Friday, July 15, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panther playmakers answering questions

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School hosted its second 7-on-7 meet of the summer Wednesday at Panther Stadium, and showed signs of promise on both sides of the ball, as did the other local schools competing.

The same five schools that competed in last week’s 7-on-7 meet at Panther Stadium were back Wednesday – Cabot, Lonoke, Des Arc, Hazen and Rose Bud, but J.A. Fair joined the action Wednesday as the sixth team.

Cabot entered the summer missing some returning starters because of injuries, but the Panthers showed Wednesday they still have plenty of guys that can make plays, starting with quarterback and University of Arkansas commit Jarrod Barnes.

“Jarrod, he’s looking good out there,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “He’s a three-year starter at quarterback, and just watching him throw the ball – man, he can throw it. He’s more confident, he anticipates better and he’s doing a good job.”

The very athletic Barnes, who’s expected to be used as a slot receiver at Arkansas, split out and played receiver at times throughout Wednesday’s meet, and gave a preview of what Razorback fans can expect to see once he’s at the next level.

“He asked to go out there and play receiver, because that’s where he’s going to play next year at Arkansas,” Malham said, “and you can just watch him go up and get a ball, if it’s around there he’s going to get it.”

Barnes made multiple acrobatic catches Wednesday and was perhaps even more impressive in space, turning routine catches into big-yard gains because of his speed and agility.

Barnes made his share of plays throughout the meet, but Malham was also pleased with what he saw from several other Panther skill players, including fellow seniors Austin Morse and Collin Thames, junior tight end John Weins and one or two in the Panthers’ sophomore class.

“Offensively, we’ve got some kids that are catching the ball pretty good,” Malham said. “If we can throw it and catch, we can open that avenue up a little bit more.”

Cabot also got a quarterback transfer that threw with the team for the first time Wednesday in junior Layton Morris. Morris transferred from Prattville, Ala., a Class 7A school known well for its football tradition.

With it being his first day throwing for the Panthers, Morris is in the earliest stages of getting accustomed to the plays and routes the Cabot receivers run, but the junior transfer, who lived in Cabot before making the move to Alabama, showed good mechanics and threw some good balls Wednesday.

“He doesn’t have a bad throwing action,” Malham said of Morris. “Of course, that’s what they do in Prattville. They’re a spread (team) and all that. He was a sophomore and played with the JV, you know. But this is the first day we’ve seen him, so it’s hard to tell.”

Lonoke’s offense looked very crisp once it got into game play Wednesday. The Jackrabbits played Des Arc in their first of two games, and senior quarterback Logan Dozier threw touchdown passes on the first two Jackrabbit drives.

The first Dozier TD toss was to Will Miller inside 10 yards, and the second was to Isaac Toney on a 40-yard pass in between the hash marks on the first play of that drive. Lonoke’s most noticeable improvement from last week’s 7-on-7 meet was the number of turnovers.

“When we were here Monday, I think we threw six or seven interceptions,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “Today we cut it down to one, and the decision-making was a whole lot better. I think it slowed down more for them today, and the receivers bailed them out with some real good catches. So I’m real pleased, overall.”

Daniel Seigrist, one of Lonoke’s more versatile players, also saw time at quarterback. Most of his throws against Des Arc were underneath routes, but the junior slasher completed 8 of 8 passes for two scores, the last one a 31-yarder to Dalton Smith.

“He’s kind of a slash for us,” Bost said of Seigrist. “He’s a quarterback, a wide receiver. He’s playing corner but he can also play safety, and he’ll probably be on a lot of special teams. So he’s doing everything for us.”

In the second game against Cabot, Lonoke sophomore Braidon Bryant made several plays at receiver. Bryant played quarterback in junior high. He got injured early last season and had to sit out the rest of the year, but showed promise at receiver and is expected to contribute heavily at receiver and in the secondary as well this upcoming season.

Defensively, Lonoke made some plays as well. Senior corner Kameron Cole had the defensive highlight against Cabot, snagging an interception on the first Panther drive of that game. The Jackrabbits return no starters in the secondary, so facing as much stiff competition as possible leading up to fall practice is something Bost welcomes for his youthful defense.

“We had four team camps in June,” Bost said, “and went against some real good competition. We had Pine Bluff a couple of times and North Little Rock down there, but we need this 7-on-7, too, and this was our second time coming. We have three more to come, to brush up on passing as well as the secondary stuff, too.

“We don’t return any starters in the secondary, so we need all this we can get.”

SPORTS STORY >> Sprinkle shines since crossroad

Special to The Leader

HOOVER, Ala. – Coach Bret Bielema realized early in his first season at Arkansas that he inherited a redshirt freshman tight end Jeremy Sprinkle was too skinny and too disinclined academically to perform to his potential.

But now as a fifth-year senior, Sprinkle is officially under consideration to win the same Mackey award that former Razorback Hunter Henry won last year as the best tight end in the country. Academically, Sprinkle is a two-time SEC Honor roll student, and now plays as a graduate student since earning a degree in sports management.

For that turnaround, Bielema credits Sprinkle, strength coach Ben Herbert, tight end coach Barry Lunney and perhaps reprising the old TV show “Father Knows Best.”

“I remember the crossroad his sophomore year when he wasn’t doing what I wanted him to do in the classroom, off the field, A to Z,” Bielema said during Arkansas’ session of this week’s SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. “So I did the simple thing. I called his dad. We sat down with his dad and talked with dad about where he (Jeremy) wanted to be, if he wanted to do it. From that point forward he’s been a different guy.”

The Bobby Petrino regime signed Sprinkle out of White Hall knowing it would take considerable time in the weight room to convert Sprinkle from too spindly for even a basketball small forward into an SEC tight end.

Even after the 2012 fall he mostly spent in the weight room while redshirting during John L. Smith’s 4-8 season as interim coach, Sprinkle barely exceeded 200 pounds.

“I look at Jeremy Sprinkle,” Bielema mused. “When I got there he was 6-6, 205 pounds. If he turned sideways, you couldn’t see him. He was skinny as skinny gets. Now he’s a 6-6, 250-pound man that’s ready to make his mark in tight end play on our team, and in this conference, and in this country. He can be a Mackey Award winner. He’s got that much talent.”

Sprinkle’s seasons reflect annual improvement. As a 2013 redshirt freshman reserve he caught 4 passes for 68 yards, including a 44-yarder from Brandon Allen against Mississippi State, and played on special teams.

In 2014 Sprinkle became Arkansas’ best all-round player on special teams. He played on all of them while making a team-leading nine special teams tackles and caught seven passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Last year Sprinkle and Henry blossomed together. Henry, 51 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns, likely wouldn’t have had those kind of Mackey Award winning stats without Sprinkle subbing to keep him fresh. Better still, their combined presence in multiple tight end sets created havoc. Defenses scrambled to cover two tight ends both over 6-5 with receivers speed and soft hands who blocked like tackles.

It worked both ways. Henry’s presence no doubt helped free Sprinkle for his career best 27 catches for 389 yards and a SEC tight ends leading six touchdown catches including three in one game against Mississippi State.

