Friday, April 29, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills baseball back on top

Leader sportswriter

Errors plagued Beebe in its 5A-Central doubleheader with Sylvan Hills on Tuesday at Mike Bromley Field in Sherwood, and the Bears took advantage of those opportunities, sweeping the Badgers by scores of 4-2 and 5-1 to stay undefeated in conference play and clinch their first conference championship since 2012.

“It feels good,” said SHHS coach Denny Tipton of the conference championship. “We’re playing pretty good baseball right now. We just got to keep it up. Our pitchers, they’ve been giving us a chance every game. The first game, their pitcher Angus (Denton) is a very talented pitcher. I think he’s won every game he’s pitched this year.

“They went with him first game and I was really proud. I thought we competed hard. I thought we played hard and I thought we found a way to win. “With that win it solidified us at least a share of the (conference) title. This one (second game) clinched it outright. That makes me happy.”

Denton, Beebe’s talented submarine pitcher that’ll be throwing for the Razorbacks next year, started the first game. He pitched all six innings for the visiting Badgers and finished with a game-high eight strikeouts and issued no walks and five hits, but Beebe committed five of their nine errors on the day in game one.

Sylvan Hills (22-4, 10-0) scored its first run of the day in the bottom of the third inning. With one out, River Hunt reached on an error at first base, and another E3 followed, which put leadoff hitter Michael Coven on first and Hunt at second with one out.

Denton struck out the next two batters he faced to end the inning, but not before Hunt stole third and then scored on a wild pitch to give the Bears a 1-0 lead. Sylvan Hills added two more runs in the fourth.

Game one starting pitcher Nick Fakouri and Ryan Lumpkin got on base with consecutive Beebe errors to start the bottom of the fourth, and both base runners scored on a two-out single to right field by Kyle Clayton, putting the Bears up 3-0.

Beebe (9-14, 6-4) scored its two runs in the top of the sixth. J.T. Nicholson led off the sixth inning with an infield single down the third-base line. Leadoff hitter Hunter Naramore followed with a single and Nicholson scored the next at-bat on an error at shortstop off the bat of Carson McNeill.

Naramore scored two batters later on a 1-3 groundout by cleanup hitter John Finley. Naramore’s run made it a 3-2 game, but the Bears scored an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning.

That run came with two outs. Zac Douglas hit a two-out infield single up the middle and stole second base with Clayton at the plate. Clayton then hit a routine ground ball that bounced through the Beebe second baseman’s legs, scoring Douglas for the Bears’ fourth and final run of the game.

Fakouri, who pitched all seven innings of game one, retired the side in the top of the seventh to end it in Sylvan Hills’ favor. Fakouri gave up five hits, no walks and finished with seven strikeouts.

Beebe’s Johnathan McGhee was the only player for either team with multiple hits in game one. He had two hits, and Naramore, Nicholson and Noah Jolly had Beebe’s other three hits. JoJo Craft, Carson Sanders, Douglas, Clayton and Hunt made up the Bears’ five hits.

Sylvan Hills scored the first five runs of game two. The Bears scored two runs in the second inning and added their last three in the third to lead 5-0. Beebe’s lone run came in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by Nicholson, but neither team scored again the rest of the night.

Hunt started on the mound in game two and earned the win. He pitched the first three and one-third innings, giving up one hit, five walks and recorded two strikeouts. Mackenzie Seats pitched the rest of the game for the Bears. He gave up four hits, no walks and finished with five strikeouts.

Sylvan Hills outhit Beebe 8-6 in game two. Coven and Seats led all batters in game two. They each went 2 for 4, and Craft, Fakouri, Lumpkin and Sanders accounted for the remainder of the Bears’ hits.

Naramore, McNeill, Denton, Finley, Bryson Halford and Nicholson accounted for the Badgers’ six hits in game two.

SPORTS STORY >> Wolves crush it at meet

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School’s boys’ track team utterly dominated the 1A North-Central Conference track meet Wednesday at Sylvan Hills High School. The Wolves won all but three events. Host school Abundant Life won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter races. All other events belonged to JLCS.

Senior sprinter Jordan McNair set a personal record and broke the 11-second barrier in winning the100-meter dash with a time of 10.99 seconds. He also won the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.16, though he had to come from behind in the final 50 meters to beat teammate Robert Whitfield by .08 seconds, who was also second in the 100-meters.

McNair also won the long jump and triple jump, leaping 18-feet, 10-inches in the long jump and bounding 38-8 in the triple jump.

Billy Whitehead won the high jump by clearing 5-9.

Whitfield was also second in the 110-meter hurdles behind teammate Darin Burnett. Burnett also won the 300-meter hurdles ahead of AL’s Skylar Lancaster.

Joshua McNair won both throwing events for the Wolves.

Chris Mims won the 400-meter dash with a time of 56.92 and the Wolves swept all three relay races.

The three events won by the Owls were all won by Daniel Carrell. In the most exciting race of the day, Carrell edged out Lancaster by .06 seconds in the grueling 3,200-meter race. Carrell finished in 14:29.41.

His winning time of 5:29.45 in the 1,600 was exactly eight seconds better than Lancaster, and his 2:18.63 was 4.01 seconds faster than Lancaster in the 800.

The girls’ meet was much more competitive, with the Lady Owls taking first place over Lighthouse by a score of 191-159.

Abundant Life’s Sydney Cossich was the meet’s high-point winner. She won the shot put and the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dash races. She was also on the Lady Owls’ second-place 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay teams to finish with 44 points.

Not far behind was her teammate Sadie Carrell, who finished with 42.5 points. She won the triple jump, 300-meter hurdles and the 800- and 1,600-meter races. She also ran a leg on the winning 4x800-meter relay team.

Lighthouse’s Jada Guy won the high jump while teammate Nyah Williams was first in the long jump. Guy also won the 110-meter hurdles.

Jonea Guy won the discus while Nyah Williams won the long jump for the Lady Wolves.

Abundant Life’s Hannah Friedl won the ladies’ 3,200-meter race.

SPORTS STORY >> Walk-offs for Devils

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville baseball team had heard the old Yogi maxim, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” before, but they learned exactly what that means at UCA on Thursday.

Down 4-2 with two outs and a 0-2 count, the Red Devils pulled out a 5-4 victory over 5A-South leader Hot Springs Lakeside.

The Lady Red Devil softball team also overcame a seventh-inning deficit to beat Haskell-Harmony Grove by the same score at home on Tuesday.

The JHS baseball and softball teams only got to play the one nonconference game this week after Mills University Studies canceled the scheduled 5A-Central doubleheader at the last minute.

The late cancellation ruined the teams’ planned senior night festivities, but it paved the way for a pair of exciting rallies.

The Red Devils came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning at the bottom of their lineup. Caden Sample hit a leadoff single and Javan Wakefield was hit by a pitch.

Kameron Whitmore put down a sacrifice bunt that moved both runners into scoring position, but Cody Savage popped up to second base and no one advanced.

Nine-hole hitter Caleb Smith quickly fell into a 0-2 hole, but then ripped a base hit to left field to easily score Sample.

The Lakeside left fielder came home with the throw to try to get Wakefield, but he overthrew the catcher. The loose ball allowed Smith to get all the way to third base.

The second pitch of Tyson Flowers’ at-bat was wild, and Smith scored the game-winning run.

The victory pulls Jacksonville’s overall record to .500 for the first time this season at 12-12. They are 7-3 in league play and will finish the conference season Tuesday against McClellan in Little Rock.

The Lady Red Devils were trailing 4-3 when they came to bat in the bottom of the seventh on Tuesday. Jacksonville had only two base hits and none since the third inning, but won the game with three-straight, one-out hits in the seventh. It started with a single by Bailey Holt. She scored on a double by Kym House. Mackenzie Rodgers then got the game-winning RBI with a double to left field.

