Friday, May 26, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Titans searching for quarterbacks

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville football got about 45 to 50 players out to spring practice the last few weeks. The number is in line with recent years, but disappointing compared to the number of students that participated in the offseason. Coach Barry Hickingbotham said about 73 total took part in the offseason program.

The upside is, the ones who remained are a hard-working group.

“I’ve got guys left that are competing and working extremely hard,” said Hickingbotham. “We’re replacing a whole lot and have a lot of things to figure out, but the guys are working hard to get there.”

Quarterback Harderrious Martin and running back Shawn Ellis are the two key offensive players coming back. Martin, however, is likely to share a lot of time under center as coaches work on other creative ways to involve the team’s most dynamic athlete in the offense.

Juniors Trey Newsome and Shavarious Curley, and sophomore Ardarius Haynes are competing for the backup quarterback position. Haynes was the starter for the Titan freshmen team last year.

Jacksonville played an unadvertised spring scrimmage last Friday. Hickingbotham says the results were mixed, about what he expected at this early stage.

“There were some good plays and some bad ones,” Hickingbotham said. “What I like about my guys competing for quarterback is that they’re trying hard to learn. Of course we’d start HD (Martin) if we had to play tomorrow. None of the other guys have separated themselves at this point, but I like the effort of all of them.”

Hickingbotham has a busier summer scheduled for the team this year. The team will be competing in 7-on-7 tournaments at Atkins and UA-Monticello, as well as hosting its own. That’s on top of a few full-contact team camps coaches are planning on attending.

“We’re going to keep working,” Hickingbotham said.

The JHS 7-on-7 tournament is scheduled for June 13 at Jan Crow Stadium.

More details will be forthcoming.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbit football spends on helmets, players’ safety

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke High School football program recently became the first football program in Arkansas to take a hi-tech approach to monitoring their entire body of student athletes. The Jackrabbits adopted Riddell’s InSite Impact Response System – a head impact monitoring technology from the leading football helmet manufacturer – for the upcoming season.

Riddell InSite is a football helmet-based sensor technology that alerts sideline staff when a player experiences significant impacts during games and practices.

The latest software delivers more information about player head impacts, including the location of the impact. It also offers new training opportunities based on data trends by player, and highlights Lonoke High’s commitment to protecting its players not only through technique, but through technology.

“We believe we can keep our players safer with this new technology. Anytime we can become more aware of head injuries in our sport we should take that opportunity,” said Taggart Moore, Lonoke Senior High varsity football head coach. “Through teaching proper technique and our SpeedFlex helmets with InSite technology, we believe we can minimize head injuries for many seasons to come.”

InSite was developed based on Riddell’s Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS) and Sideline Response System (SRS), a technology that has analyzed more than 5 million impacts since 2003. This integrated technology fits into the liner of a Riddell helmet and is used to monitor players and alert the sideline to significant head impacts sustained during a football game or practice.

For instance, if a player collision sends an impact report score of 99, an indicator is automatically sent to a monitor (usually a team trainer) on the sideline. The same is true for a fifth impact score of 95. Furthermore, the metric can be adjusted by sideline monitors. Meaning the impact score that generates an automatic indicator can be lowered.

“Anything you can do to make a sport safer is a good idea,” said Lonoke athletic director Marc Sherrell. As Athletic Director, I see this type of helmet technology being the wave of the future in high school and college football. In Lonoke, we decided to be leaders in bringing about this technology rather than jumping on the train at a later date. We’re excited to give our student athletes the opportunity to use it.”

The Lonoke School District spent approximately $52,000 on 180 helmets for every player in grades 7-12. That’s roughly $290 per helmet, which is a bargain. Retail price for the SpeedFlex helmet is $399 for a single unit, while the impact monitoring system is another $150 per unit.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bear newcomer is soaring

Leader sports editor

Change might be the defining word for the first season of high school athletics for soon-to-be Sylvan Hills junior Mia Heard. She transferred to Sylvan Hills from Lisa Academy just before her sophomore year, delighting in moving to a school that actually has a track program, and she helped the Lady Bears with their first state championship in 13 years.

On top of moving to a different school and taking on a new level of competition, Heard was asked to take up a new event, the long jump. At the beginning, she didn’t want to.

By the end, she won the event in the Meet of Champions, where top performers from every classification come together to determine the best of the best.

“My first time doing it, I really didn’t want to because I thought it would be too much on my legs,” said Heard, who was already a top sprinter for her age group on Arkansas’ AAU circuit. “After I started doing it, it became one of my favorite events.”

