Wednesday, April 10, 2013

TOP STORY >> Moving oil line seen as priority

Leader staff writer

The 20-inch pipeline that broke March 29 and spilled Canadian tar sand crude oil into a Mayflower community would have been underneath Lake Maumelle if Little Rock Water, the predecessor of Central Arkansas Water, hadn’t moved it in 1957 when the lake was built.

But the line still runs for 13.5 miles through the Lake Maumelle watershed along a path that includes the northern border of the lake and underneath the Maumelle River and Reece, Yount and Bungle creeks, which feed the lake.

That break is not expected to impact Lake Maumelle, but CAW is concerned about what could happen and will ask ExxonMobil to move its line.

CAW has about 400,000 customers in central Arkansas. It serves Little Rock and North Little Rock, which combined its water departments to form CAW. CAW also provides water to North Pulaski Waterworks and the cities of Jacksonville and Cabot. Two-thirds of the water comes from Lake Maumelle.

Jacksonville buys about 60 percent of its water from CAW while Cabot still gets most of its water from wells and buys about 20 percent from CAW.

John Tynan, CAW watershed protection manager, said Friday that ExxonMobil has been very cooperative with CAW in the past over its concerns about possible contamination of the lake in the event of a break. ExxonMobil has even participated in exercises to test the effectiveness of a risk management plan completed in May 2010.

But the only way to ensure the area’s water supply isn’t contaminated by an oil spill from the line is to move the line out of the 88,000-acre Lake Maumelle watershed, Tynan said. CAW doesn’t expect an immediate affirmative response, he continued.

But what the request will do is get the conversation started between CAW, ExxonMobil and what CAW assumes will be a myriad of agencies required to participate. Until they ask, they won’t know who will have to eventually get involved, Tynan said.

If the water from Lake Maumelle could not be used, Tynan said Lake Winona would supply the system for two or three days under average conditions.

But, he pointed out, a spill of any type in the watershed doesn’t necessarily mean that the water from Lake Maumelle would be unusable. The risk management plan would be initiated at the first sign of trouble. 

“As part of this plan, we would contact the appropriate CAW staff and state and local emergency response agencies,” Tynan said. “We would then work to contain the spill as close to the rupture site as possible. Finally, we would begin sampling in the area of the spill, at our intake, and in our treated water to determine what contaminants, if any, were present.”

He continued, “Treatment may or may not be affected by a spill in the watershed, depending on the size of the spill, its transport in the watershed and the proximity to our intake structure.”

Tynan said, “Conventional water treatment used by CAW will remove a limited amount of some materials from the water. Some chemical modifications may be made to improve treatment of oil and associated components, but our treatment facilities are not specifically designed to remove significant amounts of oil and associated compounds,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Operation ends lifetime of pain

Leader staffwriter

In less than an hour on Friday, an innovative surgery performed at St. Vincent North in Sherwood ended a lifetime of pain for 72-year-old Patty Howle of Hot Springs.

Since she was 16, Howle suffered from round-the-clock gastro-esophageal reflux disease, commonly known as acid reflux.

Acid reflux disease occurs when a weak muscle repeatedly allows the contents of a patient’s stomach to back up into the esophagus and cause heartburn symptoms.

Symptoms can include a burning feeling in the chest, chest pain, burning in the throat, difficulty swallowing, a feeling of food sticking in the middle of the chest or throat, chronic cough, sore throat, chronic hoarseness, stomach discomfort and regurgitation.

Howle said before her surgery, “I am excited. I’ve had every symptom in the world. People have been saying, ‘I’ll see how you do, and I’ll get it done.’”

Her rescuer from the affliction was Dr. Dan Lister. He inserted a ring of magnetic titanium beads with a diameter of about an inch — when the ring isn’t stretched.

Howle said, “After meeting him, there was hope.” 

Lister is the only surgeon in the state trained for what is called the LINX Reflux Management System procedure.

During the surgery, the LINX ring is implanted around the lower end of the esophagus to strengthen the weak muscle.

During the surgery, Lister’s eyes never strayed from the monitors displaying Howle’s esphogus. She was unconscious for the 40-minute procedure.

The LINX ring expands to allow food into the stomach and contracts to prevent acid from coming back up into the esophagus.

Lister said Howle is not alone. He said 40 percent of adults in the United States have acid reflux.

The surgeon became dedicated to curing the disease through surgery in 2010 because “reflux is such a huge problem and affects so many people.”

Lister noted that acid reflux causes pneumonia, asthma and even esophageal cancer.

Of patients who are diagnosed with esophageal cancer, only 15 percent are still alive after five years, he said.

There are two types of esophageal cancer, Lister explained. The first is related to smoking and drinking.

But the second type is related to acid reflux. The number of patients diagnosed with that type has increased 700 percent since 1973, he added.

Most of the people who suffer from acid reflux take over-the-counter or prescription drugs to treat it, Lister continued.

But the pills available don’t cure the disease, the surgeon explained. All they do is reduce acid in order to treat the symptoms.

He called the innovative LINX surgery “ingenious.” The procedure is minimally invasive, patients can eat any kind of food immediately, they experience instantaneous relief and recover rapidly, Lister said. He noted that it is an outpatient surgery.

Lister continued, “It’s less manipulating, less dissection of the tissue. It’s beautifully simple. This surgery is going to revolutionize reflux surgery.”

There are two other surgical options for a patient suffering from acid reflux.

The first has been around since the mid-1970s, Lister said. He explained that it involves taking the upper part of the patient’s stomach and wrapping it around the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach.

But this option works unnaturally well, Lister said.

“It’s better than what God gave you,” he noted. While it cures acid reflux, the surgery’s side effects include not being able to vomit or belch, gas buildup and difficulty swallowing.

Recovery is also four to six weeks and a special diet of soft foods is required until the patient’s body heals.

Another option is the TIF surgery when a device made of thermoplastic polymer is used instead of the LINX ring.

Howle said she looked at getting the TIF, but learned that the TIF device doesn’t flex.

Lister said LINX is more similar to the first surgery in its effectiveness. But the LINX procedure doesn’t come with the side effects that have discouraged those who suffer from chronic acid reflux from having surgery rather than dealing with daily doses of acid-reducing drugs.

TOP STORY >> Parade honors veterans of an unpopular war

Leader staffwriter

The sun shone down and a solid breeze whipped flags to attention as marching units, local Scout groups, various veteran groups, motorcycles and military vehicles paraded down Jacksonville’s Main Street on Saturday afternoon honoring Vietnam veterans.

Hundreds lined the street, many sitting, smiling and pointing, some waving, and one, Roger Henderson, decked out in a black Vietnam veteran hat and a black leather jacket with three lines emblazoned on the back: “9th Infantry Division, Combat wounded, Old Reliable,” stood solemnly through the entire event.

Henderson, 64, was just 20 years old when he was sent to the swamps and rice paddies of the Mekong Delta in 1969. He was married a week before he shipped out.

“It was funny,” he said. “Here I was in the Army, going to Vietnam and I needed my mother’s signature to get married.”

His bride-to-be, at 18, didn’t need permission. “Good thing his mother liked me,” quipped Henderson’s wife, Penny.

That was the good, actually the great, before the bad.

Henderson shipped off to Vietnam as part of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong.

On his 21st birthday, about halfway through with his tour, Henderson was working point, out front, for his platoon when shots rang out. He caught two in the chest and one in the shoulder. The fire aimed at Henderson allowed the rest of the platoon to take cover and evasive action.

He was pulled to safety and then spent time in hospitals in Vietnam and Japan before being shipped to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, and given a medical discharge.

Henderson, who was raised around the Scott area and now lives in Cabot, said there were no parades or welcome homes when he and his fellow veterans returned.

“You wouldn’t wear a hat like I have on now or even wear your uniform. It wasn’t so bad in Arkansas, but in some states men were getting harassed just because they had short hair,” he recalled.

