on Monday to discuss its next step, but didn’t immediately return a call from the Leader on Friday.

Short said, “I realize it’s been a disruption to businesses and residents of the area. As of today, I don’t have a completion day going forward. It’s top priority that it gets done ASAP. We’re monitoring their progress daily. We don’t want to disrupt people’s everyday lives. That’s not what we want to do and it’s been a disruption. We’re aware.”

City Engineer Jay Whisker said the contractor has passed a water pressure test. Next, he needs to pass a water quality test and then the connections can be made. At that point, the old water lines can be abandoned.

“We’re in the ending phase,” Whisker said. Last week he said there were several places where the lines were broken. But those have been fixed.

He also said the contractor has to lower a line at Cherry Street and Pulaski Drive becuase of a miscalculation on where it was.

Whisker said, “He’s dug it up from Loop all the way back down to Oak again. It looks terrible. It’s not like he dug terrible holes or anything, but you go ‘Are you kidding me, really, didn’t we just do this?’

“The contractor wants to leave because you know he’s got to be losing money. He’s got to be in this deep at this point. (He told me), ‘Look, this was a three-day deal for us.’ He’d been there a week and a half, two weeks, a little over two weeks at that point,” Whisker explained.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “It’s turning out to be probably far more expensive than if we had gotten a different bid, not just because of time overruns, but because of the stress and hardship it’s placed on everybody who drives up and down Graham Road and utilizes Graham Road.

“We’re fixing to take some stronger actions against the contractor because I see some safety concerns that need to be addressed. I’m fixing to issue an administrative order that there be some citations issued; that this job be done, be done in an expedient, professional and safe way,” the mayor said.

“Get those leaks fixed, get it covered up and get out of there. That’s what I want. That’s what we all want so the actual construction of a road can commence down there because that’s going to be an inconvenience too,” he said.

Whisker said the safety concerns were, “You’ve got to have fence around (a hole). These are all OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements. If you go so deep then you have to have a trench box or you have to do what they call benching, which means you have a plateau like every three feet. So you can climb out like stairs.”

Fletcher said he’ll have to fine the contractor because “our job is to promote the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. I don’t want to slow them down, but at the same time I can’t ignore that. My first job is to protect citizens even before making something convenient.

I can’t ignore safety in order to expedite something to make everyone happy. Generally, if there’s no pain there’s no change. They’ve been warned. We’ve got a problem but it would be compounded if someone gets hurt.”

The mayor said, “I don’t want to bad mouth people, but I’m just frustrated that this has went on way too long and for no reason. This has to be done and it has to be done now. This has not been a pleasant experience for any of us and it’s uncalled for. I expect better from my contractors.

“From the engineering that is supposed to be inspecting this, Garver (a Little Rock-based firm), I’m not happy there. This thing should have never been drug out this long. We’ve had a mild winter, so we can’t use that. Sometimes there are issues that we cannot control that prolong jobs. That is not an excuse here.

“Time is money. The longer you draw out a job the more money it costs you. If they did bid the job low, the best thing they could have done is got in there, do the job and get out of there rather than drag it out,” Fletcher said.

“I know what happens sometimes — I’m not saying it happened in this case — is that because they underbid the job so much they spend their other time on another job to try to make money and use the job they underbid as a filler job, which naturally drags it out. I don’t know. I just know I’m frustrated. I’m sick of it. I’m angry that people have been inconvenienced this long,” Fletcher said.

Whisker posed the question, “At this point, do you continue to stick with the guy who is almost at the end?”

The mayor said, “You can get mad at the guy, say OK we’re going to pull your contact or get someone else to finish the job. But the process there will drag it out even longer. And right now we’re trying to deal with two things, time and quality. We want it to work. What people are concerned about is the time issue. They want it closed up so they can proceed on.”

Whisker said, “Everything we do to (the contractor) makes him focus on us instead of the job. So the whole thing is a catch-22. The bottom line of it is it’s been the headache of the people there on Graham Road and that was not the intention at all.

“The intention of Graham Road is to improve the lives,” he continued.” The construction should be a little inconvenient. I think everybody understands a little inconvenient, but it’s become very inconvenient.”

There is little the city can do to help, both officials said.

Fletcher said, “The one thing that people just need to understand is that their inconvenience and their cries are not being ignored. We’re limited in what we can do, other than cry, holler, and fine (the contractor) for safety violations. We can make it harder on him to where it takes him more time, but we just want him out of there.”

Whisker said, “The problem becomes that we are separated by three or four degrees from this. The city gives 20 percent to this job, the federal government has its 80 percent share, they’re paying and we’re paying together for utility relocations.

“The utility hires a separate engineering company to do the relocation and they’re the ones that are watching the contractor. If I go on site, I can’t tell anybody to do anything. Technically in charge is the water company, but they’re relying on their engineers and they’re actually paying people to have people on site to make sure everything gets done and everything gets done in a timely manner,” Whisker said.

Fletcher said, “Like (Whisk-er) said we’re removed from this thing by several different layers. We can holler, we can cuss and fuss and everything else, but I’m not signing that guy’s check. Somebody else is and he needs to be the one holding these people accountable. He hasn’t been doing that, evidently.”

Both city officials agreed that the city only encountered minor issues with the relocation of other utilities.

The mayor said, “You’re going to have some glitches here and there. But I guess because this water thing is so big that they just pale. It’s like we didn’t have any problems.”

Aside from the water relocation, electricity relocation took the next longest. Whisker said that contractor was on Graham Road for just one week.

Some of these issues could go back to the bid process, Fletcher said.

“I am one for always doing bids. I believe in the bid process because we’re caretakers of public money. We’ve got to stretch our money in order to do everything we need to do with very limited funds. We just can’t make money grow on trees,” he said.

The mayor said, “This is a perfect example, sometimes, of when low bids are not going to be your best bids. The bid being so low could have created this problem. Cheap is not cheap sometimes. This is an example of why you need to look at all aspects when it comes to bidding.

“I don’t want to throw the water commission under the bus, but the truth of the matter is, this is true for all of us, this reminds us that there is more to giving out jobs, to giving out bids, than just low price. We need references and all that stuff.”

Jim Durham, director of administration, said the options the city has are to waive competitive bidding and take a single-source bid.

One example of a single-source bid is when the city went with Motorola for the update to its emergency communications system. The company is only one approved by the Arkansas Wireless Information Network and Jacksonville wanted to be part of that network.

Durham also said, “If you don’t take the low bid, there has to be, obviously, a justification for it.”

That justification could refer to references or previous experience with a company.

TOP STORY >> Early voting is starting Monday in area

Leader staff writer

Primary voting to narrow down the Democratic and Republican candidates and, in many cases, to determine judges for the next four years is set for May 22, but early voting starts Monday.

Judicial candidates don’t declare a party affiliation. When there is more than one candidate for a position, the one who gets the most votes in the primary will automatically get the nod as an unopposed candidate in November.

For Congress in Dist. 1, three Democrats are vying for a chance to run against Republican Rep. Rick Crawford. The Democrats are former Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington, Clark Hall and Gary Latanich.

In Lonoke County, the most crowded race is for sheriff where the incumbent, Sheriff Jim Roberson, opted not to run for re-election. Two Democrats and four Republicans are vying for the chance to move forward to the general election.

On the Democratic ticket are Steve Rich and Dean White. The Republican candidates are James Kulesa, John Staley, Steve Finch and Jason Wilkerson.

For Lonoke County circuit clerk, incumbent Denise Brown is battling it out with former clerk Deborah Oglesby. Both are Republicans. With no Democrats in the race, the highest vote getter will go into the November election unopposed.

Two Republican are also fighting it out to challenge County Clerk Dawn Porterfield, a Democrat. The Republicans are William “Larry” Clarke and Lisa Goodman.

Six of the Lonoke County justices of the peace have pairs of Republicans fighting to gain the seat without a Democratic opponent. In Dist. 1, its Brent Cannon against Toby Troutman; in Dist. 2, it’s Barry “BJ” Weathers and Larry Ridgeway; the Dist. 3 choices are Joshua McCann and incumbent Dr. Henry L. Lang; in Dist. 4, it’s B.L. “Ernie” Ernst against Darrin Waymack; in Dist. 8, Tate House will take on Charles Evans and in Dist. 13, it’s Tim Yarboro against Larry Odom.

In Jacksonville, District Judge Robert Batton, who has served 35 years in the position, is challenged by attorney Marshall Nash in the primary. The winner will be listed as an unopposed candidate in November.

In Sherwood, longtime District Judge Milas “Butch” Hale is running unopposed in the primary and will also do so in November’s general election.

The leadership of the Pulaski County government; the county assessor, the circuit/county clerk, the county judge, the sheriff and the treasurer are unopposed in the primary.

Some of the Pulaski County justice of the peace races do have multiple candidates.

In Dist. 11, which covers a large portion of Jacksonville, Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson of Jacksonville is challenged by James Stanley of rural North Pulaski County in the Republican primary. Democrat Suzette McNeely of Jacksonville will face the winner in November.

In Dist. 12, which covers a large portion of Sherwood, Republicans Jeff Rollin and Karilyn Brown will face off for the right to face independent James George. All three candidates live in Sherwood.

Justice of the Peace Phil Stowers of Maumelle, a Republican, and Jane Gray-Todd of Sher-wood, a Democrat, are the only two on the ballot for Dist. 13 and will face each other in the general election.