“Just having both of us out there last year made mismatches for the defenses and it gave us both opportunities,” Sprinkle said. “I was able to learn things from him last year to work on my game and apply what I learned.”

It’s often been said replacing Henry as the No. 1 tight end won’t be nearly so difficult as replacing Sprinkle as the 1A tight end equally dangerous.

There is no lack for candidates but much lack of backup experience. Junior special-teamer Anthony Antwine, Jack Kraus, the third-year sophomore from Bentonville lettering last season but coming off knee surgery, and 2015 redshirt freshmen Will Gragg of Dumas, Cheyenne O’Grady of Fayetteville and Austin Cantrell of Roland, Okla., compete as do a couple of redshirt freshman converts from the defensive line, Jamario Bell of Junction City and Jake Hall of Springdale Har-Ber.

“Last year we were a two tight end team and really based around a 12-man personnel team,” Sprinkle said. “I feel like over the summer it’s going to be who can provide the most versatility. The more things you can do on the football field gives you a better chance to play. Honestly, it’s more of the coach’s job to figure that out, but some people have stepped up over the summer and I’m sure that someone during fall camp will emerge. Someone just will have to emerge.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot gets early lead, defeats AA Black Sox

Leader sports editor

The Cabot AA American Legion team picked up another solid win on Tuesday, bouncing back from a terrible Monday outing to beat the Bryant AA Black Sox 7-3 at the Cabot Sportsplex.

Cabot pitcher Koleton Eastham sat Bryant down in order in the top of the first inning, and the Centennial Bank squad scored the game’s first two runs in the bottom half of the frame.

Leadoff hitter Brian Tillery drew a leadoff walk and stole second base. Eastham singled to drive him in before the next two batters popped up to first base and struck out. Eastham also stole second, and scored when Nick Belden singled to left field to give Cabot a 2-0 lead.

Bryant pulled within 2-1 in the second inning on back-to-back two-out singles, but Cabot got the run back in its half of the inning.

Geno Germer was hit by a pitch with one out. With two outs, Blake Buffalo hit a grounder to third base that was missed, allowing Germer to score on the error and giving Centennial Bank a 3-1 lead.

Belden retired the side in order again in the third inning, and Cabot extended its lead.

This time, Eastham drew the leadoff walk and Gavin Tillery singled to put runners on the corners. Belden hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Eastham and got Gavin Tillery thrown out at second base. Michael Crumbly then singled to score Belden, giving Centennial Bank a 5-1 advantage.

That’s how the score stayed until the sixth inning. Belden allowed just one base runner in the fourth and fifth innings, but the Black Sox scored two unearned runs in the top of the sixth.

A leadoff single was followed by a fly out to center field. Another base hit and a walk loaded the bases for Bryant. Cabot then committed back-to-back infield errors to allow the two runners to score.

But Centennial got them back and set the final margin in the bottom of the same inning. Buffalo drew a one-out walk. With two outs, Eastham and Easton Seidl hit consecutive RBI doubles to make the score 7-3. During the next at-bat, Seidl was caught stealing third to end the inning.

Gavin Tillery pitched the top of the seventh and the ball never got past the pitcher’s mound. He struck out the first batter, and then fielded a pop-up and a dribbling grounder back to the bump for a 1-3 final out and the save.

Eastham threw six solid innings, giving up one earned run on five base hits, seven strikeouts and one walk.

The Cabot AA team (11-11) is off this weekend while the Cabot Junior team hosts the District 3 tournament at the Sportsplex and the Cabot City Park on Ritchie Road.

The Cabot Junior team won its regular-season finale on Wednesday, beating North Little Rock 13-3 at Burns Park. The Junior Centennial squad trailed 3-1 after three innings, but exploded for 12 runs in the fourth and ended the game early on the sportsmanship rule.

Caleb Wilson and Kevin Lenahan each had two RBIs to lead all players in that category. No one had multiple hits.

Brian Tillery, Germer, Buffalo and Jack Broyles also drove in one run apiece.

The Junior team began play in the District 3 tournament on Friday. Jacksonville and Beebe also had teams in that tournament. Look for complete stories on all three Junior teams in Wednesday’s Leader.

EDITORIAL >> District readies for its first year

Thirty days and counting until the doors of Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District open for the first time—an amazing timeline and trajectory since U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall approved a desegregation settlement agreement in early 2014 that allowed for the new district.

The local election approving a standalone district passed with 95 percent of the vote that September, and suddenly, two years later, it’s almost time to buy school supplies.

The district has a roadmap for the way forward. A crew will remove asbestos from the former middle school, and demolition will begin by the beginning of August.

That’s the future site of the new Jacksonville High School. Architects are beginning to draw it up in earnest and expect to have prospective plans and cost estimates in time for the October board meeting.

Simultaneously, they will be working on plans for a new elementary school on Little Rock Air Force Base to replace both Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementaries. The new elementary school should open in August 2018, the new high school in August 2019.

While most districts the size of JNPSD had to replace maybe 10 or 15 percent of staff, the new district has had to fill every single slot, from superintendent to custodian—about 450.

Despite dire predictions and rumors, at last count, the district had only 17 teachers and other licensed jobs to fill and a handful of bus drivers and custodians, Superintendent Tony Wood said Friday.

The elementary school-supply lists can be found at the district website,, or retailers large and small, including Walmart and Kroger.

There’s still a lot to be done—the school calendar on the website shows only school board meetings and the beginning of the school year, but if the new district was a new house, that would be one of many punch-list items.

The road-trip bus needs a Trojan logo, but all 78 buses have the district name on the side.

“Now we’re starting to look at isolated details of being prepared to welcome kids back in (four) weeks,” he said.

“There are just a lot of moving parts,” Wood said, including creation of logistically sound bus routes, separation of property—books, computers, desks, for instance—from PCSSD, financial transfers and the sale of school and support buildings by PCSSD to the new district.

To all you kindergarten and elementary school parents, it’s time to start shopping for the needed school supplies at many of your local grocers and big box stores. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

EDITORIAL >> Another act of terrorism

It’s becoming an almost weekly routine for us. Commenting on the latest terrorist attack: San Bernardino, Charleston, S.C., Orlando, Dallas, where 10 days ago a sniper shot and killed five police officers. Exactly a week later, at least 84 revelers enjoying the Bastille Day fireworks in France were run down and killed by a maniac in a rented 20-ton truck.

The victims of Thursday night’s terrorism in Nice included Sean Copeland, 51, and his 11-year-old son Brodie from Texas who were vacationing in Europe with their families. Brodie’s mother and brother and sister survived. Brodie played youth baseball. A picture shows him holding a baseball and a trophy and reminds you of every 11-year-old who has played baseball.

At least 10 children perished in the attack and as many as 50 youngsters and 152 others are wounded. “Nobody in the way stood a chance,” one eyewitness said.