Almost 44 years later, the veteran still has physical pain from the injury and doesn’t like to talk about his time there. He received the Purple Heart and the bronze star for his service in Vietnam. Those medals, and pictures of him back then, are proudly displayed in the living room over the television.

“We see it everyday,” his wife said “And we are so proud of him.” That proud group includes a daughter, a son and four grandchildren. Henderson’s daughter, Tammy, married a military man who has already spent a year in Iraq.

Henderson, who missed last year’s inaugural parade, said he heard about this one at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

As a unit of Marines marched by, ending the parade, Henderson said it was good to see. His wife called it emotional, adding that a number of Vietnam reunions the couple have attended helped her understand better what her husband went through.

As solemn of an event as it was for Henderson, a Boy Scout troop from Little Rock Air Force Base passing out fans and small American flags, liked the parade for much different reasons than Henderson.

Gavyn Rudquist, Dominique Aricpe and Alex Dahn, all 11 years old, enjoyed the motorcycle calvacade with the veterans the best. Aricpe added it was great seeing all the military guys, especially the Marines.

When asked about the Vietnam War, long before their time, Rudquist, who is thinking of joining the military, said he knew many people came back in wheelchairs and crutches. Aricpe said he heard it was a bad war.

The parade, which lasted about 30 minutes, had about 20 groups in it, including the LRAFB Honor Guard, parade marshal John Mohler, who earned three Purple Hearts during multiple tours in Vietnam, the Rolling Thunder and Combat Veterans motorcycle club, the David D. Terry Jr. chapter of the Air Force Association, which sponsored a decorated truck, and then there was a truck and trailer by A Veteran’s Best Friend, a nonprofit dedicated to using service dogs to help Vietnam veterans lead normal lives.

Also in the parade were the 40-student Watson Chapel High School Junior ROTC marching group, a three-car convey of veterans sponsored by the Ira C. Eaker chapter of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society, dozens of members of Girl Scout Troops 6395, 6061, 6498, 6096 and 6255, an Army hummer from the Jacksonville Museum of Military History and a traveling wall with names of those from the area who died in Vietnam, sponsored by First Arkansas Bank and Trust.

Others in the parade included a decorated truck from VFW Post 4548 in Jacksonville, a truck sponsored by the local Daughters of the American Revolution and the Children of the American Revolution, a truck sponsored by Crain Ford driven by Vietnam veteran Glen Boyd, 50 marching airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing and 314th Airlift Wing at LRAFB, a 13-vehicle convey from the Arkansas Military Vehicle Preservation Association, three vehicles sponsored by American Legion, Post 74 and 20 marching Marines attending the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training at LRAFB.

EDITORIAL >> Expansion has benefits

There’s a good chance Arkansas will lead a pioneering program that will expand Medicaid coverage for the state’s working poor. After much opposition in the legislature, the so-called private insurance option has passed several hurdles in recent days and goes for a vote in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Passage of an historic private option bill will benefit 250,000 working poor and many small hospitals that will be reimbursed for services they now write off as charity care. Although the expansion is to be be funded through federal funds, private insurance companies will be responsible for the program.

The private insurance option bill passed the Senate last week and sailed through a House committee on Tuesday. Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) and House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) support the private option, which the federal government would fully fund for three years, after which the state pays just 10 percent of the cost.

The private insurance option will reduce Medicaid rolls, but Arkansas will still receive hundreds of millions of dollars from Washington to fund the program, much like highway funds that no state can afford to reject. As Gov. Mike Beebe told us last week, if we reject the money, “that’s like telling the federal government we want our transportation money sent to California.”

Dismang and Carter see Medicaid expansion as an economic issue that will not only benefit Arkansans but also our struggling local hospitals whose emergency rooms are swamped with people who have no insurance. Hospitals cannot offer huge amounts of charity care indefinitely.

It was surprising to see Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) vote against the expansion last Friday, even though several hospitals in their districts will receive millions in compensation from the program.

According to the state Human Services Department, Medicaid expansion will pump $151 million into the state’s economy in fiscal 2015, $176 million in fiscal 2016 and $146 million in fiscal 2017. By fiscal 2021, the state will pay less than $11 million for the expansion.

If House Bill 1143 is approved this week, it will mean a $670 million boost to the state’s economy over 10 years. For a poor state like ours, it makes no financial sense to reject the private option — although when it comes to our legislature, you might as well expect the unexpected.

This long session has had its good days and its bad days. The low points have included passage of a $125 million corporate welfare package for a dubious steel mill in Mississippi County, which passed with very little debate. 

It was also sad to see Sen. English and Sen. Jon Woods (R-Springdale) co-sponsor a bill that would allow payday lenders to return.

Say it ain’t so, Jane. Why would you enable these bloodsuckers who are trying to sneak back into Arkansas? We got rid of them once, and let’s not allow them back into our great state.

Senate Bill 900 may be the worst legislation of this session. Let it slink into oblivion.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills ladies sweep Jacksonville in big series

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears moved into sole possession of first place in the 5A Central standings with a doubleheader sweep of Jacksonville on Monday. Both teams entered the contest with perfect 4-0 marks in league play, but Sylvan Hills got a no hitter from sophomore hurler Tyra Williams in a 7-1 victory in game one, then won game two 4-1 to take the sweep at Sherwood Sports Complex.

Jacksonville played most of the game shorthanded, as both corner infielders were injured and left the game. First baseman Coyja Hood left with an eye injury in the second inning and third baseman Shyrel McKinney suffered an injured wrist when Sylvan Hills centerfielder Brittney Hubbird slid into her during a close play at third.

While Williams was dominant on the mound in game one, giving up no earned runs and striking out 14, she was responsible for Jacksonville’s lone run.

She hit eight-hole hitter Morgan Lloyd to lead off the sixth inning. Zylah Richardson then lined out back to Williams, who alertly threw to first to try to double up Lloyd, but her throw was off line, allowing the base runner to trot safely to second base.

Leadoff hitter Sacha Richardson bunted to move the runner to third, but she was also safe when Williams’ throw to first was in the dirt and rolled past the bag. That allowed Lloyd to score, making it 3-1 in the top of the sixth.

But Sylvan Hills (13-3, 6-0) had yet to have its best inning at the plate. Jacksonville pitcher Kimberly House had not been as dominant as Williams, but she had not given up an earned run through five innings. That changed in the sixth when the Lady Bears finally began to find its timing against the tall freshman.

Taylor Yoeman and Callie Cavender got back-to-back singles to lead things off, but Yoeman overran second base on Cavender’s hit, and was tagged out in a rundown. The Lady Bears’ nine-hole hitter along with leadoff hitter Brittney Hubbird drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Ashley Broadway then grounded to second base where Jacksonville’s Bailey Jones went for the force out at home, but Cavender just beat the throw to make it 4-1 and give the Lady Bears their first earned run of the game.

House fanned Jordie Flippo for the second out, but Williams, Jeana Canady and Jenna Hoogeveen hit three consecutive singles to score three runs and set the final margin.

Jacksonville got two runners on in the top of the seventh, but were unable to get a run across the plate.

Williams threw all seven innings, giving up no hits while striking out 14, walking three and hitting one batter. She was also outstanding at the plate, going 3 for 4 with three runs batted in.

She was almost 4 for 4 with four RBIs. In the first inning, Hubbird walked to lead things off and moved to third on a stolen base and a sacrifice grounder. Williams then hit a soft blooper to third base where McKinney made a good play by stretching to get the ball in her glove, but it bounced out when she hit the ground.

Sylvan Hills’ next two runs were also unearned. With two outs, Flippo hit a deep fly ball to centerfield. Lloyd was underneath it in plenty of time, but dropped what should have been the third out. Williams and Canady then got back-to-back RBI base hits to make it 3-0.