TOP STORY >> Unions file lawsuit to keep right to bargain

Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District’s two employee unions were back in court Friday, asking a pair of Pulaski County circuit judges to order their contracts be reinstated and to order the district to again recognize the unions as the bargaining agents for the employees.

The Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers is suing in Judge Mary McGowan’s 9th Division Court, while the Pulaski Association of Support Staff is in Judge Wendell Griffen’s 5th Division Court.

The PCSSD has been designated as being in fiscal distress and the district and the unions negotiated unsuccessfully to cut about $11 million out of the next budget. When the unions failed to accede to district requirements, state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell authorized—instructed, actually—PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess to end the contracts three years early and to send the unions packing.

Not surprisingly, the unions say this was done improperly and illegally, and Friday they returned to court to ask circuit judges to overturn those actions.

“We haven’t seen (the amended complaints) and will hold comment until we do,” said Guess, whose fiscal distress recovery plan included the actions to which the unions object.

Guess was reached on his way to a funeral out of state.

Neither of the district’s two longtime lawyers, Sam Jones of Mitchell, Williams Selig and Jay Bequette of Bequette Billingsley, had received a copy of the amended complaints filed Friday.

The original complaints, filed by the unions two months ago, asked the courts to find illegal or improper two personnel policy committees formed with an eye toward dismissing the unions.

In an April 20 letter, Kimbrell told Guess to terminate the contracts June 30 and to cease recognition of the unions immediately. Hence the amended complaints. These two unions have prevailed pretty regularly in court when the district has tried to run them off.

In a press release, Pulaski Association of Class-room Teachers president Marty Nix said, “Guess’ financial demands and goals increased with each meeting, culminating with nonrenewal letters to teachers. We believe the (state education commissioner) exceeded his authority when he removed the union contracts and recognition.”

“We’ve made a constitutional claim,” said union attorney Mark Burnette of the Mitchell Blackstock firm. “We’re saying there are elements (in the district and state’s actions) not covered by the state law that gives them the right to do some (other things.)” He said the unions’ position is that state law did not give the commissioner or the state education department authority to nullify the union contracts.

In its complaint, PACT charged that the state “exceeded the scope of its statutory authority and were arbitrary, capricious and in bad faith.

“The Arkansas Department of Education impaired the plaintiffs’ contractual rights in violation of both the state and federal constitutions.

“The district breached the professional negotiating agreement by withdrawing recognition and by unilaterally terminating the plethora of provisions of the PNA that were not subject to modification through the four-step negotiation procedure.”

Both suits claim the district breached the agreement by failing to complete the mediation process before modifying the agreement.

It claims that the district violated state law by recognizing the professional personnel committees and withdrawing union recognition and that the committees are illegal and have no power or authority.

District officials say they will respond after they have seen the amended complaints. The unions are reaching out for public support and will have a rally at the Capitol at 10 a.m. this morning.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville sweeps two against WM

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville baseball team got an impressive doubleheader sweep over West Memphis Tuesday at Dupree Park. David Williams got a game-winning home run in game one and freshman pitcher James Tucker dominated the Blue Devil lineup in game two.

The wins didn’t help Jacksonville’s seeding in the state tournament. Despite finishing the conference schedule with four-straight wins and an 8-6 record, the Red Devils have to settle for the No. 6 seed from the East Conference in the state tournament that begins next Thursday in Mountain Home.

Jacksonville beat the Blue Devils 4-3 and 8-2 to pull even at 14-14 overall this season. The Red Devils were behind early in both games. They were behind late in game one as well until Williams changed all that with one swing in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Trailing 3-1, Greg Jones started things off with a base hit. After one out was recorded, Cole Bredenburg singled to put runners on the corners. Williams then out a charge into a 2-1 pitch and sent it over the wall in left field.

“He ran into one,” Burrows said. “That was easily his biggest hit of the year.”

Senior pitcher Jesse Harbin took the one-run lead into the top of the seventh and put the Blue Devils down in order to seal the victory.

Harbin gave up just four hits while striking out seven and walking no one. He gave up only two earned runs. Kaleb Reeves and Bredenburg each got two hits to lead Jacksonville. The Red Devils finished with seven base hits total.

Jacksonville’s first run of the game came in the third inning. D’Vone McClure singled to lead off the inning. Reeves, Harbin and Jones drew consecutive walks, with Jones’ walk scoring McClure and tying the game at one.

West Memphis added two runs in the top of the fourth and held that 3-1 lead until Williams’ bomb in the sixth.

The Red Devils got 11 hits in the nightcap with McClure and Bredenburg going 3 for 4 to lead the way.

Again West Memphis grab-bed an early lead, getting one run in each of the first two innings. And again Jacksonville finally got things going in the third.

Derek St. Clair drew a walk to start it off and Tanner Burks hit into a fielder’s choice. McClure then doubled to drive in one run. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by Harbin that tied the game.

The Red Devils took the lead for good in the sixth inning. Greg Jones singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Courtland McDonald. Bredenberg singled to drive him home, then scored himself on a base hit by Williams. Ragan Jones walked and McClure singled for another RBI base hit that made it 5-2.

Jacksonville tacked on three more in the top of the seventh inning. Harbin singled, got to second on a passed ball and moved to third on a fly out by Greg Jones. He then scored on a sacrifice by McDonald. With two outs, Bredenberg got his third hit of the game.

Williams walked and the duo moved up on stolen bases. Ragan Jones then singled to drive in the two runners and set the final margin.

“We hit the ball a little better,” Burrows said. “We’re getting better, there’s no question. Last time we played them, they shut us down without throwing any of their best pitchers. We’re definitely getting better.”

Greg Jones and Williams each got two hits in game two.

Tucker was masterful on the mound. He gave up just four hits while striking out nine, walking one and hitting one batter.

Jacksonville closes the regular season today with a non-conference game against Beebe at Dupree Park.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe ladies blast Chicks in final East league series

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Lady Badgers’ softball team finished 5A East Conference play with a bang, beating Blytheville 15-0 in both games of a doubleheader Tuesday at Beebe.

Freshman standout pitcher Ellie Reaves threw a perfect game in the first part of the twin bill as the Lady Badgers put away the Lady Chickasaws in four innings. Reaves struck out nine batters in game one.

Reaves stayed on the mound for the second game, but showed she was human as she gave up one hit in a complete game shutout performance. The one hit Blytheville managed against Reaves was her one blemish of the day. Reaves struck out four and walked no one, leading the Lady Badgers to another 15-0 win, this time ending the game in three innings.

“Blytheville, bless them, they just don’t have a lot,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers. “We just have to take care of business when you play who you have to play.”

In game one, it took Beebe a couple of innings to get things going at the plate. The Lady Badgers led comfortably after two innings, but put the game out of reach in the third and fourth innings to quickly total 15 runs for the mercy rule win.

Beebe picked up right where it left off at the plate in the second game, scoring four runs in the first inning. Junior Annlee Glass started the second inning with a double. Center fielder Makenzie Bingham followed with a single that allowed Glass to score from second.

Bingham stole second, and senior Sarah White singled as well to drive in Bingham. Megan Davlin then singled to keep the Lady Badgers’ hitting streak going. After White and Davlin advanced to second and third on a passed ball, Lannie Reaves singled in the gap in left field to bring White and Davlin home.

Blytheville finally got out of the second inning, but not until Courtney Shepard tripled, allowing Reaves to score from first to give Beebe a 9-0 lead. After another one-two-three inning in the field, the Lady Badgers got back to work at the plate.

Bingham singled to start the bottom of the third and after stealing second, Brittany Gentry went to first after being hit by a pitch. Davlin then came to the plate and sent Bingham and Gentry home with a two-RBI double.

White followed with a double of her own to bring Davlin across home plate. Beebe added two more runs in the inning, and earned its second 15-0 mercy rule win of the day after Schyler Watson singled to drive in Shepard.

The two conference wins allowed Beebe (21-7, 11-3) to lock up the No. 2 seed going into the state tournament.

Beebe will play at Jacksonville on Monday. The Lady Badgers begin their run at the state title Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Wynne.

They will face Monticello, the No. 3 seed from the 5A Southeast.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills closes by beating NP

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears capped off a milestone week with a 3-1 victory over North Pulaski at home on Tuesday.

The Lady Bears (15-4-3, 6-0) were awarded the 5A Southeast Conference championship at the conference meeting in White Hall earlier in the week, and completed their unbeaten league run by downing the Lady Falcons.

“It is extremely special to us,” Lady Bears coach Nate Persson said. “Especially since we’re two years into a rebuilding period. It shows the progress we’ve made. We’ve been extremely competitive in all our games.”

Missing leading scorer Abi Persson was not a problem for the Lady Bears on Tuesday, as sophomore forward Calyn Fulton stepped up in her absence with two goals, while freshman midfielder Shelby Brown added the final goal.

North Pulaski struck first with an early goal to take the initial lead before Sylvan Hills went on a 3-0 unanswered run through the remainder of the contest.

The league championship is a first in program history for the Lady Bears soccer program, and resulted in six players being named to the all-conference team.

Sophomore forwards Abi Persson and Calyn Fulton, junior goalkeeper Naomi Gregory, senior defender Kashima Wright, senior Dori Franco and sophomore Rachel Franco all made the exclusive list of standout players for the 5A Southeast Conference.

