Link to Friday’s Pualski Academy vs Chaminade game in first Arkansas/California showdown

UPDATE: Two late fourth-quarter turnovers doomed PA, leading to a 49-39 loss. Massively entertaining game to watch, though.

Central Arkansas prep powerhouse Pulaski Academy files to California to take on LA-area powerhouse weChaminade on Friday. By my cursory recon, this is the first time an Arkansas prep football team has played a California prep football team. It will be streamed live at 10 p.m. on Friday, August 31 here.

Curious as to the farthest an Arkansas prep team has traveled for football before this game? My evidence points to Springdale High, which lost 3-49 to an Ohio team in 2006, and Little Rock Central, which played quite a few Kentucky teams in the 1950s.

PS – Just saw this on PA’s Twitter feed: PA/Chaminade game watch party tonight at 10pm at Jim’s Razorback Pizza.  16101 Cantrell Rd, Little Rock, Arkansas 72223-4565

PSS – Local prep football guru Robert Yates has led me down the path to enlightenment. He recalls in 1991, Springdale High traveled to Hawaii, where it lost to St. Louis Honolulu 14-27. That trip sets the mark for the farthest an Arky team has ventured out of its own backyard.

It’s a record that should last some time, I imagine, until something like this happens.

Well Done, Fox Sports. You Produced the Most Asinine College Football “Previews” Ever.

Look, as a writer with a journalism background, I know the cards are stacked against me.

I know the financial foundations of print journalism and book publishing are being shaken to the core by the emergence of the Internet. More and more, the average online news consumer chooses to consume images as opposed to words. I get it. I’m not averse to a sports news world filled with more moving images. Live and learn, Darwin, and all that jazz.

BUT I refuse to see the world of the written world crumble at the knees of horrible videos like this.

What is this, you ask, your cursor warily hovering over the hyperlink. It is pure pablum, my friend – Fox’s “season preview” for West Virginia, which is just like every other mind-bendingly dumb preview it made for other major college programs.

They all employ the same formula:

1) Get Muzak-style Aerosmith or MC Hammer instrumentals

2) Superimpose them on quick-cut highlights, mostly from the team’s blowout wins

3) Offer NO commentary or information other than the name of than last season’s team record and how it performed in its bowl game:

There’s nothing “pre” about these clips. It’s all looking back.

What especially irks me is that Fox has the manpower to do better, but apparently doesn’t want to invest the time into going the extra meter. I believe if an outlet has enough resources to put one of these together for every single major NCAA team, it should put forth the effort to offer its viewers some extra information which actually pertains to the upcoming, not past, season. Instead, useless footage is regurgitated (Michael Dyer highlights, for instance, weigh into Auburn’s preview). No wonder hardly any of the tens of thousands of these videos’ viewers have chosen to “like” them on Facebook. Here, Fox treats us as if we were composed merely of eyeball, lizard brain and finger.

OK, I’m done fuming.

I’ll let Fox go back to caring more about the NFL and Champions League soccer now.

In the meantime, here’s one of the coolest promotional teasers I have ever seen for a college program. It just happens to be for Arkansas.

Why Cobi Hamilton will surpass Jarius Wright as a wide receiver

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw4dEWdNSmk&w=560&h=315]

Hamilton has had some of his finest moments against the best defenses. Look for his production – and reputation – to exponentially spike this season.

I had an interesting conundrum while writing a recent AS360 piece on the best Razorbacks of the SEC era (i.e., since 1992).

First off, my editor Chris Bahn and I had to figure out our definition for “best.” Obviously, stats matter. So does the ability to play best in the biggest games. But going beyond that we settled on two defining traits:

a)  Did he play a large role in the program’s rise in national reputation?

b)  In a hypothetical situation, does he give Arkansas the best chance to move the ball?

“It’s late in the fourth quarter and Arkansas is down six points with the ball. All that is between the Razorbacks and the end zone is 30 yards and the best Alabama defense of all time. Of all Arkansas’ SEC players, who do you most trust protecting you? Which running back has the best chance of moving the chains? Who’s going to make the catch, then have the highest chance of breaking free?”