It wasn’t all bad news for Jacksonville. The Lady Red Devils closed the weekend with a victory over a Beebe junior varsity team that entered the Beebe-Cabot tournament after Jonesboro-Westside failed to show up. The Lady Devils lost two close games earlier in the day on Saturday before handling the Lady Badgers 4-0.

SPORTS STORY >> Badger record holders recognized

Leader staffwriter

During Friday’s annual Beebe Badger Relays, a ceremony was held commemorating the school record-holders of Beebe High School’s track and field events. The majority of the school’s record-holders were present for the ceremonial event, which included various age groups, some of which are current members of the Badger and Lady Badger track teams.

The longest standing records in either the boys’ or girls’ division are held by Bobby Pruitt, who set school records in both the 800-meter run and the 1600-meter run in 1967.

Pruitt’s record 800-meter time of 1:58.00 and 1600-meter time of 4:19.60 have stood the test of time, and still mean a lot to him to this day according to his wife, Kim Pruitt, who was there to represent her husband, who was out of state for a softball tournament. 

“He was very disappointed that he couldn’t be here, but he wanted someone in the family to be here for him,” Kim Pruitt said. “Track’s always been an important part of his life. He went on and ran at the University of Arkansas and held the mile record there for several years. He ran a 4:07.00 in college and continues to run today and be very active.

“(The record) means a lot to him, but he encourages athletes to do their best and he looks forward to one day that he can be here and see someone break the record. He wants them to do their best, and he says ‘records are meant to be broken.’”

Tony Lockhart, who went on to play football at the University of Arkansas after his high school career, was also part of the ceremony. His four records have stood since 1997. He is the school record-holder in the 400-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the 110-meter hurdles, and he shares the 100-meter dash record with his younger brother, Dwayne Lockhart, as both timed in at 10.71.

Dwayne Lockhart tied his brother’s record in the 100-meter dash in 2003, and he also set the long jump record that year with a length of 23-9.

Also honored in the boys’ individual events was 300-meter hurdles record-holder Benji Lindsey (1982), 3200-meter record-holder Chris Roberts (2006), high jump record-holder James Anderson (2008), triple jump record-holder Dayton Scott (2012), pole vault record-holder Reese Totty (2011), cross country 5K record-holder Jacob Hendricks, and shot put and discus record-holder William Dismang (1996).

The 4x100-meter relay team of Dane Grant, Shane Smith, D.J. Jones and Aaron Raney set the school record that stands today in 1994 with a time of 44.8. Grant, Jones, Raney and Bennie Pickens set the 4x200-meter relay record the year before that with a 1:34.2 time.

In 1991, the 4x400-meter record was set by Mark Bivens, Chris Ulsperger, Jason Loyd and John Greer, and last year, the 4x800-meter relay team of John Diaz, Jake Schlenker, K.J. Maples and Austin Dupio set the school record and won the state championship with a time of 8:09.86.

Diaz and Schlenker are both on the Badger track team this year, and reflected on what it was like to not only win state in the respective event last year, but to also set the school record in the process.

“It felt really good,” Diaz said. “We found out about it at (the state) track meet. It was a bit of a shock to us. It was a surprise to us that we came in first overall (at state), but we knew that we had a strong 4x800 team.”

“The first thing was winning state,” Schlenker said. “That was what made us happy in the first place. But as far as breaking that record, I kind of couldn’t believe it, because that wasn’t really our goal. We kind of thought that was out of reach at the beginning of the year, but we got it.”

Nearly all of the relay record-holders in the girls’ division were in attendance. The 4x400-meter team of Sandy Hansen, Lesley Rose Smith, K.C. Cagle and Beth Huffstickler set the record in 1982 with a time of 4:04.47.

Geraldine Fuller, Diana Alexander Layrock, and Sharonda Harris are all part of two record-holding relay teams. Those three along with Tanya Skasick set the 4x100-meter mark in 1988 with a time of 50.8. The trio also holds the record in the 4x200-meter relay, along with Carolyn Harris, with a time of 1:48, which was also set in 1988.

Alexander is also the Lady Badgers’ high jump record-holder with a height of 5-6. In 2000, the 4x800-meter team of Jordan Burns, Katrina Tucker, Amanda Sexton and Cari Allen set the school record with a time of 10:04.11.

Allen is currently the Lady Badgers’ track coach, but is now known as coach Rector, and she encourages her current 4x800-meter team to push themselves to challenge the time her team set more than a decade ago.

“Back then it was called the 3200-meter relay,” Rector said. “At that time we were the top-placing group at the Meet of Champs that was from Beebe. I’ve coached the Beebe girls since 2006, and each year I want them to beat my time. I would love to see some girls that I coach beat that time.”

Current Lady Badger track standout Madison Richey holds two school records. Her 3733 point total in the heptathlon last year was good for the school record in that event, as well as her triple jump length of 34-5, which was also set in 2012.

Alicia Allen’s cross country 5K time of 21:58.46 was set in 2006 and still stands to this day. Nita Young holds three school records that were all set in 1981. She holds records in the 100-meter hurdles, the 200-meter dash, and the long jump.

Jordan Kelly’s time of 12.72 set the school mark in the 100-meter dash in 2007. Brandy Ballard (1999) still holds the time for the grueling 300-meter hurdles with a time 45.54. Hansen also holds the mark for the 400-meter dash with a 60.50 time.

Jordan Burns set the 800-meter dash record in 2000 with a time of 2:28.38. In the distance races, Taylor Brock set the 1600-meter record, timing in at 5:51.64, and Tracie Blair holds the 3200-meter record with a time of 12:52.83, both of which were set in 2007.

Sharon Griggs set the shot put record in 1990 with a distance of 36-8. Jennifer Reeder holds the discus record with a distance of 118-1, which was set in 1999, and Alexis Miguel’s 2011 pole vault clearing of 9-2 is the school record in that event.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe girls, boys finish in top three

Leader sportswriter

Beebe, Lonoke, Jacksonville and North Pulaski all participated in Friday’s Beebe Badger Relays which was dominated by members of the 5A East Conference.

The Lady Badgers finished in second place with 70 points, 15 points behind first place Blytheville. The Badgers also finished with 70 points which was good for third place behind overall winner Greene County Tech, and second-place Nettleton.

The Lonoke boys also had a strong showing as they finished fifth overall with 44 points. Sprinter Eric Williams provided six of those points as he finished third overall in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.57. Fellow Jackrabbit sprinter Brent Sims finished seventh with a time of 11.73.

Williams also placed in the 200-meter run, finishing sixth overall with a time of 23.93. Jacksonville’s Danial Curly placed seventh in the run, finishing with a time of 23.99.
Beebe’s Hunter Plante gave the Badgers five points in the 400-meter run with a time of 54.61, which was good enough for a fourth-place finish. Caleb Bailey of Lonoke finished sixth in the event with a time of 55.29.

The hosts Badgers dominated the 800-meter run. John Diaz won the event with a time of 2:08.43, and Jake Schlenker finished third with a 2:10.39 time. Jeffrey Norwood of Lonoke placed fifth with a time of 2:11.45, and North Pulaski’s Cedric Grant finished seventh with a 2:17.84 time.

“They’re real special just because, it’s one thing to have kids that are good at what they do, but they work hard for what they get,” said Beebe boys coach Mark Pinkerton about Diaz and Schlenker. “They have great attitudes and they’ve earned their success.”

Lonoke’s Tykel Gray took second in the 1600-meter run with a time of 5:00.66. Allen Kirk of Beebe finished third, timing in at 5:02.22. Kirk also ran the 3200-meter, finishing third with a time of 11:15.51.

The Lonoke 4x100-meter relay team of Williams, Sims, D.J. Burton and Blake Mack finished second and one tenth of a second from qualifying for the state meet with a time of 44.30. To qualify for the state meet in the 4x100-meter relay, a time of 44.20 is needed.