The terrorist was identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, a delivery-truck driver born in Tunisia. We don’t know yet if he was affiliated with ISIS or acting alone. He was a Moslem, but according to a cousin of Bouhlel’s wife, ‘Bouhlel was not religious. He did not go to the mosque, he did not pray, he did not observe Ramadan.”
What’s worse, “He drank alcohol, ate pork and took drugs. This is all forbidden under Islam. He was not a Muslim, he was a s***. He beat his wife, my cousin, he was a nasty piece of work.”

His neighbors feared him and kept their children away. But how do you predict when a borderline personality goes over the edge and decides to become a mass murderer? France will put thousands more police officers on the street and watch potential troublemakers more closely and perhaps barricade more streets near public events. See the entrance to Little Rock Air Force Base.

TOP STORY >> Birds raise spirits for residents

Leader staff writer

Chickens are helping to raise the spirits of residents living at nursing homes and rehab centers as therapy birds.

Marian Wade, who lives near Cabot, raises 35 chickens at her home. She has brought about eight of them to Woodland Hills Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Jacksonville and to Spring Creek Health and Rehab in Cabot for an hour one day every other week for the past year. Wade does this voluntarily.

Wade had chickens when she grew up and then started raising them again.

She said her chickens have helped her and her son with anxiety. She said that is when she realized her chickens could help others.

Last week at Woodland Hills Wade brought her chickens for a visit. Residents who wanted to see the chickens could go out to the courtyard. Some cradled the chickens and talked to them calmly as the birds relaxed and went to sleep. The chickens are accustomed to being held by Wade.

A few of the chickens hunted and pecked, scratching at the flowerbeds looking for bugs.

After handling the chickens Wade provided the residents with hand sanitizer.

“Chicken therapy is different for everybody. Some like to watch the chickens and others like to hold the chickens,” Wade said.

Woodland Hills activities director Tyler Foster said, “It gives them a sense of nostalgia. It takes them back to their younger years. A lot of the residents were raised on farms.”

“The seniors open up and start talking about their memories. It puts a lot of smiles on their faces. They are usually waiting on me when I get here,” Wade said.

Wade brings a variety of sizes and colors of chickens. Residents have given names to some of the chickens.

“I was raised on a farm. I remember chickens and they grew big,” resident DeQuita Burrow said.

“I think they are sweet little things,” Carol McCollough said.

TOP STORY >> Power is still out for many in area

Storms ripped through Arkansas Thursday evening, causing power outages for more than 100,000 residents.

Most of the outages from Thursday night’s storm were in Saline County, according to an email from Tori Moss, communications coordinator at First Electric Cooperative.

First Electric’s Jacksonville district, which includes portions of Lonoke, Prairie, northern Pulaski and White counties, also experienced storm-related outages that affected approximately 1,690 members.

Crews were able to restore service to most cooperative members by late evening.

Entergy Arkansas reports outages peaking at 138,216 around 9 p.m. Thursday, but by 2 p.m. Friday that number had dropped to 67,000, according to a press release on the company’s website.

An additional 1,200 workers are being brought in from sister Entergy utilities, other utility companies and contractors to help restore power to those still without.

TOP STORY >> Realtors in state endorse Johnson

The Arkansas Realtors Political Action Committee has endorsed Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) for re-election and gave him a $500 contribution.

The decision to contribute to the campaign was made by the ARPAC trustees with input from local Realtors in the candidate’s district and after discussion of the candidates qualifications and views on various issues relating to current real estate and small business issues in Arkansas.

“It is critical that Realtors form a working relationship with our legislators for two reasons,” said ARPAC chairman Doyle Yates. “First, Realtors want to protect the property rights of private property owners. Second, since the real estate industry is a key component in the economy, Realtors want to make sure that home buying and selling is unfettered by unneeded regulation and legislation or overburdened with additional costs for seller and buyers.

“We look forward to working with Rep. Bob Johnson in the state legislature.”

Johnson faces Patrick Thomas, a Jacksonville Republican, in November, for the Dist. 42 seat.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

TOP STORY >> The sweet taste of success

In addition to raising sweet corn, Chester “Chet” Esau and his wife, Carol, raised five children and have 14 grandchildren. The Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center in Lonoke is again selling their corn for a fundraiser.
Leader staff writer

It’s hard to imagine but farming didn’t come easy to Chester “Chet” Esau because now his name is nearly synonymous with Arkansas sweet corn, and during corn-picking season, people drive for hours just to grab a few bags of the Esau’s “Incredible” sweet corn for themselves and their friends.

Like the Bradley County Pink Tomato, which is FedEx-ed all around the state and the country, Esau’s sweet corn also has its roots in Southeast Arkansas and is almost as famous.

But that wasn’t always true.

Before moving to Dumas, where Esau leads the Three Rivers Mennonite Congregation church, Esau struggled as a farmer, first in Louisiana and then later in Arkansas.


For the past five years, folks have lined up at the Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center in Lonoke to buy a bag or two of Esau’s Incredible Sweet Corn.

It’s not surprising.

Karen James, Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center director, says about the first year they sold Esau’s corn, “We did it as a fluke. It started with a volunteer (J.B. Ketchum), who had the idea to just see if it would work,”

James doesn’t remember how many bags of corn, stuffed full with 72 ears, they sold that first year, but now they reserve 1,000 bags a season—that’s about 72,000 ears—to sell at $25 a bag, unless it’s shucked, then the price goes up to $35.

Esau says, “We’re happy with our relationship with them and we support their cause because they are working with children that need help.”

But Esau, who is 67, says because of recent storms, the Incredible variety is in short supply. But their new “Bi-Color Triple Sweet” variety is available and he promises, “You will not be disappointed.”

The popularity of the corn “has grown over the years,” and these days, James says, “It’s our largest fundraiser.”

She says for her organization and the people who buy the corn, “It’s a good fit.”

“The corn is the best and picked the morning we pick it up, and she adds it’s hand-graded, there are no worms, and the ears are full of complete kennels from base to tip.

It’s not too late to order Esau’s Sweet Corn at $25 a bag unshucked through the Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center at 1835 Southwest Front Street, Lonoke. The two remaining dates are July 15 and July 22, both Fridays.

Call 1.501-676-2552 to order.


Esau is now semi-retired. He was born in 1949, grew up on a dairy farm near DeRidder, La., so it’s not surprising that farming’s in his blood but while still a teenager, he felt God’s calling to the ministry in his heart.

In 1972, he married Carol Johnson and as a Holdeman Mennonite (also known as the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite) minister, he was expected to feed his family. The church doesn’t pay their ministers and they’re expected to work a day job.

During the 1970s and 1980s in Louisiana, Esau worked hard, but like Job in the Bible, who suffered and survived numerous disasters, it seemed each year, God stepped in.

Esau tried growing soybeans, but lost 400 acres to too many nematodes and too little rain — not to mention losing a small fortune.

He didn’t do any better with milk cows.

“To make a long story short and a sad story less sad, I’ll just say that four years after we started, we closed the dairy,” Esau says.

He planted peaches, but cold, wet weather and disease ruined the fruits of his labor. Although he had some luck with 10 acres of sweet corn, it seemed God threw up a roadblock at Esau’s every turn of the tractor.