The Lady Red Devils (19-4, 10-0) also play at McClellan on Tuesday, and will face Batesville High on the road on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Two in seventh lifts CHS softball

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Panthers’ softball team got three wins this week, the last one very different than the first two. Cabot played a home-and-home 7A/6A-East doubleheader against Little Rock Central on Tuesday and Thursday, and won those two games by scores of 17-0 and 10-0. After Thursday’s 10-0 win at home, Cabot played host to Class 6A Sheridan in a nonconference game, and won that one by a narrow 4-3 margin.

Tuesday’s conference game at Central (4-12, 2-8) only lasted three innings. Cabot scored 10 of its 17 runs in the first inning. The Lady Panthers didn’t score in the top of the second, but scored their last seven runs in the third inning to end the game early because of the sportsmanship rule.

Cabot (18-3, 12-0) committed no errors Tuesday and got a perfect game from starting pitcher Lauren McCluskey. McCluskey only threw 29 pitches in the three-inning game, striking out all but one batter she faced.

At the plate, Cabot racked up 15 base hits Tuesday. McCluskey, Rachel Allgood and Hannah Montgomery led the way with two hits apiece. Thursday’s conference game in Cabot still ended early on the sportsmanship rule, but went six innings.

Cabot played several reserves in Tuesday’s game, and played mostly reserves in Thursday’s conference game. The Lady Panthers led 2-0 after the first four innings of play Thursday, scoring a run each in the third and fourth innings. Cabot put it away in the fifth and sixth innings by scoring four runs in each of those two innings.

The Lady Panthers outhit the Lady Tigers 7-2 on Thursday. Marlee Munford and Anna Beth Duncan led Cabot with two hits each in that game. Montgomery earned the win in the circle. She threw all six innings, finishing with six strikeouts with just one walk issued.

Cabot’s starters got to see their usual amount of playing time in Thursday’s nightcap nonconference game against Sheridan (17-5, 8-2).

The Lady Panthers scored the game’s first two runs in the bottom of the first, but the Lady Yellowjackets tied it up in the fourth with two runs scored and they took a 3-2 lead with a run in the top of the seventh.

The Lady Panthers, though, answered with two runs in the bottom of the seventh, winning it on a Parker Steadman sac fly to right field that scored shortstop Heather Hill.

SPORTS STORY >> Repeat champs in Central

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears and the Beebe Badgers boys repeated as 5A-Central track champions Tuesday at Beebe High School’s A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium. Both teams won by large margins, but the Badger boys were scarcely threatened, nearly tripling second place Mills. Beebe finished with 190 points to Mills’ 77. Sylvan Hills was third with 74 while J.A. Fair had 68, McClellan 65 and Jacksonville finished with 34 points.

The Lady Bears’ conference title was their third in a row. They finished with 236 points to Beebe’s 190. Mills was a very distant third with 60 points. Jacksonville finished fourth with 49 while McClellan and Fair each scored 14.

Sylvan Hills sophomore Erykah Sanders was the meet’s high-point winner, finishing with 30.5 points for the Lady Bears.

She was second to teammate Makayla Smith in the triple jump and 300-meter hurdles. She was also third in the long jump. Smith jumped 33-9 to Sanders’ 32-1. Beebe’s Hannah McGee and Taylor McGraw were the other two state qualifiers in that event. Jacksonville’s Amber Lockhart won the long jump with a leap of 15-10 while Beebe’s Marianna Richey finished second. Tatianna Lacy of Jacksonville finished fourth to qualify for state.

Sylvan Hills’ Sa’Maya Farmer won the shot put with a toss of 33-9. Beebe’s Shea Holland finished third at 30-5. Lady Bears Jayla Bell and Raigen Thomas both threw 30-4, but only Bell advances to state for throwing it in an earlier attempt than Thomas and earning fourth place.

Two Lady Bears and one Lady Badger qualified for state in the discus. Sophomore Jayla Bell finished second with a toss of 98-7. Beebe’s Tori Lovelady was third while SH senior Thomas was fourth.

Lockhart also won the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 16.76. She was the only runner to come in under 17 seconds and did so against a -2.3-wind factor.

Mills’ Amanda Shaw scorched her preliminary heat time to win the 100-meter dash. Sylvan Hills’ Aliya Hatton was second. Jacksonville’s Lacy finished third and Lady Bear freshman O’Shayla Muldrow, who won the preliminaries and had the fastest seedtime, still qualified for state in fourth place.

Chloe George won the 1,600-meter race by two seconds with a time of 5:59.06. Beebe’s Natalie Childress and Allie Lane were second and third while Sylvan Hills’ Allysia Marbley finished fourth.

It was almost an SHHS sweep in the 400-meter dash. Muldrow, Ashley Jefferson and Hatton took the top three spots while Beebe’s Annmarie Covington was the final state qualifier. Muldrow also won the 200-meter dash, beating Shaw by .2 seconds with a time of 27.27. Lacy finished fourth to qualify for state in that event.

McGraw won the 800-meter with a time of 2:35.80, finishing ahead of three more Lady Bears. Dallyn Stubbs, Jones and George were second, third and fourth.

Dasia Harris and Daveiuna Jones took the top two spots in the high jump by going 4-8. Sydnye Shuttleworth of Beebe qualified for state by clearing 4-6 for third place.

Sylvan Hills’ Grace Persson won the 3,200 meters in just her second meet of the season. She finished more than 16 seconds ahead of second place with a time of 14:02.49. Lane and McGraw were second and third for Beebe while Sylvan Hills’ Gabriella Marquez finished fourth.

Beebe’s 4x800 relay team of Childress, Strayhorn, McGraw and Covington won by almost a minute with a time of 10:35.06.

The Lady Bears didn’t enter the 4x400 team that ran the fastest 5A time in the state last week at Heber Springs, but still won that event. George, Sanders, Smith and Stubbs finished with a time of 4:25.43 to beat Beebe by 5.51 seconds. Jacksonville’s team of Lacy, Lockhart, Dyshaii Doyne and Asiah Williams qualified for state by finishing fourth.

The meet was not without disappointment for the Lady Bears. Their 4x100-meter relay team crossed the finish line third, but was disqualified for failing to make the first baton exchange within the limited distance. That knocked them out of state for that event.

Jacksonville crossed the finish line second, but won the event because McClellan, who finished first in a neck-and-neck race at the line, was also disqualified for the same violation. Jacksonville’s winning team included Williams, Lacy, Lockhart and Doyne. Beebe finished second with Bri Martindill, Allison Strayhorn, Lani Wolfe and Richey.

In the boys’ meet, Connor Patrom fell one point short of being high-point winner, and would have been if the 4x100 relay team had not been disqualified.

He was on Beebe’s winning 4x400-meter team along with Taylor Boyce, Ahmad Nelson and Logan Archer.

Patrom took second in the high jump and third in the long jump, both events won by McClellan’s Tyrse Lair. Patrom was also fourth in the 100-meter dash.

Jacksonville freshman Orion Turner won the boys’ 100-meter dash with a time of 11.47 against a -1.9-wind factor. Beebe’s Trip Smith was second J.A. Fair’s Jabraylon Ellis, the high-point winner, was third.

Ellis won the 200-meter dash ahead of Beebe’s Keishun Davidson and Jacksonville’s Kameron Robinson. Ellis also won the 400-meter dash over Davidson.

Sylvan Hills’ Nathan Burd won the 800 and 1,600-meter races. Beebe’s John Paul Savage, Logan Brown and Gus McCoy were second through fourth in the 800. Savage, McCoy and Beebe’s Colin Brock took the final three qualifying spots in the 1,600.