“The guys were pretty bummed about that,” said Lonoke boys coach Tim Scarborough, “but, you know, we’ll have one more opportunity when we go to Heber Springs the week before district. So hopefully we can get some good weather and we can go ahead and pull that off.”

Beebe took second in the 4x400-meter relay with a time of 3:43.46. Lonoke finished fifth with a time of 3:59.53, and North Pulaski’s time of 4:12.96 was good for seventh place. The respective schools also placed the same in the 4x800-meter relay.

A.J. Christiansen of Beebe won the high jump with a jump of 6-3. The win qualifies Christiansen for the state meet. Jacksonville’s Curly placed sixth in the event with a jump of 6-0. Beebe picked up additional points in the pole vault thanks to Brandon Lercher’s 11-9 clearing, which was good for second place.

Curly and Lonoke’s Williams tied for fourth place in the triple jump at 40-4. Mack placed seventh in the event at 40-1. North Pulaski sophomore David Jackson won the shot put with a throw of 45-1. Beebe’s Race Payne finished fifth in the event with a throw of 40-9.

In the discus, Beebe took three spots in the placing. Jared Gowen finished second with a throw of 119-1. Jackson Snelson finished fourth with a throw of 107-9, and Jessie Crisco finished fifth with a distance of 106-5.

In the girls’ division, Beebe’s Madison Richey placed in every one of her  events. Richey won the long jump with a length of 15-8 1/2. She placed second in the high jump, clearing 5-0, fifth in the triple jump with a length of 32-5, and fifth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 17.73. 

“She’s always strong in the overall (points),” said Lady Badgers coach Cari Rector of Richey. “She was third best in the overall (individual) high-points.”

Rector was also happy with her 4x800-meter relay team, which won with a time of 10:55.74, as well as freshman Taylor McGraw, who won the 800-meter run with a time of 2:36.41.

“I was really proud of them,” Rector said of her relay team. “They had a good time there. Taylor McGraw won the 800, and she’s a ninth-grader. She’s done really well. This is her second track meet. We had a good showing in all the relays, and I was very pleased.”

The Lady Badgers also placed in every other relay event. They placed second in the 4x100 relay with a time of 52.57, and third in the 4x400, with a time of 4:33.57. Katie McGraw and Erin Langley placed sixth and seventh overall in the 400-meter run. Katie McGraw finished with a time of 1:09.83, while Langley finished in 1:10.62. 

Rachel Treece, also from Beebe, placed in the 800-meter run, finishing eighth with a time of 2:46.16. Lonoke’s Haiden Jeter took sixth in the event, timing in at 2:44.04. Jamie Jackson was fourth in the grueling 300-meter hurdles, clocking in a 50.93 time for the Lady Badgers.

Cecily Brock and Sydnye Shuttleworth added the final points for the Lady Badgers by taking sixth and seventh in the 3200-meter run. Brock timed in at 14:37.73 and Shuttleworth finished in 14:47.68. North Pulaski’s Meghan Crimmins also placed with a time of 14:57.53, which was good for eighth.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats nip Bears in nine

Leader sportswriter

It took nine innings, but North Little Rock came back from a five-run deficit to beat the scrappy Sylvan Hills Bears 7-6 on Saturday in a nonconference game at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

Neither team was able to score in the first inning, but three costly errors by the Charging Wildcats (12-2, 4-0) in the bottom of the second resulted in a five-run inning for the Bears (8-7, 5-1).

Jacob White and TJ Burrow started the inning with singles, and Nathan Thomas walked to put the home team in a bases loaded situation with no outs. Connor Poteet then came to the plate and hit a routine grounder to shortstop.

The NLR shortstop threw to second base for the force out, but the second baseman couldn’t make the catch, and as a result, all three runs scored and Poteet wound up at second base. Reid Fawcett was next up, and he hit a ground ball to the second baseman, but the throw to first was out of reach, and Poteet scored with ease to give the Bears a 4-0 lead.

Leadoff hitter Brandon Baioni was next up and he reached on an E6 as the NLR shortstop’s throw to first was also out of the first baseman’s reach. Fawcett went to third on the bad throw. With runners at the corners, Baioni took off for second, but found himself caught in a rundown.

However, he was able to distract the NLR infield long enough to allow Fawcett to score from third to give Sylvan Hills a 5-0 lead.

Preston Oberling and Alex Gosser scored for the Charging Wildcats in the third. Oberling was hit by a pitch at thestart of the inning, and scored later on when Chandler Thompson’s grounder to first base was too hot to handle. Spencer Byrd drove in Gosser the next at bat with a single to the left field gap, cutting the Bears’ lead to 5-2.

White scored Sylvan Hills’ final run in the fifth as Thomas hit a slow roller in front of home plate. Thomas was narrowly thrown out on the play, but White scored from second base as he hustled his way home, giving the Bears a 6-2 cushion.

Sylvan Hills’ sophomore pitcher Hunter Heslep was pulled after walking his fourth batter of the game in the top of the sixth. He was solid through five innings of work, striking out five while giving up just three hits in his time on the mound, but NLR adjusted well to the pitching change.

Two-straight Charging Wildcats were walked in Heslep’s relief and with the momentum on their side, the Wildcats, class 7A’s No. 2 ranked team, racked up four runs in the sixth to tie the game at 6-6.

“He threw great,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton of Heslep’s performance on the mound. “We put a sophomore out against the No. 2 team in (class) 7A. He goes out there and competes and pitches well, well enough to win. But, you know, we helped them out that one inning with a bunch of walks and a few errors.

“Of course they helped us out in the second inning. It was kind of like who is trying to give (the game) away at times. But, you know, we just came out on the short end of the stick.”

Jake Sandefur was hit by a pitch in the top of the ninth to lead off the inning, and scored what ended up being the winning run as Paul Morris hit a ground ball to shortstop with two outs. As Morris hustled to first base, the throw to first was short, and the first baseman was unable to hang on to the backhand scoop, which allowed Sandefur to set the final score.

North Little Rock threw five different pitchers in the game. Dillon Howell, the fifth pitcher to take the mound for the Wildcats, got the win as he pitched the sixth inning on. He struck out four Sylvan Hills’ batters in his time on the mound.

The game also had its share of controversy, especially in the eyes of North Little Rock coach Randy Sandefur. Gosser started the eighth inning with a single up the middle, and Howell hit into a fielder’s choice at second base the next at bat. Howell was initially ruled safe, but was later called out because of runner’s interference by Gosser as Sylvan Hills tried to turn the double play.

Sandefur argued the call, and was ejected from the game one-batter later for expressing his discontent with the call.

“They ruled that the catcher (Gosser) came in and when he slid, he went through the player,” Sandefur explained. “Well the player needs to be on the bag. What bothers me is the umpire calls (Gosser) out, calls (Howell) safe. Then coach (Tipton) goes out there and all of a sudden it’s a different story. I don’t buy that.”

In the bottom part of the inning, Gosser was ejected from the game as he prevented a Sylvan Hills’ base runner from running him over at the plate, which also prevented the Bears from scoring the game-winning run.

“I thought our pitchers did really well,” Sandefur said. “We threw a bunch of them today. It’s sad that Alex Gosser got ejected. I don’t agree with that call. The (Sylvan Hills) guy was coming in standing up, so what are we supposed to do? So we’re going to have to go into our next conference game Tuesday missing two or three guys.

“And it’s unfortunate I was ejected, but if we did that 10 times and the play was in question, I would’ve been out there 10 times. That was not right. It was wrong. The umpires aren’t supposed to be seen. It’s the kids. I just don’t think (the officials) did an adequate job. Should I have been ejected? Yes. I wasn’t trying to get ejected, but I was fighting for our kids.”

Byrd, Sandefur, Gosser, Howell, Morris and Gray each had a hit for NLR. Charlie Roberts and White had two hits apiece for Sylvan Hills, while JD Miller, Burrow and Fawcett each had a hit.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe girls clip Cabot, win tourney

The Beebe softball team holds up the first-place plaque and trophy after beating Cabot in the championship game of the Cabot-Beebe tournament on Saturday. The Lady Badgers won the game 1-0 on its home field.