In order to feed his young kids, he sold the vegetables that he grew at a small roadside stand and built wooden mobile home steps that he sold to Lowe’s Companies, Inc., but still he says, “We were poor…No ice cream, no soda pop and no extras at all.”

The family always hoped the next year would be better but it wasn’t.


Then in 1990, the opportunity to lead a church in Dumas opened up and Esau jumped at the chance to start a congregation in Arkansas.

Looking back, both Carol and Chester Esau agree that if they had succeeded in DeRidder, they might not have decided to move to Dumas.

“…No matter what we tried, it didn’t work,” Esau says. On the other hand, he adds, “If we had been comfortable there, I doubt we would have left.”

So with a prayer on their lips and hope in their hearts, Esau and his wife packed up their belongings and their five kids, the oldest was then 16, and drove an old GMC pickup truck—Esau remembers seeing the road below through a hole in the floorboard and says there were wires sticking out of the truck’s tires’ tread—to Arkansas.

He says the couple had faith that the old truck would make the trip, and it did.

In order to put food on the table when first arriving in Dumas, Esau did dirt work and planted a few acres of a variety of sweet corn named “Incredible,” which had done well for him in Louisiana. And for many, the name says it all.

The couple nurtured, harvested and readied the 20 acres of corn for sale, and back then, he was up early to take his corn to farmers’ markets.

Esau says, “It was a struggle. We worked daylight to dark.”

It was a slow grow at first but Esau persisted.

He says, “It was very difficult the first four or five years, but the thing that encouraged us was that the market was good.”


By 2000, Esau’s sweet corn was becoming a known and sought after commodity. His business thrived on word-of-mouth and a big sign on U.S. Highway 65 South, and his original few acres slowly grew into 160 acres. Now, on a good year, Esau produces about 30,000 bags of corn—that’s about 2.16 million ears.

And no more early mornings to area markets, these days folks line up along the dirt road leading to his farm to pick up their pre-ordered corn.

Wanda Bateman of Pine Bluff is a big Esau corn fan and says the quality is topnotch.

“You can’t find a better ear of corn anywhere,” she says.


Each year, Esau plants corn at 30 day intervals so that he’s harvesting corn from June until late July.

That’s about 40 days and nights of hard harvest work, he says. Although most growers pack 60 ears into a bushel, Esau crowds an extra 12 ears for $18 but still that doesn’t explain why people would drive from every corner of Arkansas, from Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois or Louisiana just to put Esau’s corn on their Sunday table.

Pine Bluff Produce Shed owner Jerry Tomboli says Esau’s sweet corn keeps his customers coming back until mid-summer.

“It sells well and goes fast,” he says.

Daniel Newswanger, owner of Newswanger’s Produce & Garden Center north of Dumas sells as many as 30 bags a day at his store on U.S. Highway 65 near Dumas.

Terri Roberts of North Little Rock is also a big fan and says she can’t wait until the sweet corn is ready for harvest.

“It’s amazing…It’s so juicy and sweet,” she says.

Southeast Arkansas has proved a great fit for the Esau family. Of course, it was hard to leave Louisiana, but Esau says, “Arkansas has been good to us. We have a fulfilling life here.”

During the quarter century or so that Chester and Carol Esau have been living in southeast Arkansas, the Three Rivers Mennonite Congregation church he helped start and pastors has grown to about 140 baptized members. A few years ago, the congregation built a new church and school.

As well, the Esau children are grown up and Chester and Carol Esau now have 14 grandchildren.

And in addition to all that, Esau turned a few acres of “Incredible” corn into a recognizable Arkansas brand.

TOP STORY >> Water safety skills prove life saver

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


“That scream was even more chilling than the water my friend and I were in,” he said.

It was June 25, a normal Saturday of kayaking at the Ouachita River Whitewater Park for Air Force Senior Airman Colton Lien, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordinance disposal technician, and his friends, when they witnessed a woman fall out of her inner tube into the middle of the river.

“She was with a group of people in approximately 10 tubes,” he said. “All the tubes were tied together, so the river continued to carry them downstream after she fell.”

Lien, who is also a certified canoe instructor, knew that something needed to be done immediately. The woman fell into a suck hole, which is like a whirlpool in the river.

Once a swimmer becomes stuck in a suck hole, it is extremely dangerous to be in and difficult to swim out. He and his friends paddled their kayaks toward the fallen woman as they alerted others they passed to get help.

Once they reached her, they noticed that she was spinning. She would go underwater for five to 20-second intervals.

Lien, his friends and another paddler who came to help tried for minutes to grab her with a rope, catch her with their paddles and reach for her from the kayaks, but nothing worked.

Eventually, the woman became unconscious.

“I was nervous, but I didn’t want to panic,” Lien said. “Plans A, B, nor C worked. We were about to attempt plan D with hopes that we didn’t have to attempt plan E, which was jumping in there myself and getting her.”

Lien surfed closer to the woman and finally, he bumped her body out of the whirlpool with his kayak. He grabbed her and pulled her body beside a large canoe that one of the paddlers was in.

Though there was a small sigh of relief, she was still unconscious.

After moments of deliberation, Lien paddled the woman to shore as one person held her body and two others gave her breaths (because they were unable to do CPR compressions in the water).

“It felt like forever getting back to the bank, but I think it was actually 10 minutes,” Lien said. “Reaching the bank was the easy part. When we got there, I checked for a pulse; there was none. Other people came to help with giving the woman chest compressions. Within about 15 seconds, she regained consciousness and her pulse.”

Lien stayed with the woman for an additional 15 minutes as she recovered.

When the paramedics arrived, they took the woman and continued care. Lien walked away from the crowd for a few minutes to take in what just happened.

“I don’t feel like a hero,” he said. “We did what needed to be done. It was definitely a team effort. We didn’t have time to panic because she didn’t have time for us to panic. We had to move and move fast.”

Lien credits his training as an EOD technician to his fast reaction to the emergency situation. EOD members focus on the protection of personnel and property, with emphasis on personnel first.

He leaned on his water- safety knowledge and training to quickly assess the situation and lead the others to making the right decisions that ultimately saved a woman’s life.

He has used the publicity from this experience to share the basic water safety tips.

“Even if you are a good swimmer, wear a life jacket in deep water, and don’t paddle alone. Those tips could be the difference between life and death,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Results on ACT scores fall flat

Leader staff writer

Most high school juniors in the area and across the state aren’t ready for college based on scores of the recently released ACT readiness test.

The test given to students statewide is an indicator of their ability to succeed in math, English, reading and science at the college level.

Unlike other states where only students who are pursuing college take the test, Arkansas requires all juniors to take the test, which tends to lower the overall scores.

Based on the test, 80 to 90 percent of Jacksonville juniors, now seniors, are not college ready.

Even Cabot, which usually produces good test scores at the elementary and middle school level, had less than 50 percent of its students test ready for college, yet still beat the state average in all four test sections: math, reading English and science.

“Certainly, we are not content with our students’ levels of performance on this year’s ACT, but we are not totally surprised. Any time students face a new assessment system, we anticipate a drop in performance,” said Dr. Tony Thurman, superintendent of Cabot schools.

