Friday, May 08, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville completes perfect run

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville baseball team outscored its opponents by a combined 42-0 this week. The Red Devils closed conference play with 19-0 and 15-0 wins over McClellan on Wednesday, giving the team a perfect 14-0 league record and an outright 5A-Central Conference championship.

The Red Devils followed that with an 8-0 win over Catholic in a nonconference game at Dupree Park on Thursday.

“We knocked it around hard for two innings,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “And that was against Catholic’s one. We swung the bats pretty well.”

Jacksonville also pitched well on Thursday. Wednesday’s opponent allowed Burrows to throw several other players, many of whom don’t pitch, in the conference finale. That meant the top two pitchers were available for Thursday’s matchup.

Derek St. Clair started the game and pitched four innings. He struck out eight while walking two and hitting one batter, with no base hits. James Tucker threw the last three innings, giving up one hit while striking out one and walking none.

Catholic got one runner to third base after a Jacksonville error in the third inning. No other Rocket made it past first base. Tucker’s only base runner allowed was caught stealing by catcher Greg Jones, as the hit batter. St. Clair picked off one of the batters he walked and got a fly-out on the next pitch after his other walk to end the inning.

Leadoff hitter Courtland McDonald went 3 for 4 with three stolen bases while Jones went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs. St. Clair also went 2 for 4 at the plate as the Red Devils piled up 12 base hits in Thursday’s win.

“We played really well but we can’t rest on that,” said Burrows. “Our job now is to work our butts off and get ready for the games that mean something.”

On Wednesday, Brandon Hickingbotham threw the first inning of game one and got the win. Ryan Mallison, the team’s second baseman, started game two and picked up his first win of the year on the mound.

Other non-regular pitchers who saw their first action on the bump were Laderrious Perry, McDonald and Jones.

For going undefeated in league play, Jacksonville is awarded a first-round playoff game at 10 a.m. Thursday in Harrison. They will take on the four seed from the 5A-East, which will be settled today with a makeup doubleheader between Valley View and Greene County Tech. Valley View is currently atop the league standings while GCT is third. Batesville and Nettleton are the other two East teams that will be in the playoffs, but today’s outcome will determine the final standings.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits win opener at regionals

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits punched their ticket to the state tournament Friday morning with a 10-0 victory over Trumann in the first round of the Class 4A East Regional baseball tournament in Pocahontas. The win provides some solace for two years of disappointing first-round exits in regionals despite entering as a top seed.

It took the Jackrabbits a while to find their comfort zone at the plate, but pitcher Cody Martin shut down the Wildcats and kept his team in the lead after it plated a single run in the first inning.

The Jackrabbits began to pull away with four runs in the third, and then blew the game open with a grand slam by Christian James in the fourth inning. They set the final margin and ended the game in five innings with another run in the bottom of the fifth.

Casey Martin scored Lonoke’s first run after singling to center field to start the inning. He stole second base, and then scored when an errant pick-off throw by the pitcher sailed into the outfield.

After a fruitless second inning, Martin again got things rolling in the third with a leadoff triple down the left-field line. Haven Hunter singled to center field for the RBI. Cody Martin and Nick Graves drew consecutive walks to load the bases.

Christian James hit a sacrifice fly that scored Hunter and advanced the other two runners into scoring position. Todd Pool then reached on a fielder’s choice back to the pitcher, but Cody Martin still scored on the play while Graves advanced to third base, giving Lonoke a 4-0 lead and leaving runners on the corners.

Conner Linton singled to left to score Graves. Savonte Rountree flew out to shallow right field, and Pool was thrown out at home to end the inning on a 4-2 double play.

Trumann pitcher Garrett Woods walked the bases loaded amidst getting Casey Martin and Hunter to line out to set up James’ big swing.

He put James in a 0-2 hole after he fouled off the first three pitches. A fourth pitch missed the mark before James sent the 1-2 pitch over the wall in left field.

Linton grounded out to third base to start the fifth inning, but it was the only out recorded by the Wildcats the rest of the game. Rountree singled to center field with one out. Elijah Seigrist and Casey Martin walked to load the bases, and Trumann relief pitcher Taylor Wilson balked to score Rountree and invoke the 10-runs after five innings mercy rule.

Cody Martin threw all five innings for Lonoke, giving up just one hit while striking out four and walking one. Casey Martin and Linton went 2 for 3 for half of Lonoke’s eight base hits, while James went 1 for 3 with five RBIs.

Lonoke will face Gosnell at noon today in the semifinal round of the regional tournament. A win in that game means a regional championship game at 2:30 p.m. Monday. A loss against Gosnell today means a 12 p.m. game on Monday to determine the three and four seeds in the state tournament that will begin Thursday in Blytheville.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers earn split with LRC

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot boys’ soccer team clinched its second-straight 7A/6A-East Conference championship with a 4-0 win over Little Rock Central on Wednesday night at Panther Stadium.

Cabot led 1-0 at halftime, but reeled off three goals in the second half to put the game out of the Tigers’ reach. With the win, the Panthers locked up a No. 1 seed for next week’s 7A playoffs that’ll be held at Panther Stadium in Cabot. Central will go into next week’s playoffs as the No. 2 seed from the East.

Even though his team has won some of its more recent games handily over the past couple of weeks, Cabot coach Steve Porter hasn’t been entirely pleased with his team’s overall play in those games. He did, however, think his group played a more complete game Wednesday.

“I think we played very well,” said Porter. “In many ways it was a complete performance, so far as we did good possession-wise, we did good creating chances, we did good defensively – kept a clean sheet (shutout) – got to play a number of players. So, overall, I’m very happy.”

It took more than 30 minutes for the first goal to be scored, but Cabot freshman Abi Brown delivered with a short goal from the left corner of the goal with 6:57 remaining in the first half. That gave Cabot a 1-0 lead at halftime.

It didn’t take the Panthers near as long to score in the second half. At the 35:11 mark of the second half, less than five minutes in, Luis Nascimento scored the first of his two 20-plus-yard goals. This one came off his left foot in the middle of the field and sailed into the net from 22 yards out.

Kilian Oelrich, who broke the school record for goals scored in a single season this year, scored his 21st goal of the season and the Panthers’ third goal of the game with 26:29 remaining in the second half. Oelrich’s goal was scored from 16 yards away in the middle of the field and gave Cabot a 3-0 lead.

With 12:28 left to play, Nascimento scored his second goal on a free kick from 23 yards away, which set the final score at 4-0.

The Panthers did lose a starter in the early goings of Wednesday’s game. Junior Dylan Wagnon had to leave the game less than three minutes into it with what appeared to be a broken forearm.

Wagnon has been a big contributor for the Panthers this season, and though the injury looked significant, Porter is hopeful he can find a way to play in the playoffs next week.

“He probably fractured both bones in his forearm,” Porter said. “But, I’m still hopeful we can have him ready for next Friday. If he can play, I’m going to play him. He’s a great kid, works hard. He leaves everything on the field.