McCoy won the 3,200 with a time of 11:18.91 to beat Burd, teammate Sean Langley and Savage.

Sylvan Hills’ Anthony Duncan won both hurdle races. He finished the 110 high hurdles in 15.48 while Beebe’s Smith and Archer were third and fourth. Duncan crossed the line in 40.02 in the 300 intermediate hurdles while Archer, Smith and Boyce were second through fourth.

Jacksonville’s 4x100 relay team qualified for state with a third-place finish while Sylvan Hills was fourth. Sylvan Hills also got into state in the 4x400 with a fourth-place finish.

Beebe’s Isiah Hutson and Nathan Clifton were the only two competitors in the pole vault, and both cleared 10-6.

Jacksonville’s Terry Brown won the discus with a toss of 129-5. Beebe’s Reese Anders was third at 117-7.

The Class 5A state meet will be held May 5 at Hot Springs High School.

EDITORIAL >> Fight against Zika virus

Who would have thought mosquitoes would become such bearers of illness — malaria, chikungunya, West Nile virus and now Zika — threatening entire populations including the unborn?

The state Health Department held a press conference April 22 to alert the public to the latest threat posed by mosquitoes, Zika, a mild viral infection which poses little threat beyond mild flu-like symptoms in adults but which can deliver harmful and even fatal consequences to the unborn, from microcephaly (an unusually small head) to other birth defects and severe fetal outcomes including death.

The Health Department has aligned itself with Little Rock Air Force Base, which is concerned about Zika because of frequent deployments of its airmen, often to countries with the virus.

The Leader reported Wednesday that State Health Department Epidemiologist Dirk Haselow says pregnant women who have traveled to an affected area may be tested for the virus by the Health Department. If the test is positive, he said the agency recommends a number of ultrasounds before birth. He said those patients would be added to a Zika registry.

Brazil, which has had the greatest incidence of microcephaly due to maternal Zika illness, reported 4,863 unconfirmed cases in March. Brazil is considered to be the center of the Zika epidemic, which has been called a pandemic along with West Nile virus, Dengue fever and chikungunya, which originated in Africa but recently caused an epidemic in Hawaii. Global travel has contributed to the spread of mosquito-borne viral diseases but none has sparked fear as much as Zika because of its ability to harm the fetus.

Brazil has the highest incidence of Zika, but before last year, there were outbreaks in Africa, Southeast Asia and some Pacific Islands. This year, the virus has been found in mosquitoes in the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa, as well as Puerto Rico, where 600 cases of Zika illness were reported, including the death of a 70-year-old Puerto Rican man. The U.S. has an Army base in Puerto Rico.

So far in the United States, reported cases have been travel-related with those infected traveling or returning to the U.S. Officials fear those cases could cause local spread of the virus if those infected are bitten by mosquitoes.

In Arkansas, the Health Department has stepped up surveillance and monitoring to detect mosquitoes with the virus by placing mosquito traps in various locations throughout the state. The Aedes Aegypti mosquito, commonly found in Arkansas and most of the southern United States, can harbor the Zika virus. Another mosquito, Aesdes albopictus, has been found farther north but are less likely to spread Zika or other mosquito-borne viruses, although experts warn that could change.

State Veterinarian Susan Weinstein hopes the data will help the Health Department to map the mosquitoes distribution and estimate their numbers. She said mosquito surveillance is a “haphazard patchwork” at city and county levels. She said Health Department officials have hopes of putting together a Zika task force.

In the meantime, county and city officials will rely on their usual mosquito-control measures including weekly spraying in some areas, including Jacksonville, and trying to educate the public on mosquito-control efforts at home, such as eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed.

As Dr. Nathaniel Smith, state Health Department director, summed it up: “We wouldn’t be talking about it except for the birth defects.”

TOP STORY >> Beebe defends playground rules

Leader staff writer

Is setting age limits for children using the playgrounds at Beebe’s ballparks a safety concern or age discrimination?

Beebe parent Miranda Davis has concerns over the play areas at the ballpark being limited for children of certain ages.

She contacted the mayor and city council alleging parks director Lynn Hatcher on Monday kicked 15 older children out of the playground during the ball games and made them stay in the parking lot without notifying parents.

Davis has a 15-year-old son, Keegan, with autism, a 12-year-old son, Aiden, and a 9-year-old son, Peyton.

Davis claims that on Tuesday Hatcher said the playground was only for use by children 12 years old and under. They have used the playground since last year and have not had any problems, she said.

Then on Tuesday, he changed his position after being showed proof of a child’s age and said that the playground was for use for children ages 10 and under.

There are no signs at the playground that limits age. Another playground at the ballpark has signs saying its for kids ages 6 and younger.

She said Hatcher told them the policy is to keep the little children safe.

“It’s like it changed overnight,” Keegan Pate said.

“As a mom I shouldn’t have to make a decision to watch my child play ball or sit in the parking lot with my son,” Davis said.

“Why not post signs with rules about horseplay and roughhousing and address the behavior instead of excluding a whole group of kids? It is a public facility. Something should be done for the older kids. You can’t kick them out of the park. They are here playing and not getting in trouble. It is a good thing for this age group. It is just unfair, there should be something done,” Davis said.

“As a taxpayer and a voter, I do not appreciate city facilities discriminating on any basis, including age. In addition to paying taxes, I pay recreation fees and my family and friends donate heavily to recreational activities,” Davis said.

When asked about having playground equipment in an area for older children to use at the Beebe ballpark, Hatcher said, “If the council approves it we can make such a playground. It can be brought up at the next council meeting,” Hatcher said.

Mayor Mike Robertson sent an email in response to Davis’ concerns. He said he’s heard complaints for mothers of younger children about not having signs posted on age restrictions. New signs will be re-installed designating the playground for kids 10 years of age and younger.

“This play structure was installed within a six-foot high fenced area for small children activity to be safe from parking lot access, direct baseball activity and to allow smaller children play activity while older brothers or sisters participated in ballgames,” Robertson said.

“Older children have never been allowed access to this area since installation until recently with the removal of the old signage during renovation. There have been numerous complaints during this season of larger, 12 years and older children dominating the play structure in the presence of small children; attempting to play, running, cutting in front, stepping over the smaller children even climbing onto the rooftops jumping from one to the other,” Robertson said.

“This play structure was installed in 1996 and soon after installation, park officials were confronted with the same problem,” Robertson said.

Robertson said as mayor in 1996, he instructed park officials to place signs on the play area excluding older children out of concern for the health, safety and welfare of the younger children.

TOP STORY >> Classical music concert Friday

Jacksonville will host its 11th annual IBLA Grand Prize Concert at 7 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church, 220 W. Main St. The concert is free and open to the public.

The concert will feature winners of the IBLA Grand Prize Music and Voice competition held each summer in Ragusa, Sicily, the sister city of Little Rock. Winners will perform throughout Arkansas May 2-8 and then at Carnegie Hall.

“Please come and see and hear these world-class musicians perform here and fill up the church. Our church can hold 600 people, and we want to have it full. Please tell your friends and bring them. These musicians come from all over the world to perform here, and we need to show them an enthusiastic Jacksonville and Arkansas welcome,” according to an announcement.

Performers come from around the world, including Italy, Poland, China, Korea, Georgia and the United States.

The concert will also be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Argenta Community Theater, 405 Main St. in North Little Rock.

Concert organizers are Joan Zumwalt, Little Rock IBLA chairwoman; Sherman Banks, Little Rock IBLA vice chairman; Dr. Alan Storeygard, Little Rock vice chairman and 2002 IBLA winner, and Dr. Salvatore Moltisanti, creator and artistic director of the IBLA Grand Prize Competition.

