Friday, January 29, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers earn first conference win

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe boys picked up their first 5A-Central Conference victory of the season Tuesday night at Badger Arena with a 60-39 win over North Pulaski.

Beebe (3-12, 1-6) set the tone early in the first quarter. The Badgers led 6-0 on a pair of 3-pointers by Austin Moore and Bryson Bell. North Pulaski (2-11, 0-6) scored three of the next five points, but Moore hit another three to give the Badgers an 11-3 lead with 2:34 left in the opening quarter.

After Moore’s three, the hosts ended the quarter with a 7-0 run to lead 18-3 at the start of the second quarter, and the Badgers’ scoring run continued from there. Grant Jackson and Moore each made a free throw to extend the lead to 20-3 before Moore hit his fourth three of the game 52 seconds into the quarter, which gave Beebe a commanding 23-3 lead.

North Pulaski’s scoring drought ended on the ensuing possession with a Braxton McKinney three, but Beebe eventually built its lead back to 20, and led by 24 at the half with the score 34-10.

Beebe coach Ryan Marshall was pleased with the 34 points his team posted in the first half, but was especially proud of the defensive and rebounding efforts.

“I thought we did do a good job with our defensive effort,” said Marshall. “Our rebounding effort was really good in the first half. I thought Jackson came in and set the tempo with that, but I’m very proud of the way they defended and rebounded in the first half.”

Jackson nearly outrebounded the Falcons by himself in the first half. He grabbed seven of his game-high 13 rebounds in the first two quarters of play, while NP totaled nine first-half boards. Jackson added 12 points, giving him a double-double.

“That was by far his best game, all around, of the year,” Marshall said of Jackson, “but a lot of that was just his mindset to do some little things that we challenged him to do, and I thought he did a real good job of that.”

Moore hit his fifth three of the game 32 seconds into the second half to extend the Badgers’ lead to 37-10, which ended up being Beebe’s largest lead of the second half. Though the 27-point margin was Beebe’s largest lead, the Falcons barely got within 20 points of Beebe’s lead the rest of the way.

With 1:57 to play in the third quarter, NP made it a 42-21 game on a pair of McKinney free throws, but Beebe closed the quarter with four unanswered points to lead 46-21 at the start of the fourth.

At the 4:42 mark of the fourth quarter, senior guard Jermaine Lopez drove in a contested layup to make the score 50-30. The Beebe lead was down to 18 shortly after, but Moore made a pair of free throws with four minutes to play that pushed it back to 20, with the score 54-34.

Moore made two more free throws a minute later to extend the lead to 56-34, and the Falcons closed the game with a 5-4 run to set the final point totals.

Beebe finished the game 16 for 36 from the floor for 44 percent, while the Falcons made 15 of 49 shots for 31 percent. From 3-point range, the Badgers made 6 of 15 attempts and NP made 2 of 11 from downtown. From the free-throw line, Beebe was 22 for 33 and North Pulaski was 7 for 17.

The Badgers outrebounded the Falcons 35-17, but North Pulaski had fewer turnovers, committing 16 to Beebe’s 22.

Jackson was one of two Badgers that scored in double figures Tuesday. Moore led all scorers with 24 points. McKinney was the only Falcon that scored in double figures, finishing with 12.

Beebe traveled to J.A. Fair on Wednesday for a make-up 5A-Central game that was originally scheduled for Jan. 22. The War Eagles got away with a 52-37 win, but not before getting a scare from the Badgers. Beebe led at the end of the first quarter, and held Fair leading scorer Jerrick Cole scoreless the entire first half.

Beebe led 7-4 at the end of the first quarter, and still held a 13-12 lead midway through the second when the home team began to find its range.

The War Eagles outscored Beebe 10-1 over the final three minutes of the half, and took a 22-14 lead into the locker room.

Cole began to find openings in the second half, and combined with a solid effort by post player Kris Bankston, Fair was able to take control.

Bankston finished with a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds while Cole added 13 for the War Eagles. Bell led the Badgers with 15 points on 5 for 9 3-point shooting.

SPORTS STORY >> Rally in fourth lifts Devils over Bears

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills’ JaCobé Davis hit two free throws with 1:52 remaining in the game to give the Bears a four-point lead. Sylvan Hills had not trailed since the first quarter, but it was the last two points the Bears would score the rest of the game. In yet another down-to-the-wire 5A-Central basketball game, the Jacksonville Red Devils came away with a 62-60 victory Tuesday at the Devils’ Den.

Jacksonville has beaten Beebe and North Pulaski by wide margins and was blown out by an 85-percent shooting night by J.A. Fair. The Red Devils are 2-1 in their other conference games, and all three have come down to the last possession.

How a win in this most brutal of leagues is achieved does not matter to Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner.

“A win is a win is a win in this league,” said Joyner. “It don’t matter how you get it. Sylvan Hills has some players. Give those guys some credit. They came out with a good game plan – same thing they did to PA. They wanted to keep a guy glued to Appleby the whole time, and we don’t really have a strong enough post game to make them pay for that. We’re too small. But Chris (Williams) was able to finish some shots early on, and our guards stepped up late in the game and pulled it out. I don’t even really know how we ended up winning the game, but we won it and that’s all that matters.

“I know this, our guards have out-played everybody we’ve played this year. Our postmen have played as hard or harder than everybody we’ve played. We’re just so small. We have to play harder than everybody or we can’t win. This team has played their butts off all year and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

Jacksonville trailed most of the game. The Red Devils scored the first five points while Sylvan Hills missed its first eight shots of the game. The Bears didn’t score for the first four minutes. Junior post player Jordan Washington finally scored with 3:55 remaining in the opening quarter to make the score 5-2. Five seconds later, Jacksonville’s Tyree Appleby was called for carrying, and five seconds after that Cordy Winston penetrated and dished to Davis for an easy layup.

Both teams went cold from there. Winston tied the game with a transition layup with 2:38 to go in the opening period. Seventeen seconds later, Winston beat the JHS defense down the court after a missed shot to give the Bears an 8-6 lead – a lead they would not relinquish until the fourth quarter.

Jacksonville managed to tie the game at 12 with the last shot of the first quarter, but Sylvan Hills scored the first five points of the second quarter, and did not trail again until the last bucket of the game.

The Bears led 50-43 going into the final quarter. Jacksonville opened the fourth in sort of a full-court press.

“We extended the defense and trapped if they threw it into a trapping lane,” Joyner said. “It wasn’t an all-out press.”

The scheme worked, and Sylvan Hills began turning the ball over. The Bears had committed 10 turnovers through the first three quarters combined, but committed six in the fourth quarter.

But Sylvan Hills’ defense was good, too. Jacksonville disrupted the Bears’ offensive rhythm, but still trailed 56-50 with four minutes remaining. That’s when Bralyn James missed a 3-pointer, but got the ball back after an offensive rebound and assist by Williams. He made his second attempt to make the score 56-53 with 3:42 remaining in the game.

Sylvan Hills turned it over on the ensuing possession and LaQuawn Smith got an offensive rebound and was fouled at the other end. He made 1 of 2 to pull the Red Devils within two points, but Davis made it 58-54 with 3:02 left.

The Bears got a defensive stop when Smith missed and Sylvan Hills’ Sam Williams got the rebound. But Chris Williams got back on defense and intercepted the outlet pass for Jacksonville. He threw to Smith, who was streaking to the basket, for a layup that made it 58-56 with 2:30 on the clock.

Jacksonville had a chance to tie the game when James got a steal on the Bears’ next possession, but Appleby missed a contested layup and Sam Williams got the rebound for the Bears to set up Davis’ two free throws with 1:52 remaining.

After Davis’ free throws, Sylvan Hills got a defensive stop, but Winston lost his dribble near midcourt against a Jacksonville double team. James picked up the loose ball and passed to DaJuan Ridgeway, who was fouled with 1:22 remaining.

He made both free throws to make it a two-point game. Sylvan Hills sophomore post player Alex Curry then threw the ball out of bounds from the high post, expecting a teammate to cut towards the basket. With 1:25 remaining, Appleby hit two free throws to tie the game. Eight seconds later, Jacksonville’s pressure forced a loose ball that resulted in a tie-up and Jacksonville possession.

Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis elected to let the Red Devils hold the ball for the last shot. Jacksonville passed the ball back-and-forth near midcourt between Appleby and Ridgeway for more than a minute. With 10 seconds left, the Bears ran a double team out to Appleby. The junior Red Devil went right and easily around the double team, and all the way to the basket for an easy layup that set the final margin. He was also fouled, and missed the free throw with 3.4 seconds left.

Sylvan Hills (12-7, 3-3) called timeout to set up a final shot, and the plan worked perfectly except the shot going in. JaCobé Davis found himself wide open for a 22-footer from the right wing, but the shot was off to the right at the buzzer, sealing Jacksonville’s victory.

“Games like this hurt by no more than any other,” said Kevin Davis. “You want to win all of them at home. We came in here and tried to steal one and almost pulled it off. I thought we outplayed them in the first half, and then the second half was really hard to establish any flow at all with all the fouls. It disrupted both teams so I don’t want to make excuses, but they called the second half totally different than the first and that was hard to adjust to – for both teams.”

There were 69 free throws shot in the game, and 45 were in the second half. Joyner was no more pleased with the officiating than Davis.

“That was the worst game we’ve played in all year,” Joyner said. “There was no flow to the second half and no consistency with what they were calling. Guys were getting hammered around the basket and nothing, but then there were little touch fouls out on the court. It’s crazy. It’s ridiculous.”

Neither team shot free throws very well. Jacksonville, usually a solid free-throw shooting team, was 18 of 35 while Sylvan Hills was slightly better at 22 of 34. It still wasn’t good enough for Kevin Davis.

“You miss 10, 12 free throws and lose on the last shot, that’s pretty much on you,” Davis said. “We can point at this or that, but if we make 25 percent of those we missed, we win the game. Missed free throws drive me crazy, especially with a team like we have this year that’s capable of getting to the line.”

