Friday, June 27, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Henry is Hogs’ steadiest


FAYETTEVILLE – Going into last season, coach Bret Bielema and his Arkansas Razorbacks staff knew Hunter Henry was their best young tight end.

Going into this August preseason, Bielema, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and tight ends coach Barry Lunney know Henry is their best tight end of any age and any phase.

“Our most consistent football player is Hunter,” Lunney said during spring drills last April. “There is no doubt. He proved it last year. He’s consistent. He’s gifted.”

Henry caught passes all over the place in high school at Pulaski Academy. And even with last year’s Hogs 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC, he caught them in college, 28 for 409 yards and four touchdowns. At 6-6, 251, Henry blocked well enough for running backs Alex Collins, the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year, and Jonathan Williams to go with his receptions to receive honors on various freshman All-American teams and first-teamFreshmen All-SEC team and second-team All-SEC regardless of age.

Henry did it often playing hurt and three games minus fifth-year senior tight end Austin Tate. Tate was the Hogs’ most experienced tight end, but never healthy last season from a significant preseason injury on.

Though Tate moves on, this year’s numbers add up better for Henry, Bielema believes, as does Lunney.

Third-year sophomore Jeremy Sprinkle of White Hall and junior Alex Voelzke lettered last fall and improved in the spring. AJ Derby, last year’s 6-5, 246 backup quarterback, appeared a spectacular addition switched to tight end during spring drills.

Incoming freshman Jack Kraus of Bentonville is the latest scholarship tight end addition.

Their numbers add up well to Henry for several reasons, Bielema said.

More players means more competition for Henry to improve his practices, and more players means more help at keeping Henry rested during games and with various formations employing two and sometimes even more tight ends.

“I think the best thing that can happen to Hunter is the evolution of AJ Derby and Sprinkle and Voelzke, to be quite honest,” Bielema said. “I think that now Hunter goes to work every day and realizes AJ Derby can all of the sudden start taking more of my reps. Jeremy Sprinkle got better every day, Voelzke’s playing as good as he’s playing, that’s only going to make us better.”

And more versatile.

“When you go to sets and formations that have two tight ends on the field, it’s a tough matchup issue for defenses,” Bielema said. “I think about all the time, of all the great tight ends I’ve been around, and good offense, it’s been when we’ve had more than one tight end that can play the position with any type of speed, with any type of vertical threat in the passing game, and those things make everybody a little bit better.”

More health and more help had Henry hopeful going into the summer “voluntary” workouts that continue through July before preseason practice officially begins in August leading into the Aug. 30 season opener at reigning SEC champion Auburn in Auburn, Ala.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot faster, a lot more explosive just because I was healthy,” Henry said. “I think last year that kind of limited me a little bit. I wasn’t as explosive as an athlete as I could have been. I fought through a lot with my leg. But, you know, I feel as good as I have ever. I’m just really excited about it.”

Adding senior transfer offensive guard and former UNLV team captain Cameron Jefferson to an offense that full-time last spring added speedster Korliss Marshall of Osceola to the running back stable headed by Williams and Collins has Henry thinking the Ground Hogs phase of the game will run Arkansas’ way.

“Our running game is going to be great,” Henry said. “We have three great running backs, a great offensive line. We’ve got to continue to improve in our passing game, but I think we’re as close as anything.”

They weren’t close on that last fall, he admits.

“I think sometimes we have guys running one route this way and then we’re not making maybe one play,” Henry said. “We’re not catching it. We’re not making the right throw or read. We just have to all get on the same page. When we’re all on the same page, we’re hard to beat. This summer we’re going to continue to work hard and in fall camp. We’re going to be ready when Aug. 30 comes.”

SPORTS STORY >> Sharkrockets small, strong vs. Marlins, Barracudas

Leader sportswriter

At last Saturday’s three-team, 33-event Central Arkansas Swim League meet at Bryant, the host Barracudas won with a total of 664 team points, while the Maumelle Marlins took second place with 331 team points and the Lonoke SharkRockets finished third with 137 team points.

The number of participants competing for Bryant and Maumelle greatly outnumbered Lonoke’s, but even though the SharkRockets’ numbers were significantly smaller, they had some strong showings by some of their participants.

Lonoke’s Kayla McGee, 15, was dominant in almost every event she competed in at the meet. She took part in four individual events in the girls’ 15-18 year old division, and posted the top times in three of the four events, but she won each race in her division.

Three of McGee’s top times were good for the platinum ranks, which is the highest and most prestigious time range to finish in. McGee’s first event was the 50-yard freestyle race, where she finished in 26 seconds flat, good for a platinum finish.

McGee was the only swimmer to participate in the platinum division for that race, and even though she won that division, Bryant’s Hope Ernhart came out of nowhere to post the top time.

Ernhart, who was racing in the bronze division, the lowest of the ranks, finished the finals of that event in a whopping 25.44 seconds to beat out every participant in each of the girls’ divisions for that race.

McGee responded by posting the top times in her next three individual races. She posted her next platinum time in the 50-yard backstroke. She finished that event in 30.19 seconds. Fellow SharkRocket Tristan Bennett won the silver division in that race, finishing in 37.93 seconds.

McGee and Bennett, along with teammates Emily Armstrong and Makenzie Bennett, took second in the girls’ 18-under 100-yard freestyle relay race. The Lonoke girls finished that race in 54.16 seconds, which was less than three seconds behind Bryant’s winning time of 51.51 seconds.

In the 15-18 year old girls’ 50-yard breaststroke event, McGee posted another top time and platinum finish. She won that race with a winning time of 32.94 seconds. Tristan Bennett won the silver division of that race with a time of 41.61 seconds, and Makenzie Bennett finished right behind her with a second-place time of 44.07 seconds.

McGee’s final individual race was the 50-yard butterfly. She didn’t get a platinum finish in that race, but still posted the top time. Her winning time of 28.32 seconds was the best time for both the boys and girls in that race, and earned her a gold finish.

Makenzie Bennett won the silver division in that race with a finishing time of 35.03 seconds. Both Bennett girls also won their divisions in the 100-yard individual medley race.

Makenzie Bennett won the gold division of that race with a winning time of 1:18.71, and Tristan Bennett, although racing in the silver division, finished with a gold time of 1:20.16.

Spencer McGhee, who competed in the boys’ 7-8 year old races, also did well for Lonoke. He posted the best overall time for his age group in the 25-yard freestyle race, finishing that event in 18.71 seconds, earning him a gold rank. But McGhee also won other races within his division.

McGhee won the silver division for his age group in the 25-yard backstroke event. He finished that race in 24.42 seconds, which was less than a second ahead of Maumelle’s Spencer Marshall, who took second place with a finishing time of 24.78 seconds.

McGhee also won the silver division in the 25-yard breaststroke. He finished that race with a time 30.13 seconds. Bryant’s Noah Robnett, racing in the lower bronze division, posted the top time in that event with a finishing time of 26.78 seconds.

Lonoke’s Armstrong and Jimmy Evans won two different individual races for their divisions. Armstrong, racing in the 13-14 year old girls’ silver division, won the 50-yard backstroke and 50-yard butterfly races.

Armstrong finished the butterfly race in 34.94 seconds, and finished the backstroke in 35.89 seconds, which was good for a gold finish.

Evans, racing in the 15-18 year old boys’ silver division, won the 50-yard butterfly and 100-yard IM races for that division. He finished the individual medley in 1:15.25, and his 32-second flat finish in the butterfly race was good for the gold ranks.

