Friday, June 29, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Court ruling will help state

Pardon us while we ignore the raging debate of the day, whether by upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, the U. S. Supreme Court helped the president or his opponent and Republican candidates for Congress or Democrats. That all depends on the propaganda skills of Republicans and Democrats, and Republicans are nearly always better at that stuff.

But what does it mean for all the rest of us, the consumers of health care in the United States, both the insured and uninsured? We have no reservation in saying that it is a great victory for people—everyone—for it protects the financial security that the law will soon provide for the millions of people who cannot be, or choose somehow not to be, insured and it ends the cost shifting that has long hit every single American who enjoys insurance, either through one of the government insurance programs or private policies.

Yes, we know that the polls have consistently shown that more people dislike the law than favor it, but that will end when people discover that the law does none of the things that the propagandists said it would do: kill Grandma, give the government control over medical decisions, force people to abandon their present coverage, end Medicare or reduce its benefits, or tell people which doctor or hospital must treat them and what procedures they can perform on a patient. The Affordable Care Act, though imperfect, never did any of those things. Poll testing in 2009 showed that all those things would alarm voters, so the commercials, flyers and political speeches claimed that it would somehow produce all those horrors even if the words were nowhere to be found in the act.

The key provisions of the act—the system of insurance exchanges where people now uninsured and large employers who now don’t cover their workers can buy affordable health policies, the mandatory coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and the expansion of Medicaid to cover nearly all poor adults—will not take effect for another 18 months, Jan. 1, 2014, but tens of millions of people are already realizing the benefits of other provisions, whether or not they know that the help is a result of the Affordable Care Act that they were led to believe would hurt them.

Let’s look at the impact on Arkansas so far.

Last year, the law began phasing out the infamous “doughnut hole” that forced elderly and disabled Medicare enrollees to pay full price for all their drugs midway every year. In the first five months of 2012, a total of 5,410 Arkansans with Medicare got a 50 percent discount on their prescriptions as a result of the new law. Tens of thousands more will be helped as the year goes along. Their savings totaled $3,460,414 through May. The discounts will go up each year until the doughnut hole is closed entirely in 2020.

Last year, 380,000 Arkansans on Medicare received free preventive services, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, as a result of the act. Through May this year 169,384 people received the services, free of deductibles or copays. Of course, most of them do not know that the new benefit was from “Obamacare.” Formerly, Medicare didn’t cover preventive services and if the law had been struck down or if it is repealed, it won’t cover them again.

This summer, some 115,000 Arkansans—people who have private coverage through their employer or individual policies—will receive some $7.8 million in rebates from insurance companies. Obamacare requires all insurance companies to send rebates to their policyholders if they spend less than 85 percent of the premiums from customers on actual care (80 percent in the case of small group of policyholders). The law sets a ceiling on what insurance companies can keep in profits and overhead, a rule that has affected regulated utilities for much of a century.

Twenty-three thousand young adults in Arkansas who were uninsured were placed under their parents’ health policies last year as a result of the new law.

Those are for starters. Next year, insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime dollar limits on health benefits so that cancer patients and people suffering from other long-term chronic diseases will not have to worry about going without treatment because they have hit their lifetime limits.

The big changes will come in 2014, when the uninsured who are not employed in a business with more than 50 full-time employees will have to buy a plan they can afford from the insurance exchange in their state (Republicans forced Arkansans to buy plans from a national exchange instead of one set up for Arkansans). That is when states that do not now cover poor adults in Medicaid can do so with Washington paying 100 percent of the cost until 2017, when it will gradually go down to 90 percent. The Supreme Court said the federal government could not force states to cover poor adults, but it seems insane that any state would not.

Those are the provisions that ought to be popular with everyone who is now insured. Since everyone except the few who will choose to pay a federal tax rather than buy a policy will then start paying for their hospital and doctor care with subsidized help from the federal government, Arkansas hospitals every year will no longer have billions of dollars in uncompensated care, which is routinely passed along to insured customers through higher room rates and surgical fees and higher premiums. Arkansas hospitals, by the way, were cheerleaders for the new law when Congress passed it in 2010.

Arkansas, as we pointed out in 2010, reaps a special bonanza under the act, primarily because we are one of the poorest states. The vast majority of the 500,000 uninsured Arkansans will get health and financial security, either with highly subsidized premiums, Medicaid or the guarantee that their illnesses or disabilities will not cause them to lose their insurance.

A band of Arkansas Republicans—state officials and legislators—gathered at the Capitol on Thursday to denounce the court decision and declare their opposition to taking advantage of the expanded Medicaid coverage to poor adults in Arkansas, the one option remaining for killing some of Obamacare. But what rational person would do that? Stop hundreds of millions of dollars from flowing into the Arkansas economy each year and prevent better health care for 200,000 of the poorest adults in the state? True, the state government by 2020 will bear 10 percent of the coverage costs, but it will recoup an equal or larger amount through lower premium costs for government employees and an end to uncompensated care at facilities like the University of Arkansas Medical Center, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and regional mental health centers.

If Mitt Romney and the Republicans are going to repeal Obamacare, they had better do it somehow early next year because after that they will not find an ally anywhere.

—Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> Geriatric unit marks milestone

Leader staff writer

Brows were wiped of sweat and chilled water was guzzled Friday afternoon in the triple-digit weather during the 20th anniversary celebration of North Metro Medical Center’s Transitions, the largest geriatric psychiatry unit in the state.

Transitions opened at the Jacksonville hospital with just 12 beds on July 1, 1992. Since then, it has grown to 31 beds with the last expansion on July 1, 2010, said chief nursing officer Jacque Davidson.

Davidson said, “When the doors opened 20 years ago, we’re not sure they were expecting it be as successful as it has been.”

While the unit was expanding, the hospital that housed it was renamed Rebsamen Medical Center, dropping regional from its name.

A few years ago, the hospital was renamed North Metro Medical Center.

Transitions prides itself on staff longevity, Davidson said.

She said Dr. Paul Valentine-Stone has been the unit’s internal-medicine physician since it opened. Turner-Stout has been with Transitions since 2000 Dr. Andrew Powell, the unit’s medical director, has provided psychiatric care to the unit’s patients since 2006.

Transitions officials say they have retained many nurses and patient-care technicians for more than 10 years.

The party had to be held outside, on the patio at the back of the hospital, due to the sensitive nature of the patients’ conditions, explained Crystal Hutchinson with Transitions. She organized the event.

Davidson stepped in at Friday’s event for Transitions director Debbie Turner-Stout, who was unavailable.

She said the one thing that hasn’t changed is how Transitions serves the community with “trust, dedication and teamwork.”

Although there were a few good-natured jokes about how everyone could stand it a couple of degrees hotter, most of the guests were in good spirits while they enjoyed hot dogs and hamburgers grilled by First Arkansas Bank and Trust employees.

Several complimented the chocolate cake with puffy white icing. It also featured hardened chocolate made to look like overflowing fondue and had a chocolate-covered strawberry in each of the four corners.

The cake was provided 2 Sisters Catering of North Little Rock.

Louisiana-based Allegiance Health Management Group, which has managed North Metro for the past three years, officially purchased the hospital from the city in April.

Jodi Love was hired earlier this month to take over for Jay Quebedeaux, who had been the hospital’s CEO since February 2011.

She has lived in Arkansas for more than two decades and has ties to Little Rock Air Force Base. Love attended the “Transitions Birthday.” She greeted most of the 30 or 40 people there one-on-one and praised the unit for making it this far.

Quebedeaux transferred to a CEO position with another Allegiance-owned facility in Louisiana, where he was born.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke job fair for felons offers fresh start

Leader staff writer

One hundred and thirty-three people lined up for information on how to reset their lives at the first Lonoke County Re-entry Job and Resource Fair for convicted felons Wednesday at the Lonoke Community Center.