Heard jumped a personal best 18 feet, two-inches at the MOC. Sylvan Hills coach Grover Garrison knew she had all the right tools to be a long jumper, and says it didn’t take a lot of convincing.

“She had some experience with the triple jump, so I told her we’re going to start teaching the long jump,” said Garrison. “Her response was, ‘I can’t long jump.’

“I’ve never heard of a kid with the speed, power and coordination to triple jump to be able to long jump. She didn’t show any other signs of not wanting to do it. Her first jump during indoor season was around 16-10. She won that meet with a 17-2 mark, I knew then we had something to work with.”

Heard, who is the daughter of WM Jr. and Tamika Heard, began competitive track when she was 9 years old with the Christian Competition Track Club, but she says high school competition was tougher due to having to compete not just with people her own age, but people two and sometimes three years older.

She continues AAU track, and will compete in her first summer meet today at UALR. Heard also competes in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the 4x100-meter relay and the triple jump. She also ran the 4x400-meter relay in one meet this year.

But it’s the new one that she’s taking the greatest liking to.

“I feel like the long jump is becoming my best event,” Heard said. “I want to hopefully get it out to 19 (feet) next year.

Moving from coach to coach in different events, and then switching coaches altogether from AAU to high school can take its toll, but Heard has a calm approach.

“It’s a little different because everyone has a different coaching style,” Heard said. “One thing I learned I need to do is just focus on what this coach is telling me instead of getting confused about someone else saying something different. Sometimes I just try to follow what I think is best or what makes most sense to me.”

Heard said of all the coaches, Garrison is the most demanding, but there is an upside to that.

“He’s harder than the other ones,” Heard said of Garrison. “But the work has paid off. Winning the state championship is just more motivation. It’s been worth it. This team has been willing to work.”

The head Bear reciprocated.

“I noticed that she was very coachable and could grasp instructional concepts quite well,” Garrison said. “She emerged into a team captain in her first year, which is not common in our program. The exciting part about Mia’s development is that there’s plenty more to get. You will see even better jumps in the future.”

EDITORIAL >> Memorial Day celebrations

We first celebrated Memorial Day as a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the country led to spontaneous commemorations of the dead. Now it honors all fallen military members and the freedom we have because of them.

We use that freedom to travel (about 37 million of us will hit the road) and consume about 71 million hot dogs, or 818 per second, on Memorial Day. Most of those hot dogs, as well as burgers and steaks, will be grilled as close to 60 percent of us will fire up the old Weber.

And the barbeque sauce of choice will be hickory, followed by mesquite, honey and spicy-hot closing in quickly.

Memorial Day is a day that we should all remember that we are hot dog, barbecue-lovin’ Americans who view the holiday as the unofficial start of summer and will, between passing the mustard and ketchup, take time to honor our bothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles who have made that ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

For only one thing rings true on Memorial Day: Honoring the members of the armed forces who died protecting this country and our freedom.

Celebration events abound in Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot and Beebe this weekend.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History, at 100 Veteran Circle, will hold a Heritage Day from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. today. Admission is free.

A special exhibit on Arkansas’ role in World War I will be on display all day. It was created by the Arkansas State Archives to commemorate the centennial of the First World War.

There will be American and German re-enactors of World War II soldiers, live music. Free hot dogs and hamburgers will be served from 11:30 a.m. till 1 p.m.

The film “Injury Slight...Please Advise” will be shown at 1:30 p.m.

The Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs will host the Central Arkansas Memorial Day Ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in Sherwood.

The ceremony will honor all who served in the armed forces and recognize the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and their families.

Because of limited space, visitors are asked to park at Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave. Free shuttle buses will run continuously between Sherwood Forest and the cemetery from 8:30 to 9:55 a.m. Shuttle buses will resume after the service.

Right after the ceremony, the Arkansas Veterans Coalition and the VWF Auxiliary will host the annual picnic at Sherwood Forest.

The American Legion in Cabot will host its annual bell-ringing ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday at the Veterans Park Community Center.

The Beebe VFW Post 7769 will hold a Memorial Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday at the Veterans Memorial at West Dewitt Henry Drive. After the service, snacks will be served at the post at 1405 E. Center St.

Don’t let the patriotism parade pass you by.

TOP STORY >> Churches help vets memorial

Leader staff writer

The Beebe Ministerial Alliance and First Baptist Church of Beebe gave the city $2,000 at the city council meeting on Monday to repair the Veterans Memorial on West Dewitt Henry Drive.

High winds from a March thunderstorm toppled and broke two stone monuments.

The monoliths were etched with the names of local veterans who served in the military.

“We were saddened to hear of the destruction of the Veterans Memorial, and we wanted to make a contribution to rebuild the memorial,” said Ministerial Alliance president First Baptist Church Pastor Bob Hall.