The Alan Storeygard Trio – with Dave Rogers on drums, Brian Wolverton on bass and Danny Fletcher on guitar – and friends will also perform.

Also set to perform are the pianists Pietro Beltrani and Alessandro Marino, both of Italy; Jakub Crerski and Marcin Parys, both of Poland; Jiaxi Jessica Sun and Xiani Lv, both of China; Soo Hyun Park of Korea; Tamara Licheli of Georgia, and Quinlan Facey of the United States.

The Polish accordionists Lukasz Brezina, Szymon Jablonski, Iwo Jedynecki and Batosz Kolsut; the violinists, Celina Kotz and Karolina Mikolajczyk, both of Poland, and Joung-Yun Son, a soprano from Korea, are also scheduled to perform.

TOP STORY >> Report cards reflect changes in grading

Leader staff writer

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles reviewing the recently released state report cards for all public schools.

Last year, more than 100 schools, including four in Cabot and one in Searcy, received A’s on the state’s annual report card. This year, only 10 schools statewide received A’s and none were in Cabot or Searcy.

Of the five previously A-ranked schools in the area, three received C’s on the latest state report card and two fell to B’s. Cabot’s Eastside, Southside and Mountain Springs Elementary schools all went from A’s to C’s , according to the state. Cabot’s Stagecoach Elementary and Searcy’s Westside Elementary dropped from an A to a B.

Even with most schools dropping in grades, eight schools here were still honored as Reward Schools for academic growth and performance and received cash awards.

“The School Report Card grades are figured through a very sophisticated process which simply fulfills the requirement to give schools a ‘grade.’ Within the formula, a couple of things can be tweaked, if even by only a small amount, and it can drastically affect the overall grade. It’s a formula that is dependent upon specific criteria,” explained Dr. Belinda Shook, superintendent of Beebe schools.

“With that being said, we could take a whole different set of criteria, and all of our schools would have an A. The report card formula is mainly based on test scores,” such as PARCC, Shook added.

Beebe Junior High School was recently named a Reward School for achieving academic growth and performance, yet the state report gave it a C, with lower scores than the previous year.

“Beebe Junior High will receive $44,720 for top 5 percent growth in the state, and a building committee has decided to spend this money on additional technology for the students. I am extremely proud of the work at the school and our entire school district,” she said.

“Last year was the first year to take PARCC, and it was a new experience. We joined schools all over the state in the initiation of online testing. With that new process, we had technology problems with internet connections, not to mention all the technology that had to be purchased. Furthermore, students had to learn a lot about technology to take the online PARCC, so it was as much a test of technology skills as it was content,” Shook said.

She continued, “It has been shown that students scored higher on the paper and pencil version when they didn’t have to worry about the technology skills. Nevertheless, online testing is here to stay and we feel that the longer such testing is in place, the better our students will do, because they will be thinking about the content, and not the process.

“Of course we are not happy with Cs, but considering the entire process, we know we will see improvement and do not think PARCC was a true indication of what our students are capable of doing.”

To get an A, a school must score higher than 270; a B is a score of 240 to 269; a C is a score from 210 to 239; a D goes from 180 to 209; and an F is any score below 180.


According to the recently released state report cards covering the 2014-2015 school year, Beebe Elementary kept its C from the previous year, but its score fell from 234 to 227. Badger Elementary also kept its C score and also dropped its score from 219 to 214, edging close to a D. Beebe’s Early Childhood School also stayed at a C, but fell from 234 to 229.

The high school fell from a B (score of 242) to a C (score of 233).

The only school to show improvement was Beebe Middle School moving from a D to a C and raising its score from 208 to 223.

“I am optimistic, if we continue to use the same standards and tests consistently, our schools will continue to see test scores and report card grades improve,” Shook said.


At the elementary level, Eastside, Southside and Mountain Springs all went from A’s to C’s. Eastside’s score fell from 283 down to 236; Southside went from 314 down to 237 and Mountain Springs dropped from 303 to 228. Stagecoach went from an A to a B with its score falling from 277 to 260.

Ward Central and Magness Creek both went from B’s to C’s. Ward Central’s score dropped from 260 to 232. Magness Creek fell from 250 to 228.

Northside, Westside and Central Elementary schools stayed at a C grade, but still fell in their scores. Central went from 232 to 223; West-side from 231 to 225; and Northside from 231 to 213, very close to a D.

Cabot Middle School South actually improved, according to the state, going from a C to a B, going from a score of 237 to 252. The rest of Cabot’s secondary schools kept their grade from the previous year. Cabot Junior High North kept a C and improved its overall score, going from 223 up to 231. Cabot Junior High South also stayed at a C and improved its score a point, going from 218 to 219. Cabot Middle School North also kept it C grade and its score fell slightly, going from 235 to 233.

The high school stayed at a B, but fell from 264 to 247. The Cabot Freshman Academy was not operational two years ago, so it got a grade just for last year and received a B with a score of 244.


Westside Elementary fell from an A to a B, with its score going from 297 to 248.

Sidney Deener Elementary School was the only Searcy school to show an improvement based on the state report cards. It went from a D (score of 204) to a C (score of 230). The city’s other elementary school McRae, dropped from a B to a C, going from 269 down to 219.

Southwest Middle School and Ahlf Junior High stayed the same. Southwest kept its C but did improve its score, going from 227 to 237, just three points from a B. Ahlf kept its B, but dropped from 244 to 240, just one point above a C.

Searcy High School fell from a B to a C. Its score went from 257 to 230.

TOP STORY >> Sinise show on air base

Leader staff writer

“I’m just a conduit of the American people’s support of the military,” said Gary Sinise on Friday afternoon during a press conference at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band performed a free concert on base Friday evening. The band does about 30 shows yearly in support of wounded heroes, Gold Star families, veterans and troops with support from the Gary Sinise Foundation.

“Our defenders need to feel special. Because they are special. When I come up and I’m playing up there, quite often, it’s with the support of the American people doing that,” he said. “Same thing with the USO. The American people support the USO. And here we are teaming up with the USO.”

Sinise is well known for his performance as Lt. Dan Taylor in “Forrest Gump,” which his band is named after. He was a founding member of the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, starring in performances such as the group’s off-Broadway debut production of Sam Shepard’s “True West” with John Malkovich.

His other films and TV shows include “Of Mice and Men,” “The Stand,” “The Quick and the Dead,” “Apollo 13” and “The Green Mile.” He also starred on “CSI: NY,” “CSI: Miami,” “Criminal Minds” and “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.”

“Before I played the wounded soldier in ‘Forrest Gump,’ I had not worked with wounded veterans much,” Sinise said, referring to his 1994 role for which he was nominated for an Oscar. “Forrest Gump” starred Tom Hanks, and it brought international fame to Sinise. The film won the Oscar in 1995 for Best Picture.

“I had worked with Vietnam veterans going back to the ’80s, so I very much wanted to play the Vietnam veteran in ‘Forrest Gump.’ I had Vietnam veterans in my family. When the opportunity came to play Lt. Dan, I very much wanted to do that,” he said.

“That little story of Lt. Dan is a beautiful story of resilience that shows a whole bunch of Vietnam veterans (who) came home from that war that ended up as successful business people,” he said. “That story had never been told before of a Vietnam veteran. I very much appreciated playing that part.”

He says he sees Lt. Dan as someone who wanted to be a great general, who felt he should have died heroically in battle.

“He wanted to be a great officer. That part of that was kind of based on my brother-in-law, Lt. Col. Boyd McCanna Harris. I have no doubt he would have been a four-star general. He was just that kind of person,” Sinise said.

Harris, a Vietnam veteran, passed away in 1983 from cancer. He will be inducted into the Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Hall of Fame next week.