“This implementation dip is often followed by an upward trend after the first year or two. As students become more familiar with the assessment system, their performance typically improves. If you look back at the first few years of Benchmark and End of Course assessment results, you see this same trend,” the superintendent said.

“Additionally, the state’s curriculum frameworks have been revised and it takes some time for teachers to fully understand how to effectively teach all that the standards require,” Thurman explained.

Dr. John Tackett, deputy superintendent for Pulaski County Special School District, said it’s a good thing having all students take the test. “We need to make students more aware of the ACT, college and scholarships,” he said.

But he added that the disadvantage is that many students were taking the test for the first time. “Students can start taking the test in the second semester of their sophomore year, and retake at least six other times before graduation,” Tackett said.

“So those students coming into high school thinking about college usually have taken it at least once before their junior year,” Tackett explained

Students, overall, scored worse in math and best in reading.

Lisa Academy North students scored the best in the area with 41 percent making the “college ready” cut in math, 91 percent made the cut in English and 68 percent in reading.

North Pulaski High School had the worst percentage on the math portion of the test with just 9.5 percent scoring as “college ready.”

Jacksonville High School was right behind with only 9.9 percent meeting the standards. Jacksonville also had the lowest English score with only 25.3 percent scoring well enough for college. Next on the bottom came North Pulaski with 39.2 percent making the grade.

When it comes to reading, only 12.3 percent of Jacksonville seniors can read well enough to make it through college, according to the statewide test. Next lowest was Lighthouse Charter’s Flightline Upper Academy where only 23.8 percent scored well enough on the reading test.

Dr. Belinda Shook, head of the Beebe schools, echoed Tackett and Thurman’s thoughts.

“When we started testing all students, we knew the scores were likely to be lowered. If you will notice, we tested 199 students. When we compare our scores where we have tested all our students in Arkansas, to states that test only the upper-level students, it is not a fair comparison.”

“As far as the state goes, I am pleased with how Beebe’s students did in comparison to the state scores. Overall, our scores are remaining fairly consistent. We are working on some new ideas in our district that I believe will boost our scores,” Shook said.

The Cabot superintendent added, “When we administered the Benchmark Exams, and even the PARCC assessments last year, educators, parents and teachers knew the exams were developed specifically to assess the state’s curriculum frameworks. The ACT is based on the ACT College and Career Ready Skills, not the Arkansas frameworks.”

Thurman continued, “Unlike the PARCC assessment, the questions are not developed directly from the state standards. Our students will become more familiar with the type of ACT questioning in the coming years. We also believe that participating in the ACT Aspire assessments will help to prepare our students to face the ACT during their junior year of high school.

All the superintendents said teachers and administrators were committed to preparing students to be successful on the exam.

Tackett said PCSSD students are making solid strides with “Enginuity,” the on-line program the district is using to help students perform better on tests.

“The program is available to students 24/7,” said Tackett, adding that the on-line program is just one way the district is working to make students better prepared for college.

Most Arkansas colleges require students to score a 19 across the board for students to be unconditionally enrolled.

Here are the ACT results for area schools:


At Lonoke, 138 juniors took the test in April in math. The average score was 18.2, meaning 21 percent of students met the test expectations. In English the average score was 18.4, meaning 53.6 percent scored proficient or better on that section of the test, and in the reading portion the average score was 19.1 and just 30.4 percent scored at or above expectations.

In science the average score was 18.9 with 20.3 percent of the students meeting test expectations. Just 11.6 percent of Lonoke juniors meet the readiness bar on all four test sections.


Fifty-three students took the test, scoring 16.6 on the math section, meaning just 10.3 percent passed the test with “college ready” scores. The average score on the English section was 17 and 43.1 percent did well on the test and in reading the average score was 17.9 with 24.1 percent of the students meeting expectations.

Juniors had an average score of 17.3 in science, meaning 10.3 percent scored proficient or better. Only 5.2 percent scored high enough on all four tests to show their college readiness.


The high school had 53 of its juniors take the test. They had an average math score of 18.2 with 24.5 percent scoring well in that section, in English the average score was 17.1 with 39.6 percent scoring proficient or better; and in reading the average score was 17.7 with just 28.3 percent showing they were “college ready.”

Carlisle students had an average score of 18.6 in science, meaning about 21 percent scored proficient or better. Overall, 17 percent of the students scored “ready” on all four test sections.


In Cabot, 689 juniors took the test. The juniors had an average math score of 19.7 meaning 29.8 percent scored well on that section. The average score in English was 19.5 with 59.8 of the students making the test cut while the average reading score was 20.6 and 40.1 percent tested “college ready.”

Cabot juniors had an average score of 22.4 in science, which meant that 34 percent scored well on the test. The overall composite score for Cabot juniors was 20.8.


The school gave the test to 239 juniors. In math the score was 18.0 and just 17.2 percent scored “college ready.” In English the score was 17.0 and 42.7 percent of the students made the cut and in reading the score was 18.4 with 25.5 percent hitting college-level scores.

The juniors had an average score of 18.2 in science, meaning 14.2 percent were proficient or better on the test. Overall, 5.9 percent of those tested scored college ready on all four test sections.


The Falcons had only 74 juniors there to take the test. That group scored an average of 16.7 on the math portion, meaning only 9.9 percent were college ready. In English 39.2 percent scored proficient or better on the test and the average score was 17.

Slightly more than 32 percent scored as “college ready” on the reading portion and the juniors had an average test score of 18.9. On the science test, the average score was 18.4, meaning 18.9 percent made the appropriate grade on the test.

Overall, just 8.1 percent of North Pulaski juniors scored “college-ready” on all four sections of the test.


Jacksonville tested 162 juniors. In math the average score was 16.6 and only 9.9 percent scored proficient or better on the test. In English the average score was 14.7 with 25.3 percent of the students “college ready.” In reading just 12.3 percent made the cut on the test and the average score was 12.3 percent.

In science, the average score was 16.9 with about 7 percent of the students scoring well enough on the test. Overall, just 3.1 percent of the juniors scored well on all four sections of the test.


At Lisa Academy 22 juniors took the test and had an average math score of 21,4 meaning 40.9 percent scored as “college ready.” In English the ACT score was 24.4 and 90.9 percent made the cut on the test. In reading the average score was 24.1 which meant 68.1 percent scored well.

On the science portion of the ACT test, students had an average score of 21.0, meaning 31.8 percent scored proficient or better on the test. Almost 23 percent of the juniors scored well on all sections of the test.


Sixty-six students took the ACT and had an average math score of 17.5, meaning 18.2 percent were “college ready.” In English, the average score was also 17.5 but that meant 40.9 percent did well and for reading the average score was 18.2 which showed 25.8 percent of the students were college ready.

In science the average ACT test score was 18.0, meaning 16.7 percent of the students scored well on the test. Overall, 10.6 percent scored “College ready” on all four test sections.