Persson was held out of the North Pulaski game after suffering a concussion during a 1-1 tie to Sheridan in non-conference play last Thursday, but she was instrumental in a 5-1 league victory over Mills University Studies earlier in the week when she scored two goals against the Lady Comets. Rachel Franco scored one goal, as did Fulton and Wright.

The Lady Bears will wrap up the regular season with a match against the Mount St. Mary junior-varsity team on Monday, and will face East No. 4 seed Nettleton in the first round of the 5A state tournament at Burns Park Thursday at 2 p.m.

The Sylvan Hills boys let their hair down in a 7-0 blowout over the Falcons on Tuesday. The Bears (9-12, 4-3) took control early on, and finished the game with players in positions they normally would not find themselves in, including a second-half goalkeeping performance by senior forward Jeremiah Persson.

Persson spent the first half setting up teammates for shots on goal before fronting the defensive net in the second half, while a host of Bears got a rare chance to play offense.

Scoring went by committee, as sophomore David Johnson was the only player to score multiple goals with two. Alec Nance, senior Daylon Jones, Kylan Wade and Terrance Allen all scored one goal each.

“It was a fun game,” Bears coach Sam Persson said. “It was senior night, and we had some guys who were really hungry to score. We shuffled the lineup around some and actually had Jeremiah Persson playing goalkeeper in the second half. That let our freshman goalkeeper James Waller get out there and play in an offensive capacity in a game that was already in control.”

The victory marks three straight wins in the 5A Southeast Conference for Sylvan Hills, which had a chance to secure the No. 2 state tournament seed with a victory at Monticello last night. The Bears and Billies will settle the dispute for the two and three seeds while White Hall has clinched the league title outright.

“I hope we’re peaking at the right time,” Persson said. “When we play Monticello, we will have a good idea where we’re at, kind of a final test for us. I’m looking forward to it; I feel like we’re playing our best soccer of the year right now.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot has top trap shooters

Leader sports editor

Five Cabot High School trap shooting teams finished in the top sixteen of their respective divisions and qualified for state at the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program’s East Regional on Saturday at Remington Gun Club in Lonoke.

Three senior teams and two junior teams scored high enough to move into the state competition that begins June 1 at Remington Gun Club.

Cabot junior team Virginia City Marksmen won their division with a score of 109 of 125 targets. Junior teams consist of players in eighth grade and lower. The Virginia City Marksmen team beat out Five Rivers Trap Club’s Current River team, and the Corning Junior Squad 1 by three targets to earn the regional championship.

Not far behind in eighth place was Cabot’s Dodge City Destroyers with 99 points. The Durango Destroyers also slipped into state, finishing tied for 13th with a score of 90.

In the senior high division, the Harrisburg Trap Club Triple A team won with a score of 232 of 250.

Cabot’s Tombstone Terrors finished fifth by hitting 219 targets and the Cheyenne Clay Killers hit 208 to finish tied for 14th.

Another Cabot team, the Wolfpack’s Red Wolves squad, unaffiliated with the high-school teams, hit 214 targets to finish tied for 8th place.

Carlisle also put a team in state. It’s No. 1 squad finished 12th with 209 targets hit.

Jacksonville, North Pulaski and Lonoke also entered teams.

But by far the most successful team in the event was the Cabot High School team, which qualified half of its competitors for the state event.

“We had 50 kids compete and 25 of them are going to state,” Cabot assistant coach Kim Hill said. “We’re very proud of that. The kids work hard at it and the parents are very dedicated.”

Cabot head coach Jerry Hill said all the competitors that qualified for state have been at every practice this year.

“They’re a very dedicated bunch,” Jerry Hill said. “We practice three days a week and the ones who qualified have been at every one of them. Some of them even come out on Sunday too and practice on their own.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears earn conference title

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills won a share of the 5A Southeast Conference championship with a doubleheader sweep at Monticello on Tuesday, but the Bears needed some help they didn’t get in order to earn the league’s top seed in the state tournament.

Sylvan Hills and Watson Chapel each finished 13-1 in league play, splitting their doubleheader in Sherwood three weeks ago, but the Wildcats held the tiebreaker and will get the top seed.

Conner Eller, Sylvan Hills top pitcher, threw well and won game one 13-6, but it was No. 2 pitcher Dylan Boone’s night to shine on Tuesday. In the nightcap, Boone faced the minimum of 21 batters in his seven-inning 5-0 shutout of the Billies.

He gave up two hits, but got infield grounders and the defense turned double plays on both runners. Boone also walked two, but both were thrown out attempting to steal second by catcher Lance Hunter.

“Dylan threw an unbelievable game,” Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton said. “He was hitting his spots and they just couldn’t do anything with him.”

One caught-stealing by Hunter came in unorthodox fashion. Hunter thought a called ball four had been tipped, and was waiting for the umpire to hand him a new ball when the Monticello runner got to first base. Seeing Hunter had not retrieved the ball, the runner decided to sneak into second, but didn’t make it.

“It was kind of a little brain lapse by Hunter there, but he got the out,” Tipton said.

It was the offense, particularly the long ball that did the damage for the Bears in the first game. Sylvan Hills scored six runs in the top of the first inning. The highlight of the inning was a three-run home run by freshman designated hitter Hunter Heslep. Monticello got three in the bottom of the same frame, but that’s as close as the host team would get the rest of the way.

“We jumped out on them and then sort of held them at bay,” Tipton said. “They hit Conner a little bit. He’s had a week’s rest between starts all season, but then he threw 138 pitches last Thursday, so I think he wasn’t fully rested. But he still did a pretty good job.”

Hunter hit a two-run home run in the third inning to extend the Bears’ lead to 8-3.

Sylvan Hills committed no errors in either game, which has been a mantra of Tipton’s all season.

“When we don’t make mistakes we win ball games,” Tipton said. “That’s the key for us.”

The Southeast is matched up with the East in the first round of the playoffs. The Bears will be back in Monticello at 2:30 p.m. Thursday to face the East’s three seed, which could be Nettleton, Greene County Tech or Batesville.

The 5A classification has no clear frontrunner this year, and Tipton believes his 22-7 team has as good a shot as any team.

“We’re right there,” Tipton said. “We have some depth in the pitching rotation. If we can hit the ball like we’re capable of and not make mistakes, I like our chances. I’ll take this bunch over any out there.”

SPORTS STORY >> Devil shines on the diamond

Leader sports editor

For the love of the game. That’s a phrase tossed about in sports to describe why an athlete does what he does. But there’s a reason that phrase was used as a title for a novel and movie about baseball, instead of some other sport. Unlike most other sports, natural ability is never enough to be one of the best in baseball. It takes a dedication that can only come if the player has that love for the game.

Jacksonville High School is currently home to one of the most gifted ball players in Arkansas. Just get Major League draft prospect D’Vone McClure talking about baseball, and you’ll quickly get a sense for his love of the game.

Drop by the Dupree Park batting cages or the JHS field house during after school hours, and you’ll see it for yourself.

McClure, the youngest of six brothers with one younger sister, will be there swinging away or working on some other aspect of his game. Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said the signs of McClure’s love of baseball showed early, even before he could play for the Red Devils.

“He started showing up around here as an eighth grader,” Burrows said. “He showed up after school on game day one day and asked if could he ride the bus to the game with us. I told him to get his mom on the phone and if she tells me you can, you can ride the bus with us. I knew who he was back then, but I didn’t know he was going to turn out like he did. He was just a kid who loved baseball and loved to be around it. He’d ride the bus to games. He’d sit in the dugout and not say a word, just watch us play.”

That childlike love of just being around the ballpark, being around the game, has never subsided in McClure. In fact it’s developed into an insatiable appetite for it.

“I love this game, everything about it,”McClure said. “Batting, defense, batting practice, all of it. I can see myself doing this every day really.”

Last summer McClure got a taste of what offseason is like for a pro ball player. He tried out and made it into program for prospects that had them in Florida, training every day just like they would in major league spring training.

It was baseball 24/7. Batting practice first thing in the morning, games and other workouts the rest of the day, complete with regimented meals three times daily.

McClure loved it.

“It was great,” McClure said. “The every day grind of it to me was exciting. It is a grind. It is a lot of work. But ultimately you’re still playing baseball, and that’s what I love to do more than anything.”

McClure’s natural ability and dedication to work has already garnered him a scholarship to play for Dave Van Horn and the University of Arkansas.

In about a month, it will get him drafted early in the 2012 Major League Baseball draft.

At least two baseball websites with mock drafts have him going in the third round. has McClure as high as the 98th pick to the Baltimore Orioles, but only as low as the 110th pick to the Washington Nationals. It also says if both of those teams pass on him, the Toronto Blue Jays will greedily scoop him up with the 111th overall pick.

If he goes that high on June 4, day one of the MLB draft, it would mean a signing bonus well into six figures and that could mean he’ll bypass college altogether and begin immediately pursuing his dream of becoming a major leaguer. said of McClure’s performance at the mock spring training last summer, “D’vone McClure (Jacksonville, Ark., HS) has shown off some good tools. McClure stood out on Monday, but carried things over to the second day. His arm is just okay from the outfield, but his bat really whips through the zone and he continues to make solid contact.” was even more glowing in their analysis of McClure.