Four Red Devils (12-6, 4-2) finished in double figures. Smith recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Ridgeway added 13, Appleby 12 and Chris Williams 10.

JaCobé Davis scored 17 while Winston had 10 points for the Bears. Washington had eight points and a game-high 14 rebounds.

SPORTS STORY >> Weeks twins once again top vaulters

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE — Razorback freshman pole-vaulter Alexis Weeks won the Razorback Invitational on Friday at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville with a jump of 4.43 meters (14-feet, 6-1/4 inches). It was her second win in three collegiate meets.

Her twin sister Victoria took second place with her best performance as a college athlete, clearing 4.33 meters (14-2-1/2), which qualifies her for the NCAA nationals.

Alexis Weeks suffered a scary start. The Cabot graduate, who already has the top collegiate vault in the nation this year, missed her first two jumps at her entry height of 3.98 meters, but, after clearing that height, went on to her second victory.

She finished second at New Mexico University last week to professional Nike athlete Mary Saxer, who competed unattached.

Alexis Weeks may have been slowed Friday by a nagging injury that kept her from vaulting in practice this week.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever done that,” Alexis Weeks said about missing her first two jumps. “That was scary. I’ve never no-heighted before. I was just coming up way short on it. I had the height. I was just coming down on top of it. I wasn’t getting depth into the mat.”

She has been nursing hamstring and lower back stiffness and hasn’t done any actual jumping since the meet in Albuquerque, but doesn’t think the injuries are serious.

“I just think it’s my body getting used to all the new training and taking so many more jumps than I used to. I think it’ll be fine.”

After Tori Weeks missed on her attempt at 4.33, Lexi took three shots at improving her personal best of 14-9 set two weeks ago, which is also the highest collegiate jump of the year so far.

Her second attempt at 14-10 1/2 was high enough, but again she came down on the bar. Lexi Weeks has a goal this season of clearing 15-feet.

“My second jump at the last height, I felt I had the height to get 15 but I came up short again,” Lexi Weeks said. “But I think I have it in me.”

Tori Weeks had a goal of 4.28 meters to qualify for the NCAA nationals, so considers her 4.33 a strong performance. Her personal best is 14-7, or 4.45 meters.

“I had a good day today,” said Tori Weeks. “My goal was to jump high enough to qualify for nationals and I did even a little better than that. So now I can breathe a little bit and maybe compete a little more relaxed. I didn’t jump that well in New Mexico, so I really wanted to come in here and have a good day today.

“I guess my goal next week will be 14-6 and just inch up there. My goal for the season is 14-9 and qualify for the (Olympics) trials. I think I have it in me. I just need to work on some things. I’ve kind of been conservative in the box and I need to just hit it harder.”

Fifth-year senior Ariel Voskamp, also from Cabot, did not have her best day, but still finished sixth overall with a jump of 3.98 meters.

Oklahoma freshman McKenzie Shell finished third with a jump of 4.18 meters.

Arkansas senior Megan Zimlich and University of Georgia junior Georgia Stefanidi each cleared 4.08 meters to finish fourth and fifth.

UCLA freshman Greta Wagner and Texas A&M sophomore Sara Kathryn Stevens rounded out the scoring by placing seventh and eighth, respectively.

The Razorback Women, ranked No. 1 nationally, will travel to College Station, Texas for the Texas A&M Invitational next weekend before returning to Fayetteville to host the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 12 and 13.

EDITORIAL >> Custodian passes away

Kenneth L. King, 60, of North Little Rock passed away on Jan. 16. He was a big, quiet fellow who kept the Jacksonville post office clean for more than 25 years.

He seldom said very much as he mopped the floor. He’d say hello to people he recognized, and he’d even have an occasional conversation with visitors. He was always friendly if people asked him for information about their mail. Sometimes he’d knock on the back door if the counter clerks had closed up shop, and he’d get people their package.

Hardly anybody knew his name. We were just the newspaper people to him. But he kept the place clean for a long time. Sometimes it was hard to keep up with the filth people dropped in the parking lot. There’d be dirty diapers and broken glass and lots of cigarette butts. He never complained, though.

Then suddenly he was gone. The Jacksonville post office will not be the same without him. Rest in Peace, Mr. King. May your memory be a blessing.

To defray the cost of his funeral, please send a contribution in Mr. King’s name to ACTS Church, 1224 Franklin St., North Little Rock, Ark. 72114.

EDITORIAL >> SIG Sauer's new home

The area’s economy got a needed boost last week when Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that SIG Sauer will open an ammunitions plant in Jacksonville and Remington Arms will expand its Lonoke factory.

SIG Sauer USA is based in Exeter, N.H., a bucolic New England town that is best known for the elite preparatory school Phillips Exeter Academy that’s educated many of the country’s most successful people since 1781.

The gun company is owned by a private investment group called L & O Holding in Emsdetten, Germany, and has an Israeli chief executive officer who was educated at Technion in Haifa, Israel, one of the world’s best engineering universities.

So it’s no surprise SIG Sauer, favored by military members and police officers around the world, chose Jacksonville — a proud military community — to expand its operations.

SIG Sauer will create 75 jobs to manufacture ammunition in the old Meador’s Lighting building on Swift Drive off Marshall Road. It plans to build a new manufacturing facility as it continues to grow.

Meanwhile, Remington said it will add 80 jobs to its already 1,200-strong workforce with a $12 million investment.

Gov. Hutchinson, a staunch supporter of gun rights and a former National Rifle Association lobbyist, made the announcements during a firearms convention in Las Vegas.

“The fact that a world-class company like SIG Sauer is choosing to do business in the state adds to our momentum in manufacturing, and we appreciate this significant commitment they are making to locate in Arkansas,” he said.

During the governor’s speech Tuesday at the Cabot Chamber of Commerce banquet, he emphasized that people from all over the area will benefit from the new job opportunities.

“I have full confidence that folks from Cabot will be employed in all those arenas,” he said.

“(SIG Sauer and Remington) came to me and said they had options to go to different places, but no one beat Arkansas in terms of workforce and state support,” Hutchinson said.

The governor is convinced more good news is coming to Arkansas, and Mayor Gary Fletcher believes there’s more in store for Jacksonville, including the announcement this week that Edwards Cash Saver will soon go into the Knight’s Super Foods Store. Perhaps a new era has begun. Welcome to SIG Sauer, Edwards Cash Saver and all the good folks who will boost our local economy.

TOP STORY >> Young firefighter remembered

Leader staff writer

Hundreds of first responders gathered Thursday to lay to rest one of their own, 29-year-old Lt. Ronald Jason Adams, whom co-workers affectionately called their “quirky little man.”

The McArthur Church parking lot in Jacksonville was packed with fire trucks, police cars and other emergency response vehicles that were part of the processional in his honor.

Adams was shot and killed Jan. 22, soon after arriving at 211 Dortch Loop in North Little Rock in response to a medical call about someone having a seizure.

He was there as a member of the East Pulaski Volunteer Fire Department, but also worked for the Sherwood and Scott fire departments.

The resident, 47-year-old Mark Eugene Pruitt, has been charged with manslaughter, a felony. His plea and arraignment is 9 a.m. Feb. 23 at Pulaski County District Court.

Phil Flynn of the Sherwood Fire Department shared Adams’ nickname during the funeral. Bagpipes were played and six, including the church’s pastor, spoke.

Flynn explained how the nickname was proof Adams had been accepted by his peers. “It means that you have earned their respect, and your crew will not only do battle with you, but for you, should they be called upon to do so.”

He continued, “Quirky, you say? Well, we all agreed it was the best word that fit him. Quirky by definition: characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.”

Flynn said, “Jason’s smile and quick wit, (his) one-liners could invoke uncontrollable laughter from his crew after a particularly difficult emergency response or shift.” Flynn noted that the firefighters who worked with Adams deemed the young man’s antics “Jasonism.”

He also said, “Jason, you were a giant in the way that you loved. If you were his friend, he loved you and you knew it. He delighted in doing things for you, whether it was on duty, with his crew, or off duty. Truly, acts of service must have been one of Jason’s love languages.”

Flynn spoke of how, when asked to do something, Adams would reply, “No problem, boss” to let the people who asked know he trusted and respected them.

He said Adams talked often about the family and friends he loved. Flynn recalled how Adams’ eyes lit up when speaking about his wife.

The couple lived on a farm, raised chickens and had many animals, including two rescue dogs and a hamster a co-worker had given Adams. The firefighter named the hamster “Annie” because she was an orphan — little orphan Annie, Flynn shared.

Flynn also called Adams a “quiet servant” who wouldn’t have wanted all the fuss of his funeral that was full of ceremony.

East Pulaski Fire Chief Steven Strawn recalled how Adams would turn the lights on in every truck, making sure everything worked, and walk around with a huge smile on his face. “I don’t know if he ever grew out of that the 10 years he was with us.”

The chief also said Adams wanted all of the firefighters to be the best they could be. He would set up different scenarios for them to practice with, teaching as they ran through them.

Jodie Hartman with the Sherwood Fire Department told those gathered at the funeral how Adams had always carried a pocketful of stickers. He enjoyed giving kids the stickers, toy trucks and plastic helmets, Hartman explained.

He added that the fallen firefighter always had a project going, and, for him, “close enough would never cut it.” Adams always wanted to improve everything, Hartman said.

Sherwood Fire Chief David Teague also spoke. He said Adams loved helping people and that he had survived cancer twice.

The young man was also a member of the Arkansas Urban Search and Rescue Task Force One, an adjunct instructor for the Arkansas Fire Academy and a trustee of the Sherwood Firefighters Association Local 2756, Teague noted.

The chief remembered how he wanted to hire Adams before the young man attended the academy, but had to wait eight weeks because Adams was so eager to learn.

Teague then told Adams’ relatives that their loved one’s firefighter family was there to help God get them through this “raging storm” of grief.

TOP STORY >> Edwards buying Knight’s in Jacksonville

GES, Inc., owner and operator of Edwards Food Giant and Edwards Cash Saver supermarkets, will open a new Edwards Cash Saver at the Knight’s location at 315 S. James St. in Jacksonville.