Jim Terry has spent the past year looking for a job. His was convicted for illegal possession of a firearm. He is now on parole.

Terry said his parole officer told him about the event and he came “so I can better my life and do better things. I’ve been out of trouble.”

Parole officers and probation officers granted some of the participants time toward their court-ordered community service hours or a break on monthly fees (not fines) for attending the fair.

Terry wants to stick to the straight and narrow. It’s not easy with the possibility of rejection around every corner.

“Mainly, I’ve gotten the runaround. ‘I’ll give you a call.’ Never hear back from them. Background check,” Terry said.

He said he is looking for construction jobs, or anything else he can do to make an honest living.

Terry said Life After Prison Ministries, one of the vendors, has helped him achieve those goals through counseling services.

Steve Bailey was convicted of threatening a man with a gun. Bailey said he had a concealed gun license and is innocent, but ran into “legal issues.”

He is attempting to have his record expunged.

“Once these people get you into their system...I see murderers and pedophiles walk away. (Searching for a job), it’s been a headache. Right now, I say this to all black men: racism is alive and well and women are still not getting their fair due,” Bailey said.

Bailey recently transferred from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to Arkansas State University at Beebe, where he’s taking classes he hopes will help him attain his dreams.

Those dreams are to work on cleaning up natural and environmental disasters.

Bailey said he was “not aware at all” of the opportunities touted at the job fair.

The Central Arkansas Planning and Development District and Arkansas Work-force Centers organized the event.

“They won’t see any doors closed in their faces here. It’s very necessary. This is a way of addressing the need of these individuals that have found reintegrating very difficult. This may open doors slightly and (employers) could realize these people are OK. Maybe other employers will read about it,” said Damian McNeal with the state Department of Community Corrections.

Shane Willbanks with Life After Prison Ministries explained that convicted felons experience a lot of losses, including “freedom” and “dignity” that can drive them back into lives of crime.

The vendors included:

– Lewis-Burnett Employment Finders;

– Associated General Con-tractors;

– Manpower;

– Arkansas Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Con-tractors Association;

– Goodwill;


– Pulaski Technical College;

–  ASU-Beebe;

– Phillips Community College;

– Arkansas Adult Education;

– Arkansas Department of Career Education;

– Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement;

– Arkansas Department of Human Services;

– Central Arkansas Development Council;

– National Foundation for Credit Counseling;

– Arkansas Access to Recovery;

– Focus Education Alcohol/Chemical Treatment Series;

– Family Service Agency;

– and New Hearts Ministries of Arkansas.

TOP STORY >> Heat puts squeeze on Fourth

Leader staff writer

Hot, arid weather conditions have put the brakes on individual fireworks use across most of the area and even one of the planned professional shows.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission has asked county judges to prohibit fireworks during the July 4th holiday because of the risk of fire. The commission considers the threat of wildfires as high in all 75 Arkansas counties.

In the local area, only Beebe is allowing residents to shoot fireworks. “We are asking them to be very, very careful,” said Mayor Mike Robertson.

Sherwood, not taking any chances, is dropping the fireworks show from its Fourth of July activities, but still has a number of events planned.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher made it clear at the city council meeting Thursday: “No fireworks in the city.” He added that even though the city has an ordinance that allows people with permits to shoot fireworks, the countywide burn ban takes precedent.

He said the city has received permission from the state fire marshal and county officials to have the fireworks show at the end of Sunday’s Patriotic Spectacular at Jacksonville High School and the Pennpointe community will have their Fourth of July fireworks show on the fourth at the subdivision’s lake.

“Both are being done by professionals and the fire department will be present,” the mayor said.

Police Capt. Kenny Boyd said the violation in Jacksonville for shooting off fireworks is a fine between $250 and $750, but no jail time.

He added that anyone shooting fireworks off and causing a fire or damage could be made to pay for all the damages.

Triple digit temperatures are expected to hit the region every day next week with highs running from 101 to 105 degrees. Central Arkansas also saw the mercury hit 101 on Sunday and 107 on Monday and Thursday

The forecast for the Fourth of July calls for highs around 101 degrees.

The record heat has already claimed one life in Fayetteville and is being blamed on the deaths of cattle in White and Cleburne counties, as well as other livestock around Arkansas, officials said Friday.

Earlier this week, a 39-year-old man working on construction at the University of Arkansas died from the heat.

Dustan Clark, extension veterinarian for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said he’s also had people report the loss of rabbits and pond fish. Heat is the chief suspect in some turkey deaths as well.

On Thursday, heat records were set at:

 Russellville, 109, broke the record of 105 set in 1952.

 Batesville, 108 degrees, broke record of 102 set in 1944.

 Jacksonville/Little Rock Air Force Base, 107, broke record of 100 set in 1980.

 Harrison, 106, broke record of 105 set in 1936.

 North Little Rock, 105, broke record of 101 set in 1980.

 Hot Springs, 105, broke record of 102 set in 1988.

 Fayetteville, 101, broke record of 100 set in 1954

 And Mount Ida, 101 tied the record set in 1936.

The dry conditions have put almost the entire state on burn bans and more than a third of the state has reached extreme drought stage, up from one percent just a week ago.


Sherwood’s 13th annual 4th of July Family Celebration will occur, but there will be no fireworks display because of the burn ban.

“We are putting safety first,” event coordinator Amy Jackson said.

But all the other activities are still a go and will be at 
6 p.m. at
Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave. Admission is free.

Jackson said there would be 
free hot dogs and water (while supplies last)
. There will also be food vendors with additional items for sale

Outside entertainment includes Janet, Denise and Bruce and Touch O’Grey.

Inside entertainment includes Top of the Rock Chorus and Cornerstone PraiSinger.

There will be free shuttle bus service from Sylvan Hills High School.

Besides no fireworks, 
 no pets, skateboards, bikes or coolers will be allowed, Jackson added.


Eddie Cook, the Cabot’s director of operations, said fireworks are not allowed to be bought, sold or used in the city limits even without the burn ban.

He said city officials had long meetings with county officials and the state fire marshal and received permission to go ahead with their fireworks show, which is part of a Fourth of July program sponsored by Mt. Carmel Church.

Cook said the activities are going to start later this year and that should help with the heat. Activities start at 7:30 and the fireworks show will be around 9 p.m.

“The fire department will have a very large presence at the show this year to be on the safe side,” he said.


The countywide burn ban means no one can use fireworks, but there will be a Fourth of July program sponsored by the Lonoke Assembly of God at the Lonoke ball park.

This is the first year for Freedomfest and there will be barbecue, music and games as well as a professional firework works show.

Activities will run from 3 to 9:30 p.m.


Beebe’s annual fireworks show starts at 6:30 p.m. at the city hall complex. Besides fireworks, there will be fun, an Elvis impersonator and a performance by Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers.


Ward’s annual Fourth of July picnic and fireworks show will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the city’s sports complex. The event will also include a car and motorcycle show. An honor guard will open the festivities at 2:15 p.m., followed by Carla’s Dance Group.

There will be numerous vendors, a tractor pull and music by Midnight Express starting at 6:30 p.m. The fireworks will start at dark.


First Baptist Church, 703 E. Second St., will host the community’s fireworks show on the Fourth.

At 6:30 p.m. a free catfish dinner with all the trimmings will be served indoors and then other activities and the fireworks show will follow.

SPORTS STORY >> Two late runs lift Gwatney

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got a hard-fought win in the first round of the Gwatney Chevrolet Fourth of July Classic on Thursday at Dupree Park. The Gwatney senior team beat Benton 6-4 to open the tournament.

Pitcher Jess Harbin was best at the beginning and end, running into a little trouble in the middle innings.

He faced only 10 batters in the first three innings, but the one player he didn’t get out, Benton’s Colton Welch, nailed a solo home run over the wall in left field in the first inning to put the visiting team up quickly.

