Saturday, April 20, 2013

EDITORIAL >> School elections still unchanged

A lot of money went into an unsuccessful campaign in the legislature to change school elections from September to election day in November. The theory was that moving the elections to when more people turn out to vote would make it more difficult to raise millage rates to spend on public schools.

The charter schools and big foundations were supposedly putting serious money behind the effort, but it failed mostly because school superintendents hated the idea.

The Arkansas Associ-ation of Educational Administrators, the Arkansas School Boards Association and the Arkansas Education Association opposed the bill. School superintendents in particular lobbied against the bill, and they were persuasive enough to kill the bill.

School superintendents are most often the community leaders who are respected and admired and are paid as well as doctors, lawyers and bankers.

Superintendents are more respected than the newspaper editors who editorialized in favor of the bill.

Special interests op-posed to public schools were pushing the bill too hard, which was another reason it failed. Superintendents and their boards like school elections in September, and we do, too, just as we like primaries in the spring. Voting two or three times a year might be too much of a bother for some people, but we don’t mind it all: Elections remind us of who we are and what we believe in and give us hope that maybe the people we vote for can make a difference for the better.

Unfortunately, residents in the Pulaski County Special School District cannot vote this year for a school board, which remains inactive while the district is under state supervision. But if you live in Lonoke or White counties, don’t forget to vote Sept. 17 for your school board.

—Garrick Feldman

EDITORIAL >> A good vote in the Senate

The state Senate and House this week overwhelmingly approved a plan that will expand health-insurance coverage to the working poor.

The innovative program, funded through Medicaid with the participation of private insurers, will cover 250,000 Arkansans who do not now qualify for Medicaid. The Arkansas Hospital Association, seeking relief from having to write off millions of dollars in uncollected debts, successfully lobbied lawmakers who were reluctant to support the federally funded program, which will pay all the premiums for three years and 90 percent after that.

It’s a good deal all around, which is why a rock-ribbed conservative like Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) helped put the measure on top. It will help local hospitals, small businesses and thousands of workers, who can stay healthy on the job under the new plan.

Local legislators, with a couple of exceptions, helped their communities and showed their independence from outside pressure groups.

EDITORIAL >> Terrorists in our midst

Critics of U.S. immigration policies will cite the terrorist attacks in Boston as more evidence that it’s difficult to keep track of potential troublemakers who move to our country.

The young Tsarnaev brothers, who killed and maimed several people at the Boston Marathon on Monday and a campus policeman at a nearby college campus Thursday night, benefited from America’s generous immigration policies but viciously turned on a nation that welcomed them from the turmoil in the former Soviet republics.

Their families had moved around a lot, settling for a while in Kyrgyzstan, where Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was born. He wore the dark cap in the much-publicized video near the finish line. He was killed Thursday night in a showdown with police after his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, apparently ran over him in a stolen SUV. The teen, who was born in Dagestan, wore a white cap in the marathon video. He was shown wearing a gray hoodie at a convenience store holdup Thursday night, apparently after the pair had run out of food and water. He was taken into custody Friday night.

Authorities are probably questioning their relatives, who a decade earlier had moved to Massachusetts and Maryland. The extended family had escaped the war in predominately Muslim Chechnya, which was fighting for independence from Russia. Investigators will want to know if the terrorists’ families alerted authorities when the suspects’ pictures were publicized Thursday. If the relatives remained quiet, their immigration status could come up for review and they could be deported back to Chechnya or to wherever they came from.

TOP STORY >> LRAFB airmen save life, leg

451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – On the battlefield of northern Afghanistan in late March, an Air Force combat controller was shot by the enemy through the right thigh, opening up a large wound and fracturing his femur. The airman was rushed to a hospital at Mazar-e Sharif, where he was operated on in an effort to save his leg and his life.

With limited medical resources at the base, doctors there knew he would need to be quickly evacuated to receive more advanced care.

Meanwhile, a C-130J aeromedical evacuation flight out of Kandahar Airfield, dubbed “Bandage 33,” was in the air over northwest Afghanistan. It was a routine mission to pick up patients from remote forward operating bases and transport them to Bagram Airfield, the main hub for providing medical care in the country.

The 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron crew, led by Capt. Ryan Thornton, the aircraft commander, had already made two stops when they received an urgent message over the Dynamic Retasking Capability, a sophisticated new communications technology in the aircraft.

The message: divert immediately to Mazar-e Sharif to evacuate a high-priority patient. There were no other details, so Thornton and the crew didn’t know what to expect.

In addition to Thornton, the crew consisted of Capt. Eric Jones, the co-pilot, and loadmasters Tech. Sgt. Brian Commodore and Airman 1st Class Anastasia McCorkle — all deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base.

Since it was an aeromedical evacuation flight mission, they also had a five-person medical team aboard led by Capt. Adriana Valadez, the mission’s medical crew director and a flight nurse with the 651st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

The evacuation team also included Lt. Col. Kathleen Sprague, a flight nurse, and medical technicians Master Sgt. John Kley, Staff Sgt. Julian Williams and Senior Airman Amanda Pena.

When the aircraft landed, the young combat controller was brought out to the jet in an ambulance, having been operated on just hours earlier. Despite the extent of his injuries, he was categorized as “urgent but stable,” and the crew took off with orders to continue their original flight plan, which included a stop at one more forward operating base before heading to Bagram.

Once airborne, however, the patient’s condition deteriorated rapidly. He started to bleed from his gunshot wound, and his blood pressure dropped.

“I told the pilot, ‘we have to go straight to Bagram,’” said Valadez, a reservist deployed from Joint Base San Antionio-Lackland and a trauma nurse at San Antonio Military Medical Center in her civilian job.

“At that point we were worried about saving his leg and making sure he was hemodynamically stable,” she said. “We knew he needed to go straight back to surgery to figure out why he was bleeding and that he needed to get to a higher level of care very quickly.”

Unfortunately, the crew’s orders were to continue to the next forward operating base, and conventional means of communications were unable to reach their command and control element to request authorization to go straight to Bagram. The dynamic retasking capability, however, allowed them to successfully communicate that they were heading directly to Bagram to try to save their patient.

The flight — which normally takes well over an hour — took just 42 minutes.

“We were max blast all the way there,” Jones said. “That’s the closest thing I think we’ll ever get to driving an ambulance. You call ‘urgent medevac’ over the radio and they part the Red Sea for you. All the traffic gets out of your way.”

In the back of the aircraft, Valadez and her team worked on the combat controller, attempting to control his bleeding. Valadez remained standing next to him during landing, applying pressure to the wound, and continued to work on him as he was transferred from the jet to the ambulance and all the way to the emergency room.

The injured combat controller went straight to surgery. He lived, and the medical team was able to save his leg.

“It was truly one team up there,” Valadez said. “Both pilots and the loadmasters were great. When it became an emergency situation, everyone pulled together. Everyone knew their roles and was able to help out whatever way they could.”

The mission was a great example of an aircrew and AE team working together to accomplish the mission and save a life, said Lt. Col. Sean Barden, 772nd EAS director of operations.

“I’m really proud of the entire crew,” he said. “It’s great to see what a difference our aeromedical evacuation mission makes for folks who are wounded on the battlefield. It’s rewarding to know that our teamwork and use of technology made such a big difference for one of our fellow airmen.”

TOP STORY >> Father of the Bride comes to Cabot

Leader staff writer

Most fathers look at their daughters and see a child in pigtails — not a woman —no matter how old their daughter is.

That doesn’t change when the daughter falls in love and gets married.

Stanley Banks, played by Tim Sopel in the Cabot Community Theatre’s upcoming rendition of “Father of the Bride,” is a typical dad stressed by wedding plans and watching his little girl grow up.

“He’s happy. He’s enraged. He’s a jokester. He’s going crazy. He’s the full range of emotions,” Sopel says about his character.

The play premieres at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Other show dates are April 27 and 28 and May 3-5.

Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays with the play starting at 7:30. Sunday performances are show only beginning at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $25 for an adult dinner and show, $15 for an adult show only, $15 for a child dinner and $10 for a child show only. Call 501-941-2266 to reserve a seat.

“Father of the Bride” is based on the 1950 film of the same name.

Sopel said he relates to his role because he has three daughters and one of them is just four years older than the bride in the play.

“It’s really hilarious. It’s a great collection of humorous characters and it deals with weddings, which everyone has touched in some way,” Sopel said.

He added, with a chuckle, “(Stanley Banks is) kind of like my father. My father is a screamer.”

Sopel acts with the Royal Players in Benton. He said “Father of the Bride” director Doug Morris was in one of their productions and he is returning the favor.

Hali Free is starring in the show as 21-year-old Kay Banks, the bride.

She is a first-timer on the Cabot stage, but has been acting for years.

“It has been a blast. One of the things about it is there is always a fraternity among cast members. Every time you do a show you extend your family,” Free said.

She recently graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Free identifies with her character to a point.

“We’re both kind of really high-strung. We both like to shop. But she gets a lot angrier than I do,” she said.

Free continued, “(The audience) will have a great time and a lot of laughs.”

Cecilia Wilson, who plays Ellie Banks, the bride’s mother, said, “I am absolutely in love with old comedies. It’s so fun, a more innocent time. I think people can relate to it even if they didn’t grow up in the ‘50s.”

The cast also includes Brian Roberson as Buckley, the groom; Ryan Hoyle as Ben, one of the bride’s brothers; Justin Foust as Tommy, another of the bride’s brothers; Mathew Turner as Buzz, Macy Long as Peggy, Catherine Jaye as Delilah, Deiona McKnight as Miss Bellany, John Twyford as Massoula, Audie Waterson as Joe, Jimma Hampton as Mrs. Pulitzki, Terrence Ricks as Red, Doug Morris as Pete and Addison Bennett as Tim’s girl.

TOP STORY >> Bayou Meto irrigation on front burner

Leader senior staff writer

President Barack Obama’s proposed 2013 budget includes $5 million for the Bayou Meto irrigation, habitat and flood control project and members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation are trying to get another $23 million to get power to the new pumping stations and water to the first farmers via the Indian Bayou.