Leader sportswriter

Sophomore power ruled the hour on Saturday as Beebe took home first place in its own Beebe/Cabot Invitational softball tournament with a 1-0 victory over Cabot in what amounted to stellar defensive efforts from both clubs during the championship game at Gillam Fields.

The format called for Beebe to host the games in the top half of the bracket with Cabot playing host to the games in the lower bracket. That led to the two hosts meeting at Beebe to decide the winner for the second straight season, and a closely-contested final that required a bit of luck on Beebe’s part to get a runner home.

The game was still scoreless entering the bottom of the sixth inning when sophomore Mackenzie Bingham sent an infield grounder directly over second base, causing the ball to take a wild hop and allow freshman Baylee Halford to reach the plate for the only score of the game. Halford singled with a line drive between third base and shortstop to lead off the bottom of the sixth and advanced to third on a grounder by junior Madelyn Poe.

“For both teams, we saw a lot of different pitching speeds,” Beebe coach Eric Chambers said. “There were a lot of different types of pitchers today, so coming out and hitting the ball all over the place just isn’t going to happen. Those close games just came down to a couple of mistakes here and there, and we were lucky to get a big base hit from Mackenzie Bingham there in the sixth inning after we got a couple of girls on. In fast-pitch softball, 1-0 is about normal for good teams.

“We got a little lucky there, but we needed some breaks really after we got called out a couple of times and we weren’t sure if we were out or not, but anyhow, yeah, it worked out for us.”

The final turned into a pitchers’ duel between sophomores as Cabot’s Kaitlyn Thompson matched Beebe standout Ellie Reaves blow for blow through seven innings. In fact, Thompson allowed only three hits to Reaves’ four, but an error at third and a hit-by-pitch for Beebe batter Calah Hill in the bottom of the sixth created the only scoring opportunity for either side. Reaves also helped herself inside the circle with seven strikeouts while Beebe’s defense went error free.

Reaves got into a bit of a pickle in the top of the second inning when Lady Panthers junior Brandyn Vines singled to second to lead off and advanced to second with a steal. Reaves struck out two batters before sophomore third baseman Courtney Shepard ended the threat with an unassisted fielder’s-choice play for the third out.

“We’re starting one junior, Madelyn Poe, and she did a good job at shortstop today,” Chambers said. “We have all sophomores except for one freshman, so we’re young, and they did a really good job today. We had one bad inning against Trumann where I felt like we didn’t make some good decisions, but other than that, I felt like they played really well.”

The semifinal victory over Trumann appeared to be in the bag early with Beebe taking a fast 3-0 lead and adding to its advantage in the top of the fourth inning with a hit by Poe that scored Mackenzie Free. Shepard and Courtney Caldwell added two runs in the top of the sixth before Trumann got its first score. Bingham put the Lady Badgers’ final score up in the top of the seventh, as Trumann made it 7-2 in the bottom of the seventh and threatened to come back all the way by loading the bases with one out.

“I told them let’s use this to ride, because we’ve got a big week coming up,” Chambers said. “We’ve got Harding Academy, then we play at Paragould for a doubleheader, then at Wynne on Thursday, we had to move that game, so I said let’s ride this thing.

“And it’s good to win your own tournament. That’s twice now we’ve hosted it, and it’s good to win it, makes everybody feel good.”

Cabot got a bye in the first-round when Jonesboro Westside failed to show. They moved to the semifinals to play Nettleton after the Lady Raiders beat Dardanelle 6-4. The Lady Panthers trounced Nettleton 16-0, scoring 11 runs in the top of the fifth inning to blow the game wide open.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

TOP STORY >> Neville's nostalgic doo wop CD

Leader Publisher

The Grammy Award-winning singer Aaron Neville has a nice new CD out on the venerable Blue Note label, “My True Story,” which is the New Orleans singer’s tribute to doo wop.

Although it was recorded in studios in New York and New Orleans, the relaxed session has a live feel to it. Neville and the band — which includes the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and Greg Leisz on guitar, Tony Scherr on bass and others — sound as if they’re playing after hours in a small club in the French Quarter. It’s genuine downhome music as Neville sings such classics as “Money Honey,” “Ruby Baby,” “My True Story,” “Ting a Ling,” “Gypsy Woman,” “Be My Baby,” “Tears on My Pillow,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “Work with Me Annie,” “This Magic Moment,” ending with Jesse Belvin’s “Goodnight, My Love.”

 Aaron Neville's "My True Story"
is his latest from Blue Note.

(Belvin died in a car wreck in Hope in 1960 at the age of 27 after appearing at the first integrated concert with Sam Cooke in Little Rock, which the future music critic Robert Palmer attended as a teenager.)

Blue Note has gone well beyond its jazz roots with the signing of Neville, Norah Jones and other pop artists. But Blue Note has not forgotten its roots and continues to issue terrific jazz.

Among its recent releases is Wayne Shorter’s “Without a Net” (reviewed here Feb. 16), a live recording of the 79-year-old saxophonist’s recent concerts in Europe and Los Angeles, which sound as good as his classic Blue Note recordings from the 1960s.

Blue Note, the world’s most famous jazz label, started in 1939 by two young refugees from Germany, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, has recorded the giants of jazz, from Albert Ammons to Thelonious Monk, from John Coltrane to Horace Silver.

The label made just one record with Coltrane, “Blue Trane,” in 1957, which kicked off his most creative period with Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones (although Coltrane made several fine Blue Note records as a sideman).

After he recorded “Blue Trane,” Coltrane left Blue Note for Atlantic Records and Impulse. He died in 1967, leaving behind his widow Alice and a baby they named for Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitarist. Ravi Coltrane has grown into a major jazz artist and has released his own recording from Blue Note, “Spirit Fiction,” where he plays tenor and alto saxophone. Along with his young band, he’s joined by Geri Allen on piano and tenor player Joe Lovano.

Ravi’s dad would have been proud.

The younger Coltrane has a sound that is as fresh as his father’s when he first came on the scene 65 years ago. Building on the history of modern jazz that his dad helped create, Ravi Coltrane has the good fortune to play alongside Joe Lovano. Much of “Spirit Fiction” consists of duets with Coltrane and Lovano. You have to listen closely to tell the two apart as the older musician inspires the younger Coltrane to play his best.

Lovano’s sound is as accomplished as any saxophone player of our time. His “From the Soul” from 1991 is a modern masterpiece and gets a crown rating from the Penguin Guide to Jazz CDs. It ranks up there with another great saxophone player’s late Blue Note CD, Joe Henderson’s “Live at  the Village Vanguard,” which also gets a crown rating in the Penguin guide.

Lovano, who has recorded prolifically for Blue Note, has a new CD out called “Cross Culture” with the Grammy Award-winning bassist Esperanza Spalding, West African guitarist and fellow Blue Note artist Lionel Loueke, James Weidman on  piano and
Otis Brown III and 
Francisco Mela on drums.

The sound is superb and the musicianship is classic Blue Note.

Monday, April 08, 2013

TOP STORY >> Williams, English against expansion

Leader senior staff writer

The private-option healthcare alternative to Medicaid expansion passed the Senate Friday morning.

Although the bill enabling private-option health insurance for 250,000 working class Arkansans passed 24-9 in the Senate, it may be in trouble. While that vote is sufficient to pass the enabling legislation on to the House, it would not meet the three-quarters threshold to pass an appropriations bill to fund it.

The appropriations bill must be approved by 27 of the 35 senators and 75 of the 100 state representatives.

Among those voting against the bill were Senators Jane English (R-North Little Rock) and Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot). All Senate Democrats voted for the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) and supported by the governor.

So unless three more votes can be found in the Senate, private option healthcare insurance may not pass this session.