Welch remained a thorn in Harbin’s side the entire game, accounting for four of the seven hits the Jacksonville ace allowed.

After a groundout in the top of the first, Harbin fanned two-hole hitter Alex Wilcox before yielding Welch’s bomb. He then struck out cleanup hitter Ryne Besancon, the first of three strikeouts of the Benton cleanup man.

Jacksonville failed to score in the first inning but was up to bat again quickly in the second after Harbin struck out the side in order.

Jared Wilson got on base with one out when he laid down a bunt and beat the throw to first base. Greg Jones drew a walk and a passed ball moved the runners into scoring position. With two outs, Jacob Abrahamson hit a two-RBI single into right field to put Gwatney ahead 2-1.

After three quick groundouts by Benton, Jacksonville was back at the plate and added two more runs to its lead. Alex Tucker led off with a walk, but two outs followed with Tucker still at first base. James McCranie then got an RBI single to centerfield. Wilson and Jones drew walks and McCranie scored when Benton shortstop Tanner Bates was offline with his throw to first that left Austin Allen safe.

Benton scored two runs in the top of the fourth when the first three batters got base hits. Wilcox singled and Welch got an RBI double and moved to third on the throw home that failed to get Wilcox. Besancon then singled to score Welch, but he was also the first out when he was thrown out by Jones while trying to steal third base.

With two outs and no one on base, Harbin walked Bates, gave up a single to Dillon Oliver and walked Matt Frelin to load the bases. But he got out of the jam by forcing designated hitter Tyler Massey to ground into a 4-6 fielder’s choice that kept Jacksonville in front 4-3.

Benton tied it the very next inning when Harbin continued to struggle with control in the 100-plus degree heat. He hit centerfielder Levon Steward and walked Bates to start the inning. Oliver sacrificed the runners into scoring position and Frelin singled to right field to score one run.

Massey then struck out and leadoff hitter Brad Neighbors was robbed of a hit and at least one RBI when Allen made a diving catch in right-centerfield to end the inning.

Jacksonville got two quick outs in the bottom of the sixth, but put together a two-out rally that scored two runs and set the final margin. Harbin started it by drawing a walk and Xavier Brown did the same. Left-handed hitter McCranie then hit a hard grounder over the top of first base that scored both base runners and gave McCranie his second and third RBIs of the game.

Benton threatened to answer in kind when its first two batters reached base in the top of the seventh. Wilcox drew a walk and Welch singled for his fourth base hit of the game, but Harbin dug in. Besancon and Steward struck out swinging and Harbin ended it by leaving Bates standing and looking at a called strike three.

Jacksonville, 7-9, finished with six base hits.

McCranie and Wilson picked up two apiece to lead the way.

The Chevy Boys were patient at the plate as well, drawing eight free passes with seven walks and one hit batter.

Harbin went the distance on the mound, striking out 10 while walking four.

Jacksonville played Sheridan last night after The Leader’s deadlines, and will continue in the Fourth of July Classic through Sunday.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills begins team camps in July

Leader sportswriter

Team football camps have been the norm for Sylvan Hills this summer as the Bears prepare for fall in their new 5A Central Conference. The Bears will continue that theme into July with three-straight team camps each Monday along with Maumelle and Pulaski Robinson, with 7 on 7 practice scrimmages on Thursdays.

Good numbers in the spring and a variety of talent among new incoming players is long-awaited news for head coach Jim Withrow and staff, who have struggled in the rebuilding process since losing the last group to reach the state playoffs back in 2009.

For the second-straight summer, the Bears have stayed away from 7-on-7 events and weekly leagues, instead focusing on the 11-man approach of team camps.

“One of the things we talked about was getting more people involved,” Bears coach Jim Withrow said. “I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to end up being pretty young up front, so it’s good to get those guys out there and give them an opportunity.”

Low overall numbers have been at the root of the problem for the past three seasons going back to the last time Sylvan Hills reached the postseason in ’09.

A small roster meant limited depth in several different areas, but spring practice in May brought new hope with a turnout of close to 70 players. Withrow said he expects at least 60 potential players to still be on hand at the first of August.

“That final class back when we had Ahmad Scott and Jordan Spears, they were great guys, but there were less than 10 of them,” Withrow said of the senior 2009 class. “We knew it was going to look like this for a while, but I like our future. There are some good athletes with this younger group, and a lot of really good football players.”

Part of the conference landscape will be familiar for the Bears this season while other parts will be somewhat of a throwback with local rival Jacksonville getting back into the 5A mix as a return member.

North Pulaski, Helena West-Helena Central and Mills University Studies joined Sylvan Hills in the transfer from their former 5A Southeast Conference to the 5A Central, joining Little Rock McClellan, as well as private schools Little Rock Christian Academy and Pulaski Academy.

The realignment will make for less travel time with the exception of games against Helena West-Helena Central, with every other school in the league from central or northern Pulaski County.

“I think the crowds ought to be great this year,” Withrow said. “And think of all the rivalries you have right there with that bunch. It will be a lot better on travel, and everyone will save a ton of money.”

Having a team like the Bruins in the same conference is particularly challenging considering the amount of success Pulaski Academy has had in both the 4A and 5A classifications in recent years. But Withrow said he is a firm believer that today’s struggles can lead to tomorrow’s triumphs.

“This is where you can either embrace it or cry about it,” Withrow said. “We look at it as an opportunity to get to that level, and it will happen. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but we can get there. And if you can get to the point where you can beat PA, you’re going to have a chance to win the whole thing. We’re looking forward to it.”

SPORTS STORY >> Junior Olympics is next stop for Cabot equestrian

Leader sportswriter

After completing all qualifications and overcoming adversity at her most recent event, nationally-ranked junior equestrian rider Jordan Payton of Cabot and her thoroughbred horse, Slew’s Aftershock, have been selected as alternates to represent their respective team at the illustrious Junior Olympics next month in Lexington, Ky.

The Junior Olympics, also referred to as the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, is the premier championship event for the one and two-star levels of eventing.

Eventing is the triathlon of equestrian riding, which consists of three different challenging events or phases.

The events are categorized as dressage, show jumping and cross country. Equestrianism is the art of skillful horseback riding. In order to be eligible for a spot on the Junior Olympic team, the riders have to complete at least five different one and two-star level qualifying events.

Once the horse and rider complete the five events, they then have to compete in front of a selection committee in a mandatory outing where the committee then chooses the members for the Junior Olympic team.

Only four riders are chosen to represent the team, but two more are chosen as well to compete in individual events.

In the mandatory selection trials that took place earlier this month at Texas Rose Horse Park in Tyler, Texas, Payton had an unfortunate disadvantage going into the event as she was unable to train adequately due to a minor injury Slew’s Aftershock sustained a week before the outing.

While doing routine fitness work the previous Saturday before the selection trials, Payton’s horsestrained one of his tendons, which aggravated a previous injury.

Payton’s horse was given the week off to recover from the injury, but the lack of practice time certainly didn’t help the duo as far as competing in front of the Junior Olympic selection committee.

“Basically it wasn’t anything major, but I didn’t even ride him for a few days that week,” Payton said about her horse’s untimely injury. “I was icing (the injury) twice a day to keep the swelling down and to keep him happy. I did not jump him all week leading up to the event, which was not ideal.”

In order to rehab Slew’s Aftershock, Payton had to limit the horse’s training to light dressage work, eliminating all jumps. Dressage is the phase of eventing that is the least physically strenuous on the horse and rider, but is considered the most difficult as the event consists of an exact sequence of movements ridden in an enclosed area (20 meters x 60 meters for international eventing, but usually 20 x 40 for a one-day event).

In the dressage phase, judges look for balance, rhythm, suppleness, and most importantly, obedience of the horse and its harmony with the rider. The challenge of dressage is to demonstrate that a supremely fit horse has the training to perform in a graceful, relaxed and precise manner.