That’s according to Gene Sullivan, Bayou Meto Basin project director.

“It’s not nearly enough, but this is the first time we’ve seen the money in the budget,” he said about the $5 million. “It’s just a starting place. It goes to Congress. If it’s in the budget and increases, it’s not earmarking.”

The pumping stations at Scott and Reydell (Jefferson County) are nearing completion. The Scott pumping station will move 1,750 cubic feet of water per second from the Arkansas River into the system. That’s enough water to fill 40 in-ground backyard swimming pools a minute. The Reydell pumps, for flood control purposes, will put water back in the river.

The Bayou Meto Basin Project includes portions of Lonoke, Jefferson, Prairie, Arkansas and Pulaski counties.

The entire project, which would irrigate about 267,000acres needs another $600 million, Sullivan said Friday, but the first half of that can be irrigated for less by putting water in Indian Bayou, Salt Bayou and Bayou Meto.

Money for the three-year plan constructs the inlet channel from the river to the Marion Berry Pump Station at Scott, builds an outlet structure to the first canal, pays for electrical substation and transmission lines and constructs more canals.

The off-farm component involves pumping the water from the Arkansas River into a 465 miles of pipeline, 107 miles of new canals and 132 miles of existing streams and ditches, moving the water to where the farmers can hook onto it.

The area covered by the Bayou Meto project is currently irrigated by 2,600 wells.

Forty of 50 Lonoke County irrigation wells studied by the U.S. Geological Survey declined between March 2008 and March 2012, as much as 12 feet, but most often between two and four feet.

So with the aquifer being drawn down by irrigation pumps in recent years faster than it can recharge, and with the cost of pumping irrigation water from below the ground cutting into revenues, farmers look wistfully toward the Arkansas River, where the plan to divert tons of water into ditches, streams, pipes, canals and ponds, mostly for irrigation purposes, is hostage to the economy and to politicians who would cut government spending to the bone.

If the project is funded at about $28 million this year, it can pump water through a canal and into Indian Bayou, Sullivan said. Farmers near the bayou can then irrigate and fill their irrigation ponds from the bayou, relieving pressure on those steadily falling aquifers, from which they otherwise pump, especially during summer and times of drought.

Last year, the project was not directly funded, but the Army Corp of Engineers, which has program oversight, moved $5 million to it to keep it going--at the behest of senators Sen. Mark Pryor and Sen. John Boozman.

Otherwise the project would have been mothballed at a cost of $500,000.

“Pryor is kind of the lead man, but (the whole delegation) is supportive. We’ll be meeting with each one,” he said. “Boozman and (Cong. Steve)Womack are on appropriation committees, we’re in (Cong. Rick) Crawford’s district and the pump station is in (Cong. Tim) Griffin’s district.”

“We need money to get water into the basin, so we can begin selling water and protecting the aquifer,” Sullivan said.

The first farmers to get water when the pumping starts will because those along a stream, down past England and to the lower end of the project.

In her last term as senator, Blanche Lincoln got a $37 million appropriation that funded pump station construction.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers sweep out West Memphis

Leader sports editor

West Memphis led briefly in game one before crumbling, then rallied late in game two but fell apart again as the Cabot Panthers picked up two more conference wins Tuesday to extend their overall winning streak to six games. Cabot swept the Blue Devils 14-4 and 9-2 to move to 6-4 in league play and put themselves in good position to make the playoffs with four conference games remaining.

“That’s what you want to do is start playing your best ball in late April and hopefully keep it going in the state tournament in May,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “We’re hitting the ball the best we have all year. Riley Knudsen is in our four hole and he’s crushing it for us right now. But you look at the way this thing is set up and eight wins might not get you in this. That’s a little frustrating to think about, but we still have a lot of work cut out for us.”

The Blue Devils scored two runs in the top of the third and one in the top of the fourth to take a 3-2 lead in game one. The Panthers responded with three runs in the bottom of the fourth, then blew the game open in the fifth inning.

Cabot got seven runs off four hits and four walks to take a 12-3 lead and assume control of the game. West Memphis got one back in the top of the sixth, but Cabot scored two in the bottom of the same frame to end the game on the sportsmanship rule.

The Panthers took a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning of game two, but after a pitching change, couldn’t get much offense going.

Cabot pitcher Zachary Patterson breezed through innings one, two, four and five, pitching three-up, three-down ball in all four frames. But West Memphis scored twice in the third inning to cut the Panthers’ lead in half.

Patterson walked Blue Devil seven-hole hitter Ryan McNabb to start the third. He struck out the next batter, but speedy nine-hole hitter Bryce Hamrick reached on a bunt single. One wild pitch and one passed ball scored McNabb. Hamrick moved to second on the wild pitch and stole third base. He also scored on the stolen base when the throw from home sailed into left field.

West Memphis relief pitcher Gray Fenter kept the Panthers off balance at the plate through six innings and the Blue Devils started to mount a rally in the bottom of the sixth to threaten to tie the game.

Hamrick led off by again reaching on a bunt single. Patterson then walked leadoff hitter Tyler Crouch to put two on with no outs.

Fitch pulled Patterson and put Knudsen on the mound. He got two-hole hitter Harrison Cole to pop up a bunt down the first baseline, that came down and hit Cole in the back as he was running to first base for the first out of the inning.

Knudsen then used the spaghetti move to coax Hamrick into breaking for third base before Knudsen was committed to home plate. A run down ensued and Hamrick was thrown out at third.

“That was a huge out for us,” Fitch said. “They were threatening and had their best hitters coming up. That was a great move and the right time by Riley. He’s really been playing well lately.”

Fenter then grounded out to first base to end the rally, and Cabot added five runs in the top of the seventh to blow the game open.

Cole Thomas led off with a walk and Ryan Logan reached on an error at first base. Casey Vaughan tripled to drive in two runs and Knudsen singled to drive in Vaughan. Kason Kimbrell reached on an error at shortstop that scored Knudsen. Dustin Morris then hit a deep fly ball to right field that was dropped, allowing Kimbrell to score and set the final margin.

In the two games combined, Knudsen went 5 for 6 with two walks, two doubles and four RBIs. Vaughan and Morris each had two base hits in game two.

Though Cabot is playing well, Fitch is still hesitant to get too confident.

“All year long we’ve been a team that would play great and then not play so well,” Fitch said. “We challenged them after sweeping Central. I told them they had the potential to be really good, but they have to start putting good games back to back. They’ve really responded since then and hopefully it will continue. We have a really tough road trip ahead at Jonesboro, and Searcy after that. So we’ve got some really quality baseball teams up ahead of us.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers step into first in conference

Leader sportswriter

Attaining the 5A East Conference championship became closer within reach for the Beebe Lady Badgers after a two-game sweep of Nettleton on the road Wednesday. Beebe downed the Lady Raiders 5-1 in the first game, but had trouble putting its foes away during the nightcap in a 9-8 thriller that went eight innings.

The Lady Raiders came into the twin bill leading the league with a perfect 8-0 record with Beebe a game back at 7-1. Winning the opener set up a short-lived tie between the two teams before the Lady Badgers took first place outright with the victory in game 2.

“They have the best-hitting group of anyone in our conference,” Lady Badgers coach Eric Chambers said. “We had seven errors in the second game, which is not really typical for us, but it was kind of sloppy for both teams on the defensive side.”

Nettleton took a 7-6 lead into the final inning before the Lady Badgers were able to tie the game. The Lady Raiders scored a run in the top of the eighth inning to make it 8-7 before Beebe retired the side.

Beebe sophomore pitcher Ellie Reaves reached on a bunt in the bottom of the eighth, and senior Annlee Glass loaded the bases with another bunt. That put freshman Baylee Halford at the plate, and Halford sent in the tying run with a hit to second base. Nettleton tried for the force out at the plate but was unsuccessful.

Nettleton then retired one batter before sophomore Calah Hill hit it to shortstop, and the Lady Raiders once again failed to make a play on the ball.

Beebe (19-3, 9-1) has Bates-ville and Blytheville left on its league schedule while the Lady Raiders still have to face Paragould and perennial powerhouse Wynne.

“We’ve already played the top three or four teams in the conference,” Chambers said. “If we can take care of Batesville and Blytheville, we can win conference. We have one starting freshman and one junior, and the rest are sophomores. Most of the girls started last year, so we’re young, but we’re also kind of old.”

The Badgers baseball team split with Nettleton on Wednesday, winning 3-2 in the first game before falling 10-0 in a lopsided shutout.

Jared Aschbrenner took the win on the mound in game one for Beebe, as the Badgers scored a run in the top of the first inning, and added another in the second to answer both of the Raiders’ runs in the bottom of the first. The game remained tied until the top of the fifth when Beebe drove in the winning score.

Ace pitcher Ethan Moore took the victory on the mound for the Raiders in the second game with a one-hitter performance, and also led his team at the plate with a game-high three hits. Nettleton had 13 total hits.

The Raiders went up 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, and took total control one frame later with seven more runs for a commanding 9-0 lead. Nettleton added one final run in the bottom of the eighth inning.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackson finally makes it official

Leader sports editor

Months after a press conference announcing her intention to play college basketball at the University of Arkansas, Jacksonville standout Jessica Jackson finally made it official Friday morning, signing her NCAA letter of intent with the Razorback women’s team.

Jackson never publicly wavered in her commitment to Arkansas, but questions began swirling when coaches from other schools began showing up at Jacksonville home games in mid-season. Oklahoma State was the first school that turned up in central Arkansas. Jackson finally admitted Friday that she did begin to think she’d held the press conference in November too hastily. She said the University of Texas and Texas A and M were the two schools she was seriously considering, especially A and M.

“As the season went on these other coaches were still calling and coming and I started to get to know them,” Jackson said. “I just started thinking I should’ve left my options open. I really started liking some of those coaches and those schools. Coach (Gary) Blair (A and M) coached at Arkansas when they went to the final four. He just won a national championship, and they were on me in ninth grade. I think they were the second one to offer me a scholarship.”