“McClure is teeming with upside. A projectable bat at 6’3, 190, McClure is raw in his approach at the plate, but shows big-time tools. He swings with tremendous bat speed and solid lift, and when he connects on a swing, he hits the ball with authority, although he hasn’t been able to tap into too much of his power yet. His pitch recognition is questionable at this point and he’s too aggressive at the plate, but if a pitcher makes a mistake against him, he can destroy it. Defensively, McClure has above-average speed that gives him nice range in centerfield in addition to making him a stolen base threat, but his arm is noticeably below average. If he can put it all together, McClure is a four-tool prospect.

“McClure is a raw athlete but one with impressive bat speed and above-average power who adds into the equation speed and excellent range in centerfield. In the third round, he’s definitely a worthwhile risk, and the type of gamble that could pay off big-time for whichever team drafts him. The Blue Jays (who hold the next pick) will be dismayed if the Nationals draft McClure.”

McClure made himself known to scouts last summer in Florida, but raised his draft stock considerably during a high-school game on his home field in late March.

Mountain Home’s Trey Killian, a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher and also an early-round draft prospect, took the mound against the Red Devils on March 27. No less than 50 major league scouts were on hand to watch the hard-throwing Bomber, but McClure stole the show.

He went 2 for 3 with two doubles. The two hits were line drives. One hit the wall in centerfield on the fly, the other did the same in left.

Scouts took notice, and have been at every Jacksonville game since, and most practices. One person that wasn’t surprised was Burrows.

“He’s the best I’ve ever had at hitting good pitching,” Burrows said. “He did it down in Florida too. When you can take wood (wood bats were used at the camp) and turn around 93-94 miles per hour, you’re going to get noticed. There are only so many fast-twitch muscles a person has, and he has plenty of them.

Whether McClure plays for the Hogs or accepts a professional contract depends on what’s offered by the organization that drafts him. So it likely depends on just how highly he’s drafted.

He is truly in a win-win situation though. He’s fully qualified to step right into the Razorback lineup if the professional offers aren’t enticing enough, and that’s something he’s always dreamed about too.

“I didn’t even take any other visits,” McClure said of his college recruitment. “I knew I wanted to be a Razorback. I’ve known all along, but when I went up there I fell in love with it even more. Coach Van Horn and coach (Todd Butler) were great. The team accepted me immediately and started treating me like one of them, like a teammate. So I’ll be very happy no matter what happens.”

This is part one of a two-part series.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Breaking up failed disrict

A year after a tornado struck the auditorium at North Pulaski High School and nearby Little Rock Air Force Base, the auditorium is still torn up while rebuilding on the base started almost immediately after the twister struck on April 25, 2011, destroying homes and buildings.

The sorry state of that North Pulaski auditorium proves again that Jacksonville is the stepchild of the Pulaski County Special School District, which is under state supervision for failing to educate its students and for failing to provide adequate facilities to those students.

The good news is that PCSSD officials this week again reaffirmed their desire to carve Jacksonville out of the district and let local residents establish their own school district — and not a moment too soon.

In a motion filed Monday in federal court requesting continued state desegregation funds for at least a few more years, PCSSD officials promised that Jacksonville could then go it alone. Prolonged state and federal supervision of the sprawling district could delay that separation for several more years, but local supporters of a new district are confident that it will happen sooner than later. Sherwood, too, is expected to seek its independence from PCSSD, which could lead to more lawsuits and appeals.

But after more than a decade of legal maneuvers, including special legislation that allows Jacksonville to break away from PCSSD, the promise of a Jacksonville district appears within reach.

The Jacksonville area would have a much smaller district than Cabot — 4,500 compared to Cabot’s 10,000 or so students. But the state could give Jacksonville up to 60 percent of its funding for new school building construction, several times more than the current formula, which has meant letting Jacksonville schools deteriorate for the past 30 years.

The new formula would be more in line with Cabot, which has built new schools every two or three years because of generous funding from the state.

Jacksonville is looking for a new start. The city’s two new Lighthouse Academy charter schools, one on North First Street, the other on LRAFB, have shown the way with their new facilities and construction of a new high school set to open next year.

The Jacksonville-area district should get state funding for new elementary and middle schools and for repairs at its crumbling campuses. That rebuilding should have started a generation ago, but putting up new schools is like planting trees: Someone said the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Start planting.

TOP STORY >> Boy killed riding on his bicycle

Leader staff writer

Detectives with the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department are still investigating the death of a 13-year-old boy from the Woodlawn area who was killed Saturday evening when he was struck by a car while riding his bike, but they say it appears to have been an accident.

Detective Matt Edwards said the name of the driver of the car will not be released until the investigation is completed.

“We know alcohol wasn’t a factor. Right now, we’re trying to determine if speed was a factor,” Edwards said.

Jacob Mathew Allen was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:46 p.m., about 45 minutes after he was hit.

Sheriff Jim Roberson said Tuesday morning that he has not yet seen the report of the accident, but his investigators have told him that the boy didn’t stop when he rode out from Joyner Loop onto Mt. Tabor Road.

“The lady was coming down the road, and he scooted right through the stop sign,” the sheriff said.

It’s very sad, the sheriff said, but not surprising. Mt. Tabor Road, a high-traffic road, is home to a lot of families with young children who use the road to ride bikes, scooters and skateboards.

“It’s a fast road,” the sheriff said.

“I’ve talked to kids out there before and told them that’s not a playground,” he said. “There’s just a lot of young children out there unsupervised. A lot of the time they’ll be walking right in the middle of the road.

“You’ve got to supervise your kids,” he said.

The sheriff said speeding is a problem all over the county. And when high speed is combined with the distraction caused by cell phones, accidents are inevitable.

Asked if the driver of the car was using a phone at the time of the accident, the sheriff said he didn’t believe she was.

TOP STORY >> Farmers markets ready for crowds

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Farmers’ Market near the community center had a disappointing first two years because it was essentially boycotted by local farmers.

But new rules that ban wholesalers and require all produce be grown in Arkansas are expected to turn it around.

The market will be open from 6 a.m. to noon Saturdays and Wednesdays beginning this weekend and continuing until the end of October.

Jacksonville Parks Director Kristen Kennon, who oversees the market, said the lack of local involvement was very troublesome.

“The farmers weren’t coming out because the wholesalers were there,” Kennon said. “They said they wouldn’t participate in a market where wholesalers were allowed. So after two years of it not working, we reached out to them to see what we could do to change that.”

Kennon is so convinced that this year will be better than the first two years that a grand reopening of the farmers’ market has been scheduled for May 12, a week after the actual opening.

A press release about the reopening says North Pulaski Farms, Barnhill Farms, Laughing Stock Farms, Hardin Farms and Friends of the Earth are among the growers who have committed to bringing their produce to the market.

Shoppers can expect to find seven different types of potatoes, flowers, grape tomatoes, cabbage, onions, hanging basket, cucumbers, lettuce, strawberries and grains.

Kennon said artists and crafters are also welcome. Homemade baked goods, cheeses, marinades, honey and jams and jellies may also be available, she said.

When the market first opened, growers also objected to the fact that they couldn’t get their trucks into the pavilion. That problem has been solved, Kennon said. But sellers may also set up tents and sell from their trucks beside the pavilion.

“We’re hoping this will be our best year,” she said.

The cost to sell at the market is $25 for the whole season. Sellers may pick up a complete list of rules and regulations at the Jacksonville Community Center, the Martin Street Youth Center or get it online at

The Cabot Farmers Market will start its fifth season in the First Security Bank parking lot downtown and organizers say because of the early growing season they expect this year’s market to be a good one.

The market will be open from 8 a.m. until noon every Saturday until Oct. 27.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville closer to its own district


Proponents of a stand-alone Jacksonville school district received an unexpected boost Monday when lawyers for the Pulaski County Special School District asked the presiding judge in the decades-old school desegregation case to create a separate Jacksonville district.

The district’s motion was in response to the state attorney general’s March petition to U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. asking for the state to be relieved of its obligation to provide about $70 million a year in desegregation funding.

“I’ve been hoping and praying that (the district’s response) would inject the Jacksonville scenario in,” said Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher. “I’m tickled that they did.

“It brings us to the table, which is what we’ve wanted all along, for our voices to be heard. We can show that we can take care of our situation.”

“It’s exciting,” according to Daniel Gray, who is active in efforts to detach a Jacksonville district from the PCSSD.

“It’s not the Jacksonville people asking for it (this time), it’s the school district saying that’s what is best for them,” Gray said. “Hopefully, this will be part of the end of desegregation case.”

Bishop James Bolden said, “I think it’s a great thing, long overdue. We need our own district to help us grow. Personally, I’m tired of seeing people move to Cabot and other places.

“We’re excited about it. A brand new district would be perfect (as a solution that would end the desegregation case and fiscal distress).”

The PCSSD lawyers argued that dividing the huge district in two would help the district achieve unitary status as well as to emerge from fiscal distress.

The desegregation money, which now totals about $1 billion since 1989, is split among the Pulaski County Special, Little Rock and North Little Rock School Districts. While it is not limited to direct desegregation uses, the intent is to fund magnet schools M-to-M transfers and provide transportation, all to help achieve racial balance.

“Unless everybody’s willing to sit down and talk realistically at the table about a settlement of this, we have no choice but to be opposed in the short term to the termination (of the state desegregation revenues),” said PCSSD attorney Sam Jones. “We still have the expense side.”