This will be the seventh store in central Arkansas for the Edwards family since entering the market in 2009.

Steve Edwards, owner and president, said that the company had been looking to expand in the Jacksonville area for a few years and was able to negotiate with the Knight family to buy their supermarket as well as the Jackson Square Shopping Center. Knight’s will continue to operate in Cabot and Beebe.

Edwards said a big attraction for the company was the recent announcement of the new school complex being built and the commitment of the Jacksonville residents to invest back into their community. He also spoke about the recent news of the SIG Sauer ammo-manufacturing facility and their investment in the city.

The Jackson Square Shopping Center will get a facelift, and all parking lot lighting will be improved to guarantee a comfortable and safe shopping experience. The remodeled interior of the supermarket will feature new equipment, lighting and décor.

When the transaction is completed, the current Knight’s supermarket will be closed for a few weeks during a complete remodel.

Because this is a Cost Plus supermarket similar to the Edwards Cash Saver store in North Little Rock, all goods will be available at the store’s cost plus 10 percent at checkout.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said Edwards coming to Jacksonville is another sign of economic growth in the city. “This is a win for all of us. To have someone like Steve Edwards and their reputation moving into Jacksonville raises the game,” the mayor said.

“This is an example of what schools can do for a community,” Fletcher said, referring to plans to spend $80 million on new schools if voters pass a millage increase Feb. 9. “Education drives economic development that translates into more jobs.”

The mayor said remodeling the store and the shopping center “will have a ripple effect on the whole area.”

The Edwards stores have become known as “The Meat People” and the Jacksonville store will include a large meat department. It will include the finest meats at great prices, featuring certified Angus beef, Edwards said.

Although the store will not include a full service deli, it will have a large smoker making hot smoked ribs, chickens, pork, brisket and other meat items available daily. The store will also have a large fresh produce department along with a full selection of name brand and private label grocery items.

Edwards said all company associates are excited about the Jacksonville location and look forward to opening the store.

GES, Inc., an Arkansas corporation, was formed in 1968 to consolidate a group of supermarkets. The corporation now owns eight supermarkets since moving into the Little Rock market in 2009.

Oral and Steve Edwards, who have more than 80 years of grocery experience between them, own GES, Inc. Along with Gary Proffitt, vice president of operations, the Edwards family also owns Tobacco Warehouse, LLC, which operates convenience stores.

The supermarkets and convenience stores are all in Arkansas and operate under the Edwards Food Giant and FG Express banners. “We continue to improve our stores and add new departments in order to protect our markets and better serve our customers,” Steve Edwards said.

The company traces its roots back to 1959, when founder Oral Edwards started his career in the grocery business as an assistant manager in Millington, Tenn. He next moved to Kennett, Mo., in 1961 as a store manager.

In 1962, he became part owner in a new store. He loaded up his family for the third and final time and moved to Forrest City in east Arkansas, where a new Liberty Supermarket opened there in 1962.

By today’s standards, it was a small store, but it was huge for that time. Forrest City became home for Oral and Christine Edwards and their children, Steve and Susan.

The business grew from there as locations opened in Harrisburg, Marianna, McCrory, Augusta and at four Little Rock sites.

TOP STORY >> Governor touts growth

Leader staff writer

Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke about jobs, lower taxes, highway funding and expanding Little Rock Air Force Base as the guest speaker at the Cabot Chamber of Commerce’s 55th annual membership banquet held Tuesday at the Freshman Academy.

Hutchinson said the state’s employment rate has dropped from 5 percent to 4.8 percent. He said that means 38,000 jobs have been added since he took office in January 2015.

Hutchinson said, when jobs are created and there are opportunities and growth potential, it attracts people to move from out of state or other communities.

He said he went to New York City to speak with site-selection consultants for economic development. He told them Arkansas was the right place to be, geographically, logistically and for its workforce.

The governor went to Las Vegas for a shooting industry trade show, where manufacturers showcase products and new technologies.

Hutchinson said he was the first governor from Arkansas to attend the shooting show. The only other governor was from Nevada, according to Hutchinson.

“I was there knocking on doors and made the announcement that Remington Arms is expanding employment and investment in Lonoke. They came to me and said they had options to go to different places, but no one beat Arkansas in terms of workforce and state support,” Hutchinson said.

Last week it was announced that SIG Sauer Arms of New Hampshire is opening a premium ammunition plant in Jacksonville. SIG Sauer plans to have more than 75 jobs.

“I have full confidence that folks from Cabot will be employed in all those arenas,” the governor said.

Hutchinson said the CEOs of the companies told him they do not get any attention in the Northeast and to see a governor solicit them to come to Arkansas meant a lot to them.

“SIG Sauer Arms has a commitment here, and it will be exciting to see where that goes,” Hutchinson said.

He also spoke about going to the Paris Air Show. He said Arkansas’ leading export is aero defense at $1.6 billion. Camden has defense contractors General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

“There are folks who live in Cabot that work at Dassault Falcon Jet in Little Rock.

“Dassault Falcon Jet has more than 2,000 employees. We are encouraging continued investment here in Arkansas. If you buy a Falcon jet anywhere in the world, you have to fly into Little Rock to pick it up. What a great promotion,” Hutchinson said.

The governor also went to a steel show in Germany.

“Soon Arkansas will have the leading steel producing county in the nation with Mississippi County with Nucor-Yamato Steel and Big River Steel. They will be employing hundreds of workers,” Hutchinson said.

“It will put Arkansas in a better position down the road to bring in the supply chain that depends on steel production,” he said.

Hutchinson went to Cuba to promote and sell Arkansas poultry and rice to the country.

“When I came back, they made an order for 450,000 tons of Arkansas poultry. It does make a difference when you go there,” Hutchinson said.

He said, “We need to open up that market for our Arkansas agriculture products. Congress needs to be able to allow businesses to make the judgement to extend credit. Right now, we have to sell to Cuba based on cash transactions. We are competing with Brazil and Thailand that can sell to them on credit,” Hutchinson explained.

“I hope this shows why it is important for the governor to promote this state. You can get the audience that is needed and open doors, and it makes a difference in this global commerce,” the governor noted.


The legislature and the governor lowered the income tax rate in the state, a $100 million income tax reduction.

“I believe this is important because we need to grow the small businesses in Cabot,” Hutchinson said.

He said, if you put $500 more a year into the consumer’s pocket by taking less from the payroll deductions because the income tax has been reduced, that person has more money to spend in local stores.

“It is going to grow our economy. I believe it is very important in Arkansas that we grow the private sector faster than the government sector of the economy,” Hutchinson said.


Hutchinson spoke on putting up $400,000 to start a support initiative for the five military bases in Arkansas.

“You support it. Jacksonville and Lonoke County support Little Rock Air Force Base. I wanted to make sure we did, as a state, all that we could to make sure they have the support they need. We can make the case that there needs to be expansion at Little Rock Air Force Base. It ought to be stronger, have more missions and protect those missions in the future,” Hutchinson said.

“As defense cuts come, they are going to continue to look at savings. We want to put ourselves in the strongest position. When you do that, you are supporting military personnel and military retirees that mean so much to this state,” the governor added.


TV weatherman Pat Walker of Cabot, the banquet’s emcee, asked the governor if he had noticed the traffic along Hwy. 89 on his way to the chamber dinner. Walker said it seems like Cabot has a parade three times a day.

Hutchinson said the best way to have money for roads is to have a $750 million highway plan over 10 years with state money that will allow Arkansas to capitalize on $2 billion of federal money that is available.

“We have a declining revenue source for our highway department, and we have greater needs because of growth, and we have to be able to get federal matching money,” Hutchinson said.

“I propose we use excess surplus we have after all our needs in education and other services are met. This year, we are going to apply $40 million in surplus and $6 million in general revenue to match. There are no new taxes that I have proposed to Arkansans,” Hutchinson continued.

He said a specialized fuel tax could help accelerate highway funding, but that he is against the idea.

“As our economy is recovering, workers in Arkansas are having the benefit of lower gas prices. Let’s not take that rug out from under them and increase the gas taxes again. Let them enjoy that extra spending money and help their families.

“We can take care of the needs in a shift of general revenues and the surplus generated,” Hutchinson said.


Hutchinson then spoke about his health-care program called “Arkansas Works.”

A special legislative session will be held to address the program. He said it is designed for working people trying to move up the economic ladder and that the state can afford it.

Hutchinson said the private option Medicaid expansion added 200,000 people. He said there are gaps in it. Hutchinson said he wants to move it into the future with more work requirements in place.

“If you are going to be in the Medicaid population, you need to be referred for worker training and prepared to get a job. You are going to have to take personal responsibility. If you are making over 100 percent of the federal poverty level, you ought to contribute a couple percent of income to a premium cost, just like somebody else working on the same plan. If there is employer insurance that is available, you ought to take advantage of that versus government insurance.”

Hutchinson said it is the right program for the state’s budget.

The event also included the chamber’s annual change of leadership.

Outgoing president David Butler spoke on how the chamber impacts Cabot.

“The chamber is a networking group through ribbon cuttings, chamber after hours events and local lunches. The chamber helps educate through seminars and scholarships. It has community involvement with dinners for deployed spouses and Cabot Fest,” Butler said.

Incoming president Stacy O’Gary said, when she was selected for the position, she was grateful to be able to give back to the community.

“A trip to Walmart can take close to two hours because we can find five to 10 people we need to visit with. This is what I cherish about our community,” O’Gary said.

She said the city has grown but still has small-town values.

“In the upcoming year, I would like us to come together and support our local businesses. Let us be the glue that helps our city stand out and exceed our own expectations,” O’Gary said.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Heber Springs rallies for win over ’Rabbits

Leader sports editor

If one looked at just the very beginning and very end of the game, it would appear Heber Springs led Lonoke from pillar to post. Truth is, the Jackrabbits dominated nearly the entire game before succumbing in the fourth quarter. In the end, the Panthers prevailed 59-54 in Monday’s make-up game at the Gina Cox Center, avenging a 74-68 home loss to the Jackrabbits in November.