“He’s the type of kid I want on the field with us, even if he’s not 100 percent. If he’s able to go, I’m going to put him out there. I’ve played with a cast and it’s not ideal, but you can do it.”

The girls’ game was much more competitive, but the Cabot girls lost that game to Central by the final score of 2-1.

Cabot scored the game’s first goal. With 25:08 left in the opening half, Maddie Rice scored from a little more than 10 yards out to give the Lady Panthers a 1-0 lead. Central, though, who locked up the top seed from the East with the win, responded with a goal less than four minutes later.

At the 21:49 mark of the first half, Central’s Meg Sander broke loose down the middle of the field and scored from a little more than 10 yards away, tying the game at 1-1.

The Lady Tigers added one more goal before the half. With 5:57 remaining, Central lined up for a corner kick, and after the kick, the ball was batted in amidst a plethora of Cabot and Central players. That gave Central a 2-1 lead at the break.

Neither team was able to score in the second half. Cabot had a couple of good opportunities within the last 10 minutes of play, but were unable to capitalize, and will have to settle for the No. 2 East seed in next week’s 7A playoffs as a result.

“Ultimately, the story of the first half, they outplayed us,” said Cabot girls’ coach Kerry Castillo. “On the day, they were just the better team. I think they worked harder off the ball to win the game. They challenged the ball in the air more than we did.

“They sprinted to close down our players. They sprinted to the loose balls – just little bitty things that were necessary to help them win the game, and we just didn’t work hard enough to do those things. They outworked us.”

Both Cabot teams played their final conference games of the year at West Memphis last night after deadlines, and they’ll each host a nonconference game against Class 5A Valley View on Monday in the regular-season finale.

The Cabot boys (13-1-2) have a first-round bye in next week’s playoffs and, as a result, they’ll play the winner between the No. 3 West seed and the No. 3 Central seed next Friday at 2 p.m. at Panther Stadium.

The Cabot girls (8-6-2) will play their first-round game against the No. 6 West seed at 10 a.m. next Thursday at Bryant High School.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers ease by Falcons in finale

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers locked up their position in the baseball state playoffs with a 6-0 win in the opener of a 5A-Central doubleheader at North Pulaski on Tuesday, then added to that excitement with a come-from-behind, 4-3 victory in the nightcap.

The conference finale sweep, combined with the Sylvan Hills-Pulaski Academy doubleheader split, puts Beebe as the number three seed from the Central in the state tournament that begins on Thursday. North Pulaski entered Tuesday’s games still in the playoff hunt, but needed a sweep of the Badgers to get in.

Jacksonville won the conference championship with a perfect 14-0 record, while Sylvan Hills, Beebe and Pulaski Academy each went 8-4.

Beebe junior Angus Denton got the shutout win in the opener. He struck out 14 Falcons, including striking out the side in the second, third and sixth innings.

The Badgers scored four runs in the first inning. After an out, Aaron Decker singled and Denton followed with a double to center field. Will Augenbaugh walked before NP pitcher Ean Collie got a strikeout. Collie then walked Dawson Burge and Jake Majors and Tyler Woodall got back-to-back base hits for the final three RBIs.

Beebe added another run in the second inning on a single and a stolen base by Hunter Naramore, a walk by Decker and a base hit by Augenbaugh.

Collie put Beebe down in order in the third and fourth innings, but the Badgers added an insurance run in the fifth. Augenbaugh opened the frame with a leadoff single and scored when Burge’s bunt back to the pitcher was thrown wildly into right field.

Beebe took a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first of game two, but the Falcons came back to score three runs in the top of the fourth.

It started with a leadoff single by Chris Penn. Brandon Bridges then bunted his way onto base, and an errant throw to first on the play allowed Penn to score and tie the game. Bridges advanced to second on the play, and scored on an RBI base hit by Chris Hildreth to give the Falcons their first lead.

Zach Douglass popped up for the first out, but Collie singled to put runners on the corners. Myles Bush then put down a perfect sacrifice bunt that scored Hildreth for the 3-1 NP lead.

Beebe cut the margin to 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Denton got a leadoff single and Augenbaugh walked. A passed ball advanced the runners and Angus scored on a 6-3 groundout by Jeffrey Ashley.

Beebe relief pitcher Mark Clairday walked two in the top of the seventh, but got a fly out and two more strikeouts to earn the win. Clairday threw three innings of no-hit ball in relief, with eight strikeouts and four walks.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot loses track title by 0.5

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – Heartbreak abounded for the Lady Panther track team Thursday at the Class 7A state meet at Fayetteville’s Ramay Junior High School. Clearly the most talented team at the meet, the Cabot girls could not fully overcome the sheer volume of athletes from Bentonville, losing the closest-ever state track meet by a mere half a point, 141.5 to 141.

Tori Weeks took the baton in the 4x100-meter relay trailing Bentonville’s anchor leg Katy Kotoucek by about 25 yards. Bentonville was in second place in the race and Cabot was in fourth. Weeks took the baton unsure if Cabot entered the final event ahead by 3.5 points, or 1.5. Official scorers had Cabot up 135-131.5, but many coaches on the field thought it should be 135-133.5.

Weeks did know that if Cabot’s lead was only 1.5 points, she would have to catch up to and beat the Lady Tiger who was way ahead with only one lap to go.

Weeks caught Kotoucek with about 125 meters left in the final 400 meters of the mile relay. She even briefly passed her by a couple of steps and took over second place. But she had to spend more energy than runners should that early in the race just to catch up. Kotoucek caught back up, passed her and finished second by about two meters. That gave the Lady Tigers eight points for the second- place finish and Cabot six for third. Soon after, they found out official scorers were wrong, Bentonville trailed by only 1.5 points, and the two points gained in the final race gave the Lady Tigers another state championship.

“This is a tough one to take,” said Cabot coach Leon White. “You start looking at everything, seeing if there was anything we could’ve done differently. But I think we pretty much maximized our potential. We scored more points than any scenario we figured up before the meet. That Bentonville relay team just dug down. We couldn’t put our fastest team out there because we had maxed out on events, but we still ran right at as fast as we’ve ever run that race. But Bentonville beat their best time by more than six seconds. So you have to give them credit.”

The scoring discrepancy occurred after the 18th of 18 events, the 800-meter race. It was an event White had said earlier in the day, “could be a backbreaker.” Bentonville qualified five runners for the event and all five entered the race with one of the top nine times in the state. Cabot, before that race, led 120-97.5, but all five Bentonville runners finished in the top seven, going 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7, for a total of 24 points and a 1.5 point lead over Cabot. But judges failed to count the two points for the seventh-place finish, and didn’t correct the error until the 18th event had started.

Cabot won eight events while Bentonville won just two, but Bentonville qualified almost three times more athletes for state than Cabot has on its team. It’s an advantage Bentonville will have for one more year before the school of 4,000-plus students splits into two high schools.