PCSSD also asked that the state phase out desegregation funding over eight years instead of immediately and also asked Marshall to order the state to work with the district to “come up with a facilities plan that would gain unitary status,” Superintendent Jerry Guess said Tuesday.

“We are asking him to consider our proposal, phase down services over eight years, separate Jacksonville and regain unitary status within the first three years,” Guess said.

Jones said the Jacksonville aspect of the case had been evolving under Guess’ administration, which is looking at every financial aspect of the district’s operation in light of its fiscal distress designation.

“They revisited the Jackson-ville studies and decided the area embraced was probably better off to attain its own school district because of financial issues,” Jones said.

He said the plan wouldn’t provide direct financial aid to the PCSSD, but that it would eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs associated with Jacksonville’s old and decrepit school buildings.

Guess said the two districts could run much more efficiently than one. Currently, the 17,000-student district is spread across about 760 square miles in Pulaski County.

Guess said a Jacksonville district would have about 4,500 students, while the PCSSD would be left with about 12,500.

One advantage of splitting off Jacksonville from Pulaski County is the amount of money the state would contribute toward building and repairing facilities. Using the wealth-index formula, the state would contribute 3 percent of the cost of PCSSD buildings because it’s in an affluent part of the state. That’s a $3 million match on a $100 million project. But the wealth index in the poorer Jacksonville area is about 55 percent or 60 percent, according to Guess, meaning the state would contribute $55 million on a $100 million building project.

The boundaries for the proposed Jacksonville district are those that the PCSSD school board approved in about 2009, Jones said.

According to Guess, 10 schools would comprise the new district: North Pulaski High School, Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville Middle School, and Bayou Meto, Arnold Drive, Tolleson, Adkins, Taylor, Pinewood and Dupree elementary schools.

The district is currently in fiscal distress for bad policies and management and also for having a declining fund balance.

As a result, state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell last year dissolved the school board and fired first-year Superintendent Charles Hopson. Kimbrell be-came a one-man school board.

But because Kimbrell is a party to the desegregation proceedings, Guess did not consult with nor inform him of his decision to include the Jacksonville detachment as part of the district’s response to the state’s motion to cut off desegregation funding.

When Guess agreed to take the job as superintendent, he told Kimbrell that he had two goals — to bring the district out of fiscal distress and to extricate it from the desegregation agreement and court encumbrances.

Guess said he arrived at the conclusion that everyone involved would be better off by splitting the district into two. Others involved in the discussion were the district’s attorneys, Jones of Mitchell Williams and Allan Roberts of Camden, financial consultant Don Stewart and Bill Goff, the district’s chief financial officer.

Guess said he also referred to reports prepared several years ago, one by Stewart, and the other by William Gordon and Associates, in arriving at his conclusion.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits, Badgers are runners up

Leader sportswriter

Local track teams finished up their conference schedules with their respective district meets last week, qualifying participants for this week’s round of state track meets.

The Lonoke Jackrabbits finished second in the 4A Region 2 meet at Heber Springs while a small Lady ’Rabbits group finished seventh and qualified one for the 4A state meet at Nashville tomorrow.

In 5A, Beebe took second place on the boys side of the 5A East district meet while the Lady Badgers brought home fourth place. Sylvan Hills finished seventh in both the girls and boys standings at the 5A Southeast meet in Monticello, while the North Pulaski Lady Falcons finished fifth and the Falcon boys team took eighth.

Lonoke senior Derrika Mays finished second in the shot put with a distance of 33-0.25, making her the only Lady Jackrabbit to qualify for state. Junior Regan Hart came within one spot of qualifying for the state meet when she finished third in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 55.72.

Four Jackrabbits qualified for the state meet on the boys side, including triple-jump winner Blake Mack. The standout sophomore edged Clint Ligon of Heber Springs with a distance of 40-11.5. Eric Williams finished third in the 100-meter dash, which would have been one spot short of qualifying at district, but his fastest time at a conference meet earlier in the season gave him an automatic trip to the state meet.

Mack and Williams also teamed with Brent Sims and Kenny Johnson in the 4x100 relay, and won the event with a time of 45.25, just edging the Newport team for the victory.

“They had their best performances in conference,” Lonoke coach Tim Scarborough said. “As a coach, one of the things you look for is who is going to step up to the challenge. As a whole, the team stepped up, and I’m proud of them.”

The Badgers needed 10 more points to take top team honors at Paragould last week, finishing with 141 points to winner Nettleton’s 150 points.

Senior K.J. Maples won three events, including the 400-meter dash, winning with a time of 51.49. Maples also took the victory in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:37.85, and won a close contest to Sebastian Brown of Greene County Tech in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:46.22.

Badger runners swept the top-two spots in the 800-meter run, as senior Austin Dupio won with a time of 2:04.43 in front of junior teammate Jake Schlenker, who ran a 2:05.64.

Dupio also took fourth place in the 1,600 run, and Allen Kirk finished fourth in the 3,200-meter run.

The group of Jordan Huffstickler, Hunter Plante, John Diaz and Tanner Chapman won the 4x400-meter relay run with a time of 3:32.68. The team of Schlenker, Diaz, Plante and Alex Smith finished third in the 4x800-meter relay event with a time of 8:57.97.

Senior Dayton Scott dominated the high-jump event with a height of 6-6, a solid five inches ahead of Blytheville’s Anfernee Coleman, and was a close second in the triple jump with a distance of 44-1.75.

Huffstickler was third in the pole vault with a height of 12-6, while junior Jared Gowen won the discus throw with a distance of 134-9.

On the girls side, senior Alexis Miguel won the pole vault with a comfortable height of 8-6, six inches better than Batesville’s Sarah Stalker. Sophomore Madison Richie also got an event victory and state qualifying spot with a 16-7.5 winning distance in the long jump.

Richie was also third in the triple jump with a distance of 33-11.

Sophomore Katie McGraw finished third in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:39.47, while freshman Trystan Taylor took fourth in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 6:14.32. Senior Stormy Taylor ran third in the 3,200 with a time of 14:08.25, and junior Jamie Jackson finished fourth in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 50.37. The relay team of McGraw, Taylor, Rachel Treece and Cecily Brock finished third in the 4x800 with a time of 11:02.12.

Lady Falcon junior Yasmine Wilson qualified for state in the girls field with a fourth-place finish in the 100-meter dash. Wilson ran a time of 13.09 to grab the final transfer spot. Wilson also qualified for the 400-meter dash, finishing a close second to Crossett’s Kyelah Hodges with a time of 1:00.26. Sophomore Reagan Lear qualified for the state 800-meter run with a second-place finish at the district meet with a time of 5:58.91. Lear was also runner up in the 3,200 event with a time of 12:48.04.

Senior Jacqueline Moragne also took a second-place finish with a 16-10 leap in the long-jump competition.

For Sylvan Hills, senior Jeremiah Persson won the boys 3,200-meter run with a time of 11:14.39.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils lose benefit to Rockets

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville baseball team battled the 7A Central leading Catholic Rockets to the bitter end on Saturday in an Arkansas Activities Association benefit game at Dupree Park. But the end was still bitter for the Red Devils, as the Rockets got two runs in the seventh inning and won 7-6.

“We played well,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “We walked too many though. If we had pitched a hair better things would’ve been different.”

Jacksonville’s pitching walked seven. Four of the players that walked scored. The first three Rocket runs all followed walks.

Catholic’s leadoff hitter walked in the first inning and later scored. The first two Rocket batters to step to the plate in the second inning walked and scored.

The bats came alive in the third inning as Catholic got two doubles and a single to score two more runs and stretch its lead to 5-1.

Jacksonville freshman Derek St. Clair started and threw the first four and one-third innings. He has been solid most of the season, but struggled on Saturday.

“That’s going to happen,” Burrows said. “He’s pitched really well for us all year long. He just didn’t have it this time. He’ll be back. He’s a good pitcher.”

The Red Devils cut Catholic’s lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the third and tied the game in the bottom of the fourth.

Burrows put sophomore Blake Perry on the mound with one out in the fifth inning and the Red Devil defense turned a double play to get out of a jam. Catholic threatened again in the sixth inning, but another double play thwarted the Rocket rally.

The score remained 5-5 until the top of the seventh when Catholic put two runs on the board to take a 7-5 lead. Jacksonville got one back in the bottom of the seventh and had the tying run on first base when the game ended.

“I was pleased with how we competed,” Burrows said. “Catholic’s been in the 7A semifinals the last four years in a row. They have a really strong program. That’s why we play them at this time every year. We want to see some strong pitching before the tournament.”

Jacksonville and Catholic also wanted to avoid a long hiatus between games. Most teams play their AAA benefit games before their first official game. Jacksonville and Catholic began scheduling theirs at this time of year when the AAA reduced the number of non-tournament games allowed from 24 to 22.

“It left everybody with a big gap somewhere in their schedule,” Burrows said. “If we didn’t have this one scheduled for this week, we’d have gone a whole week without a game.”

Jacksonville centerfielder D’Vone McClure scored three runs off 1 for 3 hitting with an RBI. Shortstop Jesse Harbin went 1 for 3 with a sacrifice fly and two RBIs. Tanner Burks got one hit and scored two runs.