For the most part, I chose players who easily satisfied both these traits. Nobody would argue guys like Darren McFadden, Tyler Wilson or Anthony Lucas fulfill both requirements.

Selecting a receiver to pair with Lucas, though, presents a conundrum.

If you more heavily weigh stats and helping the program rise in national reputation, then Jarius Wright is a logical choice:

He entered as the least-heralded of a trio of receivers who all eventually found their way to the NFL. Wright left Arkansas as the team’s all-time leader in catches (168) and yards (2,934) in  and ranks No. 2 in the record books with 24 touchdowns.

And, indeed, Wright was chosen for the AS360 piece.

But, if you give more weight to the second trait, then you have to take into account the physical advantages some of the all-time Arkansas receivers have over the 5-10 Wright. The 6-6 Marcus Monk, in his heyday, presented just about as tough a cover as Arkansas has ever had. But, when taking into account speed, skill set, height and sheer talent, I honestly believe the 6-3 Cobi Hamilton will surpass Wright as a receiver.

He’s been waiting in the wings for three seasons behind Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams, content to show only flickers of a fire which will soon engulf the entire SEC. He’s watched his quarterback Tyler Wilson also wait three years before emerging as the best Hog QB of the SEC era. I expect a similar jump in production from Hamilton this season. Once Hamilton has an All-American caliber season under his belt, it will be a lot easier for Hog fans to rank him up there with Lucas.

If you’re going all rolly-eye on me right now, don’t just take my word for it. NFL scouts know Hamilton’s potential too. He’s projected to be chosen higher than any other Arkansas receiver to be taken in recent decades.

CBS descends on Fayetteville, Lonoke for two special series

CBS, that grand old lady of a network, sure has taken to Arkansas subjects lately.

For starters, there’s a new feature focused on the Razorbacks’ Heisman Trophy candidates and Paul Petrino’s salty, salty mouth which will debut on Sept. 19.

Receiving less publicity, but of far more significance to the state as a whole, CBS Evening News will feature Lonoke County and surrounding areas in a four-part series on the effects of this summer’s drought on the Arkansas River and the states through which it runs. Gene Sullivan, who helps run the Bayou Meto Water Management Project, told me he spoke at length with a  CBS producer and reporter last week about the area’s special challenges, and their effects on local rice and soybean farmers. This segment will come out likely in mid or late September and will be part of a four-part series. Other parts will focus on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

OK, enough of the non-sports talk. Topically, I may be flowing a bit outside my banks here.

Below is more on the upcoming Hogs series:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V61X9d-Zb-s&w=560&h=315]

CBS Sports Network and CBSSports.com present COLLEGE FOOTBALL CONFIDENTIAL: ARKANSAS, an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at one of the most intriguing teams of the 2012 season, the Arkansas Razorbacks. The series of seven shows debuts on CBS Sports Network on Wednesday, Aug. 29 (7:00 PM, ET).  CBSSports.com complements the television series with exclusive all-access online content beginning Monday, Aug. 20, available at CBSSports.com/collegefootballconfidential.

  Continue reading CBS descends on Fayetteville, Lonoke for two special series

Will Trey Flowers Be Arkansas’ Next Defensive All-American?

Trey Day could be nigh, ya’ll. Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

It’s not hard to predict what will happen when solid play by Arkansas’ sophomore defensive end Trey Flowers mixes with the mind of a sports copy editor.

Headlines of a certain variety start popping up: “Flowers Expects to Blossom,” “Hogs DE Flowers Blooms in the Second Half at Oxford,” “Flowers blossoming on defense” and “Flowers a Budding Force on Defense” have all appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or Arkansas Sports 360 in the last 13 months.

We get it. As a freshman last year, the 6-4, 240-pound Flowers was thrown into the potting soil early on. He got valuable minutes, racking up 28 tackles (5.5 for loss) as a starter while injuries sidelined veterans Jake Bequette and Tenarious Wright. Dude has shown enough improvement this off-season that if he was allowed to make money off his own name, the marketing departments of the biggest northwest Arkansas florists would be blowing up his phone.

What’s harder to figure out, and so tantalizing to forecast, is what a truly bloomed Flowers could actually do.