Fellow SharkRockets Tanner Edwards and Colby Rogers, racing in the boys’ 15-18 year old silver division, each won a race in that division. Edwards won the 50-yard freestyle with a time 28.66 seconds, and Rogers won the 50-yard backstroke with a time of 33.47 seconds – good for a gold finish.

Lonoke’s Kanon Williams also won a race for his division in the 6-under age group. He raced in the bronze division, and earned a first-place finish in the 25-yard backstroke with a time of 37.38 seconds.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe gets wet, swept at Conway

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Junior American Legion team had a rough and messy outing at Conway on Wednesday. The O’Reilly’s Auto Parts team lost the opening game of the drenched doubleheader by the final score of 5-1, and dropped the nightcap 9-0.

Beebe scored the first run of game one. Alec Matlock walked to lead off the top of the second inning. He then stole second and third base and teammate Chase Underwood walked the following at-bat, and stole second base to put both runners in scoring position.

Ty Searcy, the team’s nine-hole hitter, got a timely hit as he drove in Matlock with an RBI single to give the O’Reilly’s team an early 1-0 lead.

However, the Beebe bats went quiet after that, and Conway was able to tie the score in the bottom of the second with a run scored, and the host team added its final four runs in the third to set the final score of the first game.

“We had maybe 11 guys show up and we were trying to save arms because we’ve had a bunch of games,” said Beebe assistant coach Tyler Burge. “We went through pitchers pretty quick, but the conditions were really bad. We had guys trying to steal bases and slipping up.

“(Conway) hit the ball; we just couldn’t make the plays. We fumbled the ball around or kicked it around. We threw a couple of balls away, pulling our first baseman off the bag to where he couldn’t tag the runner. So it was just little mistakes like that.

“We didn’t hit the ball well at all, but I think we’ve learned from that loss and what we need to do from that.”

Conway’s pitching stymied the O’Reilly’s team in game two, and the host team wasted little time piling on the runs to build a comfortable lead early.

Conway scored eight of its nine runs scored in the first inning, and scored the final run of the game in the third.

Beebe was able to put the bat on the ball, totaling six hits in the second game, but the O’Reilly’s squad could never get the timely hit to get a run on the board.

“We put the ball in play, we just hit it right at them,” Burge said. “They were able to make the plays in the conditions we were in, and it didn’t turn out as well for us in those same conditions. They hit the ball well; we just couldn’t get the job done.”

Tyler Woodall and Matlock led O’Reilly’s with two hits apiece in game one. Dawson Burge was the only Beebe player with multiple hits in game two. He also had two.

Beebe played the Cabot White Junior American Legion team in a doubleheader last night at Searcy after deadlines, and is scheduled to play again at Searcy on Tuesday against the host city. The first game of that doubleheader is scheduled to start at 6 p.m., and the second game will follow at 8 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Persson, Miller named All-Star MVP’s

Leader sports editor

Two local athletes were named girls All-Star game Most Valuable Players in their respective sports this week at UCA. Beebe’s Kalela Miller led the East girls basketball team to an 80-58 victory on Thursday night in the Farris Center.

The day before at the Bill Stephens Complex, Sylvan Hills’ Abigail Persson scored the game-winning goal for the East to earn MVP honors in a rain-soaked soccer match.

Soccer matches were delayed for an hour and 40 minutes while storms passed through Conway, and when play finally resumed, all players had trouble with footing. Those troubles led to a scoreless regulation in boys and girls action. Even in penalty kicks, six of the first 10 attempts failed and ended with the score still tied.

That brought on sudden death, and after a West miss, Persson put an end to the match with a late adjustment and a goal in the left corner.

That adjustment went against the advice of her father and Sylvan Hills coach Nate Persson, but worked out just the same.

“My dad always told me to always know where you’re going to go and don’t change because usually you’ll end up going right down the middle if you change,” Abigail Persson said. “I decided when I went up there I was going to go right, but in the middle of running up to the ball, I saw the goalie already breaking that way, so I had to quickly change. That’s sort of against what my dad always said, but I knew if I went right she was going to get a stop.”

East coach Sheffield Duke told his players during practices on Tuesday that everyone would play 20 minutes, and that the second half the best girls were going to play. That gave Persson some motivation and she did the best she could to earn that second-half playing time.

“I knew I had 20 minutes to prove I belonged out there for the second half,” Persson said. “Conditions weren’t great for any of us. It was very wet and slippery, but I was happy that I got to play the second half.”

Nate Persson believed she earned the right as well.

“She managed to break loose a few times but the footing was just terrible and there wasn’t much you could do with the ball in those situations,” he said. “But I was very glad that she got the opportunity she did. If it hadn’t been tied after five she wouldn’t have gotten to kick. And it was awfully kind of them to give her that honor of making her MVP.”


Former Lady Badger Kalela Miller scored a game-high 25 points and led a 17-4 run at the start of the second half that put the East team in control of their 80-58 victory. Miller was most dangerous at the start of each half. She scored seven points in the first four minutes of the game to lead the East to a 15-6 lead, but the West successfully slowed the pace. Once the pace slowed, the West’s bigger post players controlled much of the action, and led the team to a 40-39 halftime lead – with halftime being a misnomer since it was the end of the third period of a five-period game. Teams let three groups of five play one quarter apiece, then play the second half with normal substitutions.

The East came out again trying to force the tempo and make it a 94-foot game, and did so. Miller scored nine of the East’s 17 points in the early blitz, including a spinning reverse layup four minutes into the half.

She also sparked many of the transition buckets scored by teammates by finishing with four steals and three assists, to go along with five rebounds.


Sylvan Hills’ pitcher Michelle Sorensen started game one of the softball doubleheader and pitched well in taking the loss. She gave up just three hits while striking out six and walking none in five innings of work. But three errors in the field led to three unearned runs as the West won 4-1.

The West also won game two 3-1, but Beebe’s Madelyn Poe drove in the East’s only run with the team’s only RBI in either game.

In baseball, the East and West split their doubleheader, with the East taking game one 5-4 and the West winning game two 7-6. Cabot’s Riley Knudsen did his part for the East team in the game-two loss, hitting a two-RBI single in the fourth inning to put the East briefly ahead 4-3.

In boys’ soccer, the West won 5-3 on penalty kicks after a scoreless regulation in slippery conditions. The West team made all five of its penalty kick attempts while the East made just three of four, but Cabot’s Trevor Reed did his part, scoring the East’s final goal of the night. North Little Rock’s Heriberto missed the East’s fourth shot, making the West’s fifth shot the clincher.

In boys’ basketball, Beebe’s Tanner Chapman scored four points in helping the East continue its domination of the West since the turn of the century. The East boys’ 85-77 win gives them a record of 13-2 in All-Star games since 2000.

EDITORIAL >> Road work: Use caution

Major highway construction will soon start along Hwy. 67/167, easing traffic congestion between Jacksonville and Cabot and beyond. In addition, a north interchange between Cabot and Austin will not only help traffic there but also boost economic development in the area.

The improvements might inconvenience thousands of motorists, but the road widening and new overpasses in Jacksonville will move traffic as fast as the widening project in recent years from McCain Boulevard to Jacksonville.

The state Highway Commission has awarded a $42 million contract to James Construction Group of Baton Rouge, La., to replace both the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses in Jacksonville with wider, safer overpasses that will accommodate three lanes of traffic north and south, along with a substantial shoulder at Main Street.