Mayor Mike Robertson said the estimate for the new monuments is $16,000.

Parks director Lynn Hatcher spoke about $3,400 improvements at the parks.

Lunnie Park basketball court will be resurfaced and have two new goals. The Idaho Street park will have its half-court resurfaced and a basketball rim installed.

Fireman’s Park will be updated for younger children. Three basketball goals will be lowered to six feet.

“We don’t have anything for the little fellows to get started on the basketball court,” Hatcher said.

Fireman’s Park has a small play structure for the little kids. The mayor wants the park for children and their parents. It is often used for birthday parties. He said young adults use inappropriate language around children. Graffiti is written on the tables and trash is left on the ground. They can use the other parks that are more closely monitored.

The council passed a resolution to condemn the struc ture at 503 E. Oklahoma St. Code-enforcement officer Milton McCullar said no work was done to the house after a notice was issued to conform to code.

The council approved a moratorium on the condemnation of 103 N. Main St. New Life Church purchased the property and agreed to bring the building up to code within six months.

Aldermen approved the police department to purchase four used 2013 Dodge Charger police cars for $51,000 from the state of Missouri. They will replace aging police vehicles.

TOP STORY >> Area men charged in drug bust

Federal and local police Wednesday morning arrested dozens of accused drug and gun dealers in central Arkansas, including a Jacksonville man and a former Jacksonville resident.

Christopher S. Newman Jr., 26, of Jacksonville has been charged with conspiracy and intent to distribute cocaine and use of a telephone to distribute drugs. Authorities seized $4,019 in drug proceeds.

John Webster Batton, 38, of Searcy, formerly of Jacksonville, was charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin.

They appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia S. Harris on Friday and pleaded not guilty. They face five to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Wednesday’s operation culminated in an 18-month joint investigation into several drug-trafficking organizations, primarily in Little Rock.

The investigation was led by the FBI and Little Rock and North Little Rock police.

Twenty-five people were arrested —joining the 27 people indicted who were already in custody — while several individuals remain at large. Fifty of the 61 defendants are from Little Rock. Some defendants face 10 years to life in prison.

Agents seized more than two kilograms of cocaine, one kilogram of heroin, more than a pound each of crack cocaine and methamphetamine and eight ounces of fentanyl.

Arkansas State Police, National Guard and Pulaski County sheriff’s deputies assisted in the arrests.

In late 2015, the FBI and North Little Rock police began investigating the drug-trafficking activities of North Little Rock gangs. Investigators soon learned the gangs’ source of drugs came from individuals in Little Rock.

After several drug purchases, wiretaps and search warrants, FBI and Little Rock police identified more than 60 suspects.

Officers seized these drugs during more than 25 controlled purchases, as well as during the execution of multiple search warrants.

In addition, agents seized 25 guns and approximately $241,000 of drug proceeds.

The largest involved a 33-defendant, 67-count indictment alleging heroin and cocaine conspiracies, both headed by Aaron “Black” Clark, 33, of Little Rock.

TOP STORY >> Plans unveiled for next phase

Leader senior staff writer

About 150 people turned out Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center to review and discuss plans with state Highway and Transportation Department specialists for widening Hwy. 67/167 from the Main Street overpass to the Vandenberg interchange — the last of a four-phase project from I-40 to state Hwy. 5 in Cabot.

The job would improve 2.25 miles of Hwy. 67/167, including interchange improvements at Main Street, James Street, Gregory Street and Vandenberg Boulevard at a cost of $122 million.

The work is slated to begin in 2019 and for completion in 2022.

The widening — from two lanes north and two south to three lanes each — began with the section from I-40, past McCain Boulevard and Kiehl Avenue to just south of Redmond Road and is complete.

The second phase, beginning at the Redmond Road interchange and running just north of the Main Street overpass, is well underway and should be done sometime next year.

Preliminary work has begun on the segment from north of Vandenberg to Cabot and the Thursday meeting was to discuss the final link — and perhaps the most challenging — from the Main Street overpass to the Vandenberg interchange.

The widening requires replacing bridges and overpasses along the way, changing the alignment of on- and off-ramps and the conversion of T.P. White and John Harden frontage roads between Main and Vandenberg to one-way frontage roads.

While there is still an opportunity for a little fine tuning, the alternatives have boiled down to “build” and “don’t build,” Danny Straessle, the highway department’s communications director said.


At this point the build alternative “includes system-wide improvements necessary to improve the traffic flow and safety of this corridor,” according to the department.