Lexi Weeks broke her own state record of 13-feet, 6-inches in the pole vault by clearing 14-feet on Thursday. Tori Weeks also broke the old record, clearing 13-8 for second place. That was more than two feet higher than third place Jade Donnell of Bentonville, but Lady Tigers finished third, fourth and fifth to minimize Cabot’s advantage gained in the event.

Lexi Weeks also won the long jump with a leap of 17-6, while Tori Weeks was second and teammate Danielle McWilliams finished fourth. Lexi Weeks’ third win came in the 100-meter hurdles, while Tori Weeks finished fifth.

Tori Weeks won the triple jump with a personal best and school record leap of 37-6 1/2 inches, and she needed that half-inch. Fayetteville’s Lauren Holmes leaped 37-6 on her final jump.

Tori Weeks also won the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 45.4 while McWilliams finished third at 46.62. Lexi Weeks finished second in the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.09, just short of her mother’s Cabot school record time of 57.24 set in 1985. She’ll have one more chance to break her mom’s record in the Meet of Champions next week in Russellville.

Senior Micah Huckabee won the mile and two-mile races to collect 20 points for the Lady Panthers. She won the mile easily with a time of 5:10.61, but did not approach her personal record of 4:59.99.

“She needed someone to push her to get that record and there just wasn’t anyone here that could do that,” White said.

Alex Ritchey of Mount St. Mary pushed Huckabee in the two-mile, striding step for step about two paces behind until the last lap, when Huckabee made a push to win by 2.82 seconds with a time of 11:21.72.

Huckabee was also the focus of the only thing White felt he could have done differently in who he entered into events. With the 800 coming up and with the knowledge that Bentonville would score big, White and assistant coach Chris Beavert talked about entering Huckabee in the 800. Only one event separated the 800 from the 3,200, and White was worried the half-mile race would fatigue his star distance runner for the two-mile. Ultimately the decision was made to enter Huckabee into the 800, but officials had already re-seeded the race after the preliminaries and would not allow the new entry.

“It’s tough to say what would’ve happened,” White said. “She would’ve gone out there and run her heart out and picked up a few points for us, but then she may not have had enough to win the two-mile, and it would’ve cost us points there. Of course, now I wish we would’ve done it because we would’ve been second either way if it didn’t work out.”

Senior Caytee Wright jumped a personal best 5-0 in the high jump, finishing fifth and picking up a few more points than expected.

The Cabot 4x800-meter relay team set a school record and finished higher than expected at third. The team of Alyssa Hamilton, Casey Gore, Samantha Nickell and Huckabee finished in 9:53.72. It won one of the two events Bentonville won. The other was the 100-meter dash, won by Taylor Mahone. Cabot did not have an entry in that event.

EDITORIAL >> Col. Rhatigan, farewell friend

Col. Patrick Rhatigan will step down later this month as commander of the 19th Airlift Wing and retire from the Air Force after 22 years of outstanding service to our nation.

His successor, Col. Charles E. Brown Jr., takes over the 19th Airlift Wing in a change- of-command ceremony May 27. This will be a homecoming for Brown, who was previously commander of the 62nd Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Brown is vice commander of the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base in Japan. He will return home while LRAFB’s mission has hardly slowed since Sept. 11, 2001: The base continues deployments to Asia and the Middle East nonstop as it has for the last 14 years in the war on terror. Another group left for Southwest Asia on Monday. The picture on today’s front page of Staff Sgt. Jerrica Wild, a mother saying farewell to her young children, tells you more than 1,000 stories could say about the sacrifices our men and women in the military make every day.

The mission remains intense even as the military must operate with fewer resources. Politicians will cut their budget even as they expect our military to do more. Col. Rhatigan has spoken out against sequestration that cuts the military budget even as the war continues. We salute him for doing that.

The men and women in the military seldom complain. Col. Rhatigan has been their fearless leader. The military will miss his leadership and so will we. Come on home, Charlie Brown.

TOP STORY >> JHS fixture set to retire

Marvin Lindley, an art teacher at Jacksonville High School and a former coach, announced Friday that he is retiring after 37 years of working for the Pulaski County Special School District.

For the last 26 years, Lindley has taught art at JHS, where he coached football, baseball, track and tennis over the years. He was named PCSSD’s fine arts teacher of the year in 2006.

He has also sold prints of his own pen-and-ink wildlife drawings and other artwork. Several of his students have been recognized for the artwork they’ve done under his supervision.

Lindley is known for producing several public murals around town and in schools, the latest was a tribute to veterans at the Hook Restaurant.

Early in his career, he painted a large falcon in the gym at North Pulaski High School, where he was the head football coach for the junior high, and painted signs on the press box and in the weight room. North Pulaski had grades 7-12 until Northwood Junior High School opened.

After a brief stint as director of a screen-printing company, Lindley returned to teaching art and coaching at Northwood, which was new then. There he painted a large knight on horseback on the gym wall.

Two years later, he moved to J.A. Fair High School, which was also new and was part of PCSSD but is now in the Little Rock School District.

For five years, Lindley served as an art teacher, head track coach and defensive coordinator for a very successful program. At J.A. Fair, he painted several war eagle mascots as well as “Home of the War Eagles” on the press box.

“In the disorder caused by the desegregation lawsuit, I landed at Jacksonville High. I was an assistant football coach under Johnny Watson for 19 seasons, as the Red Devils competed in the state’s highest classification. I also served as an assistant track coach before becoming head baseball coach,” Lindley explained.

In his 10 seasons, the Red Devils baseball team was recognized as being among the state’s best and were five-time conference champions and often ranked among the state’s top teams. Lindley was honored as conference coach of the year four times and was twice an assistant coach in the State All Baseball Star Game. In 1998, he was elected as the head coach for the Arkansas North All Star Baseball Team.

While at Jacksonville, he was called on to do several projects. After redesigning the Red Devil mascot, it was painted on the field house, press box and inside the school. He also painted a large emblem and the school’s name on the building’s north wall. His handiwork includes countless banners, signs, posters, T-shirt designs and more for clubs, events and groups at the school.

After helping design and build the large indoor workout facility, complete with batting cages and a new weight room, he painted the mascot and team name, which covers one entire end wall of the building.

In the weight room, he painted a motivational design with the slogan “Jacksonville Iron Works.” His painting was not limited to brick or wood surfaces. During his coaching days, Lindley also conceptualized and painted large designs on the grass in the center of the football field. He and his students began the tradition of painting designs on the field for each graduation ceremony. He also designed the large 3D logo that hangs in the former PCSSD School Board meeting room.

When his former boss and long-time friend Johnny Watson left JHS to become head football coach at Little Rock Christian High School, Lindley began volunteering as a coach at the west Little Rock private school.

In his five years there, he helped to build a successful football program that won an undefeated conference championship and was a runner-up in the 5A state championship.

Watson also provided many opportunities for Lindley to use his artistic and other abilities. He painted Little Rock Christian’s praying hands logo on the gym wall and on the field and also painted large motivational words around the walls of their new weight room.