Along with widening the two overpasses, the 1.3-mile job also calls for new approaches and ramps for the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses, and a new stretch of highway between them.

Construction is scheduled to begin in two to four weeks, weather permitting.

As many as 5,000 vehicles a day will have to find alternative routes off the highway on Municipal Drive past city hall and the community center. Commuters might need to figure some alternative routes that include Hwy. 161 to or from I-40, use of Hwy. 440, or, farther north, another route including Hwy. 89.

In addition to the 1.3-mile redo that includes the two overpasses, construction is set to begin on seven miles of Hwy. 67/167 between Jacksonville and Hwy. 5 at Cabot. The roadway will be repaired, but only two lanes deep in each direction. It’s a temporary fix until the highway is widened and resurfaced beginning in 2019. The resurfacing contract was awarded to Chester Bross Construction of Hannibal, Mo., for $2,696,218.

The $61 million reconstruction and widening between Main Street and Vandenberg Boulevard is scheduled to begin in 2016. The $70 million project between Vandenberg Boulevard and Hwy. 5 is scheduled for 2019.

Hwy. 67/167 is already a six-lane highway from I-40 to Redmond Road, and widening the highway from Main Street to Vandenberg is slated to begin in two years, about the time work will be completed on the Redmond Road-Main Street section.

Meanwhile, the design and environmental work has begun and traffic signals are being installed at the intersection of Hwy. 367 and Hwy. 38 at Cabot for what’s known as the North Terminal Intersection, according to Cabot City Director Eddie Cook.

That will connect a loop around the city to a new interchange on Hwy. 67/167.

The city is providing $9.2 million of the $20 million project to allow continued growth in the area without further congestion on Hwy. 89 running through Cabot. The project got moved up because Cabot was able to contribute nearly 50 percent to it, Cook said.

The new interchange will allow significant growth in the northwest sector of the city between the highway and state Hwy. 5, and north of state Hwy. 89 west.

That should be completed in 2018. Let’s also add the new $7.9 million interchange at I-40 in Lonoke, which will attract new businesses and residents in that growing area.

Another project will resurface 1.5 miles of roadway on James Street in Jacksonville from near Woolfort to East Maddox Road and from Harpole Street to West Main Street. Redstone Construction Group of Little Rock was awarded the contract at $201,249.

This project is being funded through the State Aid City Streets Program approved by lawmakers in 2011 and voters in 2012. This program provides $20 million annually from the state motor-fuels tax to assist cities with road projects selected by a panel of Arkansas mayors.

Credit goes to all our local mayors and legislators for making these major road projects possible.

TOP STORY >> Gwatney recalls early years

Leader staff writer

Harold Gwatney, who moved to Jacksonville in 1958 to run the city’s first Chevrolet dealership, was recently recognized for allowing officials to place the welcome sign on his property near the freeway.

The sign was moved to accommodate the planned widening of Hwy. 67/167 — the freeway hadn’t been built yet when Gwatney first arrived in Jacksonville.

The Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses are also being replaced. The sign will be landscaped and is designed to attract visitors.

This isn’t the first and may not be the last time Gwatney plays a part in Jacksonville’s growth.

The Gwatney Chevrolet dealership moved to its second and current location on T.P. White Drive in the early 1970s, he said.

Before that, it was on Main Street across from the court building.

Gray Manor Apartments are next to the court building.

That one-story building was a school before the county district acquired North Pulaski High School on Harris Road.

Gwatney knew the ordinance plant was hiring and Jacksonville didn’t have anywhere for the employees to live.

The car dealer made an offer to buy the old schoolhouse from the school board. The board approved his offer, but Gwatney said he had to secure financing.

He approached realtor Bart Gray Sr. The two attended Jacksonville United Methodist Church.

They became partners in buying and renovating the schoolhouse into the then-HarBart apartments.

Gwatney said, “Some of us did the things we needed to do to grow.” They were mostly businessmen in their 20s and 30s who worked from the bottom up in different industries, he noted.

Part of the schoolhouse-turned-apartments purchase included the property that became the 14th Ramada Inn built in the chain’s history, Gwatney explained.

The car dealer and Gray didn’t agree on how to construct the motel, so Gwatney told the realtor he could have it.

Gwatney said Gray lost a lot of money on that venture because he thought the motel could be built cheaper than a $290,000 quote. He was wrong, and the contractor who was hired went broke on the project, Gwatney said.

Gray recovered with help from investors, he added.

Gwatney said he eventually sold the apartments and some apartments he built behind the library to Gray. The building on Main Street became Gray Manor Apartments.

The car dealer also founded the city’s second bank, First National Bank. Gwatney explained that Raymond Rebsamen, the Ford dealer and insurance executive, owned the first bank in Jacksonville.

When Gwatney’s customers went to that bank for a car loan, the staff would try to sell them a Ford car instead, he said.

Another project Gwatney was involved in was turning the bowling alley into a post office and leasing out the Kroger shopping center.

When the franchised dealership moved closer to the freeway, at the corporate office’s request, Gwatney bought the T.P. White Drive lot it is on and the shopping center.

He didn’t know that several of his friends were trying to acquire different portions of the center for their businesses.

After Gwatney closed the sale, they got together to discuss who wanted to do what. A partnership, of which the car dealer is the last surviving member, was formed.

Today, Gwatney does business with their families, he said.

And what does the car dealer think of Jacksonville now?

He said, “I’m not trying to say this to be derogatory…but I think we’ve lost our directional control.”

Gwatney continued, “Jacksonville hasn’t grown in the last year or two. I don’t see a lot of growth in it. If you look around, there’s not many new things happening. We have a lot of vacancies.”

He supports the city’s detachment from the Pulaski County Special School District to form its own independent Jacksonville/north Pulaski school district.

“The school situation has always been a problem,” Gwatney said. “We had good people on the school board, but, when it came time to do something, it seemed like that the majority of the people were on the south side of the river instead of on the north side and as a result…we didn’t get the first choice on things the Pulaski County school board had to offer.”

Gwatney, a former adjutant general, hopes a local district maintaining standards or increasing them will reverse the trend of people moving to Cabot.

The car dealer got his start in North Little Rock.

As a kid, he swept floors at an uncle’s garage for $4 a week.

Gwatney’s uncle was drafted in 1944 for World War II, but was granted an exemption because he was a widower with five children.

A requirement of the exemption was that the uncle work in a war-related industry. The garage was moved to Hazen as a result, the he said.

Gwatney explained that, by then, “Everybody knew me as the kid riding the bicycle, picking parts up for the garage.”

The Critz Chevrolet dealership in North Little Rock asked Gwatney to come work for them. John Russell bought out Critz later.

Gwatney eventually became a certified mechanic.

Some “farm” boys, the men who were exempted from the draft, worked there, too.

He explained that the most skilled workers went to war, and “I could do things the farm boys couldn’t.”

Gwatney went fulltime after he graduated from high school.

“I guess my boss liked me or something. He asked me one day, ‘How would you like to be a Chevrolet dealer in Jacksonville? I told him, ‘I’d like to do that, but I don’t have the money.’ He said, ‘Did I ask you about money?’”

The owners of Critz and the other area dealership, Bale Chevrolet, approved of Gwatney opening up a lot.

Gwatney said he deals in cars because “I don’t know anything else…and I like cars.

“It just comes naturally to do the things we do.”

While in high school, he bought cars, repaired and sold them.