Payton, who is currently the nation’s seventh-ranked rider in the Preliminary Junior Division of U.S. Eventing, makes no excuses as far as the obvious disadvantage she and her horse were faced with. But admits the situation wasn’t exactly beneficial to achieving the goal of being selected to the Junior Olympic team.

“It wasn’t the best condition going into the weekend, especially for me,” Payton said. “Jumping has so much to do with my sight, like the distances I see to the fences are very important. For the horse to clear the jump or have the best chance of clearing it and leaving (the rails) up, my job as the rider is to judge the distance to the fence.

“Whether I need to hold (the horse) or make the strides bigger to cover more ground in order to get to the spots I see. If I don’t process that with my eyes, it’s not very good. I really needed the practice. So, that was a major thing going into the weekend that prevented us from doing well I guess you could say.”

The next two phases of eventing, cross country and show jumping, requires the horse and rider to jump over several lower and higher level fences that are usually set up on a long outdoor circuit. Both events are timed and require both the horse and rider to be in excellent physical shape as the phases tests the fitness and stamina of the riding duo.

Scoring for these phases is based on the number of penalties the horse and rider tally during a phase.

Knocking down an obstacle, jumping an obstacle out of order, disobedience, fall of horse or rider, errors on course not rectified, and exceeding the time allowed are some of the mishaps that result in penalties.

The winner is the horse and rider with the fewest penalties.

Even though Payton and her horse had limited time to practice leading up to the selection trials, the two had a strong showing in the dressage phase to start the event.

However, the lack of practice time was noticeable in the show jumping phase, as their performance was less than stellar according to the standards of both Payton and the selectors.

The selectors initially ruled out Payton and her horse from Junior Olympic consideration after the show jumping phase, but after an excellent showing in the cross country phase the following morning, the selectors asked Payton to join the Junior Olympic team as the lone alternate.

Payton was a bit disappointed in the selectors’ decision, but was relieved after the final phase to see her horse looking like his old self again.

“I wasn’t sure if he was going to be sound after running cross country, because I felt that he tweaked it galloping,” Payton said of the horse she’s trained with and owned for two years. “I wasn’t sure the pounding and the stress from it would keep him sound. We all had to jog the horses out for the vet after we ran Sunday morning, which happened to be the same vet that had been taking care of him earlier that week.

“He jogged up and looked completely sound. Actually, he looked better than most of the other horses that are on the team. So, that was a bit relieving and we haven’t had a problem since then. He’s stayed sound and seems to be doing well, and (the injury) doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore, thankfully.”

Although Payton isn’t currently scheduled to ride at the Junior Olympics, she will travel with the team to Lexington, Ky., and is training as if she will ride.

If something were to happen that would prevent any of the current team members or their horses from competing between now and then, Payton and Slew’s Aftershock will naturally step in as the permanent replacements.

Payton trains with her horse six days a week at the prestigious Gold Chip Stables in Bartonville, Texas. Opening ceremonies for the Junior Olympics begin July 17 at Kentucky Horse Park.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial beats Beebe

Leader sports editor

Cabot Junior Team 1 won its second-straight game Tuesday night, beating Beebe 15-5 in five innings at Cabot City Park.

The Centennial Bank squad racked up 12 base hits to five for the visiting Post 91 team.

Cabot jumped ahead early with six runs in the first inning.

Leadoff hitter Adam Hicks got it started with a single on the game’s second pitch. Jonathan Latture and Riley Knudsen reached on infield errors by Beebe and Landon James got a two-RBI single to make it 3-0. With one out, Gavin Tillery singled to drive in another run. Dylan Bowers walked and Austin Null hit a two-RBI double to give Centennial Bank a 6-0 lead.

Cabot added another run in the second inning and scored on a sacrifice grounder by Dalten Hurst. That made 7-0, but Beebe finally got on the board in the top of the third.

Tyler Parker led off with a walk and scored when J. Underwood hit a two-out, RBI double. But Cabot got rolling again in the bottom of the same frame to quickly make it 11-1.

Eric Pique drew a leadoff walk and Null reached on an error at shortstop. John Van Hovelyn then singled and Latture did the same, making it 10-1. James then singled to score Latture from second base.

Beebe’s best inning came in the fourth when it scored three runs. Brandon Gray got a leadoff single and Elijah Cannon drew a one-out walk. One run scored when Cabot committed an error off the bat of Beebe’s Aaron Nunez, who later scored on a wild pitch, pulling Beebe to within seven at 11-4.

Cabot had another big inning in the bottom of the fourth when the first four batters scored before Beebe got three-straight outs.

Tillery, Pique and Null all singled to start the inning and Lee Sullivan tripled to drive in three runs. Sullivan then scored on a sacrifice fly by Van Hovelyn to make it 15-4.

Beebe needed two runs in the top of the fifth to keep the game going, but could only manage one.

Underwood and Dillon Tippy started the inning with back-to-back singles and Underwood scored on a sacrifice grounder by Gray, but Beebe couldn’t get Tippy around and the game ended on the 10-run sportsmanship rule.

Riley Knudsen started on the mound for Cabot and got the win while Gray took the loss for Beebe.

The Centennial Bank team (16-13) will play a doubleheader at home on Monday against Lake Hamilton’s Junior and AA teams.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

TOP STORY >> Austin voters pass sales tax

Austin voters on Tuesday approved a proposed one-cent sales tax to repair city streets.

Residents passed the sales tax by a vote of 58-16, while a bond issue passed 62-12.

Still to be counted are 27 early votes and three absentee votes, which would not affect the outcome.

The tax will support a $1.25 million bond that would likely be paid in less than 15 years. The tax will continue after the bond is paid with no stipulation as to how it must be spent. The tax revenue could be used for other projects in the future, not only streets.

TOP STORY >> Marshall Tucker will rock

Leader staff writer

Can’t you see the Marshall Tucker Band performing live at the annual Patriotic Spectacular on Sunday at the Jacksonville High School football field?

Event coordinator Angie Mitchell certainly could and didn’t hesitate to book the iconic 1970s Southern rock band when she had the chance using funding from the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission.

The band will top off an evening of family fun, fireworks, singing, re-enactments and a salute to military heroes.

The event is free and gates open at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Mitchell said a number of things came together to bring Marshall Tucker to Jacksonville. “We had been talking to country singer Candy Coburn, who performed last year for us and is coming back this year. We told her it would be great to have a band, a familiar group,” Mitchell explained.

Coburn gave Mitchell a list of possible bands. “Marshall Tucker was on top of the list and (was) a group Candy had opened for a number of times. Her agency helped us get them. Plus, what helped is that the band had to come through this way to a concert they have booked in Austin, Texas,” Mitchell said.

The event coordinator said the band’s people have been wonderful to work with “and have helped us a lot as this is the first time we’ve brought in such a big name, although Candy is getting more and more popular too,” Mitchell said.

The Marshall Tucker Band formed in the early 1970s in South Carolina.

Many members of the original group have died. But founding member and lead singer Doug Gray continues the tradition. Even though some of the band members are new, the sound is pure Marshall Tucker.

By the way, the group picked up its name from a key chain they found during a rehearsal that belonged to a piano tuner.

Gray’s group includes slide guitarist Stuart Swanlund, who joined the band in 1989; drummer B.B. Borden, a former member of both Mother’s Finest and the Outlaws; Marcus Henderson of Macon, Ga., who plays flute, saxophone and keyboards in addition to lead and background vocals; Pat Elwood on bass guitar, and Rick Willis on lead guitar and vocals, both of Spartanburg S.C., who are disciples of the Caldwell brothers, original members of the band.

In 1972, the Marshall Tucker Band signed with Capricorn Records, the same label that guided the Allman Brothers Band, Wet Willie and others to national fame.

Tucker opened shows for the Allman Brothers in 1973, and the following year, they began to headline their own shows across America. They toured constantly playing arenas, stadiums, theaters, fairs and festivals.