In her career, Jackson was named to the state tournament All-Tournament team three times, was a McDonald’s All-American finalist and made the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association All-American team.

Her high-school coach Katrina Mimms said she’s also been a phenomenal teammate.

“She’s been a big prospect since I first got her in ninth grade,” Mimms said. “But she’s always been a team player. She could’ve gone out and scored 30 every night if she’d wanted to, and if we needed her to do that, she did it. But she also knew she had a pretty good team around her and didn’t always have to do everything. Sometimes though, I think she was a little bit too unselfish.”

The four-time All-Conference, two-time All-State and 2013 state tournament MVP fell back on her original commitment because of proximity to family and a lifelong love of the Hogs.

“I really wanted to stay close to my dad so him and my family could see me play,” Jackson said. “I’ve always been a fan of Arkansas too. I want to be a part of getting Arkansas women’s basketball to where teams like Texas and Texas A and M are at.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville steals split with LRCA

Leader sports editor

Already assured of a spot in the class 5A state tournament, the Jacksonville Red Devils kept open the possibility of two or three seed after splitting a pair of 5A-Central games with Little Rock Christian on Wednesday in Little Rock.

The Warriors won game one 2-0 while Jacksonville came from behind to steal the nightcap 5-4 with a tw0-out, three-run rally.

The Red Devils’ win also did Sylvan Hills a great service, leaving the Bears alone at the top of the conference standings.

LRCA entered the game tied with Sylvan Hills inthe league standings at 7-1. The two teams had split their regular-season meetings, but the Warriors held the tiebreaker. If Sylvan Hills wins out, it will be the outright champions.

For Jacksonville, the split means it could still realistically finish anywhere from second to fourth place in conference play.

“There’s still a lot of baseball left,” Jacksonville assistant coach Jeremiah Clennon said. “Pulaski Academy still has to play us and Sylvan Hills. Those four games are going to say a lot so there’s still some shaking up that’s going to take place.”

On Wednesday, the Red Devils managed just three scattered hits in the game-one loss, though there were opportunities to score thanks to walks and Warrior errors.

“We really could’ve won both of those games, we just didn’t get it done with the bats,” Clennon said. “The pitching was great in both games. (Derek) St. Clair did a great job on the mound. We just didn’t do much offensively.”

The sophomore St. Clair threw six innings, giving up just four hits while striking out five, hitting two batters and walking two. Both of Little Rock Christian Academy’s runs were earned.

Fellow sophomore James Tucker gave up eight hits in seven innings of work in game two. He also gave up two earned runs.

The Warriors scored three runs in the top of the second inning and held that margin until the bottom of the sixth when Jacksonville finally cut into it.

With one out, Courtland McDonald got things rolling with the first of three-straight singles. St. Clair and Kaleb Reeves also singled, with Reeves’ hit driving in McDonald. Two batters later with two outs, Greg Jones singled to score St. Clair and make it 3-2.

Little Rock Christian added one run in the top of the seventh, but Jacksonville’s last inning rally allowed the Red Devils steal the win.

Ryan Mallison started the bottom of the last inning with a single to right-centerfield. But things looked bleak for Jacksonville when the next two batters up struck out. McDonald then doubled to put two runners in scoring position. St. Clair singled to score Mallison and make it 4-3. Reeves then hit the game-winning, two-RBI double to end the game.

Reeves finished 3 for 4 with a double and three RBIs. Jones, St. Clair and McDonald had two hits each while D.J. Scott added a base hit to the Red Devils total.

Jacksonville (8-10, 7-3) travels to Spiro, Okla., today and will host Maumelle in nonconference play on Monday. The Red Devils get back to league play Thursday in a home doubleheader against Mills.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls still improving

Leader sports editor

Thought it’s not a conference rivalry, Bryant has become a measuring rod and a target for the Lady Panther track team this year, and the Cabot girls inch closer and closer with each new meet. The Lady Hornets beat Cabot once again on Tuesday at the Walmart Invitational at Panther Stadium, but they did it by their smallest margin to date.

The Bryant girls finished with 169 points in the 10-team event that was smaller than originally scheduled because the first date of April 2 was postponed. Cabot took second place with 151 points, eight points closer than the margin from last Friday at Russellville.

The Cabot boys turned in a good performance as well, finishing third place with 79 points behind Conway and Bryant, who scored 146 and 128 respectively.

Familiar names littered the leader boards for the Lady Panthers, with sophomore twins Tori and Lexi Weeks excelling in sprints and jumping events, and sophomore Micah Huckabee continuing to become a force in distance races.

Huckabee easily won the 1600 with a time of 5:38.94, almost 11 seconds ahead of second-place Talyn Billins of Bryant. Cabot junior Marlene Sheehan also finished in the points in the 1600, taking fifth place in 6:01.72. Sheehan got her first win of the year though in the 3200. Her time of 12:53.09 beat Mount St. Mary’s Andrea Nunez-Garcia by five seconds. Sheehan’s teammate Meagan Duncan took third in the event to give Cabot 16 points in the race.

Huckabee was beaten in the 800 by Bryant’s Melinda Murdock and settled for second place. Cabot junior Seaton Howard took seventh in the event for two points.

The twins, as they’ve done several times this year, finished in the top two spots in the pole vault. Tori went a season’s best 12-7 for first place while Lexi cleared 11-6, a full 18 inches higher than third place Catherine Sales of Jonesboro.

Cabot’s Ladaysha Evans joined Lexi Weeks in the points in the 100-meter dash. Weeks finished fifth and Evans eighth behind winner Tamara Kuyinendall of Little Rock Central. Lexi Weeks also took third place in the 200-meter dash behind Bryant’s Feniece Boone and Jonesboro’s Dawnta Dobbins.

Evans and Lexi Weeks finished in seventh and second-place in the long jump. Weeks leaped 17-8, just one inch shy of winner Alexis Royal of Bryant, while Evans went 16-2. The top two were the same in the triple jump, with Royal’s 36-8 beating Lexi Weeks’ 34-3 1/2. Rochelle Mallory also did well in the triple jump for Cabot, leaping 30-2 1/2 for fifth place and four points.

Carlee Wright and Haley Buford took second and fourth in the shot put. Wright’s second-place toss of 30-9 was still more than five feet short of Jonesboro’s Raquel Williams’ 35-10. Buford took second in the discus, and was just a foot shy of first with a fling of 93-6. Joydai Graves of West Memphis won that event.

Rachael Hall finished seventh to earn two points for Cabot in the 100-meter hurdles. Tori Weeks and Mallory finished third and fourth in the 300 hurdles, again behind Bryant’s Royal.

Cabot’s Courtney Briswalter finished fourth in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:06.69. Bryant’s Boone left the field behind in that event with a time of 58.19.

Despite the success in the sprints, Cabot’s 4x100 relay team of the Weeks sisters, Evans and Mallory still has some work to do to catch Bryant.

The Lady Hornet team finished in 48.71 seconds, but the excitement was for second place. Cabot took second and earned the eight points, but two, three and four all finished within .9 seconds of each other. Huckabee replaced Mallory to make up the 4x400 relay team, which also finished second, this time a full eight seconds behind Little Rock Central’s 4:03.55. The Cabot team of Sheehan, Lexi Morrison, Duncan and Howard took third in the 4x800 behind Bryant and Conway.

The high jump was the only event in which the Lady Panthers failed to score.

Like he’s done in nearly every race this year, Conway’s Brandon Cox won the boys 100-meter dash, but he was pushed like never before on Tuesday.

Cox beat Central’s Tre James by 1/100th of a second, finishing in 10.98. Cabot’s Layton Alley took fourth and earned five points with a time of 11.37. Alley scored a point in the 200-meter dash as well, finishing in eighth place.

The Panthers put two runners in the points in the 400 meters. Zach Launius took second place behind Bryant’s John Winn, while John Sowden was seventh.

The Panthers, which has had successful sprint relay teams this year, did not enter a 4x100 relay team on Tuesday.

Senior Clay Killingsworth took sixth for Cabot in the 800 meters but the Panthers were shut out of the points in the 1600 and 3200.

Hayden Richey took second for Cabot in the grueling 300-meter hurdles and fifth in the 110 hurdles. Teammate and fellow junior A.J. McClean took fifth in the 300 hurdles.

Cabot’s 4x400 relay team of Sowden, Seth Hoggard, Jaylen Hemphill and Launius took second place behind Bryant. The team of Killingsworth, Sowden, Hillegas and Logan Boyer won the 4x800 relay by more than 11 seconds with a time of 8:58.02.

Senior Peter Seyler finished fourth for Cabot in the high jump while Cody Evans was sixth. Richey took third in the pole vault, clearing 11-6. Searcy’s Camron Stalnaker won with a vault of 13-6 while Bryant’s Justin Combs took second at 13-0.

Juniors Aaron Henry and Keith Pledger went fifth and sixth in the shot put while Pledger also took fifth in the discus.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Robert McCord, a great journalist

Robert S. McCord, who passed away in North Little Rock over the weekend at the age of 84, was a crusading newspaper editor who pushed for passage of the state’s Freedom of Information Act in 1967. He was then the publisher of the North Little Rock Times, which fought Mayor Casey Laman’s political machine and its policy of excluding reporters from meetings where officials made policy.

Laman challenged the FOI Act, which the state Supreme Court upheld unanimously. Officials still attempted to meet in secret, but if they’re caught violating the FOI Act, they could go to jail, thanks to the courage of Bob McCord, a real gentlemen and a mentor to young journalists.

A deeply religious person, he almost never said anything bad about anybody. There were politicians and a few journalists he disliked, but he didn’t dwell on the negative. He was a soft-spoken son of the South, a native of Camden, who grew up in North Little Rock. He was a gifted photographer who took pictures for the Arkansas Democrat during the Second World War when he was still a teenager and the men in their 20s were off to war.