It is possible that arms could be twisted, or that voting against the enabling legislation would give political cover to those Republicans who could claim at the next general election to have voted against the bill, while still authorizing the appropriation. Or some may be using their votes for leverage on tax cut proposals they favor.


Asked Friday afternoon about the chances of passing the appropriations bill for the private option Dismang said, “I’m not going to try to handicap how folks will vote. I don’t horse trade.”

“I gave them as much information as possible. I’ve not asked for votes on this bill, we’ve discussed the impacts on the state.

“We’ll be considering the identical House bill about next week,” said state Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville. He said that there might be some senators holding out until they get a couple of bills passed they want in a tax package.

Perry said the House would consider an identical house bill HB1143 “probably next week.”

“We’re going to have a compromise on a package of tax cuts in exchange for the (private) option,” Perry said. “We’re working on that right now.”

“The biggest hurdle for this expanded insurance coverage is the passage of a bill allowing us to spend the federal money for the private option in Arkansas,” Beebe said in his weekly radio address.

“That type of appropriation measure requires 75-percent approval from both houses of the General Assembly. It is not an easy threshold to reach, and we continue to share information and work to convince more and more of our lawmakers that this is the best option for our working poor. In order to take full advantage of the money made available to us, this decision must occur in these final weeks of the legislative session.”

The bill allows the state Department of Human Services to set up a program to use federal Medicaid expansion dollars to pay for private health care coverage under the federal government’s Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.


“I’ve been answering a lot of e-mail from 9 p.m. until 3 this morning,” according to Rep. Douglas House (R-North Little Rock). Private option is “the lesser of evils,” he said.

By going the private route instead of just expanding Medicaid, the state can cut out a lot of fraud, waste and cruelty. He called the existing Medicaid program “a walking disaster.”

Rural and small town hospitals — including North Metro at Jacksonville — are faced with going under unless Medicaid expansion or the private option go into effect.

“North Metro is comfortable either way,” he said. “Rural hospitals are telling us they will go bankrupt within a year,” without some sort of help, House said.

Hospitals in Searcy, Conway, Batesville, Fort Smith and Jonesboro have said that without help, they will have to merge or close.

“Obamacare is like a bad disease we’ve inherited,” he said. “Let’s make the best of a bad situation.

He said the current private-option proposal is a testimony to bipartisan cooperation. “It’s so encouraging. Gov. Beebe has been magnificent.”

“I read the proposal,” said state Rep. Patti Julian  (D-North Little Rock). “It’s pretty much what you’d expect…very dry.”

She said the bill was includes a lot of definitions and authority, but no money.

“It’s up to the insurance department to set up the policies,” she said. “We’re just moving forward with the framework.”


“I voted against the measure because of concerns about the long-term costs and because many of my constituents oppose it,” Sen. Williams said Friday.

Arkansas would be the first state in the union to propose a private option model for the uninsured.  The option would provide them private health insurance rather than adding them to government Medicaid rolls.

However, rather than simply expand the Medicaid program, the Senate voted to use federal funds to pay for private health insurance for low-income families.

“The Arkansas Medicaid program will shrink because SB 1020 will transfer low-income families and others covered by government Medicaid to a private insurance carrier,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, this week, tax cut legislation advanced in both chambers of the General Assembly.

The House Committee on Revenue and Taxation advanced HB 1585 to reduce state income taxes. It would cut the state’s 7 percent income tax rate to 6.875 percent on taxable income of $44,000 and above. The 7 percent rate now applies to taxable income of $34,000 and up.

The current 6 percent rate applies to taxable income from $20,400 to $33,999 and HB 1585 would apply it to taxable incomes of $20,400 to $43,999. It would become effective for tax year 2014.

The bill would reduce state general revenue by $28.6 million in fiscal year 2014 and $57.2 million in fiscal 2015, according to the state Department of Financial Administration.

Also, the committee advanced HB 1966 to lower capital gains taxes. It would create a 70 percent exemption for any net capital gains and Arkansas-based businesses after Jan. 1, 2014.

TOP STORY >> City defends demolition

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville resident Berthena Nunn is lashing out at city officials after a dilapidated rental home she owned at 300 N. Elm St. was demolished Thursday.

Code enforcement officer Charles Jenkins said she was warned several times. Nunn claims the city didn’t give her enough notice and Jenkins didn’t tell her exactly what needed to be fixed. Nunn also claimed she is out the $45,000 to $50,000 she spent on improvements.

When The Leader called to speak to Nunn, she said her attorney would answer any questions and promptly hung up. A second phone call made to ask who her attorney is went to a message stating that Nunn’s voicemail had not been set up.

That is the same message Jenkins claimed he was directed to several times when he called Nunn to speak with her about the condemnation.

This isn’t the first time the city has been threatened with a lawsuit. Jacksonville has often settled out of court to avoid expensive legal battles.

Nunn was involved in a 2010 discrimination lawsuit against the Department of Human Services and is currently suing one of her tenants for $35,000 plus court costs and attorney fees. According to a complaint filed in February, the tenant removed two vehicles from the mobile home lot she owned and didn’t return them.

Jacksonville has asked her to pay for the demolition.

Jenkins said, “We did all the steps that were required. We actually did more than was required.”

The house was vacant for more than a year and there were complaints about drug activity going on there, he added.

Jenkins also said the city loses money when it demolishes a home. That is because placing a lien on the property is often Jacksonville’s only option to recoup the cost of the demolition. If the property is never sold, Jacksonville doesn’t get reimbursed, Jenkins said. He noted that the code enforcement office always prefers to work with property owners.

The city council demonstrated that attitude at its meeting Thursday when the aldermen removed 119 Roosevelt Road from the condemnation list because the owner’s father had come to a previous meeting to request an extension. The council praised him for bringing the property up to code in a timely fashion.

Jenkins first spoke with Nunn in person on Sept. 25, 2012. He and Police Chief Gary Sipes also met with her at the police department on Jan. 9.

According his report, Jenkins received a complaint about the house on March 28, 2012. He found boarded-up windows, open electrical sockets, water damage and foundation damage at the house. In July, Jenkins tried to reach Nunn by visiting one of her listed addresses, 6600 W. Main St., sending a letter to her post office box and by e-mailing her.

District Judge Robert Batton signed a search warrant in August 2012. Jenkins noted the following additional code violations in his reports: a broken window, a rusted, corroded and improperly vented hot water heater, a kitchen floor that was giving way, rodent holes in various rooms and rodent droppings indicating there was an infestation at the house.

A public nuisance notice was posted at the house on Aug. 13, 2012, according to Jenkins’ report. A public nuisance letter was also mailed to Nunn in September.

Nunn told Jenkins at their first meeting later that month she wanted to renovate the property, according to the report. Nunn was told she had seven days to give code enforcement a timeline for the renovation, including when she expected to finish the work.

Nunn didn’t do that, according to Jenkins’ report. He received the timeline three weeks later and tried to contact Nunn to discuss it. Jenkins checked the house on Oct. 31, 2012, and saw that the front porch add-on had been painted.

The city council condemned the property at its Nov. 15, 2012, meeting. A final notice was sent mailed on Nov. 20, 2012.

On Dec. 12, 2012, according to Jenkins’ report, he went to the house and found that plumbing, electrical wiring, painting and foundation work had been done. But, the code enforcement officer said, the improvements had not been inspected and no building permits were issued to Nunn. That is when and why a cease-and- desist order was issued to her.

Jenkins said the police chief informed Nunn about the procedure for appealing the condemnation during their meeting in January.

Jenkins added that he and Sipes delayed the demolition Thursday, even though they weren’t required to do so, to allow Nunn to remove items from the house.

TOP STORY >> Beebe speaks on issues

Leader staff writer

“It’s a no-brainer,” Gov. Mike Beebe said Thursday evening in Cabot about the state joining the federal Medicaid expansion.