Watson had him construct large oak and glass trophy cases for the athletic building. Lindley also decorated the halls of the building with the school logo, display boxes for each sport, areas for displaying championship plaques and a wall of fame honoring athletes in all sports selected as All State.

Lindley still helps Watson, who is now the athletic director at Little Rock Christian, organize the Arkansas High School All Star Games.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD voting on tax

A 5.6-mill increase goes before voters in the Pulaski County Special School District on Tuesday.

Patrons of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District still under the PCSSD umbrella will not vote on or pay the millage hike if it passes.

The increase would fund $61 million in improvements to Sherwood schools, with $51 million of that going toward the expansion and updating of Sylvan Hills High School.

A total of $221 million in district-wide facility projects are planned.

The increase would equate to about $10 a month for the owner of a $100,000 home.

Supporters say the increase will also pave the way for Sherwood to have its own district because PCSSD must be released from federal court oversight and declared unitary — desegregated — before Sherwood can detach.

Facilities are one area in which PCSSD is not yet unitary.

TOP STORY >> Cabot’s Civitan honors Doyle

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Civitan Club held a memorial dinner Thursday at the Freshman Academy cafeteria to celebrate the life of Bobby Doyle for what he did for others.

Doyle, who passed away in November, was a member of the Cabot Civitan Club and the Cabot Panther Foundation. Doyle retired as Special Olympics Arkansas CEO in 2012 after 40 years of service with the organization.

Doyle had been a Civitan member since 1982. He helped form the Cabot Civitan Club in 2008. Civitan president Steve Jackson said more needed to be said about Bobby Doyle than what was said at the funeral.

Cabot School Superintendent Tony Thurman said Doyle greatly influenced the school system. Thurman said, when he became head of the school district eight years ago, he had to go in front of the state Department of Education.

Thurman was told that something needed to be done or the district would be put in fiscal distress by the end of the next year.

“We came up with a plan and part of it was to generate more revenue. No one likes a tax increase,” Thurman said.

Doyle understood the seriousness of the matter and spread the word to the community that it needed to support a millage increase that would sustain the district into the future.

Thurman said Doyle was very demanding about the district needing the very best to provide for all of its students. The Panther Foundation raised funds and helped supply what was needed.

“He was proud to be a Cabotian. He took great pride in the school system, the facilities and having a say in them,” Thurman said.

Cabot Civitan president Steve Jackson said, “Bobby would travel anywhere to watch the Cabot Panthers play football or basketball.”

“He took a vested interest in making sure every student had exactly what they needed and knew what it took to make that happen,” Thurman said.

Past Civitan International president Markham Howe said, “Bobby changed lives wherever he went. He never put himself on a pedestal. He made sure the Special Olympians were on a pedestal.

“Bobby introduced all Civitans to Special Olympics,” Howe said.

He said the first job Doyle gave him at the Special Olympics was to be the Designated Hugger.

“My job was to hug every one of the athletes. I think (Doyle) gave me a little help. I walked out there and there were 300 athletes on that gym floor. I thought it was bedlam, but Bobby had it all laid out,” Howe said.

Special Olympics Arkansas director Terri Weir said Doyle taught her about kindness, humanity and what it means to be of service and the importance of respect.

Retired Cabot athletic director Johnny White said Doyle thought kids were the most important.

“Special Olympics athletes know what true love is more than any of us. At the funeral, I watched them come by one by one. Those medals they win mean a lot to them. When I saw them drop them in the casket, I knew Bobby Doyle had made a difference,” White said.

Past Cabot Civitan president Tom Nolting said, “(Bobby) was one of those guys who would walk around the whole room and shake everyone’s hand. He didn’t do that so you knew who he was. He wanted to know who you were and wanted you to know that no matter what anyone else said, whatever happened to you that day, you were special and he wanted you to know that.”

Peggy Doyle spoke about her husband. They were married for over 30 years.

“Bobby would have made it across the room several times and shaken your hand, patted you on the shoulder and hugged your neck. He would tell you it was really great to see you again. Then, with a huge smile on his face, he’d look at you and tell you, ‘You need to join Civitan,’” Peggy Doyle said.

“Bobby loved and helped people. He believed in giving to others, whether mowing somebody’s yard, lending them his tools or making regular calls to make sure a friend knew they weren’t alone and he was there,” she said.

“He believed in providing opportunities to others, youth and the special needs individuals. He strongly believed in being a volunteer,” she concluded.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panther power leads to win at ATU

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panther softball team scored six runs on eight hits and took advantage of four Atkins errors to beat the Lady Red Devils 6-1 Monday in a nonconference matchup at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

Cabot pitcher Megan Good-night threw six innings of shutout ball before yielding a run in the bottom of the seventh on two singles and a hit batter. The Senior right-hander gave up six hits total while striking out eight and walking two.

Cabot got on the board first in the top of the second inning when a leadoff double by Kaitlyn Felder was followed two batters later by a two-out single by Hannah Montgomery.

The Lady Panthers got the first two runners on in the third inning when Macee Abbott beat out a single to shortstop and Heather Hill doubled to center field. That put runners on second and third, and Lauren McCluskey hit a sacrifice grounder to shortstop to score Abbott while Hill held up at second. An error advanced Hill to third, and another error allowed her to score to give Cabot a 3-0 lead.

Cabot had another rally going in the fourth inning, but it stopped at just one run when Abbott, who was originally called safe at second on a line drive single by Hill, was called out on appeal. But before that, Bethany Knowles scored on Hill’s line drive to make it 4-0.

In the top of the fifth, Goodnight opened the inning by sending a 0-1 pitch over the wall in center field, her team-leading eighth home run of the season and a school record. The team’s 22 home runs is also a school record in fastpitch softball, which began in 1998.

“It’s by far the most home runs of any team I’ve coached,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “My first year at Dardanelle I had a girl hit two or three maybe. My teams at Searcy probably never hit more than that. I think the weight room has helped us more than anything. We’ve done the weights here more than anywhere I’ve been. And it seems like they keep making the bats hotter so that plays a part in it, too.”

Felder almost duplicated Goodnight’s hit, but her shot hit the wall in center for a stand-up double. Courtesy runner Shauna Attendorn replaced the catcher on the base paths, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Rachel Allgood to cap Cabot’s scoring.

Felder went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI. Hill went 2 for 4 with a double and a run batted in, and Abbott went 2 for 3.

Cabot (23-4, 11-1) hosted West Memphis in a 7A/6A-East Conference game on Tuesday, and will travel to Crittenden County for the rematch and conference finale on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Home runs help Cabot beat Rockets

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot baseball team dropped its first 7A-East Conference game of the season Friday in Little Rock with a 2-1 loss to Central, but on Monday, the Panthers got a quality nonconference win in Little Rock with a 6-4 victory over Catholic High.

“That’s a great nonconference win,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin after Monday’s win. “That’s a quality opponent, and that was a state tournament type of atmosphere. It was a little bit of an emotional game on both sides.

“I kind of just told the team – first thing I said when I went out to the huddle was, ‘I honestly don’t know how you won the game.’ I mean, four or five double plays in seven innings that we either hit into or ran ourselves into with some bad base running.