He graduated from the University of Arkansas, where he edited the Arkansas Traveler, in 1951 and returned to the Democrat and stayed for several years until he bought the North Little Rock Times in the late 1950s and turned it into a first-class paper.

A decade later, he ran the Democrat’s editorial page with distinction and later became its executive editor. He left as the newspaper war with the Arkansas Gazette heated up, but he joined the Gazette a few years later as an associate editor and worked there for a decade before the paper shut down.

He was from the old school who gave us advice when we asked and always had a kind word for The Leader. We’re glad we knew him and mourn his loss.

EDITORIAL >> Expansion gets closer

After pressure from Gov. Mike Beebe and Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot), a supermajority of the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved, by a vote of 77-23, a Medicaid expansion program that will insure some 250,000 working poor in Arkansas.

The first vote failed on Monday, but continued pressure from the governor and Carter put the bill over the top. Their political skills have pushed the innovative private option forward, and today it will be up to the Senate, where it is still short of a couple of votes, to approve funding the bill and send it to Beebe for his signature.

The federal government will fund the extension in its entirety for the next three years and 90 percent after that — or about $650 million, which a poor state like Arkansas (or any state) could not afford to give up. It would have been foolish to turn the money away. The Arkansas Hospital Association and several business groups pushed for enactment of the innovative program, which offers recipients a private option and gets them off Medicaid. All Democrats in the House supported the private option.

Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) was one of the few holdouts against expansion in the House. Farrer is a physical therapist at North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville but insists the struggling hospital won’t benefit much from the expansion, even though it writes off millions of dollars a year in services to uninsured patients.

Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), who will be the next Senate majority leader, supports the program. He listened to his constituents, including employees at White County Regional Medical Center, which will soon treat thousands of working poor who qualify for the private option if the Senate, too, approves funding.

Dr. Joe Thompson, Arkansas’ surgeon general, also deserves credit for passage of the new law. He met frequently with legislators and community leader to convince them that Arkansas could not refuse millions of dollars in federal funds to help improve the health of our working poor. He estimated the new insurance plan will help improve health care, save the lives of thousands of Arkansans a year and offer a lifeline to many small hospitals.

Congratulations to Gov. Beebe, Speaker Carter, Dr. Thompson and all the fine legislators who had the courage to do the right thing for our working poor. The Senate is the last remaining hurdle, which can be overcome if Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot), Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) and others who have opposed the private option switch their votes and support the overburdened hospitals and small businesses in their districts. It could be the most important vote of their political careers.

TOP STORY >> Here she is, Miss Jacksonville ’59

Leader staff writer

Inner and outer beauty radiate from Shirlee Walker, the third Miss Jacksonville, who was crowned in 1959.

The former Shirley Be Dora was still a teenager and thought she didn’t fit the part of a pageant contestant.

But the people in her life thought otherwise.

“There is nothing more permanent in your life than the people who helped form your character,” Walker said.

She was working at a dress shop for a “glamorous” woman named Mary Moak when the third Miss Jacksonville pageant was organized.

Moak had been a supermodel in New York City, Walker explained. Walker’s boss convinced the teenager to make a try at the title.

Walker said Moak taught her how to walk, talk and encouraged her to sing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” for the talent section.

“I was so stunned that night when they crowned me. You know how people burst into tears? I didn’t. It was a shock to tell you the truth because I never considered myself a pretty girl,” Walker said.

She continued, “Every girl should apply. Even if you feel ugly, go out there and try out. I would tell that person (who is thinking about competing) she has a lot of opportunities if you win the contest to better your life and to take advantage of every single thing.”

Walker added, “Your beauty comes from within. That glow will show on your face because it’s who you are.”

This year’s pageant was held in February, but Walker said she hopes she can participate in the next Miss Jacksonville competition. Next year will be the event’s 57-year anniversary.

Walker’s lifetime of experiences began with the evening she became Miss Jacksonville. It opened up opportunities she never would have had without the title.

One of those, Walker remembered, was cutting the ribbon to open Hwy. 67/167.

“It was such an honor to be there,” she recalled.

Walker said being Miss Jacksonville taught her a lot about herself and gave her skills that she used for the rest of her life.

She noted, “It gives you self confidence, a lot of self confidence. It gives you business sense because you have to pick and choose any contracts that come to you.”

Walker was a model for Wonder Bread, Coppertone and the Bowman Boat Company.

She competed in the Miss Arkansas pageant too, where she experienced one of her most embarrassing moments.

Walker described how the heel of her shoe got stuck in the carpet at the end of the runway during the introductions. She had to yank the shoe from the carpet to leave the stage.

But Walker turned the horrifying problem into a comical one. She held up the shoe, smiling and waving to the crowd. They laughed and the show went on.

Walker also reminisced about performing a song and dance as Miss Jacksonville at the officers club on Little Rock Air Force Base during a benefit show.

She met her future husband, Capt. Eric Walker, there. She said he told her, “You don’t know it yet, but I’m going to marry you.”

The captain was the only one who came close to asking her for a date while she was Miss Jacksonville, Walker said.

She joked about how the city would always have to call the high school to get her an escort to events.

Walker attended her high school reunion 10 years ago. She said one of her classmates told her he always wanted to ask her out. He said he didn’t because, he thought “someone as pretty as you would always be busy.”

Walker now lives in San Francisco, but she visits Jacksonville every year to visit her aunt and celebrate her aunt’s birthday.

Walker was born in Alexandria, Calif., but moved to Little Rock when she was 6 years old. She attended Central High School until it closed for a time because of the integration crisis.

Walker enrolled at Jacksonville High School as a junior after that.

Her family moved to a house on Martin Street in Jacksonville when her father opened a shoe shop in the city. He decided he didn’t want to commute from Little Rock.

The move made the teenage Walker happy because she was dating Biff Grimes, then-JHS quarterback. The two met at a football game where Grimes approached Walker and said, “I think I’m in love with you.”

Grimes broke up with Walker soon after the move because he fell in love with a younger girl, who he married later, Walker said. The two are still married today.

So, there she was, the new girl who didn’t know anyone other than an ex-boyfriend. Then there was the Miss Jacksonville competition.

“Everything started with the pageant for me. It gave me the incentive. I’m proud of who I am,” Walker said.

She and her husband were married in 1960. The couple settled in Saratoga, Calif., because of Eric Walker’s job as a pilot for Trans World Airlines.

He passed away in 1990 after having a stroke.

Walker has a son, Steven Walker, and three grandsons, ages 5, 2 and 1. They live in San Diego, Calif.

She earned a Bachelor of Science in interior design from San Jose State University in California. Walker also earned credits for a master’s in architecture, but didn’t finish that degree.

Walker opened a firm that offered drawings of building designs and obtained permits for customers.

She passed a three-day test to earn the certification required to do that kind of work in California. Walker was one of the first to earn the certification, she proudly noted.

Her firm worked on several vineyards and the dwellings of some famous people. Walker said one of the homes she helped with was built for a well-known San Francisco 49ers quarterback, but she couldn’t share the name because she signed a nondisclosure agreement.

Walker also worked with 49er Ronnie Lott’s foundation.

The foundation organized the San Jose project for homeless women and children. Many of the people the shelter helped were victims of abuse, Walker said.

The homeless women were given 90 days at the shelter before they were required to search for jobs in order to stay.

Walker’s committee taught the women how to dress for interviews, fill out applications and balance their checkbooks.

She was also an advocate for a 9-year-old girl. Walker would take the foster child to court when she needed to go.

The girl had been raped by her grandfather and four uncles. At the age of 16, the girl was able to leave the foster care system.

She went to live with her father, who had cleaned himself up through a drug rehabilitation program. So, the girl’s story had a happy ending, Walker said.

Walker is also a member of the Association of University Women and of the American Society of Interior Designers, which helps young people who want to get into that field.

TOP STORY >> Bad business decisions or affinity scam?

Leader staff writer

Back when building was booming and mortgages were easy to come by, two local men started buying fixer-uppers with the intention of remodeling and selling them.

They brought in investors to buy homes in Jacksonville, North Little Rock, Little Rock and Cabot. They are now in bankruptcy and owe local banks and other creditors hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The story of the failure of that venture was told this week in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, detailing the problems of former Air Force pilot Grant Exton and Jason Wilkinson, a CPA, two-time president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and recent candidate for Lonoke County sheriff.

Both men, who lived in Austin, have filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which could relieve them of their debt. Wilkinson filed in January in Durham, N.C., where he is living with his wife and children.

Exton filed in Little Rock earlier this month.

According to their petitions, Exton and his wife have assets including their $519,000 home totaling $671,110 and debt totaling $5.4 million, while Wilkinson and his wife have assets including their $568,000 home that total $698,000 and $5.2 million in debt.

But their debt doesn’t include the debt of the investors who were willing to sign mortgages to buy more houses for Exton and Wilkinson to rehab in exchange for part of the profit, mortgages that they must now pay since G&K Home Solutions LLC, the company Exton and Wilkinson ran, has failed.

Bankruptcy might be only the beginning of their problems since investigation for fraud by federal agencies is ongoing. But at its heart, it was a tale of ambition and misplaced trust that smacked of a type of scheme known as affinity fraud.

Many of those investors were connected to Little Rock Air Force Base like Exton and went to church together. They have been left holding $15 million in mortgages that many of them signed without looking at the property. They felt a connection to Exton, which is a key component in affinity fraud.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission describes affinity fraud as investment scams that prey upon members of identifiable groups and that the fraudsters either are or pretend to be part of that group.

“These scams exploit the trust and friendship that exist in groups of people who have something in common. Because of the tight-knit structure of many groups, it can be difficult for regulators or law enforcement officials to detect an affinity scam,” the Securities and Exchange Commission warns on its website.

To avoid affinity fraud, “check out everything — no matter how trustworthy the person seems who brings the investment opportunity to your attention,” the commission advises.

At this point, the only thing that is certain is that Wilkinson and Exton failed in business and they are trying to overcome their financial difficulties through bankruptcy.