Without the work, congestion on the main sections of the highway is projected to rate “E” and “F” — the worst levels of service — by 2041 during morning and evening peak hours where passing is impossible and the slowest moving vehicle controls the travel speed. Most of the signalized study intersections are expected to operate at an overall level of service of “F” during the peak hours.

The build alternative would potentially require the relocation of three residential owner occupants, six businesses, and two business landlords, according to Highway Department documents.

“The six businesses impacted include an animal hospital, a nail salon, hair salon, tobacco shop, tax office, and a donut shop,” according to the report.

It would require purchase of approximately 19.2 acres of right of way from 129 properties and 11 relocations. Total residential and business relocation costs with the Build Alternative are estimated at $627,500 (in 2016 dollars).

The AHTD also has a new Hwy. 67/167 interchange programed at state Hwy. 5/321, just west of Cabot. 

$122.7M TOTAL

Construction costs in 2016 dollars for the Main Street through Vandenberg interchange is $89 million, plus $11.5 million in utility relocation costs and $22.2 million in right-of-way costs for a total of $122.7 million.

Work continues on replacing the two Main Street overpasses, the scene of many accidents including at least one death in recent years.

Congestion at the Vanden-berg interchange — the main gateway to the Little Rock Air Force Base should receive some relief by the 2022 completion of that final phase, according to Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher.

A Texas turnaround under the highway will connect the two frontage roads and better traffic lights will help move traffic through that bottleneck, Fletcher said.

A left-turn signal for traffic from John Harden and Toneyville will help, as will better coordination and flow from North First Street and from T.P. White Drive.

Businesses are wary of the proposed changes, the mayor said, including motel owners.


“It’s not a perfect plan,” he said, alluding to what he called “the fear factor,” Fletcher said. They fear that one-way frontage roads will hurt business, but he said the same fears by businesses on frontage roads in the McMain Road were proven to be unfounded and that many new businesses have opened along those roads.

Fletcher said he was meeting with business owners and operators, including motel managers, later Friday.

He said he has issues with the sizing of some drainage culverts and placement of some on or off ramps.


The department will be accepting comments by mail, Attn. Jon Hetzel, 4701 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, Ark. 72118 or by email Info@ConnectingArkansas until 4:30 p.m. June 9.

State Rep. Bob Johnson of Jacksonville, state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams and Cabot Alderman Douglas Warner were among the officials who joined Fletcher at the meeting.

The following changes can be viewed in annotated figures 9-12 at


Here are the changes on the Highway Department’s aerial photos:

Northbound — starting at Main Street, major changes include turning T.P. White Drive into a one-way frontage road all the way to Vanden-berg Boulevard; relocating the northbound off ramp to 2,000 feet south of James Street; relocate northbound on ramp to 450 feet south of James; north of James, T.P. White continues as a one-way frontage road.


Then north of James Street and North Bailey Street, a northbound off-ramp passes in front of Gwatney Chevrolet onto the frontage road, which then passes under a new Gregory Street overpass reconnecting the halves of Gregory Street.

The northbound on-ramp will be relocated north of Gregory Street from its current locations between James Street and Gregory Street. Then, north Second Street is extended to T.P. White Drive, which continues as the one-way northbound frontage road.

A dedicated turnaround lane from northbound T.P. White will pass under the existing Vandenberg Boule-vard overpass, merging onto the southbound one-way John Harden Drive frontage road.

Meanwhile, the T.P. White Drive approach at the intersection of Vandenberg and North First Street will be eliminated.

North of Vandenberg, T.P. White will be remain a two-way frontage road and north of Madden Road, a new northbound off ramp will be constructed at the existing location of the current on ramp.

Southbound — traffic can get off the improved ramp just north of Vandenberg Boulevard or else exit on the ramp between James and Gregory streets.


To get onto the southbound highway from Vanden-berg, traffic can use the on-ramp 1,700 feet south of Vandenberg.

Existing roadway will be modified to allow traffic from the Walmart Supercenter to intersect with Gregory Street, which would allow motorists to take the new Gregory Street overpass across the highway join North First Street.

The existing southbound on ramp will be removed. Southbound highway traffic can exit onto the one-way southbound John Harden frontage road 1,000 feet before James Street.

About 300 feet south of James Street overpass, highway traffic can exit in time for North Metro Medical Center.

The southbound onramp will be relocated 2,200 feet south of James.

Part of the existing phase I work, John Harden Drive will stop at Marshall Road at New China restaurant.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TOP STORY >> Every child can eat free during summer

The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance kicked off its summer- meal program for children on Tuesday at Warren Dupree Elementary School.

The program serves free breakfast and lunches during the summer for children ages 6 weeks to 18 years old.