Heber Springs jumped out to a 7-3 lead as Lonoke missed its first five shots in the first three minutes of the game. But from the 5:02 mark to the end of the opening period the Jackrabbits went on a 13-0 run. Bryson Jackson then opened the second quarter with a nifty dish to Kylan Branscomb for a huge dunk that completed the run at 15-0 and gave the home team an 18-7 lead.

The lead never got any bigger, but the Panthers couldn’t get any closer than six, and that only briefly, until the fourth quarter. That began to change with the last bucket of the third quarter.

Heber Springs’ Hunter Chandler scored to pull the Panthers to within 44-38, and they were within 46-43 within 90 seconds of the fourth.

Jawaun Bryant scored for Lonoke, but Heber answered to make the score 48-45 and force a Lonoke timeout.

The Panthers scored the first four points after the break. Two free throws by Jordan Adkins gave Heber Springs its first lead since halfway through the first quarter at 49-48 with 4:38 remaining.

Lonoke turned it over on the ensuing possession but got a defensive stop. Branscomb then put back a Bryant miss to put the Jackrabbits back in front with three minutes remaining.

Isaac Toney then got a steal. His outlet pass went to Tyler Spencer who dished to Jackson for a layup and a 52-49 Lonoke lead with 2:30 remaining.

Heber Springs then closed the game with a decisive 10-2 run.

It started with a dubious foul call on Justin Meadows that sent Chase Galloway to the line for two free throws. Bryant then traveled with the basketball on the ensuing possession, and Chandler scored at the other end to put the Panthers up 53-52 with 1:25 to play.

Spencer then penetrated the lane and hit a huge short jumper, his first basket of the game, to give Lonoke a 54-53 lead with 1:10 left, but it was the last Lonoke basket of the game.

Chandler was fouled again, making the foul count 11-4 in Heber’s favor, and hit both free throws with 39 seconds to play. Lonoke had a chance to hold for the last shot, but made only one pass before Bryant threw up a contested shot and missed with 30 seconds to play.

Chandler got the rebound and after dribbling into the frontcourt, called timeout with 22 seconds to play. Lonoke fouled Chandler with 20 seconds to play and he again made both free throws.

Bryant missed a 3-pointer off the back of the rim, and the long rebound led to a run-out bucket by Slade Welch just before the buzzer that set the final margin.

Heber Springs (9-9, 7-4) got no scoring contribution from its bench. Chandler led all scorers with 21 points, including 12 of 13 from the free-throw line, and made it a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Welch scored 15 for the Panthers while Adkins added 11 and Galloway 10. Heber Springs went 18 of 21 from the foul line and 18 of 47 from the floor, including 5 of 15 from 3-point range.

Branscomb led Lonoke with a double-double, scoring 13 and grabbing 10 rebounds. Jackson and Bryant each scored 11 while Meadows added nine despite missing most of the game with foul trouble. Spencer had five assists.

Lonoke (11-9, 4-7) went 21 for 55 from the floor and an impressive 17 of 36 from 2-point range. But the Jackrabbits were just 8 of 16 at the free-throw line and 4 of 19 from outside the arc.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot dominates in MH sweep

Leader sports editor

The Cabot basketball teams picked up a conference sweep of Mountain Home on Saturday at Panther Arena. The game was a make-up of Friday’s cancellation due to snow. The Lady Panthers won without much difficulty, 48-26, while the boys won even more easily, hammering the Bombers 75-35.

The girls’ game was closely contested in the first and third periods, but Cabot dominated the second and fourth quarters.

Cabot led just 6-5 at the end of the first quarter. Junior post player Haley Sobczak scored four-straight to start the game, but the offenses stalled from that point. Cabot led 6-0 before Mountain Home’s Hannah Pfeifer hit a 3-pointer and Maly Tabor hit for two to pull the Lady Bombers (11-7, 2-2) to within one late in the quarter.

Cabot scored first in the second, but Pfeifer’s second 3-pointer tied the game a minute into the period. That’s when Cabot began to pull away.

The Lady Panthers outscored Mountain Home 15-5 the rest of the half and led 23-13 at intermission.

The Lady Bombers trailed by 11 when another quick 5-0 run cut the margin to 29-23. Micah Hudson scored all five points of the run for the visitors, but Leighton Taylor answered with the last bucket of the quarter to make it 31-23.

The fourth quarter was all Cabot (11-9, 2-3). Mountain Home managed just one 3-pointer over the last eight minutes while Cabot scored 17.

Hudson’s 3-pointer made it 34-26, but the Lady Panthers closed the game with a 14-0 run.

Hudson led Mountain Home and was the only Lady Bomber in double figures with 13 points. Cabot held Mountain Home to just 28 shot attempts. The Lady Bombers were just 2 of 17 from 2-point range and 5 for 11 from three. They made 7 of 10 free-throw attempts.

CoCo Calhoon led Cabot with 14 points while Taylor, Rachel Allgood and Madi Nichols each scored seven points. Cabot went 17 of 41 from the floor, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range. The Lady Panthers made 13 of 15 free-throw attempts and outrebounded Mountain Home 19-14.

The Cabot boys controlled the action from the outset, and blew the game open early in the second quarter.

Cabot guard Jalen Brown was on fire in the opening frame, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring all 11 of his points to lead the Panthers to a 17-10 advantage by the end of the period.

Cabot then opened the second with a 12-1 run that buried the Bombers.

Bobby Joe Duncan and Jarrod Barnes contributed five points apiece during a 10-0 run that started at 19-11.

The Panthers took a 36-17 lead into the locker room at halftime, and continued to dominate in the third quarter.

The third quarter was the Panthers’ best, outscoring Mountain Home 28-10 and taking a mercy-rule invoking 64-27 lead into the fourth quarter.

A total of 16 Panthers logged minutes and 11 scored. Barnes led off the bench with 13 to go with Brown’s 11.

Garrett Rowe added 10 for the Panthers (12-5, 3-2). Christian Weir scored a season-high seven for Cabot.

No Bomber scored in double figures. Howie Wehmeyer led Mountain Home (4-13, 0-4) with seven points.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win swim meet in Lonoke

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panther boys’ and girls’ swim teams won the Lonoke-Carlisle Invitational Monday at the Lonoke Community Center. The small meet included six girls’ teams and five boys’ teams. The Lady Panthers won by a wide margin over second place Pocahontas with 779 points to the Lady Redskins’ 346. The North Little Rock girls were third with 251. Lonoke finished with 56 points, Carlisle with 29 and the Parkview girls scored 11.

The Cabot boys scored 572 points to better North Little Rock’s 318. Pocahontas finished with 229.5, Parkview 120 and Lonoke 110.5.

Cabot senior Jessie Baldwin and Lonoke junior Kayla McGee were the only two swimmers to win two individual events. McGee won the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:22.33, beating Cabot’s Melanie Abbott by a little more than eight seconds. She also won the 100-yard freestyle as the only swimmer to finish in less than a minute. Her time of 56.85 beat out Cabot junior Maddie Darcey’s second-place time of 1:01.28.

Carlisle’s Tristan Bennett earned 14 points for the Lady Bison with a fifth-place finish in that race.

Baldwin won the 100-yard butterfly, also beating Abbott with a time of 1:03.97, and blew away the field in the 100-yard backstroke. Her time of 1:03.16 was more than 20 seconds faster than second-place Sharidan Mitchell, also of Cabot. In the butterfly, Lady Panthers made up five of the top six spots. Izzy Dulin was third, Kristen Meyer fourth and Hannah Eilts sixth. Only Pocahontas’ Jessica Cooper broke up the top-six sweep with a fifth-place finish.

Cabot senior Caytee Wright won the 200-yard freestyle. Her time of 1:58.95 was the only sub two-minute time. Her teammates, Abigail Breedlove and Darcey were second and third. Carlisle’s Bennett finished fourth for 15 points.

Breedlove and Dulin were first and second in the 500-yard freestyle. Breedlove finished in 5:57.34 and Dulin in 6:23.91.

Cabot swept the top two spots in the girls’ 200-yard medley relay. The team of Baldwin, Abbott, Breedlove and Wright finished in 2:00.62. The Cabot team of Darcey, Shea Copeland, Dulin and Vicky Ray finished in 2:11.09.

The second-place team in the medley relay was the same group that finished first in the freestyle relay, with a slightly different order. Dulin, Copeland, Ray and Darcey turned in a winning time of 2:00.09.

In the girls’ 400-yard freestyle, Baldwin, Abbott, Breedlove and Wright left the rest of the field deep in their wake, winning by more than 43 seconds with a time of 3:59.11.

Cabot’s Payton Jones and Tristen Bowen were the only two boys to win multiple events. Jones won the 100-yard butterfly and the 500-yard freestyle.

Jones and Parkview’s Andrew Curzon were both under a minute in the butterfly, with Jones winning by less than three seconds with a time of 55.96. The endurance race wasn’t as close. Jones finished in 5:16.73, beating teammate Chase Foiles by more than 42 seconds.

Bowen won the 100-yard freestyle and backstroke. The freestyle was one of the most exciting races of the meet. Bowen edged North Little Rock’s Mason Graves by .73 seconds with a time of 54.12, with Wildcats Joseph Potts and Grant Smith also finishing in just over 55 seconds.

Bowen enjoyed a more comfortable margin in the backstroke. His time of 1:02.73 beat teammate Alex Layman by 4.42 seconds.

Cabot’s Jason Bongfeldt and Chris Daniel battled to an exciting finish in the 200-IM. Daniel prevailed by .42 seconds with a time of 2:22.46, but Daniel didn’t leave without a win. He took first place in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:07.46, beating teammate Jordan Woodson by 1.99 seconds. Bongfeldt was third in that race.

The Cabot boys only won one of the relays. Bowen, Daniel, Jones and Garrett Cardenas won the 200-IM relay by seven seconds with a time of 1:50.19.