The evidence is written in their petitions, filed Jan. 29 and April 4.

Their creditors include Arvest Bank, Bank of the Ozarks, Centennial Bank, CitiBank, First Arkansas Bank and Trust, One Banc, Regions Financial and Southern Bank.

Gary Boldt is also listed in the bankruptcy petition. He was an investor who loaned Wilkinson and Exton money outright to buy a business in Little Rock and was not repaid.

TOP STORY >> Carter gets more votes on Medicaid

Leader senior staff writer

Eight lawmakers switched their votes on House Bill 1143 overnight as the House, on Tuesday, approved the appropriation of federal funds for the private insurance option to Medicaid expansion.

Some lawmakers may have had a change of heart or bowed to constituents, while Gov. Mike Beebe and House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) may have twisted an arm or two.

The bill, which needed 75 votes, got 77, advancing the likelihood of healthcare insurance for about 250,000 working poor between the ages of 18 and 65.

On the Senate side, vote counters say the private option bill has 26 votes going into today’s probable showdown, but needs one more.

If 27 of the 35 senators vote for the measure today, then Gov. Beebe has promised to sign it into law. The plan is billed as an innovative alternative to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion that could provide a road map for other states struggling with the issue.

“Leadership is trying hard to pass this,” Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood) said Tuesday evening.

Beebe got Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius’ blessing for the private option.

If there’s anything Arkansas Republicans like less than Medicaid, it’s Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act — out of which Medicaid expansion was born. But by letting federal Medicaid funds pay for premiums and covering residents through private health insurance companies instead, Republicans had just enough distance and cover to promote or vote for the law.

As an appropriations bill, it needs 75 votes —three-quarters of the 100 representatives — but had only 69 after Monday’s first vote, with 28 nays and three voting “present” or not voting.

Rep. Patti Julian (D-North Little Rock) gave credit for passage of the bill to small rural hospitals, which were busy on the phones lobbying for it. Some claimed it was a matter of life and death for their hospitals.

Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) said he had answered more than 1,000 e-mails on the issue. He says he’s a staunch opponent of Obama-care and fears Obama’s policy will cause the collapse of the federal government before the policy can be replaced.

“The national debt is $17 trillion and rising,” House said. But he wants to keep the small hospitals running until then.

With the exception of Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin), all area state representatives — Democrats as well as Republicans — voted Tuesday for the appropriation.

They included Democrats Julian, Nickels, Rep. Mark Perry of Jacksonville and Rep. Walls McCrary of Lonoke, as well as House Speaker Carter, a Republican.

Carter kept other important bills like Big River Steel and a $150 million tax cut bottled up behind the healthcare bill, “encouraging” members to pass the appropriation bill so they could move on to the others, some observers said.

“At the end of the day, the choice for the private option was the best choice on the table,” Carter said in a statement. “It saves our small businesses from over $25 million worth of penalties. It also prevents our Medicaid rolls from increasing.”

“I’m also very pleased that we passed over $150 million worth of tax cuts on the House floor. These include reducing the state income tax, increasing the standard deduction, reducing the tax on capital gains, reducing the sales tax on energy for manufacturing, and reducing the sales tax on groceries if budget conditions allow. If these measures are enacted, every single Arkansan will see the positive impact next year,” he said.

Carter also praised the appropriation measure supporting the Big River Steel project. The enabling legislation passed last week outlines the incentives to bring a $1.1 billion investment to Mississippi County.

Construction is expected to begin late this year.

“This bill decides whether Arkansas creates jobs or loses them, whether our people get access to health care or not, and whether our federal tax dollars come back to Arkansas or instead go to other states,” according to the Democratic caucus.

“This has been a long and carefully discussed plan that both sides agree is the best option for Arkansans. The private-option plan ensures that about 250,000 citizens have the choices they want and the coverage they deserve starting January 1, 2015,” Carter added.

“This is a major step forward in getting the private option fully implemented and developed,” Perry said. “Arkansas is going to lead the nation.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Southern Oaks hires familiar face as Pro

Leader sports editor

Local golfers and potential club members may see a familiar face taking care of things at Southern Oaks Country Club in Jacksonville. Dustin Ralston is Southern Oaks’ new general manager and head golf professional. His first day was April 1. Ralston was previously head golf pro at Greystone Country Club in Cabot. He worked there for 15 years from 1995 to 2010.

He still lives in the Greystone subdivision with his wife Kathy, and children Hogan, 10, and Hannah, 5.

From a family with deep roots in the competitive and business side of the sport, and after nearly three years away from golf altogether, Ralston started missing it at a hall of fame ceremony in which his father, Bob Ralston, was honored.

“My dad was inducted in the PGA south-central section hall of fame,” Ralston said. “Being at that ceremony, seeing all my old buddies, I really started missing it. When I left golf I was happy with what I was moving into, but that event is what really made me want to get back into it.”

As fate would have it, a few months after getting the itch to return to the sport, Ralston heard about the opening at Southern Oaks in March. He sent his resume in on a Tuesday, interviewed on Wednesday and accepted the position on Thursday.

“I have really enjoyed it,” Ralston said of his two weeks at SOCC. “The biggest difference here is that this is a fully private club, whereas at Greystone we were dealing more with the public. We’re a small club right now so as manager I’m the one that takes care of just about everything, but in other ways this is easier than working the public courses.”

While Ralston takes care of “almost” everything, he’s not the course superintendent. That job belongs to Bo Baracus, who in just two weeks Ralston believes is one of the best.

“He is phenomenal,” Ralston said of Baracus. “He’s been here a long time and he knows this course like probably no one else. I’ve not even had a chance to play it, but Bo has taken me around on it and we’ve got a really great course here.”

Ralston’s ties to golf are strong. His father Bob played on the PGA tour and seniors’ tour. He won hundreds of south-central section events. He’s been head golf pro at Maumelle and the Belvedere Golf Resort at Hot Springs, where Dustin grew up attending Fountain Lake High School. While never winning a national PGA event, Bob Ralston won hundreds of south-central section tournaments and is also in the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame.

Dustin’s brother Heath was a golf pro for many years and played professionally. Dustin is also brother-in law to Glen Day, one of Arkansas’ most successful professional golfers.

“I’ve just been around it my whole life and I love the game and everything about it,” Ralston said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be around it at a very high level.”

Though Dustin didn’t reach the same level of success as some family members as a player, he has done his job as golf pro very well.

He was named Arkansas’ Golf Professional of the Year in 2003 and 2006.

Dustin was a successful high-school golfer and went on to play competitively at the collegiate level at Arkansas State University. That’s where he developed the desire to get into the instruction and management side of the sport.

“To be honest I just knew I wasn’t good enough to keep moving up in the sport,” Ralston said. “It’s absolutely nuts how good those guys are and how good you have to be to really excel and be successful at this game. But I love playing and I love being a part of golf. And I’m very happy to be at Southern Oaks.”

The club has grown considerably since last summer, the first under the new management. Membership is up from 125 last year to between 195 and 200 full members, with 15 new members joining so far this month. There are approximately 80 social members. A full membership for an individual is $145 per month and family memberships are $165. Memberships for active military are only $99 per month.

The club swimming pool will open on Memorial Day weekend.

“We’ve got a lot going on here for the next few months and into summer,” Ralston said. “If anyone wants to check it out, they can just come right on by and see me.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot ladies earn shutout over ’Canes

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Panther softball team made the most of its 7A/6A East Conference makeup game against Jonesboro as it dominated the Lady Hurricanes 9-0 Monday at the Cabot softball complex.

Cabot (10-11, 4-5) totaled 16 hits in the game while Lady Panthers’ sophomore pitcher Kaitlyn Thompson gave up just two hits, one walk, and struck out seven Jonesboro (9-8, 2-4) batters in the complete game performance.

“We got some timely hits,” said Lady Panthers coach Chris Cope. “We had a big fourth inning and a big sixth inning, and kind of took care of business. Kaitlyn Thompson did a good job of keeping the hitters off balance, and then we made some good defensive plays throughout the game as well.”

Senior catcher Taylor Anderson scored the first run for the Lady Panthers in the third inning, but the fourth inning was when they began to light up the scoreboard. Cabot scored four runs in the inning, the first of which was scored by Thompson.

Molly Wood scored Cabot’s third run after reaching base earlier in the inning with the first of her three singles. Macee Abbott and Shauna Attendorn scored the final two runs of the fourth for the Lady Panthers. Abbott reached base on a walk and Attendorn reached on a double.

The Lady Panthers cooled down offensively in the fifth inning, but picked up where they left off at the plate in the sixth with another four-run rally. Three-hole hitter Heather Hill reached base on a fielder’s choice before scoring the first of Cabot’s four runs in the inning, which put the home team up 6-0.

Cleanup hitter Brandyn Vines hit a double the next at bat and later scored the seventh run of the game for the Lady Panthers. Lane Justus and Rachel Allgood followed with base hits, and scored the final two runs of the evening.

The Lady Panthers have steadily gotten better through each game since the start of the season. In many of the team’s early defeats, errors and untimely hits were the cause of them being on the losing side of things. But those miscues are steadily decreasing with each game, which is something Cope hopes will continue as the end of the regular season approaches.

“We are improving every game,” Cope said. “We got some good hits. We swung the bat well. As the game went on we had to make an adjustment with the (Jonesboro) pitcher, but our defense is stepping up big time. We turned a double play. That’s our second one in two games.

“We had two good catches at the fence. So defensively it’s picking up and that’s where we were shaky at times.”

Wood and Abbott led the Lady Panthers with three hits apiece. Vines, Thompson and Hill had two hits each, while Anderson, Attendorn, Allgood and Justus had a hit apiece.

The Lady Panthers continued 7A/6A East play yesterday at home against West Memphis, and will travel to Marion tomorrow for another conference game, which starts at 5 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Ramblers down Lady Red Devils

Leader sports editor

The Rose Bud softball team gave Jacksonville the ramblin’ blues Monday after beating the Lady Devils 4-2 at Dupree Park. Lady Rambler pitcher Dana Naquin threw a complete-game three hitter while striking out 13 Lady Red Devils and walking three.