Students were given apples and pencils. They learned where meals will be served when school is out for summer.

To find a summer-meal site visit

Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District

The following Jacksonville schools will serve breakfast from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and lunch from noon to 1 p.m.

Dupree Elementary, weekdays June 12-30

Jacksonville High School, weekdays June 5-23

Jacksonville Middle School, weekdays June 5-30

Pinewood Elementary, Tuesdays-Thursdays, June 6-29

Cabot School District

Westside Elementary, weekdays, June 1 to July 29. Breakfast from 7:30 to 8 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Ward Central Elementary, weekdays, June 1 to July 29. Breakfast from 7:30 to 8 a.m. Lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Lonoke School District

Lonoke Elementary, weekdays, June 1 to July 30. Breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Lunch from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Beebe School District

Beebe Primary School cafeteria, weekdays from May 30-Aug. 4. Breakfast is from 7:30-8:30 a.m. Lunch is from 11a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Stoney Ridge Place, Thursdays, June 8 to July 27. Lunch only from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Lunnie Park, weekdays from May 30 to Aug. 4. Lunch only from 11a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Antioch Community Church on Mondays, June 5 to July 24. Lunch only from 11:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

McRae City Park, Wednesdays, June 7 to July 26. Lunch only from 11:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

TOP STORY >> Students stock up prizes

Leader staff writer

The top student stock market teams from around the state, including Jacksonville and Beebe, gathered recently at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock to be honored for their prowess at making money.

But the event saluting the top 1.5 percent of the 8,000 participants had a more somber than celebratory aura about it as one of the young winners had died a week earlier in floods that had ravaged parts of the state.

Rosie Howard, a 10-year-old from Robert E. Lee Elementary in Springdale, who had teamed up with classmate Angela Albarran to take second place in the Region 1 elementary division, was found dead after she had jumped a fence in her backyard and landed in a ditch of fast moving floodwaters. She was one of seven Arkansans to die in that late April storm.

Arkansas Economics, which sponsors the Stock Market Game and the banquet, invited Rosie’s family to the event. Ray Hobbs, president and CEO of Hart Tackle Co. and chairman of the Economics Arkansas Foundation, took a few minutes to pay tribute to Rosie and her enthusiasm and excitement for life whenever he saw her at school.

“She was always working on a project to make the school better,” Hobbs said.

When it came to the winning Beebe teams it was the girls against the guys and the girls took first. The team of Madelyn Elkins and Abby Patterson took home a trophy, medallions, certificates and shared $125 cash. The pair, along with their adviser Lori Shannon, were asked to speak to the gathering of young financiers.

Shannon said it was hard to express the feelings and energy she saw in the classroom when the students were involved in the nine-week virtual-reality stock market activity.

“Students were handed $100,000 in virtual computer money and told to invest it. The game put the students’ minds in a place they had not been before. You can’t get this type of experience or training out of a book,” Shannon said.

“There was excitement in the classroom … electricity in the air,” Shannon added.

Elkins and Patterson, both eighth graders, said they would use what they learned from the game to their benefit when they got older.

Because the game was for a relatively short time, Elkins said the team looked for volatile stocks that were on the move, “but it was very unpredictable.”

Patterson added, “That too many stocks in one area was not good, so we spread out our choices to create a safety net.”

The Beebe guys, Alex Holland, Zach Joyner and Jaime Rodriquez, and their coach Mark Pinkerton took second place in their division and region and the students shared $75 cash, plus a trophy, medallions and certificates.

Pinkerton, who splits his time between coaching and teaching economics, said the activity shows the students that this is something “they can do, and that they can start early.” One of the objectives for Pinkerton is for students to understand how current events can affect stocks. “What happens in Washington, D.C., or overseas, is important,” Pinkerton said.

In Region Six, the Arnold Drive Elementary team of Chauncey Butler, Khalia Lockett, Loren Markham and Khalil Lockett, took second place and shared $75 cash.

“We actually got $20 each because our teacher chipped in five more dollars,” explained Butler.

Arnold Drive also had the top elementary financial writer in the state. Fifth-grader Mackenzie Turner nabbed top honors with her essay, “If Life Gives You Questions, Google Gives You Answers,” in the Investwrite contest, an offshoot of the Stock Market Game. She won $75 all for herself.

In her essay, Turner wrote, “Back in the old days, if people needed information it was off to a row of heavily-bound encyclopedias, looking for the right volume, then searching by hand for the correct page. Boy, they had it tough. Now when life gives you questions, Google gives you answers. Google has become such a large part of our lives today it is more than a company name, it’s a verb – ‘just Google it.’”