The group has gone on to record hit singles like “Heard It in a Love Song,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “Can’t You See” and “Take the Highway.”

The band earned seven gold and three platinum albums while they were on the Capricorn Records label.

During the 90s, Marshall Tucker scored four hit singles on Billboard’s country chart and one on Billboard’s gospel chart. Their music has also been featured in numerous movies and television shows.

The band, with its blend of rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, country and gospel, has influenced major country acts like Alabama, the Kentucky Headhunters, Confederate Railroad and Travis Tritt.

The Gloryland Pastors Choir of North Little Rock will open the Patriotic Spectacular by performing the national anthem.

Country singer Coburn will perform at 7 p.m. The concert will be followed by an appreciation ceremony for military men and women.

At 8:15 p.m., the Marshall Tucker Band will take the stage. Fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m.

The high school football field, known as Jan Crow Stadium, is at 2400 Linda Lane. Those attending may bring lawn chairs or blankets.

In case of rain, the event, minus the Marshall Tucker Band performance, will be held at First Baptist Church, 401 N. First St.

The fireworks show will still be held at the JHS football field, rain or shine.

The school’s booster club will sell concessions.

So, can’t you see yourself at this once-a-year celebration saluting family, fun, faith and heroes?

TOP STORY >> North Belt looks to sales tax, tolls

Leader senior staff writer

The state Highway Department wants the Metroplan board to support a regional transportation authority that would push for local sales taxes to support the North Belt Freeway.

Tolls would also help pay for the $600 million freeway.

Formation of such an authority has been on the Metroplan radar for several years.

The highway department also wants the board to approve a resolution in support of the proposed temporary 1/2-cent state sales tax, estimated to raise $1.8 billion for roads and highways over its 10-year life. Proposed by the state General Assembly, it will be before voters in the November election.

Metroplan staff analysis finds that about 31 percent of the new 1/2 cent tax money is to be spent in Pulaski, Saline, Faulkner and Lonoke counties, which has about 23 percent of the state’s population. Central Arkansas officials have long groused that the region contributes more taxes to the state than it gets back in revenues.

The Metroplan board is to consider the highway commission proposal at today’s monthly meeting, and its staff will prepare resolutions as directed by the board for action at the July board meeting.


The highway commission’s offer includes $6 million for right of way after design survey and other project development activities, with purchase as early as 2016.

Under development pressure by Sherwood developers, Metroplan had sought that right of way money by 2013. A judge ordered the city to allow the developers to begin building in that right of way if the state isn’t buying the right of way.

Currently, the land is mostly undeveloped. Once there are expensive home on it, the price is likely to skyrocket.

Other parts of the state’s proposal to finish the North Belt:

The highway department wants the Metroplan board to commit to half of the funding for project development and the remainder of the right of way costs.

That would require $6 million to be provided in the local 2013-2016 Surface Transportation Improvement Project period, and $18 million in the 2016-2019 STIP.

The department wants the Metroplan board to pass a resolution supporting the “tolling” of the North Belt and to partner in funding a $500,000 toll feasibility study and a $1.5 million “investment grade” toll feasibility study, including hiring an adviser, bond council and financial adviser.

The department further wants the board to agree to partner with the department to cover any shortfall between construction costs and toll revenues, perhaps by committing existing and special turnback funds.

Metroplan director Jim McKenzie has estimated this commitment could total approximately $205 million, about one-third of the projected $632 million construction cost.


McKenzie notes that there are several policy issues Metroplan board members need to consider when evaluating the department proposal.

First, since Metroplan’s long-range transportation plan has spending limits and the highway commission has said the freeway will not be constructed within the plan-period with federal aid and state match, then it must be removed from the long-range transportation plan if there’s not enough funding.

Consequently, federal funds cannot be used on any aspect of the North Belt until it is reinstated with an adequate funding plan.

No local government has ever been asked to partner in the construction of an interstate, according to McKenzie. He called it unprecedented and said it seemed to apply only to the North Belt but not to other unbuilt but long planned interstates such as I-49 and I-69.

The scale of the investment would overwhelm federal transportation funds for the regional arterial network, the Arkansas River Trail and intra-regional bikeway connectors and rail transit.

Neither Metroplan nor a regional planning authority could commit funds to the project that are controlled by the jurisdictions it comprises. Rather, each local legislative body would have to make that choice.


As the highway commission sees it, Metroplan made commissioners an offer they had to refuse so that blame for scuttling North Belt could be pinned on highway officials.

That’s according to a letter this month from highway director Scott Bennett to other members of the Metroplan board, upon which he also sits.

Metroplan had asked the commission to commit $6 million later this year to buy those parts of North Belt right of way under immediate development pressure in Sherwood, another $36.3 million for right of way acquisition by 2019 and to agree to complete the decades-in-the-making $632 million freeway by 2025 instead of 2030.

“The proposal you have made appears to have been structured so that the only reasonable answer could be “no,” and the blame for not continuing with the development of the corridor could squarely be laid on the commission and the department,” Bennett wrote.

“We expect — and we believe we deserve — better cooperation from the area on this project.”

“The region must step up to the plate and join the game,” said Bennett, a former Razorback baseball player.


In Bennett’s letter, the commission made a counterproposal that included paying for it by making it a toll road and shifting much of the other funding responsibility to Metroplan and the central Arkansas cities, towns and counties that comprise it its membership.

The commission’s proposal would also require the Metroplan board members to form a regional mobility authority with some taxing authority of its own.

“If the North Belt freeway is to move forward, the finger-pointing must stop and the central Arkansas region must work together with the commission and the department,” Bennett wrote to the Metroplan board June 15.

The commission’s counter proposal not only would make the North Belt the state’s first toll road, but it would require formation a regional taxing authority and for central Arkansas governments and Metroplan to commit to paying about $206 million of the cost.


While Metroplan has been calling the North Belt construction a “committed project,” Bennett said there was never enough money committed to build the entire thing.

The 1991 Highway Improvement Act included $50 million which was never adequate to fund the entire corridor, he said, further noting that $70 million was spent building just the east half of the project.

When Gov. Jim Guy Tucker proposed $136 million to complete the North Belt in 1995, according to Bennett, it was the Metroplan that delayed the project because it would “encourage sprawl.”

Bennett cites several other delays — in 1997 Metroplan didn’t approve moving forward because the proposed route was not consistent with the Sherwood master street plan — and concludes: “any blame for the North Belt Freeway not being completed to date simply cannot rest solely on the commission and the department.”

McKenzie says that on short notice, the commission gave a serious ear to the Metroplan request and calls the counter offer “a good-faith effort.”

TOP STORY >> No relief in sight for heat wave

Temperatures are going to be smoldering for the rest of this week with weather forecasters predicting triple-digit highs.

Temperatures will range from 99 today up to 105 through the weekend.

How important is it to stay cool? Seventeen Arkansans died from heat-related illness in 2011 and there is an average of 400 heat-related deaths a year nationwide, according to a release from the state Health Department. One person died Tuesday in Fayeteville from heat exhaustion.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer.

Spokeswoman Amya Arnone of North Metro Medical Center said four people have been to the emergency room for heat-related illnesses and a fifth person visited a doctor for heat syncope, which is when a person faints from being too hot.

Seniors who may not have an air-conditioned home are welcome to come into the Jacksonville Senior Activity and Wellness Center and the Jack Evans Senior Citizen Center in Sherwood to cool off.

The cooling center in the American Legion Post at 208 N. First St. in Cabot opened on Monday. It will be available for anyone without access to air-conditioning when temperatures reach 100 or the heat index reaches 105, as determined by the National Weather Service.

Hours for the center are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday.

An Ozone Action Advisory, which means there are higher levels of air pollution, has been issued for the past several days in Pulaski and Lonoke counties.