Cabot has just one regular-season meet left on Feb. 4 at the University of Central Arkansas Aquatics Center in Conway. The district meet will be in Paragould on Feb. 11 and state begins on Feb. 26 in Bentonville.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke girls win despite start, finish

Leader sports editor

There was very nearly a major collapse at the end of the Lonoke girls’ makeup game with Heber Spring on Monday, but not quite. The Lady Jackrabbits overcame the difficulties that saw a 10-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate, and held on for a 48-44 victory at the Gina Cox Center.

The win avenges a loss in November to the Lady Panthers, and pulls Lonoke back into the race for a two seed in the district tournament.

The Lady Jackrabbits (15-6, 7-4) still trail Heber Springs (11-8, 8-3) by one game and eStem Charter by two in the race for second. Riverview leads the league with a perfect 11-0 record.

On Monday, Lonoke took a 41-31 lead into the fourth quarter. The Lady Jackrabbits started poorly and trailed 12-4 at the end of the first period, but dominated the action in the second and third quarters.

Both teams struggled offensively in the fourth and neither team scored for more than two minutes. Heber Springs’ Madaline Spanel then hit a 3-pointer just inside the six-minute mark. After a rushed shot by Keiunna Walker, Heber’s Lana Milton went to the line and hit a pair of free throws that made it 41-36 with 5:30 remaining.

Walker scored the next time down the floor and Lonoke got a defensive stop. Walker then took another highly-contested baseline runner that missed everything, and Heber’s Hannah Thomas hit two free throws at the other end to make it 43-38 with 4:16 to play.

Lonoke coach Nathan Morris called timeout and sat Walker momentarily, but Mickenzie Williams attempted the same errant shot after the break and missed. Milton then scored for Heber Springs to make it 43-40 with 3:10 remaining.

Williams was fouled and hit both free throws for Lonoke 25 seconds later, and Jarrelyn McCall took a charge for the Lady Jackrabbits on the ensuing possession. Walker then hit a driving layup to put Lonoke back up by seven with 1:58 to play.

Milton hit two free throws to cut it back to five. After a Lonoke turnover, Spanel scored after three Heber Springs offensive rebounds to make the score 47-44 with 55 seconds left.

Morris called another timeout, and again his team responded with a rushed, contested shot and Heber Springs got the rebound with a chance to tie, but Lonoke’s defense saved the day.

The Lady Panthers couldn’t find an opening for a shot for several seconds and called timeout with 21 seconds to play. After the break, there was still no opening and Lady Panther coach Jamey Riddle called another timeout with nine seconds left.

This time it was Heber Springs’ Milton that took the rushed shot. Shooting from far beyond the 3-point line with a hand in her face after the initial inbound pass.

McCall got the rebound with five seconds left and was immediately fouled. She hit the second of two attempts to set the final margin and seal the win for Lonoke.

“That was almost a meltdown,” said Morris after the game. “You want to think it’s that sophomore youth still coming into things, but it’s also January 25th. We shouldn’t be making those mistakes at this point.”

After falling behind in the first quarter, Lonoke turned the tables and outscored Heber Springs 21-10 in the second period to take a 25-22 lead into halftime. A pair of steals by Ashlyn Allen sparked the second-quarter run. She also got back-to-back layups off the penetration and dish by McCall. The defense continued to play well in the third quarter, but the shooting suffered a bit. Walker and McCall combined for five steals in the third while Allen and Kaley Woodruff each had one.

“I thought our defense played pretty well most of the game,” Morris said. “I think we came out flat offensively and our defense wasn’t as good early as it could have been. But overall I liked our defensive effort. I didn’t think we took care of the ball very well and we made some bad decisions late. But this is a good win, a really important win because it puts us right back there in the mix.”

Lonoke committed 18 turnovers, but forced 25, including 11 steals. Walker led Lonoke with 14 points and four steals. Allen scored nine points and added six rebounds and three steals.

The Lady Panthers keyed on McCall and held her to a season low five points, but she still contributed a team-high eight rebounds and dished out six assists.

Spanel led all scorers with 16 while Milton added 12. Both teams finished with 29 rebounds.

Neither team shot well. Lonoke was below 30 percent on 16 of 54 shooting from the floor, and hit 11 of 17 free throws. Heber Springs made 14 of 44 shot attempts and went 13 of 17 from the free-throw line.

EDITORIAL >> Lt. Adams, RIP, fallen firefighter

The brotherhood of first responders is mourning the loss of one of their own.

Lt. Ronald Jason Adams, 29, of the Sherwood Fire Department was answering a medical-emergency call in North Little Rock after a blizzard early Friday morning when he was allegedly shot by the homeowner, Mark Eugene Pruitt, 47.

Adams, who was a two-time cancer survivor and also served in the East Pulaski Volunteer Fire Department, was shot soon after he arrived. Pruitt has been charged with manslaughter.

Pulaski County sheriff’s deputies and North Little Rock police found Adams with gunshot wounds at the scene. He was taken to Springhill Baptist Medical Center in North Little Rock and pronounced dead there.

The Sherwood Fire Department sent word of the tragedy soon after Adams passed away. “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the loss of our brother, Lt. Jason Adams. Jason had a witty sense of humor and could make everyone laugh. He will be greatly missed. Please keep his family and friends in your prayers as we go through this hard time.” Hundreds attended a vigil held in his honor Monday night at the state Capitol.

First responders die in the line of fire almost every week across the nation. Adams’ untimely passing reminds us of that grim fact once again.

EDITORIAL >> Rebuilding our schools

Support for the Feb. 9 millage vote in the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is building, with early voting set to begin Tuesday.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville City Council, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the North Pulaski Board of Realtors and the Jacksonville Sertoma Club have endorsed the tax increase that should help raise about $80 million to build a new high school and millions more for repairs to aging campuses.

Surprisingly, there seems to be little opposition. Residents will recall anti-tax advocates in 2014 defeated a countywide effort to raise property taxes to benefit Pulaski Technical College.

This time it’s different because Jacksonville residents of all political stripes know that their hometown cannot compete in the 21st Century without attractive schools that educate students.

Property values will go up many times more than the 7.6 millage increase sought by the new school district. If the 7.6-mill increase is approved, owners of $100,000 homes can expect to pay about $150 more a year.

After many years of neglect by the Pulaski County Special School District, Jacksonville residents voted overwhelmingly in 2014 to break away from PCSSD. Now residents will have to pay more to protect their property values, quality of life and the future of thousands of youngsters.

Otherwise, urban blight will accelerate, driving down property values and, perhaps the most troubling, Jacksonville students will continue to be unprepared for the job market or college.

Jacksonville residents no longer want to hear commanders at Little Rock Air Force Base tell their airmen to move to Cabot because Jacksonville schools are in terrible shape. For a community of military retirees, that’s been a difficult assessment to accept, but obvious for all to see.

The Little Rock chamber’s endorsement of the proposed millage increase cited the importance of LRAFB to central Arkansas’ economy and said military members’ families deserve quality schools. Jacksonville students deserve the same quality of schools as those in Cabot, Beebe and elsewhere. The Lighthouse Charter Academies in Jacksonville and the air base have shown the way.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said last week, when the city council voted unanimously in support of the millage increase, “Patrons of North Pulaski and Jacksonville overwhelmingly supported the creation of our new district, and they will be called upon once again to finish that job on Feb. 9 with a millage vote to fund projects that will equip our children and teachers with what they’ll need to perform at even higher levels than the surrounding districts.”

Laura Walker, spokeswoman for Education Corps, the group spearheading the drive to pass the tax increase, said, “Our new learning environments will serve as an extension of the traditional classroom that combine functionality, durability, safety and beauty to create inspirational places for our children to learn.”

Walker is also director of the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club and knows many of the children who are being cheated out of a good education because PCSSD turned its back on them years ago.

Vote yes starting on Tuesday.

TOP STORY >> Team Little Rock celebrates diversity

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mercedes Taylor
A Mariachi band plays “La Bamba” during Diversity Day at Little Rock Air Force Base. Mariachi bands play folk music from Mexico.
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Little Rock Air Force Base celebrated its diverse work force with a third annual Diversity Day on Jan. 15.

The event, held just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, spotlighted future heritage events for airmen to observe during the rest of the year.

Events included booths representing special observances by all branches of the military, performances from multi-cultural groups and local musicians.

Speakers included Edmund Davis, former personal assistant to the late Dr. Milton Crenchaw, an original Tuskegee airman who passed away last month.

Although Diversity Day has passed, there are many ways to observe and celebrate different cultures and heritages throughout the year.

“A simple way to stay engaged with other cultures is to log on to the Air Force portal and look for the Air Force Culture and Language Center,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Diego Yoshisaki, a member of the 2016 Diversity Day committee.

“The AFCLC has tremendous information regarding culture and language. I also recommend airmen stay engaged with the observances and the different committees such as Black History Month, Asian Pacific Islander and Hispanic Heritage,” Yoshisaki said.

Continuing to recognize diversity allows Team Little Rock airmen and other service members to work together more efficiently.

“Once you understand someone’s diverse perspective, you’re able to work and lead them better,” said Capt. Tarah Mitchell, 2016 Diversity Day chairman. “It’s important to understand why we not only embrace diversity, but how it positively impacts the Air Force.”

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville mayor sees foundation for growth

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher called 2015 a foundational year for the city in the state of the city report he gave to the council Thursday night.

“As the new year begins, it is difficult not to have a high degree of anticipation and excitement concerning the future of Jacksonville. The momentum of the past few years has been slowly building, with the feeling of a new day ahead,” he said.

The mayor continued, “Beginning with education, many important decisions were made that laid a solid base to build upon.”

He said the fledgling district hired Tony Wood, a former state education commissioner, as its superintendent, residents elected the district’s school board, an architect and general contractor were chosen to design and build a new high school on the property where the closed Jacksonville Middle School stands, and set a Feb. 9 millage vote to pay for the high school and other facility remodels.