She closed her essay saying, “Google has been the second most valuable brand in the world, behind only Apple Inc. in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, with a valuation of $133 billion. As of November 25th Google’s stock price was $780.23 a share. This can be considered a reasonable price for a long-term investor that has time to wait for continued growth.

“My recommendation for a long-term investor would be to purchase as much Google stock as financially possible. Google has had many large price swings, but over time the swings have turned upward for great profit. Google is still considered a young company and is continuing to grow.”

The national contest, sponsored by the Security Industry and Financial Markets Association Foundation, asked students to describe a company that was started by one or two people and evolved into a major company and a good investment.

The winning Arnold Drive stock market team had advice for those wanting to invest, “Buy when the stocks are low.”

Khali Lockett said they looked at companies they knew, but more importantly looked for good numbers and rankings.

All elementary schools, plus the middle school, in the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District participated.

TOP STORY >> Airmen’s body to come home

The body of an Arkansas airman, who died in a plane crash nearly 65 years ago in Alaska, will be returned here Friday with full military honors.

Little Rock Air Force Base officials will receive the remains of Staff Sgt. Robert Dale Van Fossen at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Van Fossen, a graduate of the Greenbrier High School Class of 1949, and 51 others have been resting on an Alaskan glacier since 1952.

Their plane’s wreckage was discovered in 2012, when efforts began to recover the bodies.

In March 2016, Van Fos-sen’s family was notified that a positive identification had been made and that his remains would be returned to Arkansas, according to a news release from 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs.

Van Fossen was one of 41 passengers onboard a Douglas C-124A-DL Globemaster II that crashed into Mount Gannett on Nov. 22, 1952.

Nicknamed “Old Shaky,” the plane was flying from McChord Air Base in Tacoma, Wash., to Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska. Its crew of 11 also perished.

The passengers were members of all four military branches. Van Fossen was in the Air Force at the time of the crash. He had also served in the Arkansas Army National Guard.

The Patriot Guard will escort his body from the airport to Heber Springs for burial in a family plot.

SPORTS STORY >> Harding Academy wins 3A title

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – The Harding Academy Wildcats became the Class 3A state champions Friday with a 4-0 victory over Greenland at Baum Stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas.

The Wildcats only managed four total base hits, but Greenland committed six errors while HA pitcher Peydon Harlow turned in a great performance to earn the state championship game Most Valuable Player Award.

Harlow went the distance, giving up just five hits while striking out four and walking no one.

Greenland starting pitcher Austin Anderson was also outstanding, but the Pirate defense wasn’t.

Anderson threw five innings, giving up just four hits, though he struck out no one and walked two.

Harding Academy (32-5) scored twice in the bottom of the third inning, and everything else became insurance. The inning started with a Caleb Campbell’s leadoff walk.

He moved to second on a missed pick-off throw, but was then picked off at second base. T.J. Hester then lined out to shortstop for two outs with nobody on, but as can often be the case, a two-out error led to a rally.

Pate Fullerton’ fly ball was dropped. Dalton Koch then hit a grounder that also should’ve been the third out, but the throw to first was wild, leaving everyone safe. Harlow then singled to drive in Fullerton for a 1-0 Wildcat lead. Seth Morgan followed suit with his own RBI single that scored Koch to make it 2-0.

Greenland (27-9) had a chance in the top of the fifth when it got two hits to go with a Wildcat error, but with two outs, Antonio Alvarez grounded to second base to end the threat.

Harding Academy scored without a hit in the bottom of the fifth. Koch walked with one out. He stole second base and moved to third when the throw sailed into center field. Harlow then flew out to center field, but plenty deep enough to score Koch for the 3-0 Wildcat lead.

In the bottom of the sixth, Harding Academy’s Timmy Stewart hit a leadoff double to the power alley in left-center field. Greenland coach Will McGinnis pulled Anderson, and it was the Wildcats’ last hit of the game.

Blake Hatch took the mound, and immediately threw a wild pitch that advanced Stewart to third base with no outs. Catcher Griffin Metheny then hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Stewart and set the final margin.

Greenland’s Will Overton singled to start the Pirates’ last stand in the top of the seventh, but Harlow seemed to get stronger at the end. In rapid succession, Harlow got Hunter Cartwright looking, Metheny gunned down Overton trying to steal second and Dusty Reynolds went down looking to end the game.

HA’s two through five hitters got all the hits. Koch, Harlow, Morgan and Stewart got one base hit apiece – only Stewart’s going for extra bases. Greenland third baseman Luke Osborn went 2 for 2 to lead all players.