About how the industry has changed, Gwatney said, “There’s not a lot of change in what we did then and what we do now. We’ve learned a lot more about taking care of the customer. Years ago, we didn’t think about owner loyalty.

“Owner loyalty makes the business grow,” he said.

Gwatney added that, in the early days of the dealership, he didn’t have to look for customers, as there were not many cars to be sold. There was a waiting list to buy them.

The business did grow by leaps and bounds a few years after World War II.

Gwatney moved to Memphis in 1989 to help his son open the family’s second Chevrolet dealership.

He purchased a third Chevrolet dealership while he was there and broke ground on a Saturn dealership, one of the nation’s first for that manufacturer.

Gwatney bought a Ford dealership in Millington, Tenn., in 1993, a second Saturn dealership in Germantown, Tenn., in 1994 and a third Saturn dealership in Jackson, Tenn., in 1998.

TOP STORY >> Cabot ready to make big splash

Leader staff writer

It was fitting that sprinkles fell during the groundbreaking of the $13.5 million Cabot Sports and Aquatics Complex on Thursday on Hwy. 321 next to Holland Bottom Farms. Construction will begin next week.

“Today is just one step toward proving the city’s dedication to providing the comprehensive park and recreation system the residents of Cabot have called for,” parks director John Crow said.

“This facility will not only meet the immediate needs of the community, but also those of an area that will continue to grow as we improve our facilities and services around the city,” Crow said.

Parks commission chairman Maggie Cope said it was a day the city had been looking forward to. “It will impact the lives of children, seniors and the entire community.”

Mayor Bill Cypert said the sports complex and water park will add to the quality of life and cause economic development.

The $5.3 million sports complex will have nine baseball fields, two football fields, playgrounds, batting cages, pavilions and a walking track, lighting and a concession stand. It will open in fall 2015.

The water park will have a four-lane swimming pool, a slide pool, a walk-in pool, a lazy winding river, a bathhouse, a concession stand and outdoor private-party area. It will open in summer 2015.

Money for the ballpark and water-park projects comes from a one-cent sales tax reapproved by voters last year. The tax supports a $42 million bond issue for sewer
improvements, a new freeway interchange, a new library and drainage work in
the Highlands subdivision.

At the groundbreaking, Cypert made a surprise announcement that a larger senior center with a therapeutic pool has been put on the city’s list of long-term plans. “It’s been long overdue,” he said.

The mayor said the project is in the earliest concept stages.

TOP STORY >> Erwin, Staley thanked for tornado help

Leader staff writer

“We felt so helpless,” Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson told the Lonoke County Quorum Court on Thursday night, referring to the April 27 tornado that hit his county.

“We had everyone out working and still couldn’t get to everyone who needed help. It was an unspeakable disaster,” he said.

But Lonoke County was there quicker, longer and more in force than any other county, Dodson said, “And that’s why I’m here tonight at your quorum court meeting, to say thanks.”

He thanked Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin, the county road department, Sheriff John Staley and his department with a proclamation.

The Faulkner County judge said the damage was just indescribable from the April tornado. “It was a high EF-4 tornado that left a path of destruction and broken lives a quarter mile wide and 24.16 miles long. To get an idea of how long that is, get in your cars and take I-40 east for that distance and you are on the other side of Little Rock. It was a large area of damage,” Dodson said.

“The first call for aid, help, assistance came from Judge Erwin,” he said, “He simply asked, ‘What do you need us to do?’” Dodson asked Erwin and his crew to come down Hwy. 89 to Dam Road and clear the roadway.

About 13 members of the road department, along with Erwin, Staley and several individuals from the sheriff’s department went to work immediately.

Staley and his crew helped provide perimeter security while Erwin and the road crew started clearing the highway.

“They were out there at night in the rain, the wind, under threat of more tornadoes. They did not stop until about 4:30 a.m., when they had reached Dam Road and opened it up,” Dodson said. “You had guys on the track hoe, others working the dump trucks and six to eight with saws. Again, all volunteering their time.”

When he asked them to clear a path to Dam Road, Dodson had no idea there were three structure fires.

“Yes, we had help from other counties, but nothing like Lonoke,” he said.

“Lonoke was first on site and first to find one of our victims,” Dodson said.

Erwin called the event a “life-changing experience.” Both he and Dodson said there were so many people who lost everything.

Dodson said it was hard to explain or show the amount of pride he had for the Lonoke County workers. “You’ll never know how important it was to us in that time of helplessness. We went at it with both barrels blazing, but we weren’t even getting to the tip of the iceberg,” the judge explained.

He added that Faulkner and Lonoke County trucks hauled 1,000 loads of debris just out of one subdivision, Plantation Acres.

The question after the initial disaster response was what to do with all that debris. In response to one of the justices of the peace, Dodson said Faulkner County has six large debris sites and is working systemically to empty each site.

Taking time and effort to shake all the volunteers’ hands, Dodson made this promise to Erwin:

“Your next disaster, someone will have to run awfully fast to beat Faulkner County in giving aid to Lonoke County,” Dodson said.

In other quorum court business:

 Justices of the peace gave the county judge the authority to apply for a $121,250 GIF grant for a fluoridation project and a $1,009 grant to buy a backup generator for the volunteer fire department.

 The court approved of placing $2,000 in the sheriff’s drug control fund for sting operations by the department.

 An ordinance doing away with the Grand Prairie/Bayou Two water board met with opposition from JP Mike Verkler (Dist. 8).

He was worried that the switch from a water board to a public authority form of control would lessen the control of ratepayers, the county and the court.

JP Tim Lemons (Dist. 5) said the water group officially switched from a pubic water board organization to a public authority in 2012 and that this ordinance was needed just as a cleanup.

An attorney for the water authority said that the switchover dissolved the board.

“Then why are we here with this ordinance, if there is no board, and why did we make an appointment to the board last month?” Verkler asked.

The court decided not to take any action on the ordinance until next month, giving the water authority time to present its bylaws and Verkler and others time to review the changes.

“We need to make sure this is the best deal for our ratepayers,” Verkler said.

 The court’s building committee had a long discussion over the heating and air problems at the jail. “The units that were put in are called light commercial, but the unit at my house is bigger,” said Sheriff Staley. He told the committee that compressors and other components have been replaced numerous times already and that the pipes underground are damaged.

The sheriff said air coming into the building is warm and could damage the department’s computer system, software and server. He is using portable air conditioners in dispatch to make sure the equipment stays cool. “It will cost us a lot of money to fix properly,” he said.

JP B.J. Weathers suggested a mister that would sprinkle water on the air conditioner units to lessen their workload.

Lemons said there was a three-year warranty on faulty workmanship and that was what it sounded like to him. “We need to hurry with all the necessary paperwork to file a case. Three years is up in August.”

Roof leaks was another area where Lemons believes shoddy workmanship is at fault. Staley said most of the water is falling in the detention area, and in other places. The inmates complain and then their mamas call, he said.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Forget alcohol, we need food

Right now, it seems Jacksonville is putting most of its eggs in the wet-dry issue in order to bring another Chili’s-type restaurant to the area. The restaurant averages about $300,000 a month in taxable receipts, making it one of the top-grossing Chili’s in the state.

But the truth of the matter is that the chamber has had more than enough time to gather the necessary signatures for a vote on the alcohol issue, but they’re just halfway there and might not get the job done.

So let’s spread those eggs around.