Continue reading Will Trey Flowers Be Arkansas’ Next Defensive All-American?

How Michael Phelps’ girlfriend served as a member of Lyon College’s Kilted Army

Because, really, what else would a Presbyterian college education in Independence County be good for?

Admit it, the first time you heard the girlfriend of  history’s greatest Olympian attended Lyon College, your first reaction was “What?!” Then, if you are me, you learned the Cali native attended the north Arkansas school to play soccer, and you immediately craved a statistical assessment of her effectiveness as a player.

It’s one thing, after all, to be a fashion model traipsing around Nebraska, Hollywood and London, keeping  a relationship with a greatest Olympian of all time under wraps for seven months before declaring your love after the gold dust clears with pictorial Tweet-testaments of love with that same greatest Olympian ever  – all the while keeping the gears turning for a possible acting career on the side.

It’s quite another to dominate the TransSouth Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

So, how did Megan Rossee stack up as a student-athlete?

Pretty well, it turns out.  After transferring from Long Beach City College, she was a major contributor to what with a little imagination can be construed as the “Golden Age”  of Lyon’s nine-year soccer history. Rossee played from 2007 through 2009, a stint including two of the top three seasons in program history:

http://www.lyonscots.com/stats/2007-08/wSoccer/2007stats.htm

Year Overall (record) Conference
2003     2-14        2-4
2004     3-12        2-5
2005     3-14        2-4
2006     13-6        6-2
2007      9-8-1     4-4 
2008     12-5-2    4-1-1 
2009     10-2-2    3-1-2 
2010      12-4-1    4-1-1
2011       10-9        3-3

Rossee only started four of 17 games her first season, scoring a goal and an assist, but by 2008 was firmly entrenched at defender, starting all 19 games. In 2009, the 5-feet-9 Lakewood, Cal. native went out with a bang – scoring two goals on the year. Defensive stats aren’t readily available, but one can imagine Rossee was a pretty good complement to a forward who pretty much became the Michelle Phelps of Lyon College soccer. Angja Klotzle is the school’s all-time leader in goals (51) and assists (33).

Throughout the Rossee era, the Scots lost to the likes of Arkansas State, UCA and Harding University, but sure did beat the living kilt out of Central Baptist College and the University of the Ozarks. This kilted Army, however, never conquered beyond its conference tournament semi-finals.

On Twitter, Rossee has been talking up the possibility of heading back to Batesville soon. If so, expect her to walk through the doors of Cowboy’s Barbecue and – if a certain someone’s at her side – make quite a splash in the process.

Below are Lyon soccer career record holders. I vote “Creeia” as having the coolest name:

1. Anja Klotzle 51 2008-11
2. Sarah Ruegger 40 2006-08
3. Katy Smith 30 2006-10
4. Katie Marshall 19 2009-10
5t. Angelique Armenta 18 2006-07
5t. Jordan Kalie Aliviado 18 2008-11
7. Creeia Nuckols 13 2010-Present
8. Cethlinn Cunningham 12 2007-11
9. Sarah Poncher 11 2006
10. Amber Mathieson 10 2007-10

Player Assists Lyon Career
1. Anja Klotzle 33 2008-11
2. Katy Smith 25 2006-10
3t. Marisa Browne 17 2007-10
3t. Sarah Ruegger 17 2006-08

Continue reading How Michael Phelps’ girlfriend served as a member of Lyon College’s Kilted Army

What Made Arkansas’ Record-Setting 2012 Track Team So Unique

Record-setter Marek Niit in action. Courtesty: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

I recently talked to a former Razorback  about pioneering Olympian Christophe Lemaitre and how elite white sprinters are viewed in the track world at large. Cedric Vaughn, now the track coach at Arkansas Baptist College, knows his sport very well. When he was in Fayetteville, he ran the 200 meter and the 4X400m and 4X100m relays while teaming with the likes of Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon. To this day, Vaughn keeps in touch with both Olympians and sometimes stays at their Fayetteville homes when he visits his alma mater.