According to the health department’s news release, excessive heat can cause the following disorders, which are progressive and should be treated immediately:

Heat cramps, prolonged muscle pain caused by heavy sweating that depletes salt and magnesium in the body. Treatment is salt replacement, cooling down and gentle massage.

Heat exhaustion, the most common heat-related illness. It happens while someone is working outside or attending outdoor events in hot weather.

The symptoms include weakness, feeling faint, dizziness, nausea, headache and confusion. Those suffering from heat exhaustion should be moved to a cooler place and wet cloths should be used on them. Fluid and salt should be replaced.

Depending on the severity, the person may need to go to the hospital for intravenous fluid replacement. Heat exhaustion is usually a precursor to heat stroke.

Heat stroke (also called sunstroke), a life-threatening condition. A person’s temperature control system stops working. Sweating doesn’t help the body cool down or it stops altogether.

The body gets so hot that the nervous system, the brain and other organs can be permanently damaged. The symptoms are sudden high fever, dry skin, delirium, convulsions and seizures.

Someone should call 911 immediately and get the patient cooled off as quickly as possible with ice, a cold bath and wet sheets.

As for the high levels of air pollution — children, the elderly and people with breathing problem such as asthma are most at risk, according to a release from Ozone Action Days, a public awareness program of Metroplan in partnership with the state health department and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Symptoms of exposure may include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and eye and throat irritation, according to the release. Steps people can take to avoid those symptoms include limiting prolonged exposure to the outdoors.

People can decrease pollution, according to the release, by:

Riding a bus or carpooling to work;

Riding a bike instead of driving;

Postponing or consolidating errands;

Bringing a sack lunch or walking to lunch;

Going with an alternative work schedule and telecommuting opportunities;

Driving a little slower and accelerating gradually;

And delaying refueling, yard mowing or barbecuing until after 6 p.m.

Another result of higher temperatures could be shortages due to higher demand for water.

According to a release from Central Arkansas Water, some customers may see slightly discolored water caused by the increased amount of water flowing through water mains.

A release from the health department suggests people:

Water their lawn only when it needs it.

Deep soak the lawn rather than sprinkling lightly, which tends to evaporate quickly.

Water during the cool part of the day, such as early morning.

Don’t waste water on gutters, driveways and sidewalks.

Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants because mulch will hold moisture longer and it will evaporate more slowly.

Use automatic dishwashers and washing machines only on full loads.

Don’t let the faucet run when cleaning vegetables or washing dishes. Rinse them in a stoppered sink or pan of clean water.

Don’t let water run when brushing teeth or shaving.

Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator.

Check faucets, pipes and toilets for drips or leaks.

and Install water-saving showerheads or flow restrictors.

EDITORIAL >> A good deal? Don’t bet on it

Nancy Todd, an avid poker player and gambling and political consultant, wants to get rich. Nothing wrong with that, we all do.

But she wants to get rich with help from Arkansas taxpayers. Still nothing wrong there, provided we get something in return for making her rich, and in the words of Shakespeare, “There’s the rub.”

Todd’s plans for casinos in the state give her a lot, a whole heck of a lot, but gives the taxpayers not much more than window dressing.

Putting the issue of gambling aside, residents need to reject her petition to put her plans on the November ballot as an amendment to the state constitution.

She needs more than 78,000 signatures by July 6 to get her proposal on the ballot. But residents shouldn’t sign it because it is a bad deal for Arkansas taxpayers.

If Arkansas is going to allow gambling — forever changing its landscape, philosophy and outlook — it needs to get the best deal possible, and Todd’s proposal is not it.

Take a look at what she’s asking for. Todd wants to own, operate and control four casinos in the state — one in the Texarkana area and one near Fort Smith, which she argues will stop the flow of Arkansas money to Indian casinos in Oklahoma.

She’d like to build a casino around Harrison to stop families and seniors from spending their money in Branson, Mo., which has said it is doing just fine without casino help.

A fourth casino would be in the Little Rock area. Why? Simply to grease the palms of those overseeing casinos in the state. Now this isn’t suggesting anything illegal, but it would be interesting to see how many legislative in-laws and outlaws end up with casino-related jobs. It’s just their way of doing business.

Todd believes that casinos will be good for the state because they will create jobs, but most of the high-paying executive casino jobs will be for people moving here, not Arkansans.

But here’s our big concern: If casinos are a cure all, why does she not want to build a casino in the Delta, the part of the state that needs the most help? It’s simple, that would take money out of the Mississippi casinos that she is connected to.

Furthermore, recent financial reports from Mississippi show casino revenues have been falling since 2007.

We’ve seen the same with the lottery here. Mississippi officials conveniently blame the recession. But when customers see that they seldom win, they stop buying. Arkansas’ lottery isn’t producing the winners, nor the scholarships that were touted.

Back to Todd though.

As an incentive for the state to give her casino rights, she says that she will let the state tax her casinos an extra 12.5 percent and that extra money will be spread out among the state because of her goodwill.

It all sounds good, but how much is that, really?

Let’s do a little math. The nine casinos in Tunica, Miss., bring in about $1 billion a year. Arkansas would have four casinos, so let’s cut that $1 billion in half — remember people only have so much money for entertainment — so Arkansas casinos may bring in $500 million.

Todd’s extra tax would mean $63 million is deposited in the state’s coffers, not even enough to make a dent in the looming Medicaid deficit. But the state won’t be able to do just anything with the money. Todd’s proposal specifically splits it up so everyone gets some — very nice of her.

Every county that doesn’t have a casino will get 18 percent of that 12.5 percent or slightly more than $11 million. But wait, that’s not $11 million per county, that’s $11 million divided by the 71 counties she didn’t think were in need of a casino. They would get only $159,000.

Is that enough for Phillips County or Desha County or for you to sell out the state?

As tempting as it might be, the answer should be no, the Natural State is worth more than that to its residents.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot One earns win after tough two games

Leader sports editor

Cabot Junior Team 1 got back on the winning track Monday after suffering two losses over the weekend. Team Goss, coached by Chris Goss, beat Cabot Team 2 at Cabot City Park 9-1. That followed a weekend of action that started with a perfect game by pitcher Gavin Tillery in an 11-0 win over Benton, but ended with losses to Texarkana and Bryant on Saturday and Sunday.

Neither of those losses were zone games and won’t count against the team’s standings when zone tournaments begin July 5.

In Friday’s win over Benton, Tillery faced 12 batters in four innings of work, retiring them all in order and striking out five.

Tristan Bulice highlighted a nice offensive game with a spectacular day at the plate. He went 2 for 3with both base hits going for extra bases. He had one double and one triple, walked once and drove in three runs.

Pique and Adam Hick each drove in two runs as well.

In Saturday’s loss at the Hot Springs Lakeside tournament, Texarkana jumped on Cabot early with six runs in the bottom of the first inning. Cabot chipped away with two runs in the third and one each in the fifth and sixth to make it 6-4, but gave up three runs in the bottom of the sixth.

Errors were the major problem. Starting pitcher Landon James gave up eight hits in going the distance for Cabot. He also walked five while the defense committed seven errors.

Cabot got 10 base hits with Dalten Hurst, Brandon Jones, Jonathan Latture and Tillery picking up two apiece.

In Sunday’s loss at Lakeside, Bryant threatened to end the game early, racing out to a 10-0 lead through three and a half innings, but Cabot scored two in the bottom of the fourth to keep from being mercy ruled.

Tillery was on the mound again to start the game, but the Black Sox chased him off the mound in just one and a third innings. Again Cabot committed seven errors while giving up 10 base hits and three free passes at the plate.

On Monday, a seemingly typical day at the park between the two Cabot junior teams took a strange turn in the fifth inning as Team 1 began to pull away from the ninth-grader laden Team 2.

Leading 9-1 with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Team 1 tried to steal home and was thrown out. Before the same at bat was over, another Cabot runner was picked off at third base by Team 1 catcher Lino Garcia to end the inning. With Team 2 at the plate in the top of the sixth and a 1-2 count on the batter, Goss ordered pitcher Austin Null to intentionally walk the batter.