Let’s go back to the 1980s, when the city had not one, but two 24/7 family-style restaurants — Shoney’s and Country Kitchen. Shoney’s went out of business at the national level and Country Kitchen for some strange reason was leveled to make room for a short-lived miniature golf course.

That leaves the city with just Waffle House, and, while there is nothing wrong with Waffle House, Jacksonville should have more. Think of another city that has an industry (Little Rock Air Force Base) generating $900 million a year that doesn’t have a 24-hour pancake house.

Why can’t Jacksonville get an IHOP, a Denny’s, a Bob Evans, a Perkin’s, an Anna Miller’s or other such restaurant out near the air base?

Whataburger had a presence in central Arkansas 20 years ago but closed because of safety concerns at its southwest Little Rock location. It’s doing well elsewhere. Why not bring that unique eye-catching building to Jacksonville? Or maybe White Castle or Krystal? Krystal did have a place in Forrest City. But it was a building in bad shape in a bad area and closed more than 10 years ago. But it would thrive in Jacksonville.

Taco Bueno is growing by leaps and bounds in the state. Why not get it to leap here?

Perhaps the city could focus on mom-and- pop-style cafes and eateries. There’s already Emily’s and the soda fountain at Chamber’s Drugs, which does not get enough publicity as an attraction. Maybe the city could take an entrepreneur to turn one of the half-filled strip centers into “restaurant row.”

Or maybe Jacksonville could be the place where restaurants make their first entry into Arkansas. Maybe Jack in the Box or Del Taco.

First Street Cafe, which serves only breakfast and lunch, has done well in Jacksonville, although we still miss Cody’s. And why doesn’t Jacksonville have a Dairy Queen? Just imagine the tax collections from all those Blizzards. Cabot and Austin can boast two Tastee Freezes, which do very well in the summer.

Let’s look back to the day when we had restaurants, movie theaters, family concerts and three festivals a year and grow from there. —Rick Kron

EDITORIAL >> No longer applicable’

Veterans seldom complain about substandard care at VA hospitals and clinics. But several whistleblowers have come forward to let the country know about long wait times for appointments — often as long as four months, which has contributed to the deaths of hundreds of veterans.

The FBI is investigating allegations of fraudulent record keeping that kept auditors from uncovering systemic problems at the VA. Apart from negligence, several staff members are accused of collecting bonuses by faking records. Bureaucrats hid waiting lists in desk drawers. They falsified wait times, reducing them from several months to just a couple of weeks. Veterans who died in the meantime were deleted from the system and described as “no longer applicable.”

All key managers received the highest evaluations by superiors while veterans were receiving mediocre or no care at all. An investigation should uncover how many millions of dollars were awarded to these higher-ups, who could face prison terms if convicted. At the very least, they should return the bonuses that were awarded under false pretenses.

The VA system is probably no worse than other public and private hospitals and perhaps better than most. The VA operates the largest health-care system in the country with 1,700 hospitals, clinics, counseling centers, homes and other facilities. Patients die for lack of timely care not just at VA hospitals, but in the best and worst private and public hospitals. Mistakes are inevitable.

Families grieve and move on. Sometimes lawsuits are filed, but almost never at VA hospitals. Veterans share horror stories among themselves, but, as we say, don’t draw too much attention to themselves.

They like the low-cost health-care system, which they deserve because of their years of service to their country. But the managers who have covered up the shoddy care must be punished.

The scandal has cost a good man, former Army Gen. Eric Shineski, his job as VA chief. New leadership must reform the sprawling system, ensure the best care for our veterans and reduce waste by eliminating bonuses for the rest of the decade.

TOP STORY >> State agency honors Ron Newport

Ron Newport, the founder of Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, was named an official Arkansas lodestar by Keep Arkansas Beautiful for his dedication to improving the city’s image and for his work at the recycling center, which was recently named in his honor.

“This was a team effort for the city of Jacksonville, not just me. I didn’t do this all by myself, that’s for sure,” Newport said.

The award was established to mark Keep Arkansas Beautiful’s 25th anniversary. Former Gov. Bill Clinton created it on June 13, 1989.

Robert Phelps, the group’s executive director, said Newport’s leadership has improved Jacksonville’s quality of life and vitality.

Here is Newport’s Q&A with Phelps:

What’s your reaction to being honored as an Arkansas Lodestar?

I’m very flattered! It’s quite an honor.

In what ways have you worked with Keep Arkansas Beautiful?

Well, I started Keep Jacksonville Beautiful about five years ago. I was also responsible for the development of the recycling education park in Jacksonville, and I was honored with the park being named after me just a few weeks ago. It was very nice. It is now called the Ron Newport Recycling Education Park.

When did development begin?

We started on it many thousands of dollars ago and many work hours ago…It was about the same time that we were working to establish Keep Jacksonville Beautiful. I had been dreaming about doing the recycling education park for a long time though. Everything just came together.

Tell us more about the Ron Newport Recycling Park.

It is such a lovely place out there. At the park, we have 11 stations and each one is a recycled product sculpture, each sponsored by a different company.

We also have a 15-station drop-off site at the park, which is open at night and on the weekends. It all just evolved. There isn’t another one like it in the United States. We are proud to have many visitors from all over and lots of children especially. Nearly 5,000 kids come here each year.

How did you do it, Ron?

I’ve had a tremendous amount of help from the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful board of directors, the city of Jacksonville and a regional recycling group. A lot of others in the community chipped in to help by giving donations. It, by far, wasn’t one single person. It was a whole lot of people who helped accomplish this.

TOP STORY >> Beebe pagans in showdown at city council

Leader staff writer

It was a standing-room-only record crowd of Christians and Pagans at the Beebe City Council meeting Monday to hear the council vote to table a discussion of the planning and zoning request by Seekers Temple Pagan church and store.

Seekers Temple high priest Bert Dahl and his wife, priestess Felicia, have requested specific zoning for their property on 608 E. Dewitt Henry Drive to be a residence, a place of worship and a commercial business. The Dahls moved to Beebe in March from El Paso, where their temple and store was located for five years. City zoning codes require them to choose one category.

“Multiple uses as intended by the Dahls have not been granted to any other applicant. To do so would destroy the zoning code system entirely,” Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson said.

“There have been allegations that this has been a civil rights issue. This is no more than a zoning issue. The Dahls have been given copies of the Beebe zoning code on more than one occasion. We are not going to place this zoning issue on trial tonight,” Robertson said.

The mayor said only the city code-enforcement officer can issue special-use permits. The city council does not have the authority to hear the appeal of special-use permits. Any special-use permits must be heard by the planning and zoning commission.

Code enforcement officer Milton McCullar gave the Dahls notice that the property could not be used for multiple uses.

Stores with displays must be located in commercial districts and not residential districts, he told them.

The mayor denied a verbal request from Dahl for a business-occupancy license in the building. Robertson said this was the city’s position.

Robertson said the Dahls could open a place of worship of their choosing in the city and they could open a business of their choosing adhering to Beebe’s zoning ordinance.

Churches complying with city codes are located in both residential and business districts in Beebe. There are no residences being used as public places of worship in the city, the mayor said. Dahl is able to worship or fellowship with a small group of friends in his home but not advertise on his website as a church.

Dahl’s home is in an R-2 residential zone. Any garage or shop building has to support the primary use of the residence. Dahl can request a zoning change to commercial from the planning and zoning commission, if he chooses to turn the property into a storefront business.

“He is entitled to use his property how he chooses as long as he meets state building codes, fire codes and electric codes and codes adopted by the city from the state,” City Attorney Barrett Rogers said.