“We made two errors on the day, but what saved us was our pitching. We didn’t walk guys. We made them earn everything. It was a great, quality win. When you don’t play your best and you still beat a quality team, you’re doing something right.”

Cabot (14-8) scored two runs in the first inning on a two-run home run off the bat of Tristan Bulice, but Catholic (19-7) answered with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to lead 3-2 after one.

Starting pitcher Evan Hooper scored Cabot’s third run in the top of the second. He hit a double off the left-field fence and scored the next at-bat on a tough error at shortstop off the bat of Jonathan Latture.

The Rockets, though, answered with a run in the bottom of the second. That came as the result of a Will Dickinson solo home run, which gave Catholic a 4-3 lead.

Hooper pitched a scoreless inning in the third before being relieved by Logan Gilbertson in the fourth. Gilbertson gave up just two hits and no runs in his two innings of work, and Brett Brockinton pitched the last two innings.

Cabot, though, didn’t score again until the sixth. The Panthers looked as if they were going to have yet another scoreless inning, but designated hitter Easton Seidl reached on a two-out single to right field before Hooper blasted his third hit of the game over the fence in left center, putting the Panthers up 5-4.

Brockinton kept the Rockets off the board in the bottom of the sixth and Cabot scored an insurance run in the top of the seventh to set the final score.

With two outs in the top of the seventh, catcher Denver Mullins walked. Jake Slunder came in to run for Mullins, and scored the next at-bat on a Bulice double off the high wall in center field, which gave Cabot the 6-4 lead.

Catholic leadoff hitter Cameron Tissue led off the bottom of the seventh with a hard-hit single to left field. Zach Sokora tried to advance Tissue to second with a bunt, but the ball was popped up in front of home plate where Mullins made the routine catch.

Three-hole hitter William Hancock then came to the plate, representing the tying run, but Hancock hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.

Brockinton officially earned the win for Cabot. He gave up just the one hit to Tissue in the bottom of the seventh. Gilbertson had two strikeouts in his time on the hill. Hooper struck out two as well. He gave up four hits, but only two of the four runs scored on him were earned.

Hooper may not have gotten the win on the mound, but he along with Bulice led Cabot at the plate. They each went 3 for 3, and both were a triple shy of the cycle. Bulice had three RBIs and a run scored and Hooper had two RBIs and two runs scored.

Dylan Bowers also had multiple hits for Cabot, going 2 for 4 with two singles. The Panthers outhit the Rockets 11-7.

Against Central on Friday, each team totaled seven hits, but Cabot had one error while the Tigers had zero. The Tigers scored their two runs in the third inning, and the Panthers scored their run in the top of the fourth.

Mullins and Bowers led the offense in that game. They each had two hits.

Cabot’s loss to Central on Friday puts the two teams in a tie for the top spot in the 7A-East standings, with 3-1 records. The Panthers, though, hold the tiebreaker over the Tigers, since they beat Central by a greater margin in their first meeting of the season earlier last week.

The Panthers control their own destiny as far as getting a No. 1 seed in the 7A state tournament, and even though they lost their first 7A-East game on Friday, they did get a quality win on Monday over Catholic, and Goodwin believes his team is starting to play its best ball at the right time.

“We always preach in our program, be playing your best at the end of April and May, and I feel like that’s kind of happening now.”

Cabot resumed 7A-East play last night at home against West Memphis after deadlines, and they’ll go to West Memphis this Friday for the final 7A-East game of the season. This Friday’s game at West Memphis is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke earns third-straight district

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke baseball team won its third-straight 4A-2 District Tournament championship Saturday at Riverview High School in Searcy with a dominant 14-4 mercy-rule victory over Newport in the tournament championship game.

Lonoke got to the championship game with a come from behind 8-7 win over Central Arkansas Christian in the semifinal round. Newport advanced to the tournament final by knocking off regular season conference champion Stuttgart in the semis.

By the tournament final, the Greyhounds had used up a good chunk of their pitching, but were hitting the ball well enough to lead in the early goings. Lonoke led 2-1 after the first inning, but Newport scored three runs in the second to take a 4-2 lead.

Unfortunately for the Greyhounds, though, it was all Lonoke after that. The Jackrabbits scored a run in the third inning to cut the deficit to 4-3, and added five more runs to their side of the board in the fourth to take an 8-4 lead.

Lonoke then had its most productive inning in the fifth, scoring six runs to end the game on the sportsmanship rule.

Both teams had nine hits in the five-inning game, but Newport walked nine Lonoke batters, hit another, and the Greyhounds committed five errors in the field. Conversely, Lonoke gave up just one walk and committed just one error.

“That first game with CAC, we knew we were going to be in for a dogfight,” said Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery. “They played a heck of a game with Heber (Friday) night, going to 10 innings. They’re playing extremely well here at the end of the year and they made us work for everything.

“We made a lot of mistakes that kept them in the ballgame, but we found a way to win. In this game, Newport, they had it tough having to play so many games in three days.

“They were running out of pitching, but we did a good job of being patient at the plate and taking walks and doing what we needed to do to eventually pull away.”

In the inning that Lonoke put the game away, the bottom of the fifth, Casey Martin got things started with a walk. He stole second base and went to third on a passed ball before scoring on an error at second base off the bat of Haven Hunter. That put the Rabbits up 9-4.

Cody Martin also reached on an E4 the next at-bat, and Nick Graves drew his third walk of the game to load the bases. Christian James then walked with the bases juiced, scoring Hunter for Lonoke’s 10th run of the game.

Cody Martin scored the 11th Lonoke run on a passed ball before Kade Stuart walked to once again load the bases. Winning pitcher Keith Lingo walked the following at-bat to score Graves, and James scored Lonoke’s 13th run on an error at shortstop off the bat of Savonte Rountree.

Newport got the second out of the inning the next at-bat, but Casey Martin ended the game the following at-bat with a single to right field. Stuart scored on the play, and the game ended because Lonoke’s lead reached 10 runs in five innings of play, invoking the sportsmanship rule.

Casey Martin led Lonoke with three hits against Newport. Cody Martin also had multiple hits against the Greyhounds, going 2 for 2 with a double, single and three runs scored.

Lingo took over pitching duties at the start of the third inning with his team down 4-2. He recorded zero strikeouts, but didn’t give up a single run on just three hits and one walk allowed in the three innings of work.

“He’s a kid that was injured for over half the year,” Lowery said of Lingo. “He comes in and we throw him in in a big spot and he throws three scoreless innings. I’m proud for him and I can’t say enough about the kids playing good defense behind him.

“He did his job coming in and throwing strikes and we played a heck of a ballgame.”

Against CAC, Lonoke trailed 7-5 heading into the seventh inning. Cody Martin led off the bottom of the seventh and reached on an error at shortstop before Graves was hit by a pitch.