SPORTS STORY >> Springtime sees many noteworthy sports feats

Leader sports editor

With the 2016-17 school year at a close, there was a relative dearth of team state championships in the Leader coverage area this year. Three local teams did win championships, all in the second-semester sports. The most recent was last Friday when the Cabot baseball team brought home the hardware for the first time in school history. Just a little more than a week prior to that, the Sylvan Hills girls’ track team won the Class 5A state title for the second time in that school’s history, and first since 2004.

Back in February, the Cabot girls’ bowling team won its’ sixth championship in the last 10 years and third in a row.

There were a few other state championships in individual sports. Cabot senior Harris Sutton went undefeated and won his second-consecutive wrestling championship in the 220-pound weight class.

Cabot junior Casey Gore won the 3,200-meter championship in 7A, and the Meet of Champs.

Lonoke junior Gracie Hyde won the Class 4A 800- and 1,600-meter races. Her teammate and classmate Keiunna Walker won the 4A triple jump championship.

The Lady Bears’ 4x400-meter relay team of Jordan Sanders, O’Shayla Muldrow, Daviunia Jones and Aliya Hatton won that event in the 5A state meet, aiding the overall team championship.

There were other notable events, however, among local teams, and it starts with the Cabot girls’ soccer team. The Lady Pantherscame up short in their quest for a state championship, losing to Bentonville on a rain-soaked field for the second time in two years.

What makes this year’s loss more difficult to swallow was the nature of the game. The 4-0 score is the most inexplicable thing about the entire affair, because the Lady Panthers looked like the better team.

They were clearly the faster and more athletic team. Their speed forced an almost immediate strategy change by Bentonville. After getting broken down twice early in the game by Hadley Dickinson, the Lady Tigers began tackling as much as defending. They defended, and aggressively so, the entire length of the field.

The only balls they didn’t challenge were the kicks from goalkeeper Maggie Martin – even though they did, at one point, slap the ball out of her hands.

The difference was around the goal, where Bentonville couldn’t seem to miss on its drastically fewer opportunities, while Cabot couldn’t catch a break.

Bentonville scored twice on corner kicks, and according to coach Kristina Henry, it was the first two goals on corner kicks the team has scored all season.

The Lady Tigers other two goals were from about 20-25 yards away. They had to be because the Cabot defense scarcely let the ball get behind them the entire game.

Cabot coach Kerry Castillo summed it up when describing how the score reflects the game that was played.

“It’s all wrong,” said Castillo.


In basketball, for anyone paying attention to anything but wins and championships, Sylvan Hills boys’ coach Kevin Davis deserved to at least be in the running for 5A coach of the year. He kept his team focused and on task throughout a brutal conference season that ultimately didn’t mean anything. The Bears went 4-10 in the 5A-6A East Conference that boasted about 20 Division I prospects and signees, of which none were at SHHS.

Davis knew it was a league that refined by fire, and knew that if his squad could get just one win in the conference tournament, it would qualify for state and then have a chance to prove its mettle. That’s exactly what happened. The Bears defeated the two-DI prospect team of Little Rock Christian Academy in the conference tournament, and then advanced to the semifinals of the 5A state tournament, convincingly beating 5A-South champion Hope in the first round.


In 6A basketball, coach Vic Joyner, like every other JHS coach this season, had to play 6A ball with 5A numbers because of a dumb ruling by the AHSAA, but I digress.

What peeved Joyner the most was how bad the officiating was this season, and it reared its head most prominently in the postseason. Jacksonville had to overcome a laughably called game at Pine Bluff to earn the No. 5 seed in the state tournament.

Once there, the Titans hammered tournament host Lake Hamilton, but then had its best player, Cleveland State signee Tyree Appleby, effectively removed from the quarterfinal loss to eventual state champion Jonesboro.

That 71-45 final does not disclose how close the game was until Appleby was hit with three quick fouls in the second quarter, and then another one early in the third.

Joyner complained openly to the press about the officiating, and was slapped with probation by the AHSAA. But he’s right about the fact that there is no other real recourse for coaches who feel let down by sub par job performance. And his opinion is nearly unanimous among high school coaches.


In the same vein as Sylvan Hills basketball, Jacksonville baseball coach Larry Burrows deserved some credit for the season his team put together. The team started the season with only one real college prospect, Kameron Whitmore, and he had to play a position (catcher) all season that he won’t play in college.

That kind of sacrifice and dedication to the team concept is what got the Titans a decent season and a three seed in the state tournament. Terrible luck in the timing of a weather-related stoppage helped get them beat in the first round of state, but that doesn’t diminish what the ragtag bunch of Titans accomplished this season.