That had not been done and the council moved to table the discussion.

The city allowed Dahl to meet with Rogers and code enforcement officer McCullar to request the use of the property in writing during the meeting.

The city will take the request under advisement and make a determination based on city zoning code.

After the meeting between the three, no determination was made. Different options were discussed. Dahl said, if he has the two plots of his property re-platted using the field behind them and constructs a new building, the city will allow him to reapply for a zoning change.

Dahl estimated it would cost $250,000 for a new building.

Dahl said it was a shell game by the mayor to keep them busy and spending their money.


The peaceful council meeting was full of religious signs. More than 100 people were in the attendance, spilling into the halls and city hall steps.

Some had T-shirts printed with a cross while others wore pentagram pendants.

Local churches showed support for the city. Pagan followers traveled in caravans from Jonesboro, Memphis, Little Rock and Paragould to be at the meeting.

After standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, Beebe policeman Steve Hall led a longer-than-usual two-minute prayer. Some continued to stand and pray, while others sat.

“It’s insulting that every meeting should start with a prayer to (the mayor’s) god. I’m sure it was offensive to the Pagans that were there,” Dahl pointed out.

Dahl said he is planning to request that he lead the prayer for next month’s city council meeting.

After the council meeting ended, two prayer circles formed. Christians gathered around the flag pole. The Pagans gathered around a tree.

Not everyone has always been that amicable, Dahl says.


Dahl alleged that Light-house Pentecostal Church members were harassing his family. The church is across the street from his home.

Dahl said church members have came over several times inviting him to their church and dropping religious leaflets in his yard.

Lighthouse pastor Jason Scheel told The Leader that to his knowledge, that has not occurred. One of the church pastors went to Dahl’s house and welcomed the family to the neighborhood.

“It was short and cordial on both sides,” Schell said.

Schell is also the city’s planning and zoning commission chairman.


Scheel filed a police report on May 23 against Dahl for disorderly conduct and harassing communication through White County District Court-Beebe.

According to the affidavit, “Without an invitation, Dahl rudely entered the Lighthouse Church on the night of May 21. He stepped onto the altar and began screaming at the church members.

“Dahl touched/pushed one member’s chest and said, ‘Bless you, Buddha.’

“Lighthouse church called the Beebe Police Department and he left. Officers told Dahl not to return.

“About 40 minutes later, at 8:17 p.m., Dahl left a threatening voicemail on the pastor’s phone regarding his use of military training on his next visit, which he said, ‘would not be so pleasant.’”

Dahl told The Leader that Dahl went to the Lighthouse Church before the service started and asked for the members’ attention. He told them in a loud voice about the problem with the light beam from the lighthouse and church leaders ignoring their pleas.

The affidavit said that Dahl had previously made numerous harassing phone calls to church leaders with profanity at late hours of the night.

Scheel claimed in a letter to the city that this was the first time in Lighthouse Church’s 48 years that the church had to seek a protection order.

Scheel said the protection order was filed on May 28 for the Lighthouse members.

Church leaders did not know what may happen next time, he said.

Dahl has a plea date on July 9 at White County District Court in Beebe.

He was told by the prosecutor that he could face $2,000 in fines and a year in jail.

Dahl said spending a year in jail would be detrimental to his family and the temple.


The lighthouse in front of Lighthouse church has been planned for years.

Dahl has said the beacon shines light on his house, like “a prison searchlight” all night long. He was told the church put up a shield, but it slips down. He has asked the church to get the deflector re-adjusted.

According to Scheel, Dahl’s house is north of the light. The church installed a black wall within the lighthouse structure so the beam does not hit his house.

“We’re going the extra mile to try and accommodate Mr. Dahl,” Scheel said.

“We built a structure that the community could be proud of. We received hundreds of compliments from people all around. Mr. Dahl is the only one to say anything negative to us about the lighthouse,” he continued.

Scheel said the church has had a lighthouse since the 1980s. But the Lighthouse church was destroyed in the January 1999 tornado.

Lighthouse built a new church at its current location. It too was damaged in the April 2011 tornado.

Scheel said Lighthouse Church already had plans to construct a lighthouse, and the slab for the lighthouse was poured before Dahl moved into his home in March.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood library vote in fall

Leader staff writer

A favorable opinion from the state Attorney General’s office was the impetus needed for the Sherwood council to move forward Monday night and vote to place the library tax issue on the November general ballot.

According to the ordinance, the new library would be constructed and equipped through a 1.3-mill increase, roughly $200 per year for the owner of a $150,000 home.

The cost to purchase the land, build the facility, equip and stock it could run near $6 million.

The ordinance, which was first brought up at the April council meeting, called for a special election in August on the issue of raising the city’s property tax by 1.3 mills to build a new library. Even though the Central Arkansas Library System would have paid the $10,000 to $15,000 cost of the election, the council had problems being told by an outside group when to have an election.

Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System, told the council then that they might be sued if they went against the wishes of the petitioners who had asked for a vote to raise property taxes by 1.3 mils to build a new library.

The ordinance was just read and approved once at the April meeting. An ordinance must be read and approved three times before becoming law.

In May, Alderman Tim McMinn asked the council to change the election date in the proposed ordinance from Aug. 12 to the general election, knowing that library supporters might sue and it would delay the project.

His amendment to change the election passed by one vote, but the council only read and approved the amended ordinance once because the city attorney was not at the meeting.

On June 23, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel sent a six-page opinion to state Rep. Jim Nickels stating that the council, not the petitioners, was in charge of setting the election date and that the decision could be made at a special or general election.

In the letter to Nickels, which City Attorney Steve Cobb presented to the council, McDaniel wrote, “You have requested my opinion on the following questions concerning a petition for a capital improvement tax for a city library:

 “Do the petitioners requesting the annual tax be levied on real and personal property for the purpose of building a new public library have the authority to set the month of a special election?

 “Does the city council have the authority to determine whether issues will be submitted at a general or special election?”

Citing court law, McDaniels wrote, “The Arkansas Supreme Court has said that the actual scheduling of a date of an election is generally a matter for local officials, rather than the petition sponsors.”

In the second matter, McDaniels wrote that, although case law is not entirely clear, it suggests, “The city’s body will have the discretion to call a special election, or to decide the matter will be presented to the voters at a general election.”

McMinn said at the May council meeting, “We all agree we need a new library, plus that would also allow the police department to use the old library building, but a special election as requested by the library system doesn’t turn out a large number of voters. This is an election on a tax. We should want a larger turnout than 1,500 to 2,000 voters making the decision for 30,000.”

On Monday night, McMinn actually asked that his May amendment be rescinded and replaced with another one, approved by the council, that essentially said the same thing — let’s vote on it in November — but cleaned up the language to make the ordinance more clear.

Because the election is now set for November, if it passes, collections cannot start until January 2016, meaning the library will be built after that unless some sort of special financing is put in place.

Mayor Virginia Hillman explained that the November vote would mean almost a year delay in collections of the new tax and a delay in the library construction. “We have to report in October to the state our millage for the next year. If the vote is after October, we can’t report the library until October 2015,” she said.

Roberts said previously that a 1989 amendment to the state constitution allowed residents to petition for an election for new libraries. He said the petitions came in with four times the number of signatures needed. “It is the council’s administrative duty to approve the election date.”

But Alderman Mary Jo Heye begged to differ at the April meeting.

She said the petitioners have the right to call for an election, but not when. “That is the job of this council,” she said.