“It was after the movie opened that I got involved with our wounded,” Sinise continued. “Through the DAV, Disabled American Veterans. Then after Sept. 11, when we were attacked, I just wanted to do something to support our active-duty deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan so that they felt appreciated. I had spent so much time with Vietnam veterans and have a personal relationship with them within my own family I had a pretty first-hand look at what it was like for them to come home and be treated poorly and have the nation turn its back on them. The thought of that happening to the men and women who were responding to Osama Bin Laden, that was troubling to me.”

Sinise reached out to the USO and offered to serve in any way he could. He began going on “handshake tours.”

“I would kind of poke the USO and say ‘You know, I have a band, I could entertain,’” he said.

“They set up a tour for us, and I started taking the band,” he said. “I’ve done hundreds of shows now with the USO, without the USO, with other military charities. All of that work, it just kind of manifested itself into the creation of my own foundation. It was very, very clear to me that this was something I was going to want to do until I couldn’t anymore.”

The band is a program of the Gary Sinise Foundation, which has several programs including R.I.S.E., Soaring Valor, Invincible Spirit Festivals, Serving Heroes, as well as several outreach programs. “The programs for my foundation are for our troops and our veterans and our first responders,” Sinise said. “They do different things and they address different needs. For example, this program here (Lt. Dan Band) is just military support and appreciation that we do. We’re able to provide this service because the American people donate to the Gary Sinise Foundation. It allows me to come out and show my gratitude and support.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils drop tough one to PA

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville boys’ soccer team entered Monday’s 5A-Central showdown with Pulaski Academy primed to take sole possession of the top spot in the conference standings, but the Bruins made one more play than the Red Devils did in the end, and it allowed the visiting Bruins to leave Jan Crow Stadium with a narrow 2-1 win.

Pulaski Academy (6-2, 6-0) scored the game’s first goal with 29:43 left in the first half. That goal was scored on a header by senior Kyle Kullander off of a corner kick, and it gave PA an early 1-0 lead.

Jacksonville (9-1-1, 8-1) put itself in position to score on several occasions throughout the first half, but the Bruin defense didn’t make anything easy. Almost every shot the Red Devils took was in traffic and/or well defended. But the Red Devil defense also made plays throughout the first half, which kept the game 1-0 PA at halftime.

“Defense has held us all year,” said JHS coach Donny Lantrip. “When you’ve got Kris Johnson and Darryl (Kimble-Brooks) and Levi (Bailey) and Juan (Martinez) – and Juan can play anywhere. Juan is a super soccer player. I trust them to hold down the fort and they’re going to hold it down.

“I just thought that we could’ve pressed a little more, especially in the midfield. We weren’t getting any first touches in the middle of the field, but they’ve got their All-State kicker (Justin Charette) and he can boom it. He can kick it.”

Charette recently signed a football scholarship with Ole Miss to kick for the SEC-West school in the fall. Charette scored PA’s second goal less than two minutes into the second half.

The Bruins had gotten the ball deep into Jacksonville territory and threatened to score, but the ball appeared to go out of bounds off of a PA player near the JHS goal. Kimble-Brooks immediately picked up the ball and began to put it down at the right corner of the goal box in order to kick the ball downfield, but the side official ruled the ball was still in play when Kimble-Brooks picked it up.

Kimble-Brooks and the JHS coaches pleaded to the official that the ball was already out of bounds when he picked it up, but the play stood as called on the field, giving Charette a penalty kick inside 10 yards in front of the goal. Charette then showed the power in his leg, as he booted a lining shot into the upper left portion of the JHS goal, giving the Bruins a 2-0 lead with 38:02 remaining.

“I thought the ball was out of bounds,” Lantrip said. “I know Darryl did, too, and we were trying to move the ball quick because we had the momentum. So, Darryl’s trying to get it and put it back in play, and they called hand ball. We caught the ball in the box and gave them a PK, but hey, this is what these kids play for, this is what we coach for.

“Put us in the game against PA. We know they’re going to be well disciplined. We know they’ve got athletes. They’re there every year and they’re the ones we chase. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting.”

Jacksonville did what it could to make a comeback. The Red Devils scored off of an Illijah Carter header into the left side of the goal through plenty of PA traffic with 20:56 left to play. Carter’s header was set up by a well-placed corner kick by R.J. Moore.

Pulaski Academy dropped its defenders back in the soccer version of a prevent defense for the remainder of the game, making it very difficult for the Red Devils to get any clear shot at the goal. Jacksonville battled till the final second, but couldn’t get the game-tying goal needed to keep it going.

Fortunately for JHS, its next game will be against PA next Monday in Little Rock. If Jacksonville can win that game, the Red Devils can tie the Bruins for the conference lead, and if they can beat them by at least two goals, they’ll put themselves in position for the No. 1 playoff seed from the Central.

“We’re going to come back next week and give them a run for their money over at their place,” Lantrip said.

The boys’ game was very competitive, but the girls’ game was all Lady Bruins. The PA girls were dominant in their game with the Lady Red Devils, winning by the final score of 12-0.

Next Monday’s boys’ game between JHS and PA is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at PAHS. The girls’ game is scheduled at 5 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Bryant girls get shutout over Cabot

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panther soccer team took on one of the state’s top teams and toughest defenses on Monday, and things didn’t go well for the Cabot squad. Bryant held Cabot scoreless and allowed only the rare shot as they beat the Lady Panthers 3-0.

The Lady Hornets scored two goals in the first half, both off short fields after Cabot turnovers, and took advantage of what Cabot coach Kerry Castillo called, “a lack of intensity,” from his team.

“There definitely was a lack of intensity on our part,” said Castillo. “They are a very physical team and we did not match that at all. They played tougher than we did. When you just give the ball up 30 yards from their goal, of course you’re going to give something up eventually. We talked about that at halftime, but we didn’t stop doing it.”

The Lady Panthers did have three prime scoring opportunities late in the second half, but were not able to convert. If they had scored, they would have been only the second team all season to score a goal against the Lady Hornets.

Bryant is 15-0-1 with 14 shutouts to go with its 1-1 tie against Fayetteville two weeks ago. The Lady Hornets have outscored their opponents by a combined 57-1 so far this season.

Castillo still believes his team is capable of beating Bryant were they to meet again in the playoffs.

“Absolutely we have the ability,” Castillo said. “We needed that game to see where some of our weaknesses are so we can get better for state. We definitely found them. A team like Bryant will expose them for sure. The main thing was the physicality. We sort of let them push us around and slowed down our offense. We really don’t have anyone in our conference that’s able to do that. I think this game will make us tougher, and make us better.”

Cabot (15-3, 6-0) hosted West Memphis on Tuesday night after Leader deadlines, and will host another league game on Friday against North Little Rock.

SPORTS STORY >> Freshmen highlight track meet

Leader sports editor

Freshmen ruled the day for local track teams last Friday in the Heber Springs Last Chance Relays.

Cabot teams garnered top-10 finishes, though few teams in the event were entering their athletes in their best events. As the name of the meet indicates, it’s a last chance for athletes to turn in state-qualifying performances before postseason conference and state meets begin.

That means many of the best athletes in a given event do not participate in the events they’ve already qualified for, instead going for qualifying times and distances in other events, and leaving room for teammates to qualify in events they would otherwise fill a spot for.

One highlight for local teams in the meet was the Sylvan Hills girls’ 4x400-meter relay team. Consisting entirely of freshmen, the Lady Bears bursted onto the scene with a great time the previous week in the Battle for the Border meet in Memphis. On Friday, the team of Ashley Jefferson, O’Shayla Muldrow, Daveiunna Jones and Aliya Hatton won the event with a time of 4:13.04, beating Vilonia by .98 seconds and everyone else by at least six seconds.