Only one of the six total runs scored were earned, but Rose Bud also won 1-0, getting an earned run across the plate in the sixth inning to take a 4-0 lead.

The first three runs of the game were unearned, two in the first and one in the third for the Lady Ramblers (9-6).

“That’s sort of been our Achilles Heel all year is unearned runs,” Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham said. “We give up three unearned and lose 4-2. I guess it’s sort of a learning curve because we’re so young. We’re in the process of learning how valuable every out is. We’re learning that you can’t relax until that third out is made.”

After retiring the first two batters, Jacksonville freshman pitcher Kimberly House gave up a single to Naquin. She then got Marissa Holland to pop up to second base, but Bailey Jones dropped it. Naquin was on the move on contact and got all the way around the bases on the error and Holland stopped at first base. She moved to second base on a passed ball by freshman backup catcher Lauren Shillcutt. Rose Bud’s Tess Capps then singled to left field to score Holland and give Rose Bud a 2-0 lead.

“To go to that next level and be a really, really good team, those are the kinds of mistakes we’re going to have to eliminate,” Hickingbotham said. “They’re playing hard, they’re trying and they’re giving great effort. We just have to learn to keep that focus and not let those simple mistakes happen, because they cost you.”

House struck out the side in the second inning, sandwiching two singles between the second and third strikeout. Holland got a hit and a stolen base with one out in the third inning for Rose Bud. She moved to third on a ground ball and scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0.

Naquin fanned the side twice, once in the second inning and again in the fourth, but Jacksonville had opportunities in other frames. The Lady Red Devils got two in scoring position with one out in the bottom of the first when some luck broke Rose Bud’s way. Cleanup hitter Mailani Walker ripped a hard line drive with the runners in scoring position, but ripped it straight to second base for the second out. Shyrel McKinney then struck out looking on a borderline strike in the lower-outside portion of the zone.

Jacksonville got the leadoff hitter on in the fourth inning when Kimley Burrows walked. Shillcutt struck out. Nine-hole hitter Keke Alcorn hit a deep fly ball to right field for the second out and Sacha Richardson grounded out to first base to end the threat.

Jacksonville got two on with nobody out in the fifth inning. Morgan Lloyd reached on an error at first base and House walked. Walker laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position, but Naquin struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam.

Rose Bud’s only earned run came when Capps singled, stole second and moved to third on a groundout. Paige Passmore then grounded to first for a sacrifice and an RBI.

Jacksonville rallied in the bottom of the seventh, scoring two runs on one hit and two errors. Burrows led off and reached on an error at second base. Shillcut sacrificed her to second with a groundout. Alcorn then singled to left field to score Burrows. She broke for second when the throw went home to get Burrows. Rose Bud catcher Destiny Naquin didn’t bother trying to apply the tag, instead catching and immediately throwing to second to try to gun down Alcorn, but her throw was high and went though three levels of players. It went over the second baseman, was missed in the air by the shortstop backing up the play, and rolled past the centerfielder all the way to the fence, allowing Alcorn to score standing up and set the final margin. Richardson flew out on the next at bat and Lloyd became the 13th strikeout victim to end the game.

“We’re just not getting that two-out base hit,” Hickingbotham said. “Really good pitchers like this one, we’re having trouble catching up to it. We have to get better and just putting the ball in play. We want to put pressure on people and to do that you have to have people on base.”

Jacksonville, (9-9, 6-2) gets back to conference action today at Little Rock Christian Academy.

SPORTS STORY >> N. Pulaski can’t hold early lead at Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

A strong start by North Pulaski did not hold up as Lonoke quickly overcame an early deficit and turned it around completely in a 14-6 nonconference rout at Lonoke Park on Friday.

Lonoke senior Blake Gooden went 3 for 3 and was a single away from hitting for the cycle during the Jackrabbits’ comeback victory over the fast-starting Falcons.

The Jackrabbits (13-6) celebrated senior night by starting all upperclassmen, and the Falcons took advantage of a rusty Reid McKenzie on the mound to start the top of the first inning. McKenzie walked the first three batters before giving up a grand slam home run to North Pulaski cleanup hitter Austin Allen for a 4-0 Falcon lead.

Guy Halbert took over for McKenzie and also walked four batters, leading to one more run for North Pulaski, but by the end of the first inning, the Jackrabbits had rallied to take an 8-5 lead.

“With it being senior night, we wanted to start all of our seniors,” Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery said. “We’ve got nine this year, so we got everybody out there. We pitched Reid out there, he hasn’t pitched a ton this year. We wanted to get him at least a couple of innings in there, obviously it wasn’t his day, that happens. We brought Guy in, and he did a good job of holding it together for us, and we finally got our bats going.”

North Pulaski starting pitcher T.J. Waters started out on the right path in the bottom of the first by retiring Lonoke leadoff Shane Pepper with a groundout to shortstop and striking out Essick Shephard for two fast outs, but it didn’t take long for the Jackrabbits to figure out Waters’ unconventional southpaw-sidearm delivery. The next four Lonoke batters recorded hits before a hit-by-pitch, walk and two more hits.

Senior Blake Gooden started things off with a triple to right center, followed by a single for Halbert that scored Gooden. Madison James then doubled to center to drive in Halbert, and Zack Risner doubled to score James, cutting the lead to 5-3. McKenzie was hit by a pitch and Garrett Spears walked to load the bases.

Dustyn Perkins kept things going for Lonoke from the bottom of the order with a single grounder to center that scored Risner and McKenzie to tie the game, and Pepper’s single to right scored Spears to give Lonoke its first and only lead at 6-5. An infield error on Shephard’s grounder allowed Perkins to come home, while Pepper stole his way to third and rushed the plate when North Pulaski tried to make a play at second against a steal by Shephard to give the Jackrabbits an 8-5 lead.

Lonoke added two more runs in the bottom of the third inning, and North Pulaski scored in the top of the fourth inning when Billy Crews was hit by a Halbert offering to reach first. Crews advanced on a single by Austin Allen and a walk for Troy Allen that loaded the bases against fresh Lonoke pitcher Christian James, and finally came home when Billy Rogers hit an infield single to make it 10-6. Austin Allen also tried to reach home on the play, but was tagged out at the plate by catcher Madison James.

“It’s special, especially since we have such a big group of seniors,” Lowery said of the dramatic win on senior night. “I’ve had these guys since they were ninth graders, that was my first year here, so it’s extra special to me to have them all the way through. We definitely wanted to get a win for them.”

Gooden pulled off the biggest hit of the night in the bottom of the fourth inning for Lonoke when he sent a fast grounder up the middle with Pepper and Shephard both on base. Allen misplayed the ball in centerfield and had to give chase, which allowed Gooden to use his fast footwork to go all the way around for an inside-the-park home run, giving Lonoke a commanding 14-6 lead.

“It’s pretty rare,” Lowery said. “I saw it get by the centerfielder, and I knew he would have a chance. They weren’t able to get to it quickly, so I knew he would have a chance at it. He’s definitely got some speed, he had a triple earlier in the game. Anything is possible with him, because he’s going to hustle out of the box and get what he can get.”

Gooden finished with a home run, triple, double and three RBIs. Halbert was 2 for 3 with a double. For North Pulaski, Austin Allen was 2 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills is still rolling

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears capped their best week of the season with a 12-2 win over class 6A Searcy at the Sherwood Sports Complex on Friday. The day before, the Bears beat 6A’s No. 1 ranked team, Benton. And earlier in the week reeled off two easy conference wins over Helena-West Helena Central.

“We’re playing pretty good,” Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton said. “We beat two very good teams. Benton and Searcy are very strong programs. Any time you beat those two back-to-back, that’s a good week.”

The Bears (12-7) also found some power against the Lions. Sylvan Hills did not have a home run this season, but hit two on Friday. Senior pitcher J.D. Miller also turned in another dominant performance on the mound, pitching six innings, striking out 12 and giving up just three hits.

“He’s always had the stuff,” Tipton said of Miller. “He’s right up there with any of my other top guys I’ve had in the past. He’s always had great breaking stuff, always thrown hard with good movement. He’s shown flashes of it his whole career, like the way he went up to Jonesboro last year and dominated. His only deal has been consistency. He’s had some control problems in the past and when he didn’t stay ahead, he could become erratic. This year he’s been extremely consistent and he’s been dominant. You take out his first inning of the year, since then he’s been as good as anyone else around. He’s solved those control problems.”

Sylvan Hills built an early lead with four runs in the bottom of the second inning, but Searcy answered with its two runs in the top of the third.

It was the bottom of the third when the Bears introduced the long ball to the 2013 season.

Chase Imoff started things off with a solo home run to left field. After a Brandon Baioni single, T.J. Burrow went opposite field for a two-run homer and a 6-2 Sylvan Hills lead.

“Chase’s homer was our team’s first all year,” Tipton said. “Then we get our second one the same inning. I like the way we’re swinging the bats right now.” Burrow got another RBI in the fourth inning when he singled to score Miller.

Back-to-back doubles produced three more runs in the fifth inning. Jacob White and Blake Maddox each singled. Charlie Roberts then doubled to score both runners, and Miller doubled to score Roberts for an 11-2 lead.

Sylvan Hills enacted the mercy rule in the bottom of the sixth when Burrow was hit by a pitch, Reid Fawcett singled and Hunter Heslep singled to score Burrow.

After a slow start to the season that saw two bad losses and a few close losses, Tipton isn’t surprised to see his team playing so well.

“Really I didn’t think we would struggle as much early as we did,” Tipton said. “I thought we would play good defense and I thought our pitching would be pretty good. Our nonconference schedule, I think I could put up against anybody’s out there, and we still have some tough ones left. I feel like whoever we play, we have a chance to win the way we’re playing right now.”