Beebe was in Cabot as the keynote speaker for the Open Arms Shelter fundraising dinner, where he talked about being raised by a single mom.

He told The Leader that if the state doesn’t join the Medicaid expansion, “we still have to pay for it. That’s like telling the federal government we want our transportation money sent to California.”

Even though he said the issue is a no-brainer, he added that it will be difficult to get legislative approval.

“We need a three-fourths vote and that’s tough to get even for motherhood and apple pie,” he quipped.

“There is no reason not to do this the way we have it structured,” he said, adding, “We don’t pay, if we can’t afford it.”

The Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid eligibility levels so states can cover low-income adults between 19 and 64 years old and increases the eligibility level to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the expansion in June 2012 but said it had to be offered to the states as an option, not a mandate.

The Arkansas plan calls for expanding Medicaid by utilizing the private sector to provide health insurance for low-income Arkansans.

The state option would enroll the newly eligible in private insurance plans. Between 200,000 and 250,000 more Arkansans would be covered. The cost of covering these premiums would be covered by the federal government from 2014 to 2016. After that, the federal share would decrease and the state would pick up 10 percent of that cost.

On Friday morning, the state Senate approved taking advantage of federal Medicaid expansion through the private option system of moving eligible people from conventional Medicaid to coverage under the new private insurance offered by health exchanges.

The measure was approved by the Senate 24-9. The enabling legislation needs only a simple majority, but the appropriation to follow will need 3/4ths support, or 27 votes.

The House must also approve both the measures to accept the program and the appropriation bill.

In voting for the expansion Friday, Republican Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R- Searcy), who will be the next Senate leader, said, “What’s inside this bill is the right direction for us to move forward with health care in Arkansas.”

Republican Sens. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) and Eddie Jo Williams (R-Cabot) voted against the bill.

Williams was at the Open Arms event Thursday night, along with House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot). They were recognized by the governor for their hard work.

“It’s been a tough time and they’ve worked long hours, and I’m ready for them to go home,” Beebe joked.

The governor said lawmakers’ attendance at the dinner after long hours spent  at the Legislature shoes their commitment toward preventing child abuse.

Beebe said Carter has shown a lot of “great leadership.” He said speaker of the House was a tough job and “Carter had handled it with grace and wisdom. He is a first class person.”

Before his Open Arms speech, the governor touched on a two other issues with The Leader.
On having his vetoes overridden three times — twice on abortion legislation he didn’t agree with and once on a voter ID bill — the governor said this was the first time Republicans had control of the Legislature since Reconstruction.

Beebe said Southern states have a rather easy time vetoing governors. “It goes back to Reconstruction when there wasn’t a lot of trust in the government. The law just requires a 51 percent vote, a simple majority,” he explained.

The governor added that it was part of the job and there was no animosity.

SPORTS STORY >> Bombers steal two at home

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panther baseball team dropped a pair of tough conference losses at Mountain Home on Wednesday, losing 1-0 and 3-2 and dropping to 2-4 in the 7A/6A East Conference.

“Our pitching and defense was outstanding, we just couldn’t get the bats going,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “Their left hander (Matt House) is really good and he threw an outstanding game. Game two we missed so many opportunities by hitting into double plays. I think we hit into four double plays in that game.”

Mountain Home’s lone run came in the bottom of the last inning on a wild pitch with the bases loaded.

Logan threw six and two-thirds innings, giving up just five hits while striking out eight.
He worked out of a jam in the second inning when the Bombers got three of their five base hits.

With one out in the seventh inning, Michael Weh-meyer doubled to centerfield and Stetson Adams walked. A wild pitch allowed the runners to advance, prompting Fitch to call for an intentional walk to load the bases, setting up a force at any base and a potential double play. Instead, another wild pitch allowed the game-winning run.

“Ryan pitched another great game,” Fitch said. “We just have to find a way to score runs. We’d been seeing the bats really coming around recently, but we went a little backwards in this one. It’s not a good feeling to drive that far and lose two like we lost them. But we’re still in it. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played and there’s no reason we can’t get back to hitting the ball like we had been. We just have to move forward.”

House went the distance for the Bombers, giving up four hits and fanning seven. Cabot got runners in scoring position in four innings but failed to get the timely base hit.

Logan got to work at the plate in game two, hitting an RBI single to right field for a quick Cabot lead in the bottom of the first inning. Conner Vocque was hit by a pitch to start the inning and stole second base to set up Logan’s RBI.

The lead didn’t last long. In the top of the second, Mountain Home’s Cole Anderson hit a solo home run to knot the score at one.

Cabot left two runners in scoring position in the third inning, but got the lead back in the fourth. Kason Kimbrell hit a single to left-centerfield that scored Riley Knudsen, who had reached on a leadoff double. But just like the first run, Mountain Home answered in the very next half inning, this time with two runs that proved to be the decisive ones.

Mountain Home got one earned and one unearned run in the top of the fifth.

Cabot was at the top of the order in the bottom of the fifth, and the trio of Vocque, Logan and Casey Vaughan all reached base, Vocque drew a walk while Logan and Vaughan got base hits. That loaded the bases with no outs, but a hard ground ball turned into a rare 3-2-3 double play that left first base open. Mountain Home filled that gap by intentionally walking Coleman McAtee. Scott Burnett then grounded into a fielder’s choice at third base that ended the promising inning without a run scored.

Cabot flew out to centerfield three times in the seventh inning.

The Panthers host an important conference doubleheader on Tuesday against Little Rock Central.

SPORTS STORY >> Mt. Home gets sweep of Panthers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers fell twice after a long road trip to Baxter County on Wednesday. Playing a doubleheader originally scheduled for the day before, the Lady Panthers lost 4-0 and 7-4 to Mountain Home at Keller Park.

Cabot created a good scoring opportunity in the first inning but left two runners stranded in scoring position. That opened the door for Mountain Home, (12-7, 8-0) who got two runs in the first inning and one in the fourth and sixth innings.

After failing to score with runners on second and third with one out, the Lady Bombers got three hits in the bottom of the same inning to get the early lead. The Lady Panthers got runners in scoring position twice more in the game, but never got another opportunity like in the first inning.

It wasn’t for a lack of putting the ball in play. Cabot struck out only twice in the game, but couldn’t find the gaps and finished with just four base hits.

Conversely, Mountain Home got just five base hits, but three came with runners in scoring position for RBIs. The final Bomber run was the only one that wasn’t the result of an RBI base hit. It came after Lauren Adams tripled to start the sixth. She scored on a sacrifice grounder on the next at bat.

Kaitlyn Thompson took the loss on the mound, giving up five hits while striking out three Lady Bombers.

Mountain Home took a quick 4-0 lead in game two with one run in the first and three in the second inning. Cabot finally got a hit with a runner in scoring position in the third inning of game two. Thompson doubled and Heather Hill singled on the next at bat to drive in the run.

After another Mountain Home run in the fourth, Cabot got two in the fifth to make it 5-3.

Hill got her second RBI in the inning, this time driving in Taylor Anderson who had singled earlier. Hill scored on a sacrifice grounder and another groundout ended the Lady Panthers’ rally.

Mountain Home scored two unearned runs in the top of the seventh to make it 7-3. Cabot’s Hill got her third base hit and third RBI, this time driving in Lane Justus, but there was no further rally.

Cabot got 10 base hits in game two, but again left several runners stranded.

The Lady Panthers host a dual-site tournament today with the Beebe Badgers. Play begins at 10 a.m. with the Lady Panthers hosting Jonesboro-Westside on the bottom half of the bracket while Beebe hosts Dardanelle at BHS at the top.

Cabot’s side of the bracket also includes Farmington versus Nettleton while the top half features Trumann taking on Jacksonville.

The championship game will be played at 5:30 at Beebe while Cabot will host the final of the losers’ bracket at the same time.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls get league victory

Leader sportswriter

The lead-up to a potential 7A/6A East Conference title shootout at the end of the season is still intact for Cabot as the Lady Panthers knocked off Mountain Home 3-1 on the road Tuesday to get past one of the biggest obstacles in their quest.