James then hit a clutch, stand-up double to left field, scoring both runners and tying the game at 7-7. Still no outs, Stuart singled to left field the next at-bat, scoring James for the walk-off win.

Lonoke outhit CAC 9-5, and the Jackrabbits overcame a total of seven errors committed. Casey Martin went 3 for 4 in that game as well to lead the Rabbits at the plate. Rountree was the only other Lonoke player with multiple hits, going 2 for 2.

James earned the win on the hill. He pitched the final one and two-third innings and recorded one strikeout in that time.

For the third-straight year, Lonoke will enter the regional tournament this Friday as a No. 1 seed, but will look to avoid being ousted in the first round like it’s done for the past two years. The last time Lonoke made the state tournament was in 2012, and that team made it all the way to the Class 4A state championship game.

As long as his team can avoid making mistakes like it did in the district semifinal, Lowery likes his team’s chances Friday to advance in the first round of regionals, and perhaps go further.

“I feel good about our chances,” Lowery said. “I think we can compete with anybody. It’s just if we can clean up our mistakes. If we make a lot of mistakes like we did today, it will be tough.”

Lonoke (14-3) will play Trumann, a No. 4 seed, in the first round of the regional tournament at Pocahontas this Friday at 10 a.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils start slow, rout Mills for victory

Leader sports editor

A sluggish start still resulted in a 2-0 halftime lead, and a dominant second half led to a 6-1 victory for the Jacksonville soccer team Monday at Mills University Studies.

Jacksonville coach Adam Thrash benched two starters for the first half for being late for the bus, and overall energy was low in the first 40 minutes.

“Except for that game last week, we’ve always been a second-half team,” said Thrash. “We’ve got the state tournament coming up and we can’t afford to be that way then. Maybe we need to start doing 40-minute warm-ups or something. I don’t know.”

On Monday, it wasn’t hard to overcome the slow start against the 1-11 Comets. The Red Devils tried to use the game to practice situations like being down a goal with a certain amount of time remaining. The first scenario was down a goal with seven minutes left, and Jacksonville failed to score in that time, but not by much.

In the eighth minute, Cortez Jordan took a pass from Jacob Alcorn behind the Comet defense and beat goalkeeper Nathan Milsap for a 1-0 Red Devil lead.

The Red Devils failed to score on the next several fake scenarios, but finally added to its lead on the same combo of Alcorn to Jordan in the 29th minute of the first half.

Jordan made it a hat trick early in the second half. A high entry pass from the opposite side of midfield came down behind the Comet defense again. After one bounce on the ground, Jordan, in a dead run towards the Mills goal, bounced the ball off his own head twice before heading it out in front of himself and scoring in the fourth minute.

Another long drought was followed by a blitz of Jacksonville goals late in the match. In the 25th minute, Gerald Walton scored his 14th goal of the year after taking a cross pass from Glen Mitchell.

Three minutes later, Mills made a mistake by throwing the ball in from its own side of the field towards its goal.

Jacksonville’s Keilen Richardson beat everyone to the ball and then beat one defender and Milsap to score and put the Red Devils ahead 5-0.

Five minutes after Richardson’s goal, Mitchell got a breakaway down the right side. His initial shot was blocked by Milsap, but Mitchell was there for his own putback to make it 6-0 with five minutes remaining.

Just a few seconds later, Mitchell placed a perfect pass from the right sideline to Walton just in front of the Mills goal. Walton executed a perfect bicycle kick, but Milsap deflected it over the goal, ruining the potential highlight.

Mills finally got on the board and avoided the shutout with a goal with 20 seconds remaining in the game.

Jacksonville (9-3) hosted a makeup game with Mills on Tuesday for senior night, and will play at McClellan to close the regular season on Thursday. A win in either of those games guarantees the Red Devils a two-seed in the state playoffs that begin next Thursday in Hope.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers, Lady Bears win

Leader sports editor

The Beebe boys and Sylvan Hills girls won championships at the 5A-Central Conference track meet Friday at Beebe’s Erwin Stadium.

The Badgers were utterly dominant in the boys’ meet. Second through fifth place combined did not match Beebe’s 268 points, and all seven other teams added together only beat the Badgers by 34. McClellan was second with 85 points. Sylvan Hills took third with 74, J.A. Fair scored 62, North Pulaski 30, Mills 27 and Jacksonville 24.

The Lady Bears were in a much tougher competition, prevailing with an impressive 196, beating out the host team by 38 points. Mills also competed well, specializing in field events to score most of its 118. The Jacksonville girls were fourth with 42 points.

McClellan scored 28 and North Pulaski 18. J.A. Fair did not score in the girls’ meet and Pulaski Academy did not enter a team in boys’ or girls’ competition.

Beebe junior Connor Patrom was the top individual scorer in the boys’ meet. He won the long jump, took second in the 100-meter dash to Sylvan Hills’ Keyundra Hardimon, was third in the 200- and 400-meter races and finished fifth in the high jump. He also served on Beebe’s 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams that each finished second.

The Badgers swept the top four spots in the pole vault, 300-meter hurdles and 3,200-meter race. They took the top two spots in the 1,600-meter race and discus, and took three of the top four in the 1,600.

J.A. Fair’s Jabraylon Ellis won the 200-meter dash and Beebe’s Keishaun Davidson finished second. Sylvan Hills’ Lukas Burrow took fourth to qualify for state, and his teammates Nick Porter and Hardimon scored points by finishing fifth and sixth.

McClellan’s Andre Jones won the 400-meter race and Ellis was second. Fair’s Justyce Allen took fourth behind Patrom for the final state qualifying spot.

Jordan Jones of Fair won the 800-meter race, but Sylvan Hills junior Malcolm Nelson, Beebe’s John Paul Savage and Jacksonville’s Emmanuel Moore qualified for state by finishing second, third and fourth.

Beebe junior Chris Owen won the mile while sophomore teammate Gus McCoy finished second. Moore took third and Savage fourth. Owen and McCoy took the top two spots in the two-mile race as well, with Beebe’s Sean Langley finishing third and Savage fourth.

Jaylen Peterson of McClellan won the 110-meter high hurdles, but the Badger trio of Trip Smith, freshman Logan Archer and senior Micah Dubose took second, third and fourth to qualify for state.

North Pulaski freshman Ladarian Price was fifth and Jacksonville senior Trabek Price was sixth.

Davidson won the 300-meter intermediate hurdles for the Badgers, while teammates Dubose, freshman Richey Dane and Archer were second, third and fourth. North Pulaski sophomore Kris Johnson took fifth.

The Sylvan Hills team of Hardimon, Burrow, Porter and Malik Strong won the 4x100-meter relay. Fair took the 4x400 while Beebe’s Savage, Brown, Tyler Childress and Owen won the 4x800.

McClellan’s Jones and Beebe sophomore Kirkland Miller each cleared 6-feet, 2-inches in the high jump. Beebe swept the qualifiers in the pole vault, largely because Badger vaulters made up four of the five competitors.