The Red Devils (6-6, 12-14) hosted a doubleheader against West Memphis on Tuesday to close out regular-season play. Jacksonville has already qualified for the state tournament, but needs a sweep in that series to get a five seed. Losing either game drops the Devils to the six seed, the same bottom seed they had last year when they won the state championship.”

SPORTS STORY >> Late surge has Bears peaking at right time

Leader sportswriter

Sam Persson is not surprised that his Sylvan Hills Bears have managed a complete season turnaround.

The sixth-year head coach has had young groups before during his tenure, and this young group has followed a similar path as clubs before them. The Bears followed a successful runner-up finish in the local River City Rivalry Cup tournament with two vital 5A Southeast Conference wins last week to put themselves back in the hunt for a top playoff seed.

Sylvan Hills avenged an earlier conference loss to Mills University Studies by shutting out the Comets in a 6-0 shutout on the road Tuesday before closing the week with another impressive outing against Little Rock Parkview in a 3-1 victory on Friday.

“I just knew coming in that we were going to have to integrate a lot of inexperienced players into our lineup,” Persson said. “And a lot of times, you’ve got to take it on the chin some early on, but you have to see if the guys are going to be able to get up from that. They’re getting better and continue to work hard in practice.”

Senior forward Jeremiah Persson led the way offensively in both games, scoring two goals against Mills and two more in the victory over Parkview.

Following Persson in the Mills win was a host of Bears, including defender Eddie Higgins. Sophomores Chace Pieper and Kylan Wade also added a goal each, and freshman Anthony Miller set the final margin with a late goal.

“We always felt like we didn’t deserve to lose the first game,” Sam Persson said. “We had chances and didn’t finish, but we’re finishing a whole lot better. Defensively, we’re denying opponents and keeping them in front more.”

Senior midfielder Alec Nance added the other goal against Parkview, as Sylvan Hills controlled possession throughout against the Patriots and capitalized on longer possessions late in the match.

“They had a lot of feet on defense,” Persson said. “We tried to get behind their defense, but once we saw how many feet they had, we went to more of a passing game. It was a very physical game, and we had all the chances. It mainly happened on their side of the field.”

The wins improved the Bears to 8-12 overall and 3-3 in the 5A Southeast Conference. It also marks wins in four of the last five games for Sylvan Hills going back to their performance in the River City tourney.

“I told the kids the day after that it may have been the best thing to happen for us,” Persson said of the championship game against Maumelle. “It let us see how hard you have to play to beat a good team, and it was good for me as a coach to be able to point out that no matter how good you play, you can’t make mistakes against a good team. It was a good learning experience.”

The Lady Bears team continued their unbeaten run in the 5A Southeast Conference with victories over both Mills and Parkview.

Sylvan Hills hosted North Pulaski last night and will finish up league play at Monticello on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bison win district on slam

Leader sports editor

Carlisle sophomore Deron Ricks got a two-out grand slam in the sixth inning and junior relief pitcher Chris Hart held off a furious McCrory charge in the seventh to lift the Bison to an 8-7 victory Saturday at McCrory and earn the No. 1 seed in the regional tournament this weekend in Poyen.

“We had guys make plays,” Carlisle coach B.J. Greene said. “We made a few mistakes that a good team is going to capitalize on, and McCrory is a good team. But we got base hits and outs when we had to have them.”

It was a shaky beginning for the Bison. The Jaguars took the early lead, scoring two runs in the first and another in the second to go up 3-0.Carlisle committed an error on the first pitch of the game and ace pitcher Trey Wilson walked the next batter. The third batter doubled to score both runs.

“It wasn’t our best start, but Trey’s a good pitcher and he settled down and threw a great game,” Greene said.

Wilson struck out two in the second inning, but not until a another run scored. Wilson walked the leadoff hitter, who stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice grounder. He then scored by sneaking in after a slow throw back to the mound.

“That was just laziness on our part,” Greene said. “We have to be better than that.”

The score stayed 3-0 until Carlisle finally got some offense going in the bottom of the fourth inning and tied the game.

Ricks singled and moved into scoring position on a passed ball. Dylan Brazeal then doubled to drive the run in. Hayden Hoover singled to score Brazeal and Hart singled to score Hoover.

No one scored in the fifth inning and McCrory took a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth with a solo home run. Then came Carlisle’s big inning.

The Bison got five runs, all with two outs, to take an 8-4 lead.

Hoover singled to start things off. Hart walked and Tommy Inman got a base hit to load the bases. Trey Wilson then popped up for the second out of the inning. Deric Herring was hit by a pitch to drive in Hoover and tie the game.

Ricks then worked the count full. With runners on the move, Ricks slammed the 3-2 pitch over the fence in left field.

The celebration didn’t last. Carlisle still had to get three outs and McCrory had some fight left in it.

Wilson walked the Jaguar leadoff hitter in the seventh.

“I went to the mound and told him if that guy gets to second I’m taking you out,” Greene said. “He pitched a great game but that’s what I had to do.”

Wilson got the next batter to hit a grounder to third base that should’ve been a double play ball, but the Bison failed to get the runner at first.

Wilson walked the next batter and Greene put Hart on the mound. The first batter he faced hit a hard line drive that bounced over the left-field fence for a two-RBI ground-rule double that made it 8-6.

Hart responded by striking out the next batter. A blooper to shallow centerfield scored the runner at second to make it 8-7 with two outs and a runner on second base. Hart got the next batter to pop up to second base to seal the victory.

“It’s been a long year,” Greene said. “I think we’re playing alright. Can I say we’re playing our best baseball right now? No. Honestly I think we played our best in the middle of the season, and that kind of scares me.”

Carlisle is facing a familiar foe in the first round of regional. Last year, fourth-seeded Magnet Cove knocked top seed Carlisle out of the regional in the first round and ruined the Bison’s bid for a state-tournament appearance. This year, Carlisle faces that same Magnet Cove team.

“They were second in their conference and got beat early at district,” Greene said. “They have two lefties that can throw it around 83-84 miles per hour. Left-handed, that’s hard to hit. I’ve told them that this time of year, you’re going to have to score runs to win ball games.”

The Bison’s impressive record of 23-5 would be little consolation for another early exit.

“We’ve made mention of that,” Greene said. “Are you going to be that team that has great seasons, but when it counts don’t do anything? I feel very confident about this whole tournament. We have more pitching than anyone in this region, but we have to get past the first round for that to matter.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot ladies win Central

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers brought home the 7A Central Conference championship from last Thursday’s district meet at Scott Field in Little Rock, with 12 qualifying for the upcoming 7A state meet in Rogers tomorrow.

The Lady Panthers scored 158 total points to take top honors, with Bryant finishing second with 131.5 points and North Little Rock in third with 101.5 points.

On the boys’ side, the Panthers finished fifth with 80.5 points, but qualified 14 people, including two groups of relay teams.

“This is kind of a reward for working hard all season,” Cabot coach Leon White said. “For everybody who gets to go to the state meet, it’s an honor to get there, and then they’re still competing for a chance to go to the Meet of Champs.”

Senior and University of Nevada signee EmKay Myers continued her successful outdoor season by qualifying for four separate events. Myers is currently second in the state to Rogers junior Maggie Montoya for fast times in the 800 and 1,600-meter events, and easily swept the long distance events at the Central Conference meet. She also holds all of Cabot’s school records in distance events.

Myers won the 800-meter run with a time of 2:25.12, while junior Marlene Sheehan qualified for state in the event by finishing fifth with a time of 2:34.30.

Myers continued her domination by winning the 1,600-meter event, edging Bryant’s Hannah Raney with a time of 5:29.04. Sheehan and sophomore Allison Sinning also qualified for state in the event, finishing third and fourth respectively.

Myers swept the long-distance events by winning the 3,200-meter run with a time of 11:36.71, which gave her a more comfortable cushion to Raney with a 12:01.39. Sinning finished a strong third with a 12:11.64, more than a minute ahead of fourth place teammate Sheehan with a 13:15.21. Junior Meagan Duncan was the next Lady Panther to qualify for state with a time of 13:28.53, good for a fifth-place finish.

Senior Sabrina Antimo won the high jump with a height of 5-10, and also took top honors in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.57. She added another victory in the 200-meter dash with a time of 25.83, and picked up her fourth win of the meet in the 400-meter dash with a time of 59.75.

That qualified Antimo for five events including the 4x400 relay.

“We probably won’t make her do all that,” White said. “I’m going to guess that she will probably want to do the 100 and 200, and we’re probably going to try and do the high jump, and maybe come back and finish up with the mile relay. We’ll probably take the open 400 out so it won’t be such a hard day on her.”

Junior Haley Buford finished fifth in the discus throw with a distance of 90-7, and also qualified for state in the shot put by finishing sixth with a distance of 29-7. Teammate Carlee Wright just missed qualifying, finishing seventh with a distance of 29-3.

Cabot dominated the pole-vault event with Lady Panthers claiming the top four spots. Senior Julia Gairhan won the event with a height of 9-6, followed by senior Haley Troutman, sophomore Anna Applegate and senior Katie Qualls.

The Lady Panthers backed their strong individual performances with impressive showings in the relay events. The team of Applegate, Antimo, Rachael Hall and Courtney Briswalter took sixth-place in the 4x400 relay with a time of 4:25.38 to grab the final state qualifying spot. In the 4x800 relay, it was the team of Sheehan, Duncan, Sinning and Myers taking the overall win with a time of 10:07.28 to give Cabot a clean sweep of all long distance events.