“We are ready to compete and to win in providing our children as much, if not more, than surrounding districts.”

Fletcher cautioned the aldermen and those attending the council meeting, “Let us not get caught up in the personality of division and get sidetracked by issues of the past. This new district has no past; it only offers the future.”

In pushing for residents to say yes to the millage increase, the mayor said, “For every dollar we pay for our facilities, another dollar comes to Jacksonville from the state in a match to help with construction. This is truly a partnership we have never experienced before that will help grow and build schools we have so admired in surrounding communities.”

Fletcher said, “This past summer, the city council voted on an important bond issue that did several things. First, it freed up cash flow by consolidating some loans and, secondly, it financed some capital improvement projects and equipment.” With the money, the city purchased two pumper trucks and a ladder truck at a total cost of $2 million; spent $551,000 rehabilitating ing Splash Zone and started a $400,000 remodeling of the Central Fire Station.

The mayor also said in 2015 the “lion’s share” of Hwy. 67/167 work was accomplished. “Work slowed in late 2015 due to a million dollar change order that just got signed off on, and work will begin again,” he said.

Fletcher also said 2015 was the Little Rock Air Force Base’s 60th anniversary. “The impact of the base touches the whole state as it is the sixth largest employer in the state and has an economic impact of about $814 million. Every time I drive into the gates of the base, I feel a strong sense of pride that I am blessed to be the mayor of the city that is home to the finest base of the finest Air Force in the world.”

He closed by saying, “We have a long way to go, but the journey is so much more enjoyable when you realize the best is yet to come.”

Other highlights from the 33-page state of the city report include:

• The police department reported violent crimes were up by 11 percent, while property crimes were down 9 percent. Overall, there were 195 violent crimes reported and 1,155 property crimes reported. The patrol division worked 525 traffic accidents. There were no fatal accidents on city streets during the year.

• In 2015, the city issued 111 new business licenses and $9.2 million worth of building permits.

• The city’s fire department had 4,485 fire-elated runs (about 12 calls a day) during the year, and ambulances were sent out 3,847 times (10.5 times per day) last year. The city had 122 fires during the year (49 structures, 21 cars and 52 which fell in other categories). Two of the fires were proven to be arson, but no arrests were made.

• The animal shelter set a positive record in 2015 by placing 98 percent, or 851, of its dogs and 82 percent, or 523, of its cats. Overall, the shelter handled 1,500 animals during the year, was able to return 324 to their owners, and adopted out 1,032 animals.

• The city’s 911 center handled 27,784 wireless 911 calls; 3,017 landline 911 calls; had 4,055 abandoned 911 calls (hang-ups) and 95,834 non-emergency calls in 2015.

• The Jacksonville District Court handled 10,751 cases (2,951 classified as criminal, 7,731 were traffic cases and 89 involved DWIs) in 2015, down about 1,500 from 2014, which meant revenues also dropped. In 2014, the court brought in $1.25 million in fines and forfeitures and, last year, that dropped to $1.08 million.

• Patron usage continued to rise at the Nixon library with the library adding 2,042 new users. For the year, almost 162,600 people visited the library and more than 208,100 items were checked out or circulated. Almost 22,000 children participated in special programs and activities, and nearly 3,600 people participated in the adult programs that were offered.

• According to parks and recreation officials, more than 1.15 million targets were used at the city’s shooting sports complex. An archery range with 20 lanes was added to the complex during the year. The Splash Zone had 37,168 visitors during the year.

• The city spent 360 man-hours and more than $13,000 trying to control mosquitos. The city’s street sweeper logged 9,318 miles of sweeping during 2015.

• The beautification department planted 2,260 flowers, shrubs and trees during the year, picked up 5,512 bags of trash and 168 used tires from the city’s rights of way and mowed 60 miles of Hwy. 67/167 right of way.

• The sanitation department collected almost 7,500 tons of garbage and had to pay $167,000 in landfill fees to dump the garbage. More than 1,050 tons of bulky landfill items were collected at a landfill cost of $23,855, and 30,636 cubic yards of yard waste were collected and ground into 3,614 tons of mulch, saving the city $149,000 in contracting fees.

• More than 1.1 million pounds of recyclables were collected, saving the city $12,500 in landfill fees. Also, 11,173 used tires were recycled, along with 66,000 pounds of electronics.

• At the senior wellness and activity center, more than 600 volunteers logged 4,250 hours providing activities for the city’s seniors, delivered 41,152 home meals and made 10,339 transportation trips picking up seniors to bring to the center and back.

• The city garage maintained more than 300 vehicles and equipment during the year, with the cost of labor coming to $35,000, parts at $87,000 and commercial costs running $43,000. The department cut its commercial costs by 45 percent from the previous year.

• The finance department processed 4,032 purchase orders, 1,171 vouchers and 4,454 checks in 2015. It was also the 18th year in a row that the department received the “Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting” award.

Human resources processed 110 new hires during the year, which included 29 full-time employees, 37 part- time employees, 43 seasonal employees and one elected official.

TOP STORY >> New district approves list of principals

Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board voted unanimously at a special meeting Monday to hire the five elementary school principals and high school principals named by Superintendent Tony Wood.

The district still needs one more elementary school principal.

The board also unanimously nixed outsourcing food and janitorial services for the 2016-17 school year — the district’s first as a totally stand-alone district.

The move was greeted with applause and enthusiasm by many of the approximately 85 spectators, after board members agreed the district should hire food service and custodial workers for next school year, but could revisit outsourcing in the future.

School board members said they’d been contacted by bus drivers, cafeteria workers and janitorial staff employed at JNP school buildings by the Pulaski County Special School District.

Several in attendance and some board members seemed to feel that outsourcing those jobs could be considered bad faith by people who have been so supportive of the new district.


People serving in those capacities in those buildings will need to apply for the jobs, regardless of whether JNP is doing the hiring or an outsource company is, although it seems to many that, either way, many of the people already doing those jobs for PCSSD would likely be hired.

Jacksonville resident LaGail Biggs, currently principal at Little Rock’s J.A. Fair High School, will be the new district’s first high school principal.

Biggs, a 1985 graduate of Henderson State University, has a master’s degree and further education from the University of Central Arkansas in educational leadership.

She is licensed as a K-12 administrator to teach English/language arts and drama/speech 7-12.

Biggs, in her first year as principal of J.A. Fair College and Career Academies, was assistant principal there for two years and assistant principal at Henderson Health Science Magnet Middle School
for four years prior to that.


The elementary school principals hired were Gary Beck, Myeisha Haywood, Jamie Reed, Angela Stewart and Janice Walker. Wood has yet to name specific principals to specific schools.

Beck graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Currently principal at Bayou Meto Elementary, Beck also worked at the PCSSD Central Office and as principal of Jacksonville Elementary, from 2004-2010.

Haywood has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Henderson State, where she also studied educational leadership. Haywood is currently principal at Taylor Elementary School.

She previously worked as assistant principal with North Little Rock School District and as dean of students at Fuller Middle School, a PCSSD campus.


Reed, a Jacksonville resident and graduate of Jackson-ville High School, graduated from Arkansas State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

She has been assistant principal at Baker Elementary since 2012.

Stewart has a bachelor’s degree from Troy University and a master’s degree from Jackson State University, where she also earned an educational specialist degree.

She is currently principal of Arnold Drive Elementary School and previously served as principal of Bryant Middle School and principal or assistant principal at schools in Alabama and Louisiana from 2005 through 2014.

Walker, who holds a PhD from the University of Arkansas Little Rock she earned in 2003, received a master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas and a bachelor’s degree from Henderson State University.

Walker has served as a PCSSD principal since 1998.


Jacksonville Middle School Principal Mike Hudgeons, currently a PCSSD employee, was hired by the JNP board at its January meeting to continue in that capacity, but as a JNPSD employee next school year.

The board also unanimously approved hiring Johnny Haley, a retired Air Force information technology systems manager, as the district’s director of technology. He currently holds that position at Academics Plus Charter School.

Haley’s hiring is effective Feb. 15 and continues through next school year.

Tonya Weaver, Lonoke School District treasurer since 1998, was approved to serve as JNPSD treasurer beginning Feb. 3 through next school year.

Her hiring is effective on Feb. 3.


In a discussion about outsourcing, Wood noted that 25 school districts currently outsource food services, and those numbers have risen dramatically over the past three years.

Wood said the district could also outsource substitute teachers, mental health services, speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.

But board member Marcia Dornblaser pointed out, “I’ve heard from a lot of people in our town. If there’s any way possible, we need to keep cafeteria workers and bus drivers in our district.”


Carol Miles, board secretary, said the district should hire its own staff for food services, at least for the first year. “Right now, we’re a hypothetical,” she said.

Miles said it would be helpful for the district to run its own food service for a year to see what the costs are.

“We need to be wise and look to the future,” she continued.

“We want to be good stewards with your money,” board member Dena Toney said. “I want to…keep it with the community, but make sure it’s cost effective.”

“I want to ensure we are employing our citizens in Jacksonville,” said board member LaConda Watson. “We need to look down the road; (we) need to look at options.

Gray said, ‘We’ll have more local control if we keep it in house. We have so much going on — the millage vote in February. We have to build trust. There is so much misinformation.

“I’ll not support outsourcing food or janitorial, tonight or in April,” he continued. ”I’m ready at this point to say let’s keep it in house. It’s one less thing. Focus on getting students ready for school. We still have to hire 300 teachers.”

Gray also said Wood, Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart and Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Owoh already had their plates full, without adding further exploration of outsourcing.

Monday, January 25, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot grinds out crucial East victory

Leader sports editor

Reeling from a two-game losing streak, the Cabot Panthers came through with a very important home win Tuesday, beating Little Rock Central 55-52 in a key 7A/6A-East Conference matchup.

The Panthers led at the outset, but a 7-0 run by the Tigers gave them a 9-3 lead that it held most of the next three quarters. Cabot led briefly on the strength of a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter, one by Bobby Joe Duncan and one by Jalen Brown. Central answered with another run late in the half. Henry Dudley came off the bench to sink a pair of 3-pointers for the Tigers and lead them to a 27-23 lead at halftime.