Sophomore Isiah Hutson won the event at 10-6. Classmates Miller and Nathan Clifton each cleared 10-feet while junior Tanner Tozer and McClellan’s Jospeh Lewis cleared nine feet.

Patrom’s winning long jump went 19-9 1/4 inches and Strong’s winning triple jump was 41-2 3/4 .

Beebe seniors swept the throwing events. Dusty Grier tossed the shot put 45-1 1/2 to beat teammate Jesse Crisco by that inch and a half. North Pulaski’s David Jackson took third with a throw of 43-11 3/4.

Crisco won the discus with a toss of 139 feet, beating Mills’ James May by 14 feet. Jacksonville’s Terry Brown faulted three times in the finals, but his preliminary throw of 118-6 was good enough to qualify for state by finishing third. Beebe’s Wade Jones was the final state qualifier.

In the girls’ competition, Sylvan Hills not only won, but also made a statement about the future. Five of the Lady Bears’ state qualifiers were freshman and while four more were only sophomores. Sylvan Hills coach Grover Garrison also feels very confident about next year’s group of freshmen.

“We only have two seniors and one junior on this team, and everyone else is either a freshman or sophomore,” said Garrison. “This could be a special team. My eighth-graders are very talented as well.”

Sylvan Hills freshman Brielle Hayes won the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.94. Jacksonville’s Tatiana Lacy took second. Lacy, however, won the 200-meter dash while Sylvan Hills’ Chanel Miller, also a freshman, was second and Hayes took third.

Yet a third Sylvan Hills freshman, Erykah Sanders, won the 400-meter dash to beat out sophomore teammate Chloe George by 1.46 seconds. Beebe’s Jabria Coleman was third in that race and a fourth freshman Lady Bear, Sierra Towles, finished fourth to qualify for state.

Sylvan Hills sophomore Dallyn Stubbs won the 800-meter race, finishing a little more than three seconds ahead of Beebe sophomore Allie Lane. Sylvan Hills senior Justis Jakes took third and Beebe junior Tori Colbert was fourth.

Beebe senior Trystan Taylor beat Stubbs in the mile while Lady Badger Taylor McGraw was third and North Pulaski’s Rachel Mason took fourth.

Mason, a sophomore, won the two-mile by a wide margin, finishing in 13.37.08 to beat Beebe freshman Courtney Smith by more than 34 seconds. Colbert was third and Sylvan Hills junior Gabriella Marquez took fourth.

Jacksonville’s Amber Lockhart came from nowhere to win the 100-meter high hurdles. She shaved nearly two full seconds off her preliminary time to finish in 17.38 seconds. Meanwhile, Sylvan Hills senior Jahnay Duncan dropped .31 seconds from her top preliminary time to finish second at 17.51. Beebe freshman Bri Martindill was third and Mills’ Zoreia Robinson took fourth.

Martindill took second in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles behind Robinson. Miller took fourth in that event to qualify for state.

Hayes, Miller, Sanders and Ka’Necia Allen won the 4x100 relay while Towles, Allen, Sanders and George won the 4x400.

Beebe’s Lane, Colbert, McGraw and Natalie Childress won the 4x800 relay.

Beebe and Mills were the only teams to enter the pole vault. Beebe’s Sydnye Shuttleworth and two Mills Comets cleared 7-6 to lead the event.

Mills freshman Cetra Dale won the long jump at 15-1, just three quarters of an inch farther than Hayes. Lockhart and Ducan were third and fourth while Lacy took fifth.

Beebe’s Hannah McGee broke up a top-four sweep by Sylvan Hills in the triple jump, finishing second. Miller won the event by leaping 32 feet while Sanders and sophomore Makayla Smith were third and fourth.

Dale won the shot put for Mills as well, but Sa’Maya Farmer of Sylvan Hills was second while Beebe’s Kierston Miller took third and Raigen Thomas of North Pulaski finished fourth. Dale also won the shot put, with Beebe junior Natalie Briggs taking second, Sylvan Hills freshman Jayla Bell taking third and Beebe junior Nicole Salman taking the final state qualifying spot.

EDITORIAL >> PCSSD needs a millage hike

This much is certain. We should always vote. We should always vote in our own best interest, though sometimes we are confused or misled.

If you live in either the Pulaski County Special School District or the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District—it is in your best interest to support the 5.6-mill property tax increase to replace or extensively remodel every school left in the in PCSSD after the departure of the new district.

The special election is next Tuesday. Early voting began yesterday and ends Friday at the Jack Evans Senior Center in Sherwood, the Jess Odom Community Center in Maumelle, the Roosevelt Thompson Library off Chenal Parkway and the County Regional Building at Markham and Broadway in Little Rock

If you live within the boundaries of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, you can’t vote, won’t have to pay an increased tax and won’t receive proceeds from the increase for your schools.

Nonetheless, you will benefit. PCSSD is still not unitary—desegregated—in five areas. Those are facilities adequacy, school discipline, staffing, student achievement and monitoring. And if PCSSD is not unitary, by definition and court order, neither is JNP.

It’s often assumed that the facilities piece of the puzzle is the most difficult. And until the schools are unitary, the federal courts will scrutinize every substantial move made by either district.

For instance, the court had to sign off on this millage election. And by court order, neither Sherwood, Maumelle nor any other area of PCSSD can stand up its own school district until PCSSD is unitary.

The millage increase would cost $112 a year on a $100,000 home and raise $221 million over 30 years to pay for construction while still leaving PCSSD with the lowest millage of any of the county’s three districts.

If the millage increase fails, major facilities improvements will be limited to building a new school to replace Mills High School and to remodel Mills as a middle school for students who would otherwise attend Fuller. Fuller would then be demolished.

Here’s what parents and students get if the PCSSD millage passes:

A large addition to Sylvan Hills High School will make it basically a new school. It will include new classroom space, a new gymnasium and a new approach to, essentially, create a whole new high school. The existing auditorium could be repurposed into a seminar room.

Sylvan Hills Middle School, although recently built, still needs restrooms at the practice and play fields. Sherwood Elementary will get a gym, a cafeteria and new parking.

Sylvan Hills Elementary is slated for additional classrooms, air conditioning in the gym and paved parking. Cato Elementary, with open-space classrooms, could be moved in about three years to the building that currently houses Northwood Middle School, Scott said.

A new Mills High School will be built for about $52 million, with the current high school remodeled and converted to a middle school. Fuller, the existing middle school, would be then demolished.

The Pulaski County district would build the proposed new elementary school to replace Scott and serve a large attendance zone. Harris and College Station elementaries would be extensively remodeled, including new additions.

Landmark and Daisy Bates elementary schools would be gussied up and would each get a gymnasium/multipurpose room.

The district will build a new Robinson High School, converting the current high school to the middle school and demolishing the current middle school. Robinson Elementary School, also an open-space facility, will be demolished and replaced.

Chenal Elementary needs increased parking, and both Baker and Lawson elementaries need gymnasiums and facility improvements. Maumelle High School, the most recently built school in the district, still needs a track, visitors’ bleachers, restrooms, lights on the softball and baseball fields and the conversion of practice fields into game fields, according to Scott.