“It’s our bread and butter,” White said of long-distance events. “We try real hard every year to have a good cross-country team, and that team carries over into track. So it’s kind of the nucleus of the team.”

Sophomore Jordan Burke was the strongest Panther in the sprint events, finishing fifth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.14.

Senior Forrest Lair took second place in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:01.88, while junior Scott Foltz led a strong contingent of Cabot runners in the 1,600-meter event with a third-place run of 4:35.28. Teammate Clay Killingworth was one spot behind Foltz while senior Caleb DeLaPaz grabbed the final qualifying spot in sixth place. Foltz also took fourth place in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:33.55, just ahead of junior teammate Alex Simpson in sixth place with a time of 10:37.23.

Junior Tyler Gilbertson finished fourth in the discus throw with a distance of 129-10, and sophomore Heath Pledger also qualified in the event with a sixth-place throw of 125-0.5. Pledger and teammate Alec Ramirez added their names to the list of qualified discus throwers with a fourth-place finish for Ramirez after a throw of 46-3.5 and a fifth-place for Pledger.

Junior Jesse King added another state qualifying spot in field events with a tie for fifth-place in the pole vault, reaching an even 11 feet along with D.J. Alven of Conway.

Cabot’s chances of qualifying for all three relays events fell just short when a mishap with the baton in the 4x400-meter event relegated them to an eighth-place finish, but the team of DeLaPaz, Simpson, Lair and Foltz came up big in the 4x800 by winning the event with a time of 8:21.61.

Chris Henry, Jordan Burke, Max Carroll and Zach Launius also qualified for state together in the 4x100 relay by finishing fourth with a time of 43.63.

Monday, April 30, 2012

SPORTS >> Close one goes way of Rockets

Leader sportswriter

Cabot matched league-leading Little Rock Catholic blow for blow through regulation until the Rockets pulled out a 7-5 victory in overtime at Panther Stadium on Thursday.

The Panthers (8-7, 5-6) stayed in contention throughout regulation with two goals from freshman Evan Wilson, and stayed with the 7A Central Conference front runners through three rounds of a penalty kick shootout.

The Rockets went a perfect 5 for 5 in the shootout period while the Panthers missed one attempt when junior Blakelin Devore’s strike went just wide.

Catholic struck first with a shot from straight ahead in the 19th minute. Wilson tied the game with just over a minute left in the first half when he took over possession just inside of midfield and went straight in to the Rockets goalkeeper with a perfect strike up the middle to make it 1-1.

That score held up until the 10:56 mark of the second half when the Rockets scored on a blocked penalty kick that was followed by a successful header that gave the lead back to the visitors. Wilson struck again when he followed a long kick from the left side by David Roberts in the 37th minute.

The loss was not a result of lack of effort from senior forward Eric Silva, who was injured twice in the first half but continued on. Silva played the entire second half and came close to finding the goal on a couple of occasions.

Silva led the way during Cabot’s 5-0 shutout victory over North Little Rock last Friday. Silva scored three goals and had assists on both of the other goals.

Silva scored two early goals in the first half and assisted on a goal by Reed Harrell to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead at halftime.

Cabot got off to a slow start in the second half until Devore caught the Wildcats off guard with a quick throw in to Silva, who was open in the box. Silva got the ball to a charging Wilson, who took it in for the score. Silva set the final margin and completed his hat trick moments later with a header into the corner following a perfect cross by Devore.

“I thought we played quite well at times,” Cabot coach Steve Porter said. “We really possessed the ball well at times and for the most part kept North Little Rock pressed back deep into their half of the field. I’m hoping that this result will help give us the energy and confidence we need to finish the season strong and prepare us for the state tournament.”

The win completed a season sweep over the Wildcats. Cabot won the first meeting between the two teams in similar fashion with a 5-1 result.

“Compared to our last meeting, this was a much improved performance,” Porter said. “We kept a clean sheet and we controlled the game much better.”

As the 7A state tournament at Fort Smith quickly approaches, there is good news for Cabot with the anticipated return of injured sophomore standout Trevor Reed. There is also still an outside chance that the Panthers could secure a first-round bye for the tournament depending on how the final week of games play out across the 7A Central.

Cabot will play at Little Rock Central on Tuesday.

SPORTS >> Hillside sweeps White Hall

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills got a pair of huge road wins Thursday at previously unbeaten White Hall. The Bears entered the twin bill tied with Watson Chapel for second place, but left tied for first after handing the Bulldogs defeats of 1-0 and 5-3.

Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton has stressed all season that playing mistake-free baseball is a key for his team’s success. On Thursday the Bears committed just one error in the two games combined.

“I was very pleased with the defense,” Tipton said. “We made some key defensive plays in both games. We’re not hitting as a team like we need to, but we got some big hits at key times so it was a good night overall.”

Conner Eller pitched a complete-game three hitter in game one. He struck out nine Bulldogs en route to the victory.  The Bears got just four hits and scored the game’s only run in the second inning.

Leadoff hitter Brandon Baoni walked and stole second base. J.D. Miller then doubled to drive him home and give Eller all the cushion he would need for the next six innings.

Miller also made a big defensive play when he threw a runner out from right field who was trying to advance to third base. That throw was only a precursor to an even bigger play by Miller in game two.

Sylvan Hills scored four runs in the first inning of the nightcap to take control early. Baoni walked to start things off. Eller, game two starting pitcher Dylan Boone, Lance Hunter and David Carrasquillo each got base hits to start the game and run the White Hall starting pitcher off the mound.

After three runs had scored, Miller hit into a fielder’s choice that left him and Baoni at first and third. Tipton called for a double steal and the base running duo executed it perfectly to get another run across the plate.

Sylvan Hills added a run in the third on an error. Baoni was on second with two outs and Miller at bat. Miller struck out swinging at a pitch in the dirt and headed for first base. The throw from the catcher hit Miller and Baoni scored.

White Hall got all three of its runs in the fifth inning. Two were the result of the one error the Bears committed all night.

White Hall was threatening again in the seventh when Miller made another huge play in the outfield. With one out and a runner at second, White Hall got a base hit to right field. The runner rounded third and Miller came up throwing. His throw was on target and got the runner at the plate.

“It was a rocket,” Tipton said. “It was one of the best throws I’ve seen and it was a huge play. If he scores it’s 5-4 with one out and maybe a runner on second. Instead it was 5-3 with two outs and a runner on first.”

Carrasquillo got the next batter to groundout to shortstop to end the game. The Bears can earn at least a share of the 5A Southeast championship with a sweep of Monticello next week, but they’ll need some help for an outright championship or a No. 1 seed in the state tournament.

Watson Chapel holds the tiebreaker over Sylvan Hills, so the Bears need White Hall to take at least one of two from Chapel next week.

SPORTS >> Lady Bears stay perfect, beat Monticello

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Bears softball team is still perfect in conference play after beating Monticello 10-6 and 5-2 in a 5A Southeast doubleheader Thursday at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

Monticello (18-6, 8-4) provided a lot of help for Sylvan Hills (17-5, 10-0) early in game one as the Lady Billies walked seven batters in the first two innings, and committed seven errors.

Conversely, Sylvan Hills pitchers Tyra Williams and Michelle Sorenson combine to strike out eight, walk zero, while the defense made no mistakes.

“Well, we got off to a sluggish start,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jeff Johnson. “I didn’t like that.
 We finally came together towards the later innings. We did what we needed to do by stringing together a couple of hits.”

Sylvan Hills had plenty of opportunities to score in the opening inning of the first game, but only managed one run.

The Lady Bears started connecting at the plate in the second inning, scoring three runs, but Monticello put two runs on the board their next at bat to cut the Lady Bears’ lead to two.

The Lady Bears scored one run in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. Monticello kept it close, adding three runs during the stretch.

In the top of the seventh, Sylvan Hills added two more runs to push its lead to 10-5, its biggest lead of the day. Monticello was able to score with two outs in the final inning, but Sylvan Hills lead was too much to overcome. Sorenson and Williams led Sylvan Hills at the plate in game one as each went 3 for 4.

Monticello got off to a much better start in game two and led 2-1 after two innings. The lead didn’t last long. Sylvan Hills got back on top with a two-run home run from Tranice Hayes that sailed over the fence in left field.

It was the second home run of the day for Hayes, who hit a solo shot to straight center in game one.

Errors came back to haunt Monticello in the fourth inning of game two as Williams hit a fly ball to left center that was dropped by the centerfielder.

Williams was able to hustle her way to second on the drop. Two batters later, Hayes hit a hard grounder to third, but the throw to first was off. Williams was able to round third and score on the passed ball to give the Lady Bears a two-run cushion.

Hayes later advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jordie Flippo hit a line drive to right field that sent Hayes home to give Sylvan Hills the 5-2 lead. Williams started both games, but pitched all seven innings of game two and struck out four while not giving up a single walk.

“Both pitchers came in and did what they needed to do,” Johnson said. “I was about to make a third change at pitcher, but Tyra, she came back in the second game and she was on a roll.

When she got hot, I told my other pitcher that we’re going to go with the hot hand. As long as she’s hot we’re going to stay with her, and she finished strong.”

Hayes, Alex Tessman and Darrin Flippo led Sylvan Hills with two hits apiece in game two.