The Lady Panthers (6-1-4, 3-0) gave up an early goal by Mountain Home in the first two minutes, but personnel adjustments after that allowed the defense to tighten up and hold off any major threats for the duration.

Junior standout Jessica Souza scored one goal and assisted on two more as Cabot made the most of its first-half opportunities.

“We started possessing so well,” Lady Panthers coach Kerry Castillo said. “I was so pleased. We even had several parents come up after the game and comment on our ball control. We did a good job of keeping it on the ground. We may have had a couple of goals where their goalkeeper spilled it, and you might call that a product of the weather that day, but when we had chances, we executed.”

The Lady Bombers went up 1-0 when their offense got behind Cabot’s midfield, but the Lady Panthers quickly answered when Souza crossed it to freshman Sydney Farquharson to tie the game at 1-1.

Souza was the beneficiary of a crossing shot and spill on the next Cabot score as she took an assist from freshman Braxton Reed and beat the goalkeeper to give the Lady Panthers their first lead at 2-1. Souza got her second assist and helped set the final margin late in the first half when she found Reed on a through ball, as Reed took advantage of another GK error by Mountain Home.

Castillo also noted the outstanding play of junior goalkeeper Hana Cooper, who essentially played over 75 minutes of shutout soccer against one of the premier soccer programs in the state.

“We made some adjustments, and they never really threatened again,” Castillo said. “I was real pleased with how we performed. That was a big one for us. The girls know how important it is for us to be able to continue this level of play. They know the situation in conference, and know we pretty much have to win out from here if we want it to come down for a chance to win it all.”

The Lady Panthers are eyeing a potential showdown against Searcy on April 30, which will also be senior night at Panther Stadium for the final 7A/6A East game of the season, but must first get past other strong league contenders in the form of Little Rock Central and Jonesboro.

“We’re growing as a team,” Castillo said. “We’ve got some players who are developing well. Hopefully, it will put us in a situation where we can be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. We’re also hosting the playoffs, we don’t have to travel at all for it, so hopefully, we can go deep into the playoffs.”

The Panthers boys’ team was not as fortunate and fell to the Bombers in overtime on Tuesday after regulation ended in a scoreless tie.

SPORTS STORY >> Coach backs Goodwin on NBA

Leader sports editor

After just one tumultuous season at the University of Kentucky, former Sylvan Hills star Archie Goodwin announced Sunday that he will make himself eligible for the NBA draft that takes place on June 27. His coach agrees with him.

Statistically, Goodwin had a good freshman season as a Wildcat. He led the team in scoring, averaging 14 points per game, and steals, was twice named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week, once named SEC Player of the Week and was named to the SEC All-Freshmen team at the end of the season.

Goodwin’s high school coach Kevin Davis has been in touch with Goodwin all season, and says the 6-foot-5 two guard is very excited about his future.

“He’s really pumped,” Davis said. “I think this has been his goal the whole time. He said when he signed it was a business decision. In his mind, he’s been a one-and-done player all along. He felt like Kentucky is where you go to get the most exposure, and this was his plan.”

Even with all the individual accolades, Goodwin found himself the target of public criticism on at least two occasions by Kentucky coach John Calipari. By Kentucky standards, the team’s season was a failure.

The defending national champion Wildcats did not make the 68-team field of the NCAA tournament, finishing 21-12 overall and 12-6 in SEC play. They lost four of their last five games, with a road game at Fayetteville kick starting the downward spiral that ended Kentucky’s season.

During that losing streak, Calipari was overheard during a game telling Goodwin as he walked off the floor, “I can’t coach you.” In another incident, Calipari, in a midseason post-game press conference, said that he wasn’t pleased with some player’s unwillingness to stay within the coaching staff’s game plan. It was widely believed he was referring to Goodwin.

Even with the seemingly strained relationship between coach and player, Calipari said Monday that he wanted Goodwin to stay, but added, “I fully support him choosing to pursue his dreams.”

Davis takes Calipari at his word, saying the relationship wasn’t as bad as it appeared.
“What he said during the game was a heat of the moment thing,” Davis said. “He came back the next day and explained that. And the other comment he made at the press conference, I really believe he was talking about a couple of other guys. Archie is the kind of guy that’s going to worry you at times, but you’ve got to let a player like that have a few of those moments in order to get the great moments, which are far more frequent.”

With the way the season ended, Goodwin’s draft projection dropped from early teens and a potential lottery pick, to late first round. Davis admitted to beginning to wonder if it would be in Goodwin’s best interest to leave this year, and said even Goodwin did too.

“There was a little doubt, but you come out of all that and the bad ending, and you’re still up there in the first round projections, I think he saw that and he believes in his own ability, he just decided it was still what he wanted to do. And I agree with that.”

Davis, who coached Good-win from 2009-12, said the style that Kentucky played this year wasn’t the best fit for Goodwin’s game. Goodwin’s freshmen classmates consisted of dominant post players, and Calipari tried to build the team around that strength, while Goodwin’s game is strongest in the open floor.

“He put those two big seven footers out there, and other teams would counter that,” Davis said. “That basically meant a lane full of at least four great big bodies, and you’re not going to drive in there too often. Nobody is. So I don’t think people got much of a chance to see what he’s capable of. If he can get on with a team that’s committed to fastbreak basketball, he’s going to flourish. There are things he can do you just can’t teach.”

The two biggest concerns scouts have about Goodwin is his ability to play defense and his shooting percentage. Davis says hard work can fix those things.

“There are definitely some things he can work to improve,” Davis said. “But there are a lot of things he does naturally that are very difficult to coach. The things he’s not doing right now are easy to coach. You can improve your shooting percentage by getting in the gym and working on your shot. They don’t let you play help defense so you have to be able to hold your own there, but those things you can teach a great athlete like Archie. His up side so huge and he works so hard, I believe he’s going to succeed and become an NBA player.”
Pre-draft workouts begin in earnest in May and last up until days before the draft. Those workouts will also play a big role in Goodwin’s future projections.

“If he can get himself back up in the top 15, you’re talking a million a year for four years of guaranteed money. You look at the guards that Kentucky has coming in, and you’re looking at sharing playing time. It’s in his best interest to go ahead and go after that. I think he made a good decision.”

EDITORIAL >> We support tax extension

Early voting started Tuesday in Cabot for a sales tax extension that supporters say is the remedy to some of the problems that have prevented the city from being the biggest and best bedroom community it can be.

By extending the existing one-cent sales tax, residents will get a new library; a new baseball park with an outdoor pool so nice it was initially described as a water park; a new freeway interchange between Cabot and Austin, and additions to the community center that will finally give Cabot a space for large banquets as well as an adequate fitness area.

Those are the parts of the tax extension that will be the most visible. But Mayor Bill Cypert has always contended that the part that won’t be seen, the improved sewer collection system (especially the part planned for the area around Highway 5 where the city still has room to grow) is the most important part.

That is the part that will do the most for economic development, the part that will allow more stores and restaurants to locate in Cabot. The other parts – the library, ballparks and interchange – will make living in Cabot more convenient and more attractive to potential residents and even businesses. But without an improved sewer system, real growth isn’t possible.

So the question becomes: Do you want Cabot to grow?

Some say no. But the mayor says what those people are missing is that growth means more revenue for improvements like street repairs all over Cabot.

And that logic seems sound to us, especially considering that although Cabot’s growth slowed with the downturn in the economy, it never stopped. The people are still coming because they want Cabot’s schools. So why wouldn’t Cabot residents vote “yes” to extend the same one-cent sales tax they’ve been paying for  the past 12 years to make life better for themselves and their families and at the same time attract more people and businesses to help pay for those new amenities?

We recommend that they vote yes. Election Day is Tuesday.