It all added up to naught, as Team 1 was unable to score and the game ended at 9-1 in seven innings.

Team 1 hosted Beebe on Tuesday while Team 2 hosted North Little Rock immediately afterwards. Both teams will travel to Conway on Thursday with Team 1 (15-13) playing at 6 p.m. and Team 2 (4-17) following.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Bank turns table on Batesville

Leader sports editor

Tyler Carter put a sudden end to the Cabot Senior American Legion team’s game against Batesville on Sunday. He sent a towering shot over the fence in left field of Cabot City Park to put his team up 10-0 and end the game on the sportsmanship run rule.

The win marked the passing of a major litmus test of the Cabot senior squad. The team opened the season with a doubleheader at Batesville, gave up a combined 28 runs and lost both games. It was the first two of six-straight losses to start the season, but completely turning the tables on Batesville verifies the signs of improvement the team has shown in going 9-4 since the poor start.

Bryson Morris started on the mound and pitched four innings of shutout ball. He faced just 15 batters, giving up three hits while striking out two. Batesville’s only real chance to score was thwarted by bad base running and good defense by Cabot. In the fourth inning, Batesville’s Tyler Lictiker singled and reached second when a throwback to the mound by Carter sailed over Morris’ head and rolled into centerfield. After the second out, Wesley Rudd singled to left field with a one-hop line drive that was fielded too quickly by Cabot’s Cole Thomas for Lictiker to score. But that didn’t stop him from trying. Thomas routinely threw the ball in to cutoff man Tyler Wilkie at third base, just as Lictiker rounded third. Wilkie’s throw home was off the mark and in the dirt, but so far ahead of the runner that Carter had plenty of time to gather it in and tag the runner out.

Cabot (9-10) got its big, early lead primarily due to Batesville pitcher Riley Caraway’s struggles on the mound. He walked three in the first inning and hit another. Casey Vaughan doubled and Carter singled with men on base to give the Centennial Bank squad a 3-0 lead.

After getting Morris to ground out to second to start the second inning, Caraway walked Vaughan, but he was caught stealing for the second out. From there, things fell apart completely for the Batesville hurler.

With two outs and no one on base, Wilkie singled to centerfield. Caraway then walked Carter, Justin Goff, Thomas and Dustin Morris in a row before finally being pulled from the mound. He pitched one and two-thirds innings, faced 17 batters, gave up three hits, seven earned runs while walking eight and hitting another.

He was replaced by Jacob Rawlings, who yielded a hit to Scott Burnett and walked Ryan Logan before getting Bryson Morris to ground out to shortstop to end the inning with Cabot holding a 7-0 lead.

Rawlings put Cabot down in order in the third inning, but walked Goff to lead off the fourth and gave up an RBI single to Logan to make it 8-0.

Vaughan led off the fifth with a single to left and Wilkie lined out to right field, bringing Carter to the plate for his game-ending home run. He finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs.

Thomas pitched the last inning for Cabot, retiring the last three batters in order.

The win followed a doubleheader split at Marion on Saturday. Cabot lost the first game 6-1 and won game two 11-9. Cabot got seven base hits and drew two walks in game one, but couldn’t push runs across the plate. Bryson Morris led the way with two base knocks. Logan pitched all six innings and took the loss.

Vaughan threw game two and got knocked around a bit, giving up 11 base hits and nine earned runs, but Cabot’s offense also got 11 hits, including four for extra bases, to earn the win.

Tristan Bulice went 2 for 2 with two doubles and five RBIs to lead the impressive Cabot offense. Goff went 3 for 3 while Vaughan and Dustin Morris got two base hits apiece.

Carter got one base hit, a home run over the fence that drove in two runs. He now has five home runs this season, one short of the team record set by Junior Team 1 coach Chris Goss in 2006.

SPORTS STORY >> Simmons rally tops Gwatney

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville’s senior American Legion team stayed one run ahead of Pine Bluff Simmons for the majority of Saturday’s game. Gwatney Chevrolet led by the same margin going into the seventh inning, but in that final inning, Pine Bluff scored three runs to grab its first lead of the day and earn a 7-5 win at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.

Pine Bluff scored the first two runs to start the game, but in the bottom of the first, Jacksonville could do no wrong at the plate en route to a four-run rally to lead 4-2. Pierce Sloan started on the mound for Pine Bluff, but was pulled with two outs and the bases loaded in the first after giving up three runs.

Will Jacobs of 2012 class 2A state champion Woodlawn came in to relieve Sloan and made Jacksonville’s experience at the plate more of a challenge. Troy Allen scored Gwatney’s fourth run on a wild pitch by Jacobs. It was one of the few mistakes Jacobs would make as he finished the game with 12 strikeouts to just three walks in the winning effort. Half of Jacksonville’s strikeouts in the game came as a result of watching the third strike go by, which didn’t leave Gwatney coach Bob Hickingbotham feeling too happy about his team’s effort at the plate.

“When we got up (to the plate), we looked like we had never swung a bat,” Hickingbotham said. “We had too many people not swinging the bat on third strikes. You can’t win like that. We have too many guys that have everything but baseball on their mind right now, and we’re going to try to get that worked out.”

In the second inning, Pine Bluff cut Jacksonville’s lead to one when Nick Hefley hit a line-drive single to the gap in right field, which allowed Jacobs to score after singling earlier in the inning. After a scoreless third inning, Pine Bluff tied the game at four apiece in the fourth after Landen Colson hit an RBI-single to left field.

Leadoff hitter Justin Dardenne scored on the play after hitting a triple to start the inning. In the bottom of the fourth, Jacksonville retook the lead when Derek St. Clair scored from third base on a ground ball hit by pitcher Jesse Harbin.

The next two innings were scoreless and Jacksonville held a 5-4 lead going into the seventh. Second baseman Jacob Richardson walked to leadoff the final inning, and scored the tying run for Pine Bluff when D.J. Dickson hit a hard line drive to right field for an RBI single.

Jacobs drove in the go-ahead run for Pine Bluff on a hard grounder to third base. Jacobs was thrown out on a close play at first, but Christopher Bryan scored from third on the contact. The next batter, Josh Dardenne, drove in the final run of the day with a single to right field. Dickson scored with ease to make the score 7-5.

Harbin and Alex Tucker led Jacksonville with two hits apiece. James McCranie and Blake Perry also had a base hit. Jacksonville (5-9) will play again tomorrow on the opening day of its annual Gwatney Chevrolet American Legion Classic tournament held at Dupree Park.

SPORTS STORY >> Local fan favorite earns popular dirt series win

Leader sportswriter

There were several extended cautions and a few hurt feelings, but at the end of the 35-lap Comp Cams Super Dirt Series feature at Beebe Speedway on Friday, there was a capacity crowd that cheered the popular victory of Curtis “Hollywood” Cook, the local kid who has made good in the regional late-model series as a major contender in the season points race.

Cook, the Vilonia driver who earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors in CCSDS last season, grabbed the lead from outside polesitter Timothy Culp on the seventh circuit and held on to the lead despite repeated charges by Culp and fast qualifier Jon Kirby of Russellville.

Kirby, fast qualifier for the event, got by Cook on one late restart just as one of the series-high seven cautions at Beebe came out for the crashed car of Tommy Surrett, which forced the field back to the last completed lap with Cook back out front.

Kirby did not get the same chance on the final restart as he was forced into a battle for second with Culp, who claimed the runner-up spot on the final circuit as Cook crossed the line for what turned out to be a victory that was decidedly spectator approved.

Cook stood atop his Lawson Farms 601 machine in the winner’s circle to a collective roar from local race fans who packed the stands in what was easily the biggest crowd at the quarter-mile oval in years.