Sylvan Hills will host White Hall Tuesday in a doubleheader that will decide the 5A Southeast Conference champion.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville tramples Parkview at Kanis

Leader sportswriter

Despite a slow start in the first game of a 6A East Conference doubleheader, Jacksonville dominated Little Rock Parkview in both games, winning 14-2 and 12-0 Wednesday at Kanis Park in Little Rock.

Jacksonville scored in the top of the first of game one, but managed to do so without a single base hit. Parkview provided a lot of help for the Red Devils in the opening inning as the Patriots committed three critical errors that allowed senior Jesse Harbin to score Jacksonville’s first run of the game.

Parkview (6-16, 0-12) gave Jacksonville (12-14, 6-6) another gift in the top of the third when Greg Jones hit a two-out blooper to second base, but the second baseman dropped the routine fly ball, allowing University of Arkansas signee D’Vone McClure to score from second to give the Red Devils a 2-0 lead.

Harbin got the start on the mound in game one, and did nice job of keeping Parkview at bay until the Red Devils settled into the game. By the top of the fourth, Jacksonville found its groove offensively and scored five runs in the inning. The Devils added three more in the fifth.

“The second game we played ok, the first game, not very good,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “They (Parkview) gave us a chance by dropping some balls that should have been caught, but not our best effort in the first game.”

Parkview scored its first run in the fourth after Cole Jenkins hit a hard double down the third baseline that allowed J.T. Ward to score from second.

In the fifth, the Patriots had runners on first and third with one out when Harbin caught Michael Fitzpatrick trying to steal second.

During the rundown attempt between first and second base, Alex Butler took off for home and scored Parkview’s final run.

Jacksonville added four more runs in the top of the sixth to make the score 14-2. In the bottom half of the inning, Harbin struck out Joseph Scott to give the Red Devils the win. Harbin pitched all six innings, striking out nine while walking three.

McClure, Harbin, and Court-land McDonald all went 2 for 4 in game one, while David Williams, Derek St. Clair, and Jones had a hit apiece.

Jacksonville wasted little time putting Parkview away in game two, ending this one in five innings. The Red Devils scored three runs in the first, and eight in the second to jump out to a quick 11-0 lead.

Harbin scored the final run for the Red Devils in the bottom of the third after McDonald hit an infield single between third and short and beat out the throw to first.

The throw to first was late, and off the mark as the ball got past the first baseman, allowing Harbin to score with ease to set the final margin.

“The second game I thought we got focused,” Burrows said. “We executed a lot of good things and played good defense. Other than two third-called strikes with a runner in scoring position in the middle innings, and me messing up on one call, I thought we played pretty good in the second game.”

James Tucker picked up the win in game two, pitching all five innings and striking out two. McClure went 3 for 4 at the plate  in game two and McDonald went 2 for 3. St. Clair, Tanner Burks, and Ragan Jones each had a base hit.

Jacksonville hosts Little Rock Catholic in a benefit game today at Dupree Park, and will play its final home game on Tuesday.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood gets report on growth

Leader staff writer

The world of economic development is often hush-hush because nothing is guaranteed until all the contracts are signed.

Sherwood’s economic-development director Kelly Coughlin found that out right before making her first quarterly report to the city council Monday night.

“We are always working on things,” she said, “and thought we had something locked in and ready to announce, but they backed out at the last minute.”

Coughlin, 39, still can’t talk about it because the deal, in some form, could come back up.

Coughlin, of Cabot, has been on the job since the end of January when the city and the chamber entered into an agreement to let the chamber hire someone to pursue business growth for the city. Part of the agreement was that the council receive at least quarterly updates.

In her 10-minute presentation Monday, Coughlin told the council what she and the chamber were “bragging about” in hopes of bringing in new business and industry.

She said she was showcasing Sherwood “as a culturally rich city with a strong sense of identity.”

Coughlin also said the chamber was working on nominating Sherwood as Volunteer Community of the Year, working and extending the Arkansas River Trails through Sherwood, working on creating a Thursday night farmers market through the summer and working on getting a separate school district.

She was also working diligently to market and brand Sherwood. “We have a winning park system, high quality amenities and the safest neighborhoods, all while keeping our small-town character and history,” she said, adding that the chamber and her department are marketing the city’s “public involvement and civic leadership that values economical, ecological and social stewardship.”

TOP STORY >> 50 years after start, hospital still strong

Leader staff writer

North Metro Medical Center’s new slogan is “50 years, 350 people proud,” CEO Jay Quebedeaux told the crowd gathered Thursday to celebrate the hospital’s 50th anniversary.

The hospital, once city-owned but now owned by Allegiance Health Management of Louisiana, opened its doors on Jan. 24, 1962, with 30 beds and 15 bassinets, according to a proclamation read by Mayor Gary Fletcher.

Quebedeaux said, “We tried to sum up what we felt the hospital was about and what we thought our people were about. We’ve been here for 50 years and our staff is extremely dedicated to taking care of people and extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished over the 50 years.

We look to be here for a long time. The staff really goes the extra mile to take care of Jacksonville and Cabot people. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s not every day a hospital turns 50 years, and we’re extremely proud to be here. I want to thank all the employees. I feel like we have the most dedicated staff out there and people have really worked to not only to get this sale done, but to also really ensure our future and to really take care of our patients. It’s only because of you guys we’ve been here 50 years. We certainly won’t make another 50 without you,” he said.

He also thanked the community and auxiliary for their support.

“It’s not very often you get a community hospital that a town will support and keep around for 50 years, so it’s a great honor to have that. (The auxiliary is) a huge part of what we do here. They’re a huge part of our customer service, and I don’t think we’d have been here 50 years without those guys,” Quebedeaux said before passing the podium to speakers Mike Wilson, Dr. Paul Valentin-Stone and Joan Zumwalt.

Wilson, chairman of the board that governs the nonprofit hospital, also thanked the employees and auxiliary forces.

“You all are the ones who make this hospital work. Patients and the community are very well aware that the good things that happen here are a result of your work. It’s not lost on any of us, particularly those of us who have been patients here like me for a time or two,” he said.

Wilson also acknowledged the gift of the property that was donated to the city by Raymond Rebsamen for the hospital, which bore his name until a few years ago.

Rebsamen is deceased. His son, one of his two children, passed away recently, Wilson said.

The board invited Rebsamen’s daughter to attend the ceremony, but she was recently hospitalized and couldn’t make it, Wilson said.

Wilson said she and her daughter wished everyone well.

He said he talked to Rebsamen’s son a few years ago.

“He and his sister were in agreement with us to change the name of the hospital in order to make it more competitive with our friends and neighbors, White County, Springhill, St. Vincent’s in Sherwood. They understood that we had to make changes in order to be more competitive in this community,” Wilson said.

Valentin-Stone, one of the longest-practicing physicians still on staff at North Metro, said he came to Jacksonville in 1983 with the Air Force. After a two-year tour in 1985, he had to decide whether to return to Puerto Rico or stay here.

He said it was the members of this community that convinced him to stay. “They meant the most to me. They convinced me to stay, and it wasn’t a very hard decision. I couldn’t have asked for a better place. This community has welcomed me and my family with open arms. My grandson was born here. I was a patient here as well once,” he said.

“My son had surgery here. We are part of this family known as Rebsamen and North Metro, a wonderful place to receive your medical care. I hear that every day in my office. Patients like the fact that it is a small institution. They’re referred to as patients, not numbers. They feel that the care is just as good as anywhere else in the state and I second that.”

Joan Zumwalt organized the hospital’s auxiliary in 1965. She recalled the good old days.

“The candy stripers are not with us anymore, but we had fun organizing the candy stripers, who were the young teenage girls who helped us after school and in the summertime. We had fundraisers to have money to buy our uniforms, our jackets and shoes. Mostly I remember the spaghetti suppers and style shows. We didn’t have the gentleman either,” she said, as she thanks one male auxiliary member seated in the front row at the ceremony.

Zumwalt said her youngest daughter was born at the hospital. “I feel very close to this institution,” she said.

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) also read a statement at the ceremony.

He said, “My dad was living in Sheridan a few years ago and we were blessed enough to be able to come up here. (The hospital did) a wonderful job of giving us a little rest and of giving him the care he needed as an Alzheimer’s patient. So, I’m very thankful for this facility.

“About five years ago I received a call. A consultant was hired. They asked us about 100 questions and to give them honest feedback. I’m proud to say today a lot of those things were listened to and there were a few changes made along the way. It’s made it a great institution. It truly is a landmark in Jacksonville, Ark., to have this facility here.”

Williams read, “The physicians, staff and volunteers can take pride in its phenomenal growth, new cutting-edge procedures and treatments, latest technology, expansions and renovations of facilities that have established it as one of the best medical centers in the state. In addition to utilizing state-of-the-art equipment in the sleep center, laboratory and medical imaging departments, North Metro Medical Center recently opened new surgical and medical inpatient units and implemented the newest digital mammogram technology in order to better serve patients with their individual needs. The members of the Arkansas Senate wish to join Sen. Eddie Joe Williams in congratulating North Metro Medical Center on its 50th anniversary of service as a vital member of the Jacksonville community and well deserved reputation for excellence in the health care field.”

The mayor read a proclamation declaring Thursday as North Metro Medical Center Day, which included highlights of the hospital’s past 50 years.