It was the fastest time run by a 5A team this season. Vilonia’s time was the second fastest.

“That little group of freshmen, the jitterbugs I call them, has been a big surprise,” said SHHS coach Grover Garrison. “But they’ve worked hard. All these girls have worked very hard all year long.”

Cabot freshman Lauren Turner ran her first varsity meet at Heber and won the 300-meter intermediate hurdles. Her time of 46.74 beat Forrest City’s Destiney Summers by more than two seconds. Turner also finished fourth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 27.27. Muldrow placed sixth in that event for the Lady Bears and Hatton was eighth.

Jacksonville also got a surprise performance from a freshman on Friday. Sprinter Orion Turner finished sixth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.3. Forrest City’s Leon Smith won the event with a 10.91, only the third time this year by anyone under 11 seconds.

Jacksonville’s Terry Brown edged out Cabot’s Brandon Jones to win the discus with a throw of 134-10. Jones threw 131-10 for second place.

Rocky Burke of Cabot cleared 13-6 in the pole vault for fourth place.

Beebe’s Connor Patrom was the first non-Forrest City Mustang to cross the finish line in the 200-meter dash. He took third behind Smith and Kendrell Johnson with a time of 22.77. Cabot’s Britton Alley was fifth in that event while Trip Smith of Beebe finished eighth.

Cabot girls took second in the 4x800 relay while Beebe was fourth in that event.

SPORTS STORY >> McClure will join Arkansas football

2013 JHS graduate D’Vone McClure will join the Razorback football team in May.


Leader sports editor

Come August, there will be two Red Devils representing on The Hill. Two-sport high school standout D’Vone McClure announced on Monday that he will walk on as a wide receiver for the Razorbacks after four years in minor league baseball. He will join former high school teammate Kevin Richardson, who will be a redshirt junior and starting defensive back for Arkansas.

McClure signed with the Razorback baseball team in 2012, but opted for the minor leagues when the Cleveland Indians took him in the fourth round and gave him a $750,000 signing bonus.

McClure had also received scholarship offers from several mid-major Division I football programs, and was receiving interest from major programs like Arkansas and Auburn as well, but most of those schools backed away from making official offers, knowing he was practically a lock as a baseball prospect.

His senior year of high school, McClure and his mother Cynthia McClure put together a plan that allowed him to pursue his dream of being a Major League ball player, but also provided a fall back.

“We had a five-year plan, and if I wasn’t at the top of the game in five years, I’d go to college and play football,” McClure told The Leader on Monday. “That’s why I never stressed. I knew I still had football as a fallback, and I’ve always loved football.”

McClure also had a clause in his contract with the Indians that the club would pay for his college if his pro baseball career didn’t pan out, so it’s a win-win for him and the Hogs. His school is paid for, and the Hogs get a DI talent without burning a scholarship.

At 22 years old, McClure will be one of the oldest freshmen in the country.

He’s also considerably bigger than the 190-pound frame his senior year. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he will also be one of the biggest wide receivers in the Southeastern Conference. He also says the 30 pounds of muscle he added as a professional baseball player hasn’t slowed his sub 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life,” McClure said. “I think I’m still in the 4.4 to 4.5 range, but I don’t think speed is going to be as much of a factor for me as my strength. Everybody’s fast in the SEC, but I think I’m going to be difficult physically for those guys.”

There’s also another advantage he’ll bring, and one he knows he would not have had if not for baseball.

“It’s mentally, too, 100 percent. I’m much more mature than when I left high school,” McClure said. “You have to grow up fast because baseball is work. It’s definitely a grind. You got to work every day and it’s work. But it was fun, too. I’ve always loved the game, so I can’t say it wasn’t also fun.”

Arkansas wasn’t the only major program hoping to get McClure. He visited a few others and was considering heavily the University of Arizona. He says he very much enjoyed his visit to a Razorbacks’ spring practice, but proximity to family was the real deciding factor.

“This is home, man,” McClure said. “A big key was my mom. Playing ball in Arizona and Ohio, she never got to see me play, so giving her the opportunity to come see me play was important. That was really the deciding factor.”

McClure will report to campus in late May, and he has plans to make an immediate impact.

“Oh, 100 percent I expect to play,” McClure said. “That was another big factor. Also getting to play with my boy K-Rich. (Kevin Richardson). We were tight all through school and now we get that going again. It’s going to be fun.”

SPORTS STORY >> A lifetime going 1/8 of a mile

Leader sportswriter

North Pulaski High School senior Payton Mullen isn’t your typical homecoming queen.

Yeah, she’s a multi-sport athlete, having played volleyball for the Lady Falcons and now playing softball for the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils because of the upcoming merger between the two schools. Playing a varsity sport for a different school is unique in itself, but it’s Mullen’s favorite sport that really separates her from the crowd.

Ever since she was 11 years old, Mullen has taken part in drag racing. It’s a sport she grew up around. She grew up watching her father (Bob Mullen) race, and after spending a good chunk of her early years watching him speed down the track, she quickly became interested in doing it herself.

“My dad’s been racing since he was 18 years old,” said Mullen. “So, I grew up around racing, and I was like, ‘Dad, I want to race! I want to race!’ He loves racing. We love racing. It’s a family thing and that was really it.”

At 11 years old, Mullen first began racing junior dragsters, which are smaller versions of dragsters – the vehicles designed specifically for drag racing. Although junior dragsters are smaller than and not as fast as your typical dragster, they can still go, and Mullen’s car could really go for a junior dragster.

“Mine went about 92 miles perhour,” she said. “It was one of the fastest in the state.”

Mullen eventually moved up to the dragsters, and the races for those are an eighth of a mile in length and Mullen’s average times are in the low 5-second range.

“I’m usually in the low fives,” she said. “So that’s about 130 miles per hour, somewhere around that.”

Despite the speed and power of the vehicles, Mullen said the cars are typically easy for her to handle.

“It’s actually very easy. A dragster usually goes pretty straight unless the wind catches it or if there’s grease on the track your tires will probably spin, but they’re actually really easy to drive.”

Unfortunately, things don’t always go perfectly. In Mullen’s first time trial of this racing season, which took place on April 3 at the Centerville Dragway, the throttle on her vehicle got stuck and it led to her first-ever wreck.

“I was racing my sister (Alexis Mullen) and we were just doing our burnout,” Mullen said, “and when we started our burnout I realized my throttle was stuck and I couldn’t get my car to shut off or anything.”

Mullen’s dragster flipped several times during the wreck, and resulted in her being taken to the emergency room.

“After the first two flips or so I blacked out,” she said, “and I remember I tried to unbuckle my seatbelt after the wreck. I remember unbuckling my seatbelt and trying to hurry up and get out of the car. It was really hard to get out because the car was on its side. And so I had to squeeze my body through the open hole, because all I could think was what if it’s on fire.

“So I had to hurry up and try and get out of the car. After that I just laid there, and all I remember is I opened my eyes and there’s like six people over me. They put oxygen in my helmet and were seeing if I’m OK. They thought my leg was broken, so they cut my fire suit pants off and that’s when they called the ambulance and they hurried up and got there and rushed me to the hospital.”

Even though Mullen’s injuries weren’t severe, the wreck left her pretty banged up. It was a tough situation to deal with, but she had far greater worries on her mind that week.

“My dad has been having heart problems,” Mullen said. “After my wreck he was supposed to have surgery that next Thursday on his heart. So the wreck happened and all I could think about was if my dad was OK. So far he’s doing alright after surgery, but it’s still a really tough situation.”

As for the wreck, Mullen said it was something she never really gave thought to before it actually happened.