There were 199 juniors who took the test. On the math portion they had an average score of 19.5 meaning 34.7 percent scored well on the test. In English the average score was 19.2 and 58.8 percent of the students scored “college ready,” and in reading the ACT average score was 20.1 which meant 42.7 percent did well.

Beebe juniors had an average score of 20.0 on the science test with 31.7 percent meeting expectations on the test. Overall, 19.6 percent hit the mark on all four test sections.


Searcy tested 259 juniors. That group had an average math score of 21 which means 44.4 percent of the students did well on the test. In English the average score was 21.2, meaning 66.4 percent scored proficient or better and in reading it was an average score of 21.6 with 49.4 percent doing well.

The students had an average science score of 21.5, meaning almost 44 percent hit the “college ready” mark on the exam. Overall, 29 percent of the juniors scored well on all four sections.

EDITORIAL >> Planes worth $3.4 billion

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, commander of Air Mobility Command, flew last month from the Lockheed Martin plant in Marietta, Ga., and delivered the last of 28 C-130Js assigned to the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The 314th Airlift Wing, which trains C-130 crews worldwide, has 13 C-130Js, with two more scheduled for delivery soon, bringing their total to 43 at LRAFB. The base price for a C-130J, without options, is about $80 million, the general said. That’s about $3.4 billion worth of new airplanes — a significant investment in our community.

These planes are faster, require smaller crews and need far less landing space than the older C-130Js. We watched the development of the Js some two decades ago. For a while, it looked as if the Air Force would lose its enthusiasm for the Js — Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) thought they were a boondoggle — but the Clinton administration threw its support behind the C-130Js and the decision to continue the program was announced at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The Reserves and Air National Guard at LRAFB will continue to fly the older H models. Everhart, who spent several years as a junior officer at LRAFB, said that after more than a decade, the Air Force will relaunch a program to retrofit those legacy airframes with avionics modernization program kits.

Phase II would upgrade the cockpit from analog to digital, with headsup displays on transparent screens, making it nearly indistinguishable from the cockpit of the C-130J. It would begin after the completion of Phase I.

The upgrade will allow them to continue flying after 2020 in domestic and foreign air space from which they would be otherwise barred.

Some of those planes are almost 50 years old. That’s why they’re called the workhorse of the Air Force. They should fly for another 20 years.

Here’s hoping the Air Force will continue funding the modernization program and send us more C-130Js when they become available. They’re the right plane for a younger generation.

EDITORIAL >> Keep guns from kids!

The Beebe police have delayed releasing information about the shooting death of an 18-month-old infant Friday morning, probably by one of the children who were left alone to watch the baby while their parents were away.

The police may have missed an opportunity to warn parents to keep guns away from the reach of children and instead are waiting for a state Crime Lab report before they release more information as rumors spread through the community about how the senseless tragedy cost the life of an innocent child.

A similar tragedy occurred in a mobile home in July 2013 in South Bend outside Jacksonville, where a 3-year-old boy died in a neighbor’s trailer after accidentally shooting himself with a loaded, unsecured handgun that turned out to be stolen.

Med-flight emergency medical personnel pronounced the boy dead at the scene. He had one gunshot wound.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley said at the time, it was a tragic accident that could have been avoided if the owner would have stored the weapon properly.

According to the sheriff’s office, the gun owner was in the bathroom next to the master bedroom. His wife, who was hearing impaired and was changing her shirt with the child in the room, saw the boy pick up a 9mm Glock semi-automatic handgun on the nightstand.

She screamed, but it was too late. The boy pulled the trigger.

The gun owner said he kept it there for protection. The couple had no children.

The sheriff’s office ran the serial number of the gun and found it was reported stolen from Little Rock in 2008. The owner told investigators he purchased the gun from a co-worker three or four years earlier.

Staley said then, “You’ve got to make sure your guns are secure. Have them secured in a holster and with trigger locks. Be vigilant even if you don’t have small children around at the home. Be smart with firearms.”

You can’t repeat these warnings often enough. We live in violent times. Responsible gun ownership calls for extra precautions whether at home or on the road. People who should know better shouldn’t keep guns around the house that a child could find and shoot.

Those adults should be barred from owning weapons for life. Because all lives matter.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville youth dazzles at shooting event

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville trap shooter Ryan Bowen has been a standout with a shotgun for most of his life, but at last month’s Arkansas State Trapshooting Tournament that took place at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex, Bowen did something not even he had done before.

In the singles competition that took place June 25, Bowen was the lone participant in the sub-junior division to shoot two perfect rounds of 100, claiming first place in that competition.

The next day, June 26, Bowen hit 97 out of 100 targets in the doubles competition to claim first place in that category, and he finished second in the handicap round by blasting 96 out of 100 targets. With his stellar showing in all three categories, Bowen won the prestigious high all-around award to leave the tournament with handfuls of hardware.

Collecting trapshooting hardware isn’t anything new for the soon to be Jacksonville High School sophomore, but hitting 200-straight targets is. He was one of the handful there, out of the around 500 participants, to hit 200 targets in a row at the competition, and was just one of two in his age range to do it, and the only one from central Arkansas.

“That was actually my first time,” said Bowen. “I’ve shot numerous 100s (100 out of 100). I’ve shot 199 out of 200, but that was the first time I had ever shot 200.”

The singles competition consisted of two rounds of 100 targets. The trap shooters compete five at a time on one field, taking turns after each shot, so staying patient and maintaining focus is necessary to be successful. Bowen said he averages 98 out of 100 targets, but he said the fact that it was a meaningful tournament aided him in maintaining his focus through both lengthy singles rounds.

“That’s one of the key things is to keep your focus,” Bowen said. “It was a big deal. I was going for, and still am, to make the All-American team. So winning that, I would get points to be on the All-American team. So I really needed to win to be able to get points to make that accomplishment.”

It goes without saying Bowen, 15, is no novice when it comes to shooting. The first time he andhis father, Tom, had a good indication that he’d be pretty good at trap shooting was when Ryan was just 5 years old.

“Me and my dad one day, I wanted to go squirrel hunting,” Ryan said. “It was hot outside, but I wanted to go. So we went squirrel hunting. We didn’t kill anything, but we came back and my cousin had a one-arm skeet thrower. You just pull it back and you pull the string, and it threw the target.

“I had a .410 shotgun – I believe it’s a Remington .410. So we went over there and we shot, and my dad, he wanted to demonstrate to me how to do it. I pulled the string, he shot at it and he missed. And he did that again, and he missed. He said, ‘I’ll tell you what, it’s hot out here, we’ll just shoot till you miss.’ And I ended up shooting 18 targets straight at 5 years old, and then I missed my 19th.”

Bowen was a natural.

“Well, ever since that day, yeah,” said Tom Bowen. “I knew there was something to it, and I wasn’t (originally) going to go over there and do it. He was like, ‘let’s go over there and do it.’ I was like, ‘man, it’s too hard, dude.’ There ain’t no way. And he kept on, and I was like, alright, it ain’t gonna hurt nothing. We’ll go try it and give it a whirl.

“Yeah, it blew me away. About that first three or four, I was like, well, beginner’s luck. But he just kept on doing it, with a .410, no less.”