Sylvan Hills doesn’t play again until a 5A-Central doubleheader at Little Rock McClellan on Thursday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville native heads hospital

David R. Fox is the new president of St. Vincent North in Sherwood. Fox replaces Tim Osterholm, who accepted a position as vice president and chief people officer at St. Vincent.
In addition to his responsibilities as president of St. Vincent North, Fox is a member of the St. Vincent Health System strategy team and President’s Council. He was most recently vice president of clinical and emergency services at Baptist Health in Little Rock.

Fox, who grew up in Jacksonville, earned a bachelor’s degree in general science at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and a master’s degree in business administration at Oklahoma City University in Tulsa.

Fox began his health-care career as a nuclear medicine technologist. He has served in leadership positions at Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo and at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa.

His list of health-care accomplishments includes leading strategic and quality initiatives, overseeing large capital projects, patient satisfaction and enhancing relationships with physicians.

Fox is affiliated with the American College of Healthcare Executives and serves on the board of directors of the American Healthcare Radiology Administrators Association.

His philanthropic, community and charitable activities include the American Heart Association Arkansas Heart Ball, the Salvation Army, United Way, Catholic Charities, St. Joseph’s House, Upward Children’s at local churches and the American Red Cross.

Fox and his wife, Kristie, have seven children. He and his family are parishioners of Christ the King Catholic Church in Little Rock, where he has served as confirmation director since 2007 and was elected to the parish council in 2013.

TOP STORY >> She succeeds in man's world

Leader staff writer

Joy Kinman, the first female Jacksonville water commissioner, says, “I’ve always been in a man’s world” and that she is excited about serving her community alongside her male counterparts.

“They are some of the most fantastic people. I feel very honored,” she said.

Kinman is serving out the rest of the eight-year term Alderman James Bolden III was previously appointed to. He left the commission after being elected to the city council in November.

Kinman said she is planning to apply for the position again after Bolden’s term expires on April 20, 2017.

“At that point, I’ll be getting into the meat of it,” she said.

Kinman applied for the commission when she learned there was an opening.

She said, “I have always wanted to serve my community, and this was a chance to do that. I do not mind hard work. I do not mind learning.”

Kinman, who officially joined the commission last week, says she is ecstatic to be part of the group while several of its projects are in their final stages.

Jacksonville Waterworks is a member of the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority, which is building a $57 million system to bring water from Greers Ferry Lake to their customers.

Money for the project will come from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Other members of the authority are Austin, Beebe, Furlow, Grand Prairie/Bayou Two, North Pulaski, Vilonia and Ward. The cities have raised their rates to pay back the USDA’s and ANRC’s long-term loans.

Jacksonville Waterworks is also negotiating a contract to take over maintenance of the water system of Little Rock Air Force Base.

The city has supplied water to LRAFB since it opened in 1955, but the base’s civil engineering group has maintained the pipes and valves since then.

The department’s offer to service the base’s water system will have to be approved by the Department of Defense. It could take several months to finalize the contract.

The department is raising a new 3,000-gallon water tower at Hwy. 107 and General Samuels Road in May. It will service LRAFB and the Base Meadows subdivision off base.

The new tower will replace a 5,000-gallon in-ground tank on Harris Road.

Commission chairman Jim Peacock said the department didn’t need 5,000 gallons for customers in that area, but had the tank with that capacity and used it.

He said it makes better economic sense to not waste water by putting in the lower-capacity tower, which will also increase water pressure in that area.

Kinman said, “I came in at a time when it’s all in action. I am excited for our city.”

She spent 20 years working in fire restoration before joining her husband’s home building company in 1969.

Kinman moved to Jacksonville from Hernando, Miss., in 1976.

She says she decided to live here after she met “the love of her life,” Dave Kinman.

The two met while Kinman was visiting her sister, who was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The couple had three sons, ages 36, 28 and 26.

Kinman’s husband passed away from heart complications a little more than a year ago.

She says the best way to cope with her loss is to keep his business alive.

Kinman lives in the Oak Ridge subdivision off Maddox Road. She estimates that she  built 75 percent of the houses there.

Constructing someone’s dream home is no small feat, Kinman said.

“The goal is for them to be as happy the last day as they are on the first. My customers become my friends,” Kinman said.

TOP STORY >> Exxon is told pipeline can't run near lake

Leader staff writer

Just like they said they would after the oil spill in Mayflower, the board of directors that runs Central Arkansas Water has asked ExxonMobil to move the 20-inch line that runs 13.5 miles through the Lake Maumelle watershed.

They want the line moved within five years, but in the meantime, they want ExxonMobil to tell them what caused the Mayflower rupture and to prove to them the line won’t rupture inside the Maumelle watershed.

CAW serves 17 cities and communities, including Jacksonville and Cabot. Currently, Jacksonville gets about 60 percent of its water from CAW while Cabot gets only 20 percent. Most of Cabot’s water comes from wells.

The request to move the pipeline is in the form of a board resolution passed Thursday with the title “Resolution requesting ExxonMobil to provide detailed action plans to Central Arkansas Water (CAW) outlining immediate and short-term spill risk reduction measures as well as a long-term plan for the relocation of the oil pipeline outside of the watershed and that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration require said actions by ExxonMobil.”

The resolution declares that the 20-inch Pegasus line “poses significant risks to the quality and safety of the drinking water for 400,000 Central Arkansans.”

The board asks ExxonMobil to present CAW with details about the cause of the rupture at Mayflower and a thorough evaluation of the portion of the line that bisects the Maumelle watershed.

The Leader received a copy of the resolution from John Tynan, CAW watershed protection manager, who was responding to a request for updates on CAW’s concerns about the line.

Tynan said Lake Maumelle supplies about two-thirds of the water used by CAW and that in an emergency Lake Winona and other sources could supply the system for two or three days.

“The evaluation should demonstrate that the pipeline within the Lake Maumelle watershed is free of any defect or flaw that would compromise the integrity of the pipe or that may have contributed to the Mayflower rupture,” according to the resolution.

The resolution asks the Pipeline and Hazardous Mate-rials Safety Administration to require ExxonMobil to comply with CAW’s requests which include that ExxonMobil should, within six months, prepare a report detailing the relocation of the pipeline.

The resolution also asks ExxonMobil to implement within the next year a wide range of risk-mitigation activities in the watershed, including but not limited, to “response plan updates, notification improvements, more frequent monitoring activities, additional training for local emergency responders, additional response materials and equipment, pipeline redundancy and integrity improvements and other efforts requested by CAW and other federal, state and local emergency response agencies.”

EDITORIAL >> Sequester must end

By Air Force Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mark D. Shackelford
Special to The Leader

The President, congressional leaders of both parties and senior military leaders all agreed: Sequestration should never happen. Yet here we are, one month in. Two critical questions arise: Is sequestration really that bad for national security? And what, if anything, should the government do about it?

To answer the first question: Yes. As then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month, the automatic cut in the Pentagon’s budget—$500 billion over nine years—will “hollow the military” and mire it in the “most serious readiness crisis” in a decade. These effects, taking hold gradually, will last years into the future.

Some people don’t want to believe this. They look at U.S. defense spending—roughly $647 billion annually—and wonder what’s the big deal about “trimming” less than 10 percent from a budget that dwarfs the combined military budgets of our foes.

Comparisons to others’ military spending are misleading. North Korea and Iran, for example, spend much less, but their spending focuses on developing specific military capabilities that pose a huge strategic threat to the U.S. It’s much less expensive to pursue a purely offensive military posture, driven by aggressive policies. Additionally, the U.S. has made security commitments to numerous allies—obligations that other nations simply do not have.

Washington must recognize that it is not asking the military to do less. As rogue regimes from North Korea to Iran to Syria edge ever closer to administration-defined “red lines,” the odds increase that our servicemen and women will be asked to do more. Yet sequestration insists that they do more with less. That is the best recipe for the hollow force.

This crisis adds up to a simple truth: It’s expensive to build and maintain a global military posture capable of deterring conflict in the first place and assuring the defeat of aggression if it should occur. There is a cost to placing a premium on American lives, including those of our warfighters.

Moreover, the sequester was specifically designed to impose as much harm as possible on the Pentagon. The idea was to create a spending reduction so grotesquely irresponsible that Congress and the President would be forced to produce a reasonable alternative for cutting $1 trillion from the entire federal budget. But reasonable alternatives are in short supply in Washington, and the Pentagon is stuck with oversized, indiscriminate, uniform-percentage reductions in every single program, project, and activity.

These cuts are biting into meat rather than fat because they come on top of several previous cuts. In the Obama Administration’s first term, Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta eliminated $1 trillion dollars from defense. Sequestration cuts therefore necessitate reduced procurement (fewer airplanes, ships, missiles and tanks), deferred construction (of military schools, runway maintenance, and family housing) and foregone training (essential for optimal preparedness).

Sequestration’s need-blind cuts produce a sad irony: The spending reductions create inefficiencies rather than eliminate them. For example, the Pentagon will place civilian workers on unpaid furloughs. This includes not just the people who repair weapons systems, creating a costly deferred-maintenance problem, but the people who audit the Pentagon’s performance to make sure programs operate efficiently.

Additionally, many procurement programs require full funding to achieve efficiencies of scale. With only partial funding available, production of items such as satellites and ships must be delayed or, in some cases, eliminated altogether. Production delays create more—not fewer—inefficiencies.

So, what should Washington do about this self-generated mess? The continuing resolution signed into law last week was a much-needed stopgap, giving Defense Department leadership both funding and flexibility. But the continuing resolution leaves the sequester cuts still in place: Undoing sequestration must come next.

The President and Congress must find common ground to undo sequestration’s deleterious effects on defense in the short term while resolving to restore funding to needed levels in the longer term. Savings should not come at the cost of readiness. And Washington must not let the federal spending crisis precipitate a national-security crisis.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark D. Shackelford served as the Military Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. Rebeccah Heinrichs, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, specializing in national defense policy, contributed to this article, which first appeared on AOL Defense.