But it took almost two months to get the Attorney General’s opinion that Heye, McMinn and others were right.

No site has been picked for the new library. Roberts said that would be done after the election. “We don’t want the site to influence the outcome of the election.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney goes 2-2 at Wood Bat Classic

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville went 2-2 at the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic that ran Wednesday through Sunday last week. The Gwatney Chevrolet squad didn’t win its pool, losing 3-0 to Russellville late Saturday, but got to play in the bracket semifinals because Russellville opted not to play the rest of the tournament.

That game did not go well either, as Cabot beat Jacksonville for the third time this season, but the first two games gave Gwatney Chevrolet its first win streak of the summer. After beating Hot Springs Lakeside on Wednesday, Jacksonville knocked off Benton 9-2 Saturday morning in the first of two games that day.

In Saturday morning’s game, Gwatney got on the board first in the opening frame when Courtland McDonald hit a leadoff single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Mallison and scored on a two-out base hit by Blake Perry.

Jacksonville blew the game open with five-run second inning. James Tucker started the rally with a leadoff base hit and Laderrious Perry walked. After an out, D.J. Scott was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and McDonald ripped a two-RBI double to center field for a 3-0 Jacksonville lead. Mallison was hit to load the bases again and Scott scored when Greg Jones drew a walk.

McDonald scored his second of three runs in the game on a wild pitch, and Mallison came in on Blake Perry’s second RBI, a sacrifice grounder to second base.

Benton got its two runs in the third inning, but Jacksonville got them back in its half of the frame. Tucker and Laderrious Perry both hit hard line drives, but both resulted in fly outs.

Deaundray Harris was hit by a pitch and Scott walked. McDonald grounded back to the pitcher, but the play was flubbed, leaving everyone safe. Mallison then hit a routine grounder to second base that was also misplayed, resulting in two runs scoring. Jones was hit by a pitch and McDonald scored again on a passed ball to set the final margin.

Brandon Hawkins got the win on the mound for Jacksonville. He gave up three hits and one earned run while striking out three and walking three in five innings of work.

After being held scoreless later that evening by Russellville, and committing four errors and giving up five unearned runs in an 8-2 loss to Cabot on Sunday, Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham didn’t have much to say about the tournament.

“You saw it,” Hickingbotham said. “I don’t have anything to say about it.”

Jacksonville’s scheduled game with Benton on Monday was canceled. The Chevy Boys, 4-8, begins play in the Gwatney Chevrolet Senior Invitational Thursday. The six-team tournament includes Jacksonville, Cabot and Conway in one pool, and Searcy, Benton and Russellville in another.

SPORTS STORY >> CHS girls’ basketball camp very successful

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers basketball team, according to its head coach, had a positive experience at the school’s three-day, 52-team basketball camp last week.

At the camp, Cabot hosted a large number of its games that were played last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Panther Arena, but also had games played at the Cabot Junior High North and South gyms, the Veterans Park Community Center, as well as the old CHS gymnasium.

“It was a great three days,” said Lady Panthers coach Carla Crowder. “We had 52 teams, and it was wonderful for our community. We had people eating all over town, staying in hotels. It was really good for our community.”

The Lady Panthers played a total of nine games at the three-day camp, and Crowder said her team did well overall and is continuously working to get better through the summer.

“We did well,” Crowder said. “We’re working to get better. We’re playing a lot of people, and so a lot of people are improving and that’s what we’re real pleased to see.”

Crowder said she had 18 participants on her varsity squad at the camp, and that all of them got better in certain ways, including the underclassmen.

“I thought a lot of different people got better,” Crowder said. “I thought we had some young kids get better. I feel like we’re all working to improve. I can’t really mention one person because I think there are a lot of us that are trying to do the little things better and are just trying to get better as a team.”

The format for the games played at the team camp consisted of two 20-minute halves with a continuous clock, and scoring was kept in every game, but Crowder said she didn’t pay too much attention to the scoring, because she wanted to make sure everyone on her roster got a chance to play in the competitive setting, and that the team camp was for everyone involved to get more competitive experience at that level and to find ways to improve on the court in some form or fashion.

“The record (at the camp) doesn’t really matter,” she said. “You’re just trying to compete in every game, and try to compete in every half, and that’s what we worked on. You can’t always win the way we played. We’re working to try and get people better.”

Crowder said the camp was definitely a positive experience for her team.

“It was definitely positive,” she said. “I’d say our kids worked really hard, and it was a great experience for them.”

As far as things her team is working to improve on, Crowder said it’s a constant effort in every aspect, but that she feels her team did a better job in several areas while at camp.

“Well, there are all kinds of stuff to work on,” she said. “We’re working on trying not to get beat off the dribble penetration and making sure we always rebound, and we’re working on our shooting, trying to get better on our shot selection, and I think we did a lot better job of that.”

SPORTS STORY >> Sharks defeat Piranhas in a gigantic meet

Leader sports editor

The Sherwood Sharks kept their Central Arkansas Swim League winning streak alive at Cabot’s Veterans Park Community Center on Saturday, but it was one of the most competitive meets the Sharks have had in a while. Sherwood won the tri-match that also included Conway with an impressive 908 points. That was 294 points better than Cabot’s 614 and Conway was a distant third with 254.

A 294-point win may not seem very close, but considering the Sharks’ 929 to 254 win against Otter Creek, and their 1,207 to 228 win over Bryant in two previous meets this summer, the Cabot meet was a figurative doddybrook.

Cabot scored a large chunk of its points in the older girls’ division, where Sherwood is unusually shallow with swimmers.

“I have a very strong group of older girls, and it’s the same way with my older boys,” said Cabot coach Brian Bowen. “Sherwood, though, they also have a strong group of those boys that have been with them. We still got some wins with Seth Fox and Payton Jones pulling out some wins for us. But with the girls, we have a really strong group and they dominated. That’s really likely to be the case in just about every meet.”

The meet was huge. This is Cabot’s biggest team ever with 168 swimmers. About 150 were present for Saturday’s meet, and Sherwood brought more than 250 swimmers. Conway has almost 100 swimmers, meaning almost 500 competitors were involved on Saturday.

“It may have been the largest meet ever in CASL history besides our meet of champs,” Bowen said. “We’re growing, too. We’ve had people coming to us all summer wanting to get involved, but we had to cut our registration off at some point. We’ll have more than 200 next year and might be approaching 250. This was the closest anyone has come to beating Sherwood in probably about eight years, so all I have to say is they better watch out for next year.”

The Sharks also enjoyed a few thoroughly dominant performances. Michael Potts won every individual stroke event in the boys’ 8-under division, and teammate Dillon Wood did the same in the 10-under boys. Thomas Heye, Jordan Woodson and Joseph Potts all won at least three events, including the IM.

Bowen singled out Jessie Baldwin and Grace Esteban as having “standout meets” for Cabot. Baldwin, 16, and already a platinum level swimmer in the 18-under individual medley, beat her previous best time by almost two seconds with a 1:04.70.

Esteban, an 8-year-old platinum level swimmer in every event, beat her best times in four of them, including the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and individual medley.

Tristen Bowen improved his platinum times in the boys 14-under backstroke, breaststroke and IM. Payton Jones did the same in the boys’ 18-under backstroke, butterly and IM, though he lost to Sherwood’s Thomas Heye in the backstroke, and finished third behind Heye and teammate Seth Fox in the IM.