Bowen’s first shooting competitions came when he was 9 years old at the nearby 4H club. While there, he came across the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, which is sponsored by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The AYSSP is the program that features high school events, but participants can join once they reach sixth grade.

Bowen joined AYSSP as soon as he was able, and did the same with the Amateur Trap Association (ATA) and Academics, Integrity and Marksmanship (AIM) programs, which are the programs associated with the Arkansas State Shooting Tournament that took place last month.

The benefits of getting involved in ATA and AIM are getting the opportunity to compete more than would be available through just AYSSP.

“We wanted to compete more and shoot more, so we went on to ATA and AIM,” Ryan Bowen said.

Getting to 200 targets in a row has been a steady climb for Bowen. His first year of competitions, at age 12, he remembers it being a big deal hitting 25 targets in a row. And, of course, he only got better and better with time and practice.

He eclipsed the 50 and 75 targets in a row mark in the same day, and during the 2014-15 shooting season, he hit 100 targets in a row for the first time in ATA competition.

Bowen competed in the ATA’s Missouri State Shooting Tournament in late May, and he hit 199 out of 200 targets in that singles competition, and finished sixth overall out of close to 600 people, and that includes all ages.

This shooting season alone, which takes place from Sept. 1, 2015 through Aug. 31, Bowen has competed in over 20 ATA competitions across the state and surrounding area, and said he doesn’t plan on quitting anytime soon.

“I hope I can do it for the rest of my life,” Bowen said. “I do plan on going to college, and hopefully, I can go to a college that has a shooting team so I’ll be able to do it while I’m in school, you know. But I definitely don’t want to stop.”

Bowen’s next shooting competition will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the AGFC Shooting Sports Complex in the Southwestern Zone Shoot, which will feature shooters from eight states.

At last year’s Southwestern Zone Shoot, Bowen was the only one in his division, out of all eight states competing, to hit all 100 targets in the singles round.

As far as what Bowen said he enjoyed most about the sport, he said it was about a lot more than just going out and shooting.

“I like hanging out with all my friends and family,” Bowen said with a smile, “getting here and having a good time. Because it really and truly is a good time to come out here. For other people that aren’t into the sport, it might just look like you’re just sitting around, talking and shooting guns, but it really is just fun for all age groups.”

There’s one other thing Bowen added.

“And definitely, winning’s a bonus.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jumping Jeff gets send-off

Leader sports editor

After winning the men’s long jump in the U.S. Olympic Trials, McAlmont’s Jeff Henderson returned home for a week with his family. He went back to his apartment and training facility in Chula Vista, Calif., on Sunday, but not without a sendoff celebration at his parents’ (Laverne and Debra Henderson) home on Saturday.

It had only been a week since officially becoming an Olympian, something he’s trained hard for since taken under tutelage by 1984 Olympic Gold medalist Al Joyner three years ago. Most of those in attendance at the party in his honor on Saturday were old friends, family and acquaintances, but in the short time since making the Olympic Team USA, the usually reserved Henderson is already experiencing a taste recognition.

“It started right away,” said Henderson from his parents’ living room on Saturday. “In the airport leaving Portland, (the trials were in Eugene, Ore.) all kinds of people recognized me and were stopping me, asking for autographs. It’s going to take some getting used to. I’m not that outgoing of a person. But it’s something I’m prepared for. My goal is to win a Gold medal in the Olympics, and I know that’s going to make me well known. So I’m ready for it.”

Henderson jumped a personal best 28-feet, 2-1/4 inches to win the trials, which was also counted as the 2016 U.S. Outdoor Championship. He says he can go farther, and, in fact, has done so. Only it was a jump that didn’t count because he stepped over the scratch line. He came down right in front of the 30-foot mark on the large measuring board that unofficially gives a quick indication of how long a jump is. The world record is 29-6 set by Mike Powell in 1992.

Despite the scratch at last year’s world championships, it proved to Henderson that he could go even farther.

“I landed right at the edge of the pit,” Henderson said of that jump. “Overall, that was a really disappointing meet for me. I had another really long jump but I took off from way back behind the board. I probably had the two longest jumps that day, but I finished like ninth or 10th or something. But it showed me how important it is to work on positioning, and also that I can still go even farther than I have so far.”Henderson had always been ahead of the curve in long jumping. He was a high school state champion and record-setter, but excelled more in sprints in college.

He continued to compete independently after graduating when Joyner noticed him and knew he could be an elite long jumper.

Henderson had always utilized the “hanging” technique of jumping, but blossomed into the two-time U.S. champion and Pan Am Games Gold medal winner after working with Joyner and switching to the “hitch-kick” technique, which resembles continuing to run after springing from the scratch board.

“Some guys still use the hanging method,” Henderson said. “There’s nothing really wrong with it. Most guys use the hitch kick. My jumps just kept getting longer and longer after I switched to the hitch kick. So now that’s all I work on.”

Henderson is so introverted, he spent a great deal of Saturday’s party in his honor inside the house with family members and a handful of his closest friends. When a family member walked in and asked him if he was hiding, Henderson responded, “I guess you could say that.”

It was easy to see why he waited. Once outside, dozens of people gathered for his attention, pictures and autographs. He accommodated everyone with calmness and an easy smile.

Despite his reserved nature, he does plan on providing some flash at the Olympics. An equipment mix-up at the trials turned into a blessing, and some new shoes.

Henderson packed his sprint spikes instead of his jumping spikes when he flew to Oregon, and while they are more flimsy and offer less support, they felt better off the board than his jumping spikes.

He signed an endorsement deal with Adidas last fall after winning Gold at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, and the shoe company agreed to design a new set of spikes for Henderson that will provide the support of his old jumping spikes, and the feel off the board that he liked from his sprinting spikes.

And they’ll be platinum.

“You know I got to bring some style into it,” Henderson said. “I couldn’t do gold because Michael Johnson’s already done that. So Adidas is making me a new shoe like I want, and they’re going to be solid platinum.”

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial explodes for 19 runs at Morrilton

Leader sports editor

A pretty good weekend and a nightmarish Monday sums up the Cabot AA American Legion team’s recent outings. The Centennial Bank squad scored 13 runs in three innings en route to a 19-12 victory at Morrilton on Friday. On Monday, Cabot held a 1-0 lead after four innings before losing 17-1 to Russellville in six.

In Friday’s 22-base hit game, Cabot got five-straight base hits with one out in the top of the first inning. Caleb Harpole and Easton Seidl got the first two base hits.

Gavin Tillery, Koleton Eastham and Geno Germer then drove in runs. Michael Shepherd later got a two-out hit that scored the final run of the frame.

Morrilton scored two in the bottom of the first and outscored Cabot 3-1 in the second to tie the game at five runs apiece. Cabot then exploded for eight runs in the top of the third inning.

Eastham drew a one-out walk and Germer singled to start the rally. Brandon Jones reached on an error in right field before Shepherd, Jacob Conklin, Brian Tillery and Harpole hit four-consecutive RBI singles for a 9-5 Cabot lead.