SPORTS >> Lonoke girls go deep in three wins

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke softball team has been a good hitting team all season, but hasn’t been known for the long ball.

That changed this week as the Lady Jackrabbits put on a vulgar display of power, hitting three home runs in as many games and reeling off three big wins over Hazen, DeWitt and Stuttgart.

Jacelyn Truelove got the team’s first roundtrip of the season on Monday, highlighting a 13-0 nonconference rout of Hazen. In a rain-shortened 7-1 victory over DeWitt on Tuesday, pitcher Hannah Murray went yard for the team’s second homer of the year.

On Thursday in conference play, leadoff hitter Charley Jo Chesney sent the first pitch of the game skyward and over the fence in straightaway centerfield in a 4-0 victory over the Lady Ricebirds.

We’ve had a lot of confidence in this lineup’s ability to hit all season,” Lonoke coach Laura Park said. “We tell them to just put the bat on the ball and put the ball in play, and they’ve done a good job of doing what we ask them to do. And when they relax, keep their eye on the ball and swing at good pitches, good things happen.”

Truelove followed Chesney’s home run with an infield single and scored on an RBI double to left field by Murray to give Lonoke a quick 2-0 lead.

While the Lady Jackrabbits would add a couple of insurance runs later in the game, the home run was all Murray needed. She gave up just two hits, hit one batter and walked one while striking out seven in the shutout.

She hit the first batter she faced, then got a fielder’s choice grounder and a 4-6-3 double play to end the first inning. Stuttgart cleanup hitter Jamie Maddox got Stuttgart’s first base hit to start the second inning, but Murray finished things off with a pair of strikeouts and a groundball out.

Lonoke got another run in the bottom of the second when nine-hole hitter Candace James single to right field and got all the way to third when the right fielder slipped in wet outfield. Chesney then doubled to right to score James.

Lonoke had a good opportunity to score in the third inning, but Haylee Whitehurst missed a hit-and-run signal and Jessy Lewis was thrown out at second base. Whitehurst then singled to right field but didn’t make it around before the third out.

Another good scoring opportunity went unfulfilled in the fourth for Lonoke, but this time it was just great defense by the Lady Ricebirds. James doubled down the right field line with one out. Chesney then hit a scorching groundball to shortstop. The stop was made and Chesney was thrown out at first. James went for third on the throw, but the relay from first to third was perfectly placed right into James’ sliding line for a 6-3-5 double play.

Lonoke went hitless in the fifth, but added one more in the sixth when Lindsey Roland singled to centerfield and James doubled to left to drive her in.

SPORTS >> NLR boys first, Cabot girls rising

Leader sports editor

The North Little Rock boys track team got its first big win of the season, taking first place in the Wampus Cat Relays at Conway High School on Thursday. The Charging Wildcats scored 155.5 points to easily outpoint the host team, which scored 117. The Cabot boys were a distant third with 68 points while Little Rock Central and Benton rounded out the top five.

The Cabot girls had one of their best outings of the season, but lost again to the Bryant Lady Hornets, though Thursday’s results show the Lady Panthers might be inching closer. Bryant won with 148.5 points, but Cabot was close behind with 126. Little Rock Central took third in the girls while Conway and Vilonia took fourth and fifth. North Little Rock girls were sixth with 49.5 points.

“We are closing the gap,” Cabot assistant track coach Chris Beavert said. “We’re looking forward to our meet Tuesday. Our girls want to put on a show. There should be some great weather, fast times and good performances.”

Conway’s Brandon Cox won the 100-meter dash like he has in every meet this year, but North Little Rock’s Altee Tenpenny turned in his best performance of the season with a second-place finish. Cabot’s Jordan Burke, who has beaten Tenpenny twice this year and has been Cabot’s best sprinter, had an off day, finishing in 11.9 and out of the points. Cabot still got points in the race as junior Zach Launius took third. North Little Rock’s Rodney Bryson was fourth and Sylvan Hills’ Quincy Flowers remains among the top sprinters with a sixth-place finish.

Kavin Alexander won the 200-meter dash for the Wildcats while Launius took third in that event as well.

North Little Rock sprinters also won the 4x100 relay while Cabot won the 4x400. The Wildcat team of Martinez Butler, Alexander, Tenpenny and Bryson finished with a time of 42.74. Cabot’s Burke, Launius, Seth Hoggard and Layton Alley finished third with a 44.05 time.

Burke, Hoggard, Launius and John Snowden finished the 4x400 in 3:33.24, just ahead of Central’s 3:33.91 and at least five seconds ahead of everyone else, a somewhat surprising feat since Cabot finished out of the points in the 400-meter race.

Kaleb Jones got a second-place finish for North Little Rock in the 800-meter race.

North Little Rock picked up 16 points in the 110 hurdles. Martavious Strozier won the event while Ed’Zemien Lyons was third. Lyons also won the high jump while teammate Marquez Jones took second place points with the same leap of 5-9.

Another Wildcat duo brought home 18 points in the 300 hurdles. Brad Agee just beat out teammate Anthony Louden by a half second with a time of 42.40.

Hoggard took second in the long jump behind Greenbrier’s Seth Peters, and Butler won the triple jump for North Little Rock by bounding 46-1.

North Little Rock also won the shot put with Marcus Lindsey’s throw of 46-5 1/2. Cabot’s Keith Pledger was fourth at 42-2 1/4.

Beavert says the boys are also getting better.

“The boys are steadily improving and we’re figuring out who’s going to dig bait or fish,” Beavert said. “We should see some great performances from the guys as well, especially the seniors.”

Cabot’s Lexi and Tori Weeks brought home many of the Lady Panthers’ points. The sophomore duo finished one and two again in the pole vault. Tori Weeks went 12 feet while Lexi cleared 11-6. Both have gone well over 12 feet this year, but Thursday’s lower effort was still two-and-a-half feet better than third place.

Tori Weeks also took second in the triple jump behind Bryant’s dominant Alexis Royal, but was within 15 inches of Royal in Thursday’s meet. Teammate Rochelle Mallory was eighth for a point. Lexi Weeks was second in the long jump and Cabot’s Ladaysha Evans was sixth. Lexi was second in the 400-meter race just a half second behind Central’s Jasmine Blunt, who finished in 1:00.52. Lexi also got a single point for taking eighth place in the 200-meter dash. Tori took third in the 300 hurdles while Mallory was fifth. Rachael Hall and Mallory took seventh and eighth in the 100-meter hurdles. Tori was also on Cabot’s second-place 4x100 relay team along with Evans, Mallory and Hall. They finished nearly two seconds behind Bryant’s winning time of 50.08. Both sisters joined up with Evans and Marlene Sheehan to finish second in the 4x400 relay, but again finishing more than 10 seconds behind Bryant’s winning time of 4:05.35.

Sophomore Micah Huckabee swept the distance races. She won the 3200 with a time of 12:20.52. Her teammate Meagan Duncan finished fourth for five points. Huckabee won the 1600 with a 5:29.43 time. Sheehan earned a point by finishing eighth.

Buford Haley threw the discus 95-3 for a first-place finish. Carlee Wright took fifth in the shot put while Buford was sixth.

The Cabot teams will host their annual Panther relays on Tuesday. It was originally scheduled for April 2 but was postponed due to bad weather.

SPORTS >> Cabot shocks Tigers, sweeps

Leader sportswriter

It was an epic ten-inning battle followed by a not-so-epic walk fest, but at the end of the night, both games were close victories for Cabot as the Panthers turned their 7A/6A East Conference season around with 6-5 and 11-9 wins over visiting Little Rock Central on Tuesday.

The opener went almost four hours as the Panthers finally pulled out the victory in the bottom of the tenth inning with a single up the middle by Kason Kimbrell that scored Ryan Logan and Landon James, while the Panthers had to hold off a rallying Central team in the bottom of the seventh inning of the nightcap. Cabot led 11-5 heading into the final frame and went through three pitchers to finally put their guests away.

“I’m really proud of how the kids stepped up,” Panthers coach Jay Fitch said. “We were basically playing without four of our starters, so we had some young kids step up and play really well against what is probably one of the best pitching staffs in the state. The second game was a crazy game. That is one of the tightest strike zones I have ever seen in high-school baseball. We had twenty-plus walks in that one.”

The first game ended in a 3-3 tie through seven innings to force the game to continue into extra innings. Theo Mitchell singled and then scored for Central in the top of the eighth, but the Panthers answered in the bottom of the eighth as Logan walked and later scored on a double to deep centerfield by Riley Knudsen, who eventually took the win on the mound after relieving Adam Hicks, who took over for starter Logan in regulation.

No one scored in the ninth, and it looked as if Central took over momentum in the top of the tenth when Tigers junior and Vanderbilt commit Joey Abraham cranked a solo home-run shot over the left field wall to give Central a 5-4 lead.

“There at the end, one of the best players in the state hits a humongous home run,” Fitch said. “So, for a team that’s still a fairly young team to come out there and respond was huge. We were able to load the bases, and Kason Kimbrell has been swinging good the last couple of weeks. We knew it was going to be close at the plate, so I told them that if it was close, I was sending them so be ready.”

Logan led off the bottom of the tenth with a single to left, and advanced on a walk for Knudsen. James came in as a courtesy runner for Knudsen, and Coleman McAtee loaded the bases when he beat the throw to first from shortstop on a grounder. That put Kimbrell up with bases loaded and one out, and Kimbrell came through with a ripper between second and shortstop, as Fitch sent both Logan and James in. James reached home in plenty of time to beat the throw from left three hours and 40 minutes after the game started.

The victories improved the Panthers’ record to 10-9 overall and 4-4 in the 7A/6A East Conference. Fitch said the big wins could help his team build momentum with the final stretch of league play just ahead.

“That’s what we’re hoping,” Fitch said. “What I want to do is challenge the younger players. We really want to be consistent, and obviously, we want to finish as high as we can in conference, because anything can happen once you reach state.”

Cabot hosted Beebe in nonconference action last night after Leader deadlines.