SPORTS STORY >> Everything goes all wrong for Cabot

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – Utter dejection and complete disbelief are about the only two ways to describe the Lady Panther soccer team’s feelings Friday evening. The score didn’t make sense, and didn’t match the game, but Bentonville walked away from the Class 7A state championship match at Razorback Field with a lopsided 4-0 victory. It was the Lady Tigers’ second-straight state championship, both championship wins against Cabot.

Last year, Bentonville won 3-0, and it was obvious the Lady Tigers made up the better team. This year, in an even worse blowout, the inexplicable fact is that the Lady Panthers outplayed their counterparts in every area, except efficiency.

Cabot nearly doubled the total number of shots, and more than doubled the shots on goal, but could not get a single one into the goal. Bentonville goalkeeper Madee East had a magnificent game, making several diving and daring saves, but Cabot also missed several that, in any other game this year, would have been chip shots.

The loss was hard enough to take, but Cabot coach Kerry Castillo feels even worse about the final score.

“That’s what makes me feel terrible for the girls,” said Castillo. “People who didn’t get to see it (the game) are going to look at that score and think Bentonville was just so much better than everybody else. And it’s all wrong. It’s just all wrong. We outplayed them from the opening second. You just have to take advantage of your opportunities, and we didn’t do that.”

Cabot had 13 shots, including 12 shots on goal. Bentonville had seven total shots, and five on goal. After dominating the first 35 minutes of the match, the first half ended disastrously for Cabot. The Lady Tigers began playing extremely aggressively after a few times getting beat down the field by Cabot’s three speedsters, Hadley Dickinson, Tristyn Edgar and Kiley Dulaney.

But shortly after Alexis Dang was pulled to the ground by a defender already on the ground, Bentonville was awarded the ball, and Victoria Mitchell almost scored with 8:29 left in the first half on just the team’s second shot of the game.

Cabot charged right back, and Edgar got in position for a clear shot, one-on-one with East with 6:45 left. But Bentonville’s Anna Passmore knocked her to the ground before she could make her kick, and the ball rolled harmlessly into East’s arms.

With 5:37 left in the half, Bentonville’s Madison Howard floated a corner kick over the defense where freshman Sydnee Suggs deflected it off her shin into the goal for a 1-0 Bentonville lead.

Just two minutes later, Bentonville leading scorer Lauren Hargus kicked a floating shot from 20 yards out right to left into the corner of the crossbar, and it deflected into the goal for a 2-0 lead.

Those two goals came after Cabot took seven shots in the first half. East made one extraordinary stop, fully extended and fully horizontal to keep Gracen Turner from scoring. East made two more incredible stops in the second half, twice racing out to meet Edgar and taking one shot in the gut and another off her face. The second one sent her out of the game for several minutes, and that’s when Cabot’s most debilitating misses came.

Turner had an open shot, one-on-one with the reserve goalkeeper, and kicked it right into her. Edgar had a clear shot she sent off the cross bar. Dulaney and Dickinson each had shots they hesitated on, allowing defenders to recover and help the goalkeeper.

The task seemed almost impossible at halftime. To win, Cabot had to score three goals in one half against a team that had only given up three total goals in 14 conference games and two playoff games combined.

They created more than enough opportunities, but missed them all.

“Good teams at every level are going to have games like that,” Castillo said. “I think by the time Hadley and Kiley got their chances, they were almost afraid of being the next one to miss. They were trying to turn a good shot into a certain shot. I just feel terrible for all of them because they know they did enough to win.”

Hope faded completely with 15 minutes to go, when, after all those Cabot misses, Bentonville got another goal that came out of nowhere on an improbable shot.

Hargus again scored from way out to make it 3-0.

The final goal came after another corner kick, and again it was Hargus who drilled a loose ball in for the hat trick.

The natural grass playing surface was wet and torn up from two days of games in the rain. Like Cabot, Bentonville plays almost all its regular season games on artificial turf, but Castillo still believes the playing conditions had a more adverse effect on his team because of its speed.

“We were clearly the much faster team,” Castillo said. “So it did nothing but help slow us down to something they’re more capable of dealing with. It was clear very early they had not answered for Hadley, so they went to a really aggressive style and started trying to take us off our feet before we could get turned. I think it (the condition) was definitely more beneficial to them. I don’t know, I can’t say for certain there would be a different outcome, but I’d sure like to find out. It was the same way last year.”

More evidence that it was just Bentonville’s day came after the game when Tiger coach Kristina Henry told reporters she didn’t think her team had scored off a corner kick all season.

“That’s just it,” Castillo said. “It was just their day I guess. Soccer can be cruel like that. You can be the better team on a given day and not get the win. It just happened to us on the worst day.”