Central’s halftime total was just three points fewer than its game total when the two teams met in the Pine Bluff Invitational, a game Cabot won 43-30.

Central’s Cameron Johnson had much to do with the Tigers’ better offensive performance on Tuesday, but Cabot’s Matt Stanley countered that with one of his better games this season as primarily a post player.

“Central is big and we needed him down there,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges of Stanley. “He’s working hard and he’s coming along. He’s getting better and better. And he’s such a good kid you love seeing him succeed. He just needs a little more of that tough guy attitude down low, and he showed a little more of it tonight.”

Stanley finished with a team-high 19 points, including 10 during Cabot’s fourth-quarter comeback.

The Panthers (11-5, 2-2) started the third quarter with a 9-2 run and took a 33-31 lead with 3:45 left in the period. Central turned the tables after that, and closed the third quarter with its own 9-2 run and led 40-35 going into the fourth quarter.

It was again Cabot’s turn to run at the start of the fourth, but for this run Central had no answer. The Panthers extended their zone defense into a full-court pressure, and Central fell apart.

Duncan hit a baseline floater a minute into the final frame after a Garrett Rowe steal. Hunter Southerland then stole the ball and missed a contested layup, but Stanley followed with a putback dunk as the ball rolled off the front of the rim. Logan Gilbertson took a charge on Central’s next possession, and Stanley made two free throws at the other end to give Cabot a 41-40 lead with 5:50 left in the game.

Central threw the ball away on its next possession, but Cabot did not convert. Gilbertson then got a steal that led to another putback by Stanley. With five minutes left in the game, Central (6-6, 2-2) had five possessions, five turnovers and no shot attempts in the fourth quarter and the Panthers held a 43-40 lead.

“I was proud of our defense in the fourth quarter,” Bridges said. “We grinded to get this one. It was just token pressure, but it threw them off a little bit and we were able to take advantage of that.”

Central finally got a shot away with 4:40 left in the game, a missed 3-point attempt, and Cabot converted to complete a 10-0 run and take a 45-40 lead. Central finally scored when it worked the ball around the perimeter until Raquan Rogers was left all alone under the basket for an easy layup that made it 45-42 with 3:33 remaining.

Gilbertson answered just 18 seconds later, and Central’s Matthew Means converted a 3-point play just 11 seconds after that to make it 47-45 with 3:05 left.

Cabot held the ball for well over a minute on its next possession before Stanley took a pass at the free-throw line and worked his way through Means and Rogers for a hard-fought bucket on the low block.

Rowe then got a steal and slam dunk to make it 51-45 with 1:44 left in the game and force a Central timeout.

Johnson hit a 3-pointer out of the break to pull the Tigers to within three, but after failing to get a steal, Central was forced to foul with 40 seconds left. Cabot hit 4 of 6 foul shots in the last 40 seconds to seal the win.

Johnson led all scorers with 23 points and was the only Tiger to score in double figures. Duncan and Rowe each scored 10 points for the Panthers. Stanley added seven rebounds to his total while Rowe and Gilbertson each had six.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville splits with Lions

Leader sports editor

A second half surge lifted the Lady Red Devils on Tuesday, but a buzzer beater sent the boys home in defeat Tuesday at Little Rock McClellan. The Jacksonville girls turned a one-point halftime lead into a 53-36 win while Raymond Harris went off for 38 points, including the game winner, to lead the Crimson Lions past the Red Devils 72-70.

In the girls’ game, Jacksonville clung to a 24-23 lead at halftime against the 2-7 Lady Lions. The defense stiffened up and senior guard Desiree Williams got hot from the floor, scoring 12 points in the third to lead the Lady Red Devils to a 38-29 lead. Williams scored six more in the fourth as Jacksonville continued to stretch its lead throughout the second half.

“Desiree kind of put us on her back and carried us in this one,” said Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott. “This one was just a matter of when we decided we were going to play. This is the second time we’ve done this – messed around for a half, and we’ve got some big ones coming up. We can’t let this become a habit.”

Jacksonville entered the game with only eight players, will be down to just seven when it plays Sylvan Hills on Tuesday. Senior guard Emily Lovercheck was ejected on Tuesday, and since Friday’s game with PA was postponed due to weather, she must sit out next Tuesday’s game against Sylvan Hills.

Scott conceded that Lovercheck should have maintained her composure, but also took up for her senior guard.

“She stole the ball, and the girl just grabbed her around the head,” Scott said. “She slung her around and when she let go, Emily sort of swung at her, and he ejected her. This is the second one I’ve lost for a game because of stuff like this. As bad as the foul was on her, we’ve got to learn. You cannot retaliate, especially as thin as we are. We have to keep our composure.

“But I told the ref, it don’t have to be a punch to get an ejection. And I thought the girl’s foul should at least have been a flagrant foul.”

Williams led all scorers with 26 points while Alexis James added 11 for Jacksonville. Shawntay Casey scored 15 to lead McClellan.

In the boys’ game, Harris hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter, and it was a sign of things to come. The 5-foot-10 transfer senior hit seven 3-pointers in the game, but was also effective getting into the lane. Jacksonville rallied from a 67-63 deficit with two minutes left to take a 69-68 lead with a minute remaining, but couldn’t hit from the floor and went just 1 of 2 from the foul line. McClellan called timeout with nine seconds left and spread the floor for Harris. He broke down two Jacksonville defenders and lofted an off balance, contested shot over 6-7 Kameron Hamilton that bounced high off the glass and fell in as time expired.

Karson Hayes added 12 for McClellan while Derrick Brooks scored 10. Tyree Appleby scored 18 to lead Jacksonville. LaQuawn Smith added 17 and Bralyn James scored 11.

McClellan (8-10, 3-2) hit 17 of 22 free throws, including 10 of 11 in the second half.
Jacksonville was 16 of 21, but after missing the first free throw of the game and not missing again through three quarters, missed its first four of the fourth.

SPORTS STORY >> LHS ladies squeak by Southside

Leader sports writer

The Lonoke girls led after every quarter of Tuesday’s 4A-2 Conference game against Southside Batesville at the Gina Cox Center, and held off a late rally by the Lady Southerners in the fourth quarter to win 50-48.

Lonoke (13-6, 6-4) led 6-5 at the end of the first quarter, 20-15 at halftime, and 39-32 at the end of the third quarter. Lady Jackrabbit senior forward Ashlyn Allen scored on the first possession of the fourth quarter to push the Lonoke lead to nine.

The Lady Jackrabbits led 43-34 on a pair of Mickenzie Williams free throws near the 5:30 mark, but Southside (6-12, 2-7) responded with a 7-0 run to cut the Lonoke lead to 43-41. That run was capped with an and-1 by Southside senior post Tyra Stubbs with 2:35 remaining.

Lonoke’s Keiunna Walker added a basket 11 seconds later to make it a two-possession game, but Southside’s Kessie Jenkins scored on the ensuing possession to make the score 45-43 Lonoke with 2:02 left to play.

Walker and senior teammate Jarrelyn McCall added the next four points to further the Lady Rabbit lead to 49-43. Walker scored on a driving, contested layup off the glass and McCall followed with a pair of successful one-and-one free throws with 1:29 to play.

Southside’s Sydney Sweat put in a short jumper from the baseline with 59 seconds left, cutting the Lonoke lead to 49-45, but the Lady Southerners didn’t score on their next two possessions.

Williams made a one-and-one free throw with 13.1 tics remaining, giving Lonoke a 50-45 lead, and Southside’s Taylor Hammack put in a buzzer-beating three to set the final score.

“It was the kind of game that Southside wanted,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris. “Six-five first quarter, us. Twenty-15 at halftime, us. That was what they wanted to win the game, and we played right into it.

“We slowed down on offense. We didn’t try to get to the basket enough, and then we didn’t defend very well. We did not play very good defense tonight. It was a very low-energy environment tonight.”

Even though Tuesday’s game was a home game, it didn’t feel like one. The student section in the Gina Cox Center appeared to be in the single digits, and the crowd in attendance wouldn’t have even come close to filling the old Lonoke gym, where in recent years it was nothing out of the norm for that gym to be jam-packed to the lobby during games.

Tuesday’s game wasn’t Lonoke’s best, on the floor and attendance-wise, but it was still a conference win, and the second this season against Southside. The Lonoke girls beat Southside in overtime on Dec. 1.

“We’re very fortunate tonight to come out with a win when our best didn’t necessarily have to be there,” Morris said. “Coach (Nolan) Richardson always used to say, ‘a raggedy ride’s better than a smooth walk,’ and that’s what it was. I think we were on a raggedy ride tonight. It was just good enough.”

Walker led all scorers with 19 points. McCall scored 18. Williams and Allen added six apiece and Kiley Studer added one point for Lonoke.

For Southside, Hammack led the scoring with 16 points. Stubbs also scored in double figures, finishing with 10 points.

Lonoke played another conference home game against Heber Springs at 6 p.m. Monday, and will host Helena-West Helena Central in another 4A-2 home game next Tuesday. Tip-off next Tuesday is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the boys’ game will follow.

SPORTS STORY >> BHS ladies stay atop 5A-Central standings

Leader sports editor

The Beebe girls are on a roll, but they got taken to the wire Tuesday night at Sylvan Hills. The Lady Badgers led by four with two minutes remaining before finally pulling away for a 41-32 victory in Sherwood.

Defense dominated the game on both ends of the floor. Sylvan Hills held Beebe to 34 percent shooting, while Beebe held Sylvan Hills leading scorer Da’Bria Thompson without a field goal the entire game.

Both coaches were pleased with their team’s effort, defensively.

“We held their best player to no baskets,” said Beebe coach Greg Richey. “Libbie Hill gets most of the credit for that. We almost always put her on the other team’s best scorer. She’s 5-foot-9, she’s aggressive and she moves her feet pretty well, so she’s able to create some problems. She did a great job Tuesday.”

Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis said she thought Thompson got frustrated, but liked the opportunities her team created to make baskets and win the game.

“I think we’re pretty close,” said Davis. “Da’Bria couldn’t hit anything and you could just see her getting more and more frustrated. Sometimes when she gets that way she tries to force a little too much.

“But overall I thought we competed well. I really think Beebe is one of the top teams in 5A. We’re sitting here, and Sylvan Hills is really on nobody’s radar. But we’re right there with some of the top teams. I kind of feel like we’re right there if we can just keep improving.”

Beebe took a 13-8 lead in the first quarter, but Sylvan Hills outscored the Lady Badgers by one point in each of the second and third quarters. That resulted in a 29-26 Beebe lead heading into the fourth quarter. That margin remained between four and six points until two minutes left in the game, when Sylvan Hills was forced to begin fouling and Beebe hit its free throws.

 Sylvan Hills kept Beebe guard Taylor McGraw in check as well, that is until the fourth quarter, when the senior Badger got loose and hit a pair of 3-pointers that had a big impact on the game.

“We knew we didn’t have a real comparable player to their big girl,” Davis said of Beebe center Gracie Anders. “But I thought we did a pretty good job of defending her. Good players are going to get their points and she got hers, but we really tried to focus on the McGraw girl. And overall I thought we did a good job of defending her, but late in the game lost her a couple times and she made big shots.”

Anders led Beebe with 16 points while McGraw added 11. Sophomore Alana Canady scored four for Sylvan Hills.

In the boys’ game, Sylvan Hills had a tougher-than-expected time from the 2-12 Badgers, but finally pulled away late for a 46-27 victory. The Badgers controlled the pace the entire first half, and the Bears (11-6, 3-2) held just a 15-13 lead at intermission. Sylvan Hills scored more in the third quarter than in the first and second combined, and took a 33-22 lead into the final frame.

“I wasn’t too happy at halftime,” said Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis. “I didn’t think we played very hard, and we weren’t ever really in sync until the fourth quarter, maybe early third. Our transition game was the difference once we were able to get something going.

“I don’t know if it was having Monday off, or maybe we got a little lax because Beebe doesn’t have such a good record, but hopefully we learned something, whatever the reason. Hopefully we learned we can get beat by anybody if we don’t show up ready to play.”

Bear senior Cordy Winston led all scorers with 13 points and JaCobé Davis added 10 for the Bears.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot crowding UA track

Leader sports editor

A recent New York Times article called Arkansas “kind of a little Mecca of pole vaulting.” Indeed since Earl Bell of Arkansas State University broke the men’s world record in 1976 and later established Bell Athletics in Jonesboro, many of the nation’s top vaulters have hailed from the Natural State.

But if there is a center square within the pole vaulting Mecca, it’s in Cabot, at least for the women. That fact is being exhibited now at the University of Arkansas, where the top three vaulters for the defending national championship team are all from Cabot High School. Fifth-year senior Ariel Voskamp and true freshmen Lexi and Tori Weeks each finished 1-2-3 in the UA’s first NCAA track meet of the season, and the Weeks sisters’ first college track meet of their careers.

Lexi won the meet with a jump of 14-feet, 9-inches. Tori finished second and Ariel third, but neither came close to their personal record.

And there’s a fourth Cabot athlete competing for Arkansas this year. Micah Huckabee, who is a two-time state champion, will redshirt this year as a distance runner. She will compete as an unattached athlete in all the Razorbacks’ home meets as she increases her strength and weekly mileage after a hip injury hampered her training regimen as a high school senior.

For the vaulters, Voskamp and the twins graduated five years apart, and so they didn’t have much of a personal relationship. But Voskamp left a legacy that the Weeks built upon, and were very much aware of as Lady Panthers.

Cabot track coach Leon White remembers her contributions fondly.

“Ariel would do whatever you asked with no hesitation or questions asked,” said White. “She ran the maximum events just like the twins did. They were all three very dedicated workers and great teammates.”

Voskamp, a four-time All-American, finished second in the SEC indoor and outdoor meets last season, clearing personal records in each meet. She finished fifth in the nation as a sophomore and seventh as a junior. She has a personal record of 14-3, and believes she’s on the precipice of going much higher this season.

“I think my training is going really well and practices have been really good,” said Voskamp at last weekend’s meet. “I have a few things to work out with my technique and correct a few things I did wrong, but I’m looking to my best year yet.”

Voskamp was on the front end of massive leaps in high school girls’ jump heights. New national records were set seemingly every year since Voskamp got to college. The 2014 national record holder, Desiree Freier, is also on the Razorback team, but she suffered an ankle injury that will likely sideline her all season.

Last year, the Weeks sisters traded records back-and-forth, with Lexi finally prevailing with an outdoor jump of 14-7.5 in their final competition as high school athletes. Tori is still the indoor record holder at 14-4 after breaking Lexi’s mark.

“It’s amazing how high some of these high school girls have gone,” Voskamp said. “It’s like, 15 (feet) is becoming the new 14. That used to be the mark that only a very few achieved. Now that’s changing.”

Tori Weeks also won the New Balance High School National Outdoor meet over the summer. Like Lexi, the training regimen for Tori has been an adjustment. She also won the state triple jump and 300-meter hurdles, and competed and placed in many other events as well. Now it’s all about vaulting.

“The training is better just from the standpoint of being every day,” said Tori. “We used to only get to practice vaulting once a week and we had to train for several events during the week. Now all the training is focused towards jumping and that’s exciting.”

The main difference in training specifically for pole vault, as opposed to multiple events, is strength training, according to Lexi Weeks.

“There’s so much more strength training,” said Lexi just after winning last Saturday’s meet. “I knew I had had a really good week of practice coming in. I can see the strength training paying off already. It’s allowed me to get a high grip on the bar and that’s what helped me to the new PR. I’m really excited to get to focus just on this one event now.”

Lexi’s height last week qualified her for the NCAA nationals as well as the Olympic trials, which will take place in Oregon from July 1-10.

Tori Weeks and Voskamp are also within striking distance of that trial standard, and have several meets to attain that goal.

All four Cabot athletes will compete in the Razorback Invitational next Friday at the Randal Tyson Track Center. It will be a much larger meet with much more renowned national competition than last week’s meet, which was mostly against much smaller programs.
Competing against the No. 1 ranked Razorback Women will be second-ranked Georgia, third-ranked Texas, No. 5 Oregon and No. 6 Florida, as well as No. 12 LSU, No. 21 Texas A&M, Iowa, Iowa St., Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. 

TOP STORY >> First responder from Sherwood killed on Friday

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Sheriff’s deputies Friday arrested Mark Eugene Pruitt, 47, of North Little Rock in the shooting death of Lt. Ronald Jason Adams, 29, of the Sherwood Fire Department.

Pruitt has been charged with manslaughter.

Adams was killed early Friday morning while responding to a medical call for the East Pulaski Volunteer Fire Department, where he also worked.

Adams was sent to Pruitt’s residence at 211 Dortch Loop in North Little Rock to help someone who was having a seizure.

Pulaski County sheriff’s deputies and North Little Rock police were notified of the shooting and found Adams with gunshot wounds at the scene.

He was shot soon after he arrived.

Adams was taken to Springhill Baptist Medical Center in North Little Rock and pronounced dead there.

Sherwood Fire Chief David Teague did not immediately return a call from The Leader, but the following, along with a photo, was posted on the Department’s Facebook page:

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the loss of our brother, Lt. Jason Adams...Jason had a witty sense of humor and could make everyone laugh. He will be greatly missed. Please keep his family and friends in your prayers as we go through this hard time.”

Firefighters who knew Adams were also invited to Station 1 to visit or share stories about him.

TOP STORY >> Waking up to winter wonderland

Leader staff writer

 Just as Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher finished giving his State of the City address at Thursday’s council meeting, City Attorney Bobby Bamburg leaned over and showed the mayor a text he had just received. It read, “Main Street bridge is starting to ice over.”
The council meeting was adjourned, and city hall was emptied within minutes.
Thursday night’s drizzle, rain and sleet gave way to snow, and area residents awoke to five to seven inches of winter wonderland on the ground.
The snowfall broke the 1995 record of four inches for Jan. 21 in North Little Rock.
Many of the area school districts announced Thursday night that there would be no school Friday.
But the Pulaski County Special School District held off until 5:12 a.m. Friday to notify parents and students that there was no school.
Little Rock Air Force Base personnel were asked to report two hours later than normal on Friday to give city, county and state crews a chance to clear, sand and salt roadways.
The snow and the ice Thursday night and Friday morning left about 200 without power in the area, but most were expected to be back on by late Friday.
John Walton, manager of Kroger in Jacksonville said Thursday was “a rockin’ day.” He said Friday afternoon that the store had plenty of milk, but was low on bread. “I don’t think we’ll see one of our bread vendors today,” he noted.
Most police and fire departments reported that everything was pretty quiet.
Sherwood Police Sgt. Jason Hopkins said the biggest problem was people out enjoying the snow on their four-wheelers. “We’ve had reports of them on the school football fields and on major roadways,” he said.
Jim Ransom, with public works, said the Sherwood’s major roads were fine, but there were still issues on the side streets. “But, overall, we’ve had no big problems.”
Capt. Carl Minden, with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, said Friday the focus for most of the day had been a fatal shooting in eastern Pulaski County. (See story in Saturday's edition of The Leader.)
I know the weather impacted the roads and caused some issues, but nothing major has been reported to me,” he said.
The snow will probably stay in the area over the next few days as highs hover in the mid to high 30s and lows dip into the 20s, but no snow is in the forecast for next week.
Charlie Pruitt of Cabot was on his front-loading tractor Friday, earning some extra spending money and free meals by clearing snow from parking lots.
“I was clearing my driveway and people stopped and asked me to do theirs,” Pruitt said. Each job takes about an hour, he told The Leader.
“The roads look to be in pretty good shape, if you don’t get too reckless,” Pruitt said.