Six-year old Piranha Annie Thomas moved from gold level to platinum level in the breaststroke by shaving a full 2.5 seconds off her previous best time, and finishing in 29.03 seconds.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot Red wins big

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Red Junior American Legion team had little trouble with visiting Beebe on Friday at Brian Wade Conrade Memorial Field, as the host Centennial Bank team pummeled the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts team 17-3 in five innings.

Beebe scored the game’s first run in the top of the first inning, but Cabot Red answered with two runs in the bottom part of the inning, and four more in the second to push its lead to 6-1 after two.

The O’Reilly’s squad got another run on its side of the board in the top of the third to cut the deficit to 6-2, but Centennial Bank answered with its most productive inning of the game.

Cabot Red scored nine runs in the bottom of the third to take a commanding 15-2 lead. Beebe scored its final run its next at-bat, and Cabot answered with two more runs in the bottom of the fourth to set the final score.

“The last five or six games we’ve been scoring a ton of runs,” said Cabot Red coach Justin Moore. “I think that’s the second game in a row that we’ve scored 17 runs. We’ve been hitting the ball really well. I hate putting substitutes on the bench because they’ve been hitting the ball just as well as the people in the lineup.

“I’ve just got to keep moving guys around, which is great because I’m missing a lot of guys that usually play a lot of innings for me, and everybody that’s been here has just been crushing the baseball. Everybody’s been doing their job.”

Tyler Woodall scored the first run for either team. The Beebe second baseman singled to center field to start the game, and he scored two batters later on a single to the left-field gap by teammate Jake Majors.

Cabot starting pitcher Michael Havard led off the bottom of the first with a single to center field. Chris Odom followed with an infield single to third base, and Havard scored two batters later on a 4-3 groundout by cleanup hitter Easton Seidl.

That tied the game at 1-1, and Cabot took a 2-1 lead on a sacrifice fly to right field by Jacob Slunder the following at-bat.

Eugene Germer led off the bottom of the second with a stand-up double to right center, and he scored three batters later after Havard reached on a dropped fly ball in left field.

Odom got his second single of the game the next at-bat, and three-hole hitter Denver Mullins followed his at-bat with a three-RBI, inside-the-park home run to deep right center, which put Cabot up 6-1.

Beebe scored its second run of the game in the top of the third on an error at second base with two outs, but Cabot answered with its nine-run inning to push its lead to 15-2.

Dakota Faircloth singled up the middle of the diamond to lead off the top of the fourth for Beebe. He then stole second and third base before scoring on an error at first base the following at-bat.

In the bottom of the fourth, Cabot’s Jonathan Harpole walked to lead things off. A single by Havard the next at-bat put Harpole in scoring position, and he scored on a 6-3 groundout by Odom.

Havard then scored on a single to left field by Mullins, which set the final score. Seth Cummings came in to relieve Havard on the mound in the top of the fifth, and he retired the side, which ended the game because of the 10-run lead after five innings sportsmanship rule.

Havard earned the win on the hill. He threw the first four innings and gave up just one earned run on four hits. He walked just one batter and finished with a game-high six strikeouts.

Cabot outhit Beebe 13-4. Havard, Odom and Mullins each had three hits. Teammates Slunder, Germer, Harpole and Tanner Wilkie had one hit apiece. For Beebe (2-7), Woodall, Majors, Faircloth and Ty Searcy had one hit each.

The Cabot Red team (14-5) also got a mercy-rule win in the nightcap. They played the Cabot White Junior team and beat them by the final score of 15-0. Cabot Red plays again today in a doubleheader at home against Bryant. The first game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot second with wood

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s Centennial Bank Senior American Legion team took second place in the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic that took place last Wednesday through Sunday. Cabot won its first four games before falling to Texarkana, Texas in the championship game on Sunday.

In the semifinal game on Sunday, the Panthers continued their dominance of Jacksonville, beating Gwatney Chevrolet for the third time this season 8-2, despite missing four starters for the final two rounds of the tournament.

Cabot got a lot of help from Jacksonville after the first inning, but the three runs scored by Centennial Bank in the bottom of the first proved enough for starting pitcher Gavin Tillery to earn the win.

Jacksonville scored first in the top of the first on three straight, one-out base hits. Blake Perry’s single drove in Ryan Mallison to give the Chevy Boys a 1-0 lead.

Cabot answered by getting its first three batters on base with no outs. Conner Vocque doubled and Adam Hicks walked. Ryan Logan then singled to load the bases and Vocque scored on a wild pitch by James Tucker.

Landon James then ripped a line-drive single to center field to score the other two base runners.

Jacksonville trimmed the deficit to one run in the third when Courtland McDonald opened the frame with a double down the right-field line, and scored two batters later on an RBI single to left by Greg Jones.

From that point, Jacksonville committed four errors and gave up four unearned runs the rest of the way.

Cabot’s other earned run was its next. Grayson Cole walked with one out and Hayden Vinson singled with two outs. Lee Sullivan then singled to score Cole, and got caught in a rundown between first and third. A throwing error during that run-down allowed Vinson to score as well and make it 5-2.

Caleb McMunn took the mound in relief for Jacksonville in the fifth inning, and got two quick pop ups for two outs. But an error at shortstop kept the inning alive. McMunn then walked two batters before another infield error, this time at first base, scored Coleman McAtee to put Cabot ahead 6-2.

In the sixth inning, Vocque reached on a one-out bunt single, but was caught stealing for out number two. But another error by Derek St. Clair at shortstop kept that inning alive. After a walk to Ryan Logan, McAtee hit a two-RBI double to right field to set the final margin.

Tillery gave up seven hits while striking out five and walking just two in earning the win for Cabot. Centennial Bank also racked up seven hits with Vocque leading the way with two. McDonald and Jones each got two base hits for Jacksonville.

McDonald in the 5-0 loss.

McDonald worked extremely quickly, often beginning his wind up before Cabot hitters had both hands on the bat handle.

Meanwhile Texarkana batters often called timeout while waiting for Cabot’s Adam Hicks to throw a pitch. This all caused several bouts of gamesmanship with each team taking turns causing delays for no apparent reason.

But the quick work of McDonald and the fact that Cabot didn’t score still made it a quick game.

Cabot managed just four base hits, two by nine-hole hitter Sullivan. McDonald struck out seven Cabot hitters while walking two and hitting two.

The Panthers had good chances to score in the second and fourth innings. In the second inning, McDonald fanned the first two batters, but hit the next two. With Dylan Bowers and Vinson on base, Sullivan got his first base hit, a single to right field. But Texarkana’s Nick Anderson made a perfect throw to home and got Bowers at the plate for the third out.

A bad call ended Cabot’s rally in the fourth inning, and also led to the ejection of Cabot coach Chris Gross. Cole singled with one out and Bowers reached on a throwing error by third baseman Lavert Paxton. Vinson then hit a ground ball to shortstop, where an easy out was made at second base as Bowers slid into the bag, but the umpire also called Bowers for interfering with the relay throw to first, which made it a de facto double play and ending the inning.

Bowers may have tried to interfere, but interference wasn’t possible because Texarkana didn’t try to turn the double play, instead thinking it was the third out and began trotting off the field.

Gross’ protest grew lengthy and increasingly loud until he was asked to leave the ballpark.

From that point, Cabot’s defense fell apart. Texarkana’s final three runs were the result of Cabot errors.

The Centennial Bank squad still improved its record to 14-6 with the 4-1 showing in the tournament. The team will play at North Little Rock on Thursday.