“It was something I didn’t think was ever going to happen,” she said. “It’s a risk getting in the car and knowing something could happen, but you never really think what if it actually really does happen, and it happened that day.”

Whatever trauma resulted from the wreck, though, hasn’t deterred Mullen from wanting to race again in the near future.

“It was definitely very heartbreaking,” Mullen said, “but I’m probably going to start back up in a few weeks or a month to try and get over my fear now.”

Because of the injuries from the wreck, Mullen was told by her doctor to take a week off from any softball activities. She was, however, in attendance at the team’s next game, which was only two days after the wreck.

“If the doctor hadn’t told her to take a week off, she probably would’ve tried to play,” said JHS softball coach Hank Hawk. “When we played Sylvan Hills she couldn’t play, but after the first game, we huddle up and look over and there she is walking out to the outfield real slow.

“The girls wanted to wait for her to get there before we said anything, and then when we called it up, they asked her to call it up to lead the cheer. So that tells you what she means to those girls and to the team. That kind of sums it up right there.”

Mullen, an All-Conference softball player for North Pulaski the previous two seasons, played tournament ball in the summer with a good portion of the JHS softball players, so the transition of going from the NPHS team to the Lady Red Devils this spring wasn’t very difficult.

“It was pretty smooth,” Mullen said of the transition. “Jacksonville, their softball team welcomed us like we’re family. We had no rough starts or anything. I played tournament ball with them, so I actually already knew all of them.”

The JHS softball team is having one of its best seasons this year. The Lady Red Devils are undefeated in conference play and are in line for an outright conference championship and No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class 5A state tournament. It’s the type of season Mullen and the team was hoping for.

“It’s everything I’ve ever wanted,” Mullen said. “I always wanted in my senior year to win conference and so far we’re doing that.”

Mullen also experienced a lot of success in volleyball. She and the Lady Falcon volleyball team will go down as the last North Pulaski High School sports team to play in a state tournament. Mullen was a pivotal player on that team, and was selected to the All-State Tournament team as a senior.

“She was nothing but an asset,” said North Pulaski volleyball coach Ben Belton, “a great kid to be around. She’s a very hard-working kid and very successful. She plays way bigger than she is, as far as height-wise. She was incredible to watch and a joy to coach and good person to have around.

“This year alone, I think she served like 91 percent from the line – which the team, as a whole, we served 89 percent from the line for the season, and Payton really came on.”

Mullen was a member of the NPHS volleyball team since she was a freshman, and was very versatile for the Lady Falcons, who made it to the state tournament in three of the last four seasons.

“Payton was brought up as a libero and ended up playing full rotation as an outside hitter,” Belton said. “So she grew athletically and was just very successful. She was very consistent in everything she did. She worked hard. She played hard – played with her heart, and that’s all you can ask of a kid. She did everything I asked her to do.”

Mullen said her experience playing for the Lady Falcons and her experience as a student at NPHS, where she was voted homecoming queen in the fall, has been one she’ll always remember fondly.

“It’s been amazing,” Mullen said. “The teachers are great. The coaches, they’ve been amazing. Volleyball stayed the same and I’m so thankful for that. Coach Belton is for sure one of the best coaches I’ve had. He cares a lot about us, and I think it was the best thing to do moving softball to Jacksonville, because our team has turned out to be amazing.”

The Lady Red Devils’ softball season has been just that so far, and Hawk has enjoyed having Mullen on the team.

“She plays with the girls during the summer,” Hawk said. “Tim (House) and her dad (Bob Mullen) coach that team, so the transition playing for us has not been bad at all. Her work ethic is top notch.

“She’s a leader in all the drills. She’s going to work as hard as she can. So you don’t have to worry about that with her. I can’t find anything negative to say about her.”

Mullen has had plenty of success in volleyball and softball, but her love for drag racing is like no other. So much so that the bulk of Mullen’s post high school plans involve travel and drag racing.

“After I graduate, we were planning on traveling,” Mullen said, “and I assume we’re going to go NHRA (National Hot Rod Association), and that’s when we’re going to travel and go to all different types of places. That’s what I plan on doing. I plan on traveling the world, drag racing and probably doing online college courses.”

Mullen doesn’t expect the travel time to be very short, either.

“I want to race until I can’t,” she said. “I want to race as long as I possibly can.”

EDITORIAL >> Meaningful new mascot

A public hearing was held last week to discuss ideas for a new mascot for Jacksonville High School. Residents made clear they want a new look and a fresh start for the new Jacksonville High School, which could cost as much as $60 million and will be built at the old middle school site.

The ideas so far proposed by Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District officials have yet to inspire the community. School administrators have enough on their mind as they work to establish a new district, fully independent of the Pulaski County Special School District, by July 1.

We thought we’d offer a few ideas to continue the brainstorming process.

The new campus will take a few years to build, so there’s plenty of time to come up with a new symbol and color scheme at the high school. It’s something students and teachers should participate in, too.

It seems the era of the Red Devils and the Falcons has ended. Both mascots have connections to the Air Force: The 50th Airlift Squadron and JHS use the Red Devils for their mascots, although the high school mascot predates the 50th Airlift Squadron’s arrival here. The Falcons are the mascot of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The school district’s new mascot should also have an Air Force theme. Jacksonville is the home of Little Rock Air Force Base — the largest C-130 base in the world — and seeing C-130s fly overhead makes residents feel proud and optimistic.

“Herc Life” decals can be seen on vehicles in Jacksonville, Sherwood and Cabot. It features a silhouette of a C-130 tilting as it turns in flight. That would look sharp on a football helmet.

We’ve said it before: Go Hercs!

Imagine, foam C-130 Hercules hats like the beloved Hog hats and other marketing opportunities that could instill pride in the community and help keep military families who’ve moved to other cities in recent years. Maybe Lockheed Martin, which makes C-130 planes, could help the new district develop academic courses and build the school’s sports complex.

There are lots of marketing possibilities by promoting the Four Fans of Freedom, as C-130s are sometimes called.

The color scheme could be the Air Force Academy’s blue and silver, or the digital camouflage pattern that adorns airmen’s uniforms, even flight-suit green is as distinctive to Jacksonville’s character as any other color.

The San Diego Padres often wear a digital-camo pattern on their jerseys as the city is home to the Navy’s largest base on the West Coast. The New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds have also worn digital-camo jerseys.

It’s eye-catching, modern and patriotic.

The Hercs would be as unique as the Monticello Boll Weevils, the Beebe Badgers, the Stuttgart Ricebirds, the Pine Bluff Zebras or the Conway Wampus Cats.

The Leader’s creative editor, Christy Hendricks, suggests the Black Knights, as members of the 19th Airlift Wing are known. That would be an easy color scheme and logo and would pay homage to our airmen, who have been deployed nonstop since 9/11 and whose children will attend the new high school. Black uniforms, maybe some silver letters and numbers, similar to the Brooklyn Nets NBA team.

Other mascots worth considering: the Airlifters or Workhorses, as C-130s are called.

But if a military mascot doesn’t suit you, try the Red Birds. This is still Cardinals country after all, and it would be a fitting combination of the Red Devils and Falcons, and the mascot logo could be similar to the Arizona Cardinals or the Louisville Cardinals. The color scheme could be a brighter red than the current shade used at JHS.

The Beebe School District recently hired a Little Rock public relations firm to give its Badgers mascot a more up-to-date look. It was an affordable service, though the new look has yet to be revealed.

The new Jacksonville district should consider hiring a professional design team once a mascot is chosen. It will be a worthwhile investment.

The district should allow incoming freshmen to choose a mascot next school year. They will probably be the first graduating class at the new campus, making their choice all the more significant to the community.