Seidl picked up his second, third and fourth RBIs of the game with a bases-clearing double, and then scored on a hit by Gavin Tillery to make it a 13-5 advantage for the Centennial Bank squad.

Cabot struck out in order in the fourth, and hit three-straight groundball outs in the fifth. Meanwhile, Morrilton also went scoreless in the fourth, but added two runs in the fifth to pull within 13-7.

Cabot added five runs in the sixth but also allowed four, and was unable to put an early end to the game.

In Cabot’s half of the sixth, Gavin Tillery drew a leadoff walk before Eastham hit an RBI double. Germer reached on an E3, but was thrown out on a fielder’s choice by Jones that also scored Eastham. Shepherd reached on a bunt single before Jack Broyles made the second out with a pop-up to third base.

Brian Tillery and Harpole then got RBI base hits that gave Cabot an 18-7 lead.

Morrilton made it 18-11 in the bottom of the sixth on a double, two singles, a walk and a Cabot error.

Centennial Bank loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but only got one run. Jones’ RBI single was followed by a 1-2-3 double play.

Morrilton scored a run without a hit in the bottom of the seventh to set the final margin.

Eastham started on the mound and took the no decision since Morrilton tied the game after he left. Germer threw three innings for the win, and Gavin Tillery closed out the last two innings.

Seidl went 4 for 5 with two doubles, three runs scored and four RBIs to lead Cabot offensively. Harpole also went 4 for 5 with a double, an RBI and three runs scored.

Gavin Tillery went 3 for 4 with a double, three runs scored and an RBI. Shepherd went 3 for 5 and scored three runs while Brian Tillery, Eastham and Germer added two base hits apiece.

In Monday’s loss to Russellville, Germer started on the mound and pitched well for four innings. He ran into some trouble in the fifth, and there were few available arms to take his place.

Four other players took the mound for Cabot, but none were regular pitchers and all struggled. Five players were no shows for Cabot and only one notified coaches that he would be absent.

“We just ran out of pitching,” said Cabot coach Chris Gross. “We’ve played a lot of baseball the last few days and we had some guys not show up. So it turned bad pretty quick. Germer threw pretty well, though. We’re hitting pretty good, too. We didn’t get them at the right time, tonight. But I think we’re where we need to be, or pretty close.”

Seidl also had two doubles and scored the only run on Monday.

SPORTS STORY >> Personal best hurls Weeks into Olympics

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

Lexi Weeks grew a little teary-eyed when she met the Olympic trials standard in her first-ever collegiate meet back in January. She struggled to contain her emotions entirely once at the trials.

On Sunday, the 2015 Cabot graduate cleared a personal best 4.70 meters in the pole vault to qualify for Team USA in the Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, becoming the youngest American Olympic pole vaulter in the short history of the sport. Women’s pole vaulting has only been an Olympic event since the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia.

Weeks, who had already put together a remarkable freshman year at the University of Arkansas, joins former Razorback Sandi Morris and defending Olympic champion Jenn Suhr on Team USA.

“It is so surreal I’m still not even sure it’s completely sunk in,” Weeks told The Leader on Tuesday. “After it was over, we did a victory lap together around the track and it took us like 20 minutes to make it around from all the people stopping us and congratulating us, and cheering. Just being in that moment with Sandi and Jenn Suhr, I just can’t describe it.”

Even the usually surly and tough Razorback Women’s field event coach Mike Compton couldn’t contain his joy.

“He’s one of those coaches who is really tough and demanding perfection,” Weeks said. “He’s never super giddy or anything like that, but he was just so ecstatic that two of his athletes had made the Olympics.”

It is a bit ironic that the first meet Weeks lost all year was her greatest achievement.

As a freshman Razor-back, Weeks picked up right where Morris, a 2015 graduate, left off. Weeks won two conference and two national championships, and was the first freshman in NCAA Women’s history to win any of them. She won the SEC Indoor, SEC Outdoor, NCAA National Indoor, and NCAA National Outdoor championships.

Her personal best coming into the Trials was 4.62 meters, or 15-feet, 2-inches. She could have continued jumping after clearing 4.70 (15-5) and gone for second or even first place, but she and Compton decided to shut it down and enjoy the achievement of making the Olympic team.

Suhr won the Trials, which was also the U.S. Outdoor Championship, with a jump of 4.8 meters, or 15-9. Morris, who beat Suhr at the U.S. Indoor Championships with a jump of 4.93, was second at Trials with a 4.75 (15-7).

At just 19 years old, Weeks put no pressure on herself to qualify for the Olympics this year. She jumps on shorter poles and her personal best coming into the meet was far short of the top three jumpers. Suhr has the highest mark in the world this year at 16-5. Morris and recently graduated Stephen F. Austin senior Demi Payne had both gone over 16-feet.

But when Payne, who suffered a thumb injury and had not competed since April, failed to advance past last Friday’s preliminary round, that’s when it began to occur to Weeks that she had a chance.

“Demi has gone 16, but we didn’t know what she would do because she’d been hurt and hadn’t competed in so long,” Weeks said.

“But I still just wasn’t expecting to make it at all. After prelims, Sandi said to me, ‘Do you realize how serious of a shot you have?’ I think she believed in me more than I did. But I was like, ‘Sandi, I don’t know.’ I just wanted to kind of put it out of my head and not put any pressure.”

Weeks raced to a personal best 15-3 without a miss. She cleared the first five bars with ease, missing only on her first attempt at 15-5.

The prelims were hindered by heavy rain, and qualifying jumps were not high ones. But she did not enter finals until 14-6. When she cleared it with ease, she felt like it could be a good day.

“I had never come in so high,” Weeks said of the height she chose to start with on Sunday. “I went over and it felt pretty good. There was definitely some adrenaline going in that atmosphere.”

Much in the same way she approached the Trials, Weeks is not raising expectations very high for the Olympic Games. Worldwide, there are several athletes with higher PRs, including who is sure to be crowd favorite Fabiana Murer of Brazil.

Murer has the highest outdoor vault in the world this year at 4.87 meters. Ekaterini Stefanídi of Greece, Yarisley Silva of Cuba, Morris and Suhr round out the top five this year in outdoors competition.

Weeks, in her relative inexperience, uses a shorter pole than most of her Olympic competitors will use.

“I’m using one that’s 4.3 meters,” Weeks said. “Sandi uses 4.7s and many of them use longer ones than that. Coach and I talked about moving up to longer poles, but that’s something that we will wait and start training with next season. It changes everything about the jump to switch, so I’m just going to stick with my little poles and go out there and do the best I can do.”

Medal or no medal in 2016, Weeks is excited about the Olympic experience, especially since it’s with a friend and training partner.

“This being both our first Olympics, we want the whole experience,” Weeks said. “We’re going to leave here on (Aug.) 2. Stay in Houston for a night and leave the next day for Rio.”

Opening ceremonies will be Aug. 5. Prelims for the women’s pole vault are Aug. 16, qualifiers will compete in the finals on Aug. 19. Closing ceremonies will be Aug. 21.