Vaughn, also a trainer at D1 Sports Training, first emphasized training plays a large part in a sprinter’s success. Still, the genetic component is undeniable. And, on the whole, people with West African ancestry tend to have more body features better suited for sprinting, he added. “I really believe African-Americans are built more athletically” for running, citing studies which confirmed blacks tend to have more efficient fast-twitch muscles. Moreover, the French journalist Phillippe Leclaire recently released a book on the subject bringing up another factor – ACTN3, the so-called ‘sprint gene.”

The ACTN3 was discovered for the first time by a team of Australian researchers in 2003. It is a gene present in all humans in two forms, either the RR form which helps speed, or the RX form which aids endurance.

“Since its discovery, a lot of research has shown that the RR form of the gene gives those who hold it explosive muscle power when the body is put under a certain amount of physical stress, so it’s a natural predisposition for sprinters,” Leclaire explained.

“If you had a weak form of ACTN 3, it would be impossible to match the great sprinters,” he said.

Leclaire concluded that the genes favourable for sprinting are more commonly found in those of West African origin.

There are exceptions, of course, which explains how French sprinter Lemaitre has been able to compete in the same class as the likes of Bolt and fellow Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake.

Continue reading What Made Arkansas’ Record-Setting 2012 Track Team So Unique

Why It Matters that the Fastest White Man on Earth is, well, White

The blacks, physically, are made better.” – Carl Lewis, nine-time Olympic gold medal winner in track and field.

“White Man’s Burnin'” could be the theme of this Olympic Games’ 200 meter race

Lightning-quick reactions.

In most sports, they form the foundation of victory. Nowhere is this more cut and dry than in sprinting, where legacies often boil down to a matter of milliseconds.

Few athletes in history have developed more efficient fast-twitch muscles than four top track stars in this year’s Olympics: Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell and Razorback Tyson Gay. In 100 meter races, they have produced the top 21 performances ever. In the 200m, they had notched nine of the top 11 times.

In London, though, Europe’s fastest man is expected to loosen this quartet’s vice grip on the world’s biggest stage. Twenty-two-year-old Christophe Lemaitre entered the Olympic 200m and 4X100m relay with one of the event’s most intriguing stories. Lemaitre didn’t even start sprinting until age 15. In the next five years, he demolished one record after another in his native France while growing to 6-feet-3.

At a 2010 meet, Lemaitre became the first white European or American to run 100 meters under 10 seconds.  His 9.98 time was good, but far off Bolt’s 9.58 world record. Still, Lemaitre had proven himself as a clear exception to a rule that had become more and more ironclad since south Arkansas native Jim Hines first broke the 10-second barrier in the 1968 Olympics: black sprinters dominate.
Before Lemaitre, 70 of 71 of the sprinters who’d run 100 meters in less than 10 seconds had primarily west African ancestry.
Why?

I admit it: A vast slippery slope stretches before us. Many people, Lemaitre included, hesitate to even bring up racial barriers in a Western society which strives for meritocracy. In November, 2011, he told the New York Times he feels it’s possible the black monopoly on track has built “a bit of psychological barrier” for some aspiring white athletes and that his performance could help “advance and make the statement that it has nothing to do with the color of your skin and it’s just a question of work and desire and ambition.”

Lemaitre’s sentiments had already been espoused by the college coach of Olympic gold medalists Michael Johnson (4th all-time in the 200m) and Jeremy Wariner, a white 400m champion. “White kids think that it’s a black kids’ sport, that blacks are superior,” Baylor University’s Clyde Hart (a Hot Springs native) told Sports Illustrated in 2004.”There are plenty of white kids with fast-twitch fibers, but they’ve got to get off their rumps. Too many of them would rather go fast on their computers in a fantasy world. It’s not about genes, although they may play some part in it. It’s about ‘Do you want it badly enough?’”

No matter how badly we as Americans want to believe it, we know there’s more to success than willpower and worth ethic. We know these attributes don’t develop in a vacuum. Nurture has something to do with it. So does nature. Indeed, some scientists believe they have pinned the ratio in regards to foot speed.. According to the director of the Copenhagen Muscle Research Institute, an athlete’s “environment” can account for 20 to 25 percent of his speed, but the the rest is determined before birth.

Continue reading Why It Matters that the Fastest White Man on Earth is, well, White