As Jacksonville works to revive its school system, finding a new mascot is a great opportunity to give a fresh face that better expresses the community’s character and make it clear that this is a new dawn for all of Jacksonville.

Whatever the new mascot turns out to be, it should be a unique reflection of what Jacksonville is all about: Optimism and perseverance.

TOP STORY >> Accused say not guilty in murder

Leader staff writer

The three teenagers accused in the murder of another teen last Thursday in the Bill Harmon Recreation Center parking lot pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

All three — Xavier Porter, 17, of North Little Rock; Quincy Parks, 15, of 8709 Holiday Drive, Sherwood, and Trevone Miller, 14, of 2001 Madison Layne Court, Sherwood — are being charged as adults in the death of Bryan Allen Thompson, 17, a Sylvan Hills High School student.

Porter is a student at Sylvan Hills High School. Parks is a student at North Pulaski High School, and Miller, who was expelled from Sylvan Hills, was listed as being homeschooled.

The two older teens, Porter and Parks, are charged with capital murder and aggravated robbery. The 14-year-old suspect, Miller, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.

The teens are being held in the Pulaski County Detention Center on $200,000 bond.

The Sherwood City Council on Monday night discussed the lighting and cameras at the recreation center.

Alderman Bill Harmon asked if the council needed to find funds to add more lights or cameras to help prevent this kind of tragedy from occurring again.

He was told by Sonny Janssen, the parks and recreation director, that there were some areas the camera didn’t cover and a few more on the light poles in the parking lot would help.

Mayor Virginia Hillman said the city needed to review the status of lighting and cameras at all city buildings.

Police responded to the recreation center about 2:30 p.m. Thursday on a call about an unresponsive, and possibly dead individual, in a car in the parking lot.

Sherwood Police Sgt. Eddie Alvis was one of the first on scene, along with Officer Dale Peters. They found a silver car parked in the back row of the west parking lot.

Thompson was in the driver’s side seat, pale with blood on his chin. When Alvis went to shake him, thinking he might be sleeping or passed out, Thompson was stiff. Inside the car, Alvis found a bag of marijuana on the front floorboard.

Thompson’s body was discovered by two recreation center employees who called the police.

TOP STORY >> Strawberry Fest pride of Cabot

Leader staff writer

Windows are the, well, windows to the soul and windows with printed inspirations on the panes were one of the many unique items for sale at Saturday’s Strawberry Festival in Cabot.

Thousands attended the 14th annual festival, which saw one of the nicest days ever, sunny and highs in the low 80s.

It was the first year for the festival to be downtown circling city hall. It had been held at the Veterans Park Community Center since its inception.

Sponsored by Cabot Junior Auxiliary, the festival had food trucks, a carnival, area businesses set up to let people know they were in town, Boy Scouts and the archery club held fundraisers for equipment and competitions, a young local artist, pork rinds, kettle corn and, of course, strawberries.

The strawberries were the only complaint organizers heard about – there just wasn’t enough. But that was the fault of the recent rains that slowed down growth and picking. Strawberries were gone by noon from the festival and most area stands throughout the city. “I don’t think there was a strawberry left in Cabot,” Auxiliary member Danielle Graves said. Yet, the festival went on until 6 p.m., with entertainment and the carnival running even later.

Graves, who worked with the vendors, said “The festival was just great. We had an excellent response from our vendors. They liked the downtown location and it brought in more people.”

“It was the best Strawberry Festival ever,” said Auxiliary member Wendy Bass. “People enjoyed the amount of booths and the diversity. We had food trucks on the upper level in front of city hall and the carnival and a variety of booths around the backside.”

Bass said she stopped at one of the booths selling cinnamon type rolls. “I got a salted caramel one, and it was delicious. I offered to share it with some friends, luckily they declined, and I got it all,” she said. The carnival said it had double the number of riders.

Now, about those windows. They were designed and sold by Amanda Johnson of Cabot, who calls her custom design business, Pink Lemonade Creations. She salvages the windows from her family’s business and other sources and does the printing herself.

Tim Hobbs and Lance Schichtl are instructors for the 70-plus member archery teams at Cabot Junior High South and Cabot Freshman Academy, and in the matter of just a few years have turned it into one of the top programs in the state. The group was at the festival raising money to participate in the National Archery School competition next month in Louisville, Ky.

Hobbs said, “Thanks to the generosity of those visiting the Strawberry Festival, we did manage to raise around about a fifth of the money we need to raise. The Junior Auxiliary was excellent to work with and I think things ran very well. My students really enjoyed being there, painting faces and talking to people about Cabot Archery and the upcoming tournament. We have another fundraiser, a spaghetti supper this Friday at the Cabot National Guard Armory.”

Hobbs said more than 13,000 students from 47 states will participate in the Kentucky tournament.

TOP STORY >> Austin adds to city hall

Leader staff writer

It was about 17 years ago that Bernie Chamberlain won the Austin mayoral race and back then, she remembers her office and the rest of the city offices were crammed into a small building on Hendrix Street.

The small building was an old medical facility that had been refitted for city business, and even after some of the city’s services moved next door to a building facing Hwy. 367, it continued to serve as an annex and a meeting place for the Austin City Council.

Times are changing.

At the city council meeting on Monday, Mayor Chamber-lain announced plans that will double Austin’s city hall from 2,792 square feet to 6,644 square feet.

“We’ve been saving for at least a decade,” she said about the 3,852 square-foot expansion that will cost about $455,924. The money will come from General Funds and the city will carry no debt on the building, she said.

It will include a 1,300- square-foot meeting room, space for the District Court and a number of city offices. The plans were designed by Clements and Associates of North Little Rock, and Warrior Enterprises of Van Buren is the project’s contractor.

Chamberlain said, “It’s been in the making forever, and I can’t wait because we really need the space.”

Officials expect to start meeting in the expanded city hall in October.

Chamberlain had blueprints of the expansion on display at the council meeting.

In other business:

After extensive research by Austin Fire Chief Steve Bettis, aldermen unanimously approved the purchase of two “newer” fire trucks by the department for a total of about $64,000.

The pumper trucks are a 1994 Pierce and a 1995 KME, and will replace the two 1970s-era trucks the department now uses.

The fire department has some cash available but will need a $40,000 loan from First Arkansas Bank & Trust.

Bettis was recognized by the city council members for his work and for saving the city about $14,500 through price negotiations.

Bettis said he expects delivery within a few days and hopes to have the trucks ready for the fire department’s May 21 fundraiser, AustinFest.

The city is considering using a centralized 911 system and while Bettis said it offered some advantages, he countered with, “There was a shortfall…The police would be on a whole different system. We need to have a lot of discussion.”

The council also approved a measure that would allow Chamberlain to enter into a Telecommunications Management Service Advisory Agreement with Local Government Services, LLC.

While the city will have to shell out about $3,000 initially, it will bring in about $400 a month through a Land Lease Agreement that will allow Verizon to construct a communications tower, said City Attorney Greg Crumpton.

Austin Police Chief John Staley reported that his officers responded to 146 calls last month.

City council members also approved the purchase of tires from Young’s Tires & Auto of Cabot for a police vehicle, and the public auction of old and out-of-commission police vehicles.

March’s Financial Report was corrected to include a voided Austin Fire Department check for $150, after which, the council unanimously approved the corrected report.

Members also unanimously approved funding for two street repairs, including to a collapsing culvert on West Main Street for an amount up to $4,500 to be paid to White’s Paving, Inc. at Cabot and gravel for the city’s sewer pond levee for up to $2,500 to be paid to CTI Gravel at Cabot.

The city also approved up to $5,400 for core-samples extractions at Shadow Creek and Orchard Estates.

The mayor said, “The roads are crumbling, and we need to know why.”