“I’ve never been more up on the wheel in my life,” Cook said. “It didn’t take too strong at all, and it would go up the racetrack. You had to make sure to get it slow enough but not just stop. I’m worn slap out.”

The battle between Cook, Culp and Kirby was plenty contact oriented, and some of the battles behind them were even more heated as Jon “The Catman” Mitchell and Floral’s Brandon Smith made contact on lap 15, resulting in Mitchell’s 5 car spinning in turn four.

Mitchell, who came into the race as the series points leader, pulled alongside the defending series champ under the yellow to voice his displeasure before joining the back of the field for the next restart. Mitchell qualified fifth and was running in the fourth spot when the incident with Smith occurred.

Things did not get any better for Mitchell, who was involved in an incident with Russellville driver Dewaine Hottinger one green-flag lap later that resulted in heavy damage to Hottinger’s car. Hottinger followed closely behind Mitchell under caution before entering the pits, and the final straw for Mitchell came on lap 32 after getting caught up in a multi-car spin and bringing out his second caution of the night.

That meant he was required to go off the track, but with a tight points battle and good runs by his main season foes apparent, Mitchell disputed the call at the flag stand before being ordered off the track by series director Chris Ellis.

Mitchell declined comment following the race and was credited with a 14th-place finish.

As for Cook, it was his second CCSDS victory of his career and the first of the season. Mitchell’s bad luck also handed Cook the championship points lead.

“There’s no greater feeling,” Cook said. “We’ve been trying hard the last couple of years, and we’ve had some strong runs. We went through last year and were just up and down. We won some heat races, but we might run second one night and 16th the next night. We’ve been real consistent over the last couple of months here, maybe we can stay consistent like this and come home with that points championship.”

The race was also the second of six Rice-Tec Summer Series events, which gave Cook the points lead in the mini-series over Kirby and Smith.

Cook’s move around Culp on the outside of the third restart broke an early-race pattern of drivers trying to get to the bottom, with two and sometimes three-wide battles breaking out through the turns in the middle stages of the race.

“I seen them battling for the bottom,” Cook said of Kirby and Culp. “We got underneath Kirby there one time, and I knew we weren’t going to get that done without some pretty good contact. So we got that one restart, and I felt like I could get some go up there. We got a good charge there on the outside, and I couldn’t help it – we’re going for broke, let’s get the lead.”

Some drivers went high just below the upper cushion of the track while others such as Smith went way up on the rough stuff to gain position. The strategy worked out for Smith, who earned hard charger for the race with a fourth-place finish after starting 11th.

Baytown, Tex., driver Kevin Sitton completed the top five while Gary Christian of Broken Bow, Okla., was sixth. Allen Murray finished seventh and Austin driver Chandler Petty gained ground in the rookie-of-the-year standings with an eighth-place run.

Keith Lawson and Missouri driver Mason Oberkramer completed the top 10. Bryant driver Joseph Long was 11th while Cabot’s Stacy Taylor finished 15th and Kenneth Jackson of Beebe retired early in the 18th spot after a scary crash on the turn 2 fence in hot laps that required his car to be turned over by track workers.

The Comp Cams Super Dirt Series will return to Beebe Speedway in a few weeks with the 100th race in series history on July 13 before going back to another tour mainstay at Northeast Arkansas Speedway the following night for a doubleheader of Rice-Tec Summer Series events.

SPORTS STORY >> Right sport drives Austin teen

Leader sportswriter

He’s not exactly a chip off the old block, but 16-year-old Austin resident Chandler Petty has still found a way to fulfill his dad’s wishes when it comes to being young and competitive in a sporting capacity.

It just doesn’t involve sticks, balls or goals.

It does, however, involve engines, shocks and sheet metal. And with a last name like Petty, maybe it should’ve been obvious all along.

There’s no relation to the famous Petty racing family, but there has been lots of prep time at the race shop with young Petty contending for the Comp Cams Super Dirt Series Rookie of the Year title as the youngest regular competitor on the regional super-late-model tour.

Petty’s father Brian grew up a farm boy turned multi-sport college athlete as a baseball and basketball standout at Crowley’s Ridge College in Paragould during the early 1990s, but struggled years later when it came to getting his grade-school-aged son involved in any type of athletic endeavor. Stints in T-Ball and basketball proved uninteresting to the younger Petty, who finally convinced dad to explore the world of go-kart racing.

“He couldn’t get me to play any other sport,” Petty said. “I couldn’t get into it. He was a football star and everything else, and I just couldn’t get interested in it. I tried a couple of sports, I just didn’t like it. We just got into the kart deal, and here we are.”

The potential for success was evident right away, as Petty quickly became a rising star at Arkansas Motorsports Park in Paragould. He won four races and finished second in the points his first season in 2007 before heading out on the national circuit the following year.

That led to more success, with Petty winning 28 feature events, including the coveted Gator Nationals. In 2009, he moved up a class and won 14 races, and the following year, he tested the stock-car waters with a hobby entry at Beebe Speedway, winning two races and finishing third in the points standings.

Petty also stayed active in the karting world that year and won the Batesville, Miss. Nationals, the biggest karting race in the country. He switched to a crate late model in 2011 and won nine features, finishing eighth in the NeSmith Late Model Series national championship.

For the elder Petty, his son’s fast success in racing was an added benefit for his quest to get Chandler away from the television set. The character development and responsibility learned while participating in organized sports was important to Brian when it came to his son, and while racing was not his first choice, it seemed to fit the bill after a number of fruitless attempts in more conventional youth activities.

“I kept pressuring him,” Brian Petty said. “Because all he was ever doing was playing video games. I finally said, ‘what is it you want to do?’ He told me about go-kart races they had in Warren, so we went and checked it out. I bought him a racing kart for his birthday that year, and that’s where it all started.”

The learning curve has been considerably steep with the move to super lates this season. Petty has failed to qualify for three events on the Comp Cams tour, and had four straight finishes outside the Top 10 in the events where he did make the show. His breakthrough run came at Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis on June 2 when he posted a sixth-place finish, his best finish this season.

Last Friday’s feature at Beebe Speedway was another learning experience for Chandler, who had to finish the last half of the 35-lap event without brakes. He stayed out of trouble in the caution-marred event and brought home his second top-ten finish with an eighth-place effort.

“It’s about a 400-horsepower difference,” Petty said of the switch to super late models from crates. “They’re fun to drive, and I don’t think it’s been the motor that’s thrown us for a curveball this year, it’s just been bad luck. I mean, we’ve had about as bad of luck as you can get.”

Many young racers have dreams of making it to NASCAR one day, but Petty’s aspiration for the future is to rise to the top of the super dirt late model world. He said he would not turn down an opportunity to race in the major-league ranks, though his heart truly lies in the dirt.

Sponsoring Chandler’s 47 car is also a family affair, with grandfather Gordon Petty providing the primary backing from his successful Whistle Stop Barbeque restaurant on Pleasure St. in Searcy. Gordon is also a fixture in the team Petty pit area on race day. While most of the wrench turning is left up to Brian, Gordon’s position seated to the side of the trailer ramp with cigar in hand appears to be more of a supervisory role.

Vision Wheel also sponsors for Petty, who is currently second to Bryant modified veteran Robert Baker in the CCSDS rookie standings.

Petty has a full slate of racing on tap this summer before returning to Cabot High School in the fall to start his junior year.

The football frenzy that consumes Panther Nation every autumn is among the strongest in the state, while few in the town of 29,000 pay much attention to racing.

Many of his classmates will be practicing blocking patterns and running drills later this summer, but Chandler will still be in the shop, doing the things necessary to excel at his sport.

“It’s a football-crazy town, and no one really cares about racing,” Petty said. “They don’t really know what it’s like. There’s so much more than what people think. When I’m not at school, I’m working on the car like they are with practice. It’s not any different, and it’s just as much athletic work like you wouldn’t believe.”