Maumelle Middle School, also a recent construction, needs restrooms at the athletic fields and air conditioning in the gym. Crystal Hill and Oak Grove elementary schools need gyms and general improvements. Pine Forest, which has a gym, still needs general facility improvements.

If the millage fails, Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District will likely have enough money to implement its own facilities building plan, especially if it approves a millage increase of its own down the road. Residents have always been willing to tax themselves here if they can see benefits for the children.

JNP will qualify for substantial school facilities partnership money, the Defense Department seems on the verge of agreeing to pay 80 percent of the costs of replacing Arnold Drive Elementary and providing as much as 300 acres for that school and a new high school. That’s progress.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke’s exceptional greenhouse

Lonoke Exceptional Development Center clients Deidre Hellyer and Jason Gannon work at the center’s greenhouse, tending geraniums, dianthus, lantanas, marigolds, petunia and coleus and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, squash, eggplant and jalapeno, cayenne and bell peppers. The school will hold a hog-roast fundraiser at 5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids.
For tickets, call  501-676-2786.

Leader staff writer

Needing a gift idea for Mother’s Day? How about flowers and plants from the Lonoke Exceptional Develop
ment Center Greenhouse in Lonoke?

The greenhouse is located at the center’s grounds off Northeast Front Street in Lonoke. It has been in operation since 2001 with the help of clients.

The greenhouse is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. It is open year round.

The greenhouse grows geraniums, dianthus, lantanas, marigolds, petunia and coleus. It also has vegetable plants — tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, squash, eggplant and jalapeno, cayenne and bell peppers.

“I really like working with plants. There is something about plants that catches my eye. They are almost a human beings. It’s like caring for a baby. They need water and nurturing,” LEDC client Jason Gannon said.

“I want people to come to the greenhouse and for them to be going in and out all day long,” he added.

Greenhouse supervisor Melissa Davidson said proceeds from plant sales are reinvested into the greenhouse for supplies and that LEDC clients learn about horticulture as flowers grow from seeds to plants.

“Customers always say our flowers are a lot healthier, and it helps our clients with their learning,” she said.

“We do a lot of cuttings, too,” Davidson noted.

“In the fall, we will sell 500 mums. We supply churches with poinsettias during Christmas,” she continued.

Gannon said, “There is a lot do with the greenhouse. My favorites are purple flowers.”

Davidson also said, “We would like to expand by adding another greenhouse or enlarging it.” A small greenhouse is being constructed at the program’s Cabot center.

• LEDC is holding a fundraiser hog roast starting at 5 p.m. Saturday at its Lonoke location. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. The event will have a Battle of the Barnyard obstacle course and relay race, a barbecue dinner, live music and a petting zoo.

For tickets, call 501-676-2786.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD asking voters for tax

A 5.6-mill increase goes before voters in the Pulaski County Special School District on Tuesday.

Early voting started yesterday.

Patrons of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District still under the PCSSD umbrella will not vote on or pay the millage hike if it passes.

The increase would fund $61 million in improvements to Sherwood schools, with $51 million of that going toward the expansion and updating of Sylvan Hills High School.

A total of $221 million in district-wide facility projects are planned.

The increase would equate to about $10 a month for the owner of a $100,000 home.

Early voting is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday at the Jack Evans Seniors Citizens Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive in Sherwood.

Supporters say the increase will also pave the way for Sherwood to have its own district because PCSSD must be released from federal court oversight and declared unitary — desegregated — before Sherwood can detach.

Facilities is one area in which PCSSD is not yet unitary.

TOP STORY >> City welcomes new school chief

Leader senior staff writer

“We’ve got a lot of good things on the horizon,” Jacksonville-North Pulaski Superintendent-select Tony Wood told those at a small reception in his honor Monday evening before the monthly school board meeting.

“We were blessed to have a legend as our first interim superintendent (Bobby Lester) and now we have another legend, Mr. Tony Wood, as superintendent,” said Daniel Gray, president of the JNP school board. “As it said in the local paper, we hire all-stars.”

Among the approximately 40 invited guests at the reception were local officials, principals, chamber of commerce officials, Little Rock Air Force Base representatives, the fire chief and police chief and five of the seven school board members.

“My first impression is the hospitality,” Wood said. “Everyone has been so kind. It takes that kind of support for us to be successful.

“I told each of the principals I met this afternoon how important they are. The only person who is more important is that individual teacher who’s making a difference in the classroom.”

Wood recognized the decades of effort by Jacksonville residents in the movement to form their own school district — “to make sure your children can have the opportunities you want them to have.”

Wood said that was a major factor in his choosing to apply for and accept the job as the district’s first school-running superintendent.

“It’s clear — you validated it when you went to the ballot boxes. Has there ever been an election that reflected the percentage of support that this community brought forth in what you wanted for your kids?”

Jacksonville-area residents last year approved the creation of the new school district with 95 percent of the vote.

Wood, a Searcy-area resident, said that, for now at least, he would not be moving to Jacksonville, but that he would nonetheless be of the community in regard to participation and community events.

In a brief interview, Lester said that Wood submitted his job application the day before the deadline, but that he would be glad to hand over the reins to Wood at the end of his contract, June 30.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson re-placed Wood, the former state Education Commissioner, on March 25. As deputy commissioner, he is no longer involved in decision-making regarding PCSSD and JNPSD, so he’s free to work with Lester and Gray until he starts full time.

Because the state took over PCSSD in 2011 and dissolved the school board, the education commissioner has been a one-man board for PCSSD and, by default, for JNPSD.

He has worked previously with “Bobcat Lester,” and with Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart, and said, “I hope I can do what they’ve done in terms of being a service to the community.”

Later, at the school board meeting, Wood was introduced to the audience, as were Charles Stein, current director of the state transportation and facilities partnership program, who retires this summer and will help JNP navigate the tricky waters of that program.

Jacksonville is expected to be eligible for about 55 percent matching money from the state for approved facilities construction or remodeling, but won’t be eligible to receive funds until 2017-18.

Also acknowledged were the district’s attorneys, Patrick Wilson and Scott Richardson.

The board recognized the achievements of three students and one team of students.

Caleb Brackett, a Dupree Elementary School student, was recognized as state champion and eighth nationally in an essay contest about successful investing.

He will compete in the regionals and faced off against 684 other entrants.

Jonah Rodgers, president of the Jacksonville High School student council, was recognized for a slew of academic achievements.

John Herman, another high-achieving Jacksonville High School student, was accepted to West Point Academy for engineering training. Earlier, he was accepted into the Air Force Academy.

The Jacksonville High School Automotive Team, which tore down and rebuilt an engine in 35 minutes, qualified for the National High School Automotive competition.

Lester reported that he and the board are investigating membership in the Wilbur D. Mills Educational Cooperative.

He also said plans were being made for the North Pulaski High School and Jacksonville High School bands to practice and perform together as one unit, much as the football teams will do beginning in the fall.