Hard work has its payoff for Lawton's 580 RollerGirls. In the past three years, the team has worked its way towards the big leagues. "In January of this year, we were accepted by Women's Flat Track Derby Association as an apprentice league," said Erin "Dublin D'Pain" Cooper, 580 media liaison and aspiring skater. "The WFTDA is like the NFL of roller derby." The WFTDA is the international governing body for the sport of women's flat track roller derby and a membership organization for leagues to collaborate and network, according to a statement on its website. It sets standards for rules, seasons and safety, while also determining guidelines for the national and international athletic competitions of member leagues. There are currently 176 WFTDA member leagues and 119 leagues in the WFTDA apprentice program. Apprenticeship means the team is monitored and tracked by league officials. A determination of full acceptance will come later this year. Cooper said acceptance would lead to national recognition and eligibility to compete in regional and national competitions. It also means Lawton could play host to major area finals and regional competitions. It could also lead to televised and webcast bouts on Derby News Network, she said. "We've been busy bees this off season and we are so excited about the apprenticeship," Cooper said. "It's going to be a great year."
The 2012-13 high school sports year is almost in the books. Only one event remains: Class A state baseball and as of right now, nobody knows when that is taking place. The only update we have is Wright City filed its brief on Friday. The Oklahoma Supreme Court will hopefully hand down a decision soon. So while we wait for that dance to finish, let's take a look back at the year that was in the area. Fall The fall of 2012 brought about many great storylines. The first of which was Elgin's 33-0 romp through Class 4A volleyball on the way to its first state title in volleyball and third overall in school history. The Owls were just dominant in nearly every facet. Sophomores Jentry Holt and Kaitlynn Holmgren led the way with kills and blocks. Seniors Gabby Ramirez and Magan Castlebury were great at digs and seeting up Holt and Holmgren. Junior Sam Grubb did a little bit of everything. They were only pushed to a fifth set once all season and that was against Class 4A No. 9 Mount St. Mary. In the playoffs, the Owls dropped just two sets and it came in their final two matches against Verdigris in the semifinals and Cache in the finals. Next year, Elgin should be right back in the thick of things next year and will look to extend its 33-match winning streak.
After drawing near-capacity crowds last year, Fists of Fury is coming back to Lawton on Saturday, June 1, at the Great Plains Coliseum and once again fans are already gathering up prime tickets to see fighters like Lawton legend Rodney McSwane and Elgin's Chad Leonhardt mix it up in the steel cage.
The doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the first of 15 fights will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, plus special ringside tickets are available for those who want to get a close-up look at the action. Tickets are available at the Great Plains Coliseum, at Adventure Travel on Fort Sill, or by going to the following Website: www.premierok.com.
Other ticket outlets are Billingsley Hyundai, Crutcher's For the West on C. Ave., Wind River Harley Davidson, and Chief's Smokin' Ice House.
The featured pro fight will involve Leonhardt, who has compiled a record of 11-2 during his climb up the ladder, and Norman's Marvin Babe, who comes in with a 7-4 mark.
Leonhardt has been trying to land a big UFC fight for TV and he's hoping a big performance in front of his hometown friends and family will help him reach that goal.
Leonhardt was one of the area's top athletes during his prep days, then entered the military and served out his stint. Since then he's been trying to make his mark in MMA. He actually got his start as an amateur fighter and when you figure that into his total he stands 24-3.
During the day he's a forklift driver at a Lawton industrial facility.
The second featured pro fight involves McSwane, the former MacArthur multi-sport athlete who stands 2-0 in his pro career. The former All-State and collegiate wrestler works for Southwest Sales in Lawton, the region's Coors distributor.
McSwane will battle Marvin "The Specimen" Rowell, a 29-year-old Bristow native who is 3-0 in his short pro career. And, like McSwane, Rowell is a former All-State wrestler.
Tennis, golf, cycling, football, baseball we've reached the busy spring sports season when the temperatures are rising and everyone is eager to get out and compete, or just go for leisurely bike ride or walk, and the Lawton area has just about every sport covered.
For instance, this Saturday and Sunday the Museum of the Great Plains Tennis Classic will be played at the Lawton Country Club and Cameron Tennis Complex and organizers are hoping for a large turnout for that event. More on that below.
Saturday night is the Annual Southwest Oklahoma Senior Bowl Football Classic which kicks off at 7:30 p.m., then Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. will be the Southwest Oklahoma All-Area Baseball Classic at MacArthur High School.
After that, on Saturday, May 25, the 25th Annual Tour de Meers Bike Ride will be held in the beautiful region around the tiny community and once again that is a very important event as it is the primary fund-raising event for the Meers Volunteer Fire Department which, like all volunteer fire departments in our area, has endured brutal heat and fire conditions for several years and their equipment is aging and this money is important to keep those trucks running dependably.
One thing I learned growing up on a ranch, when you are fighting fire you want a dependable vehicle or else you can get trapped in a hurry. So many great people in the Meers area are involved in this effort but for Cindy and John Zelbst, it is a way to rekindle the memory of her father, the late Duty Rowe, who spent many an hour raising money for that department and helping make it one of the best around.
This year's ride will start at 7:30 a.m., but registration/checkin lines will open at 6 a.m. Entry fee is $25 for a single rider or $40 for a tandem if paid before Wednesday, May 22. After that the cost goes to $30 for singles and $45 for tandems. There is a $5 discount for each additional family rider, however, children under 10 will get to ride free when accompanied by a registered parent.
Special race shirts are available while they last, so enter early and be sure and arrive at checkin early at the headquarters at the Meers Volunteer Fire Department.
The routes this year are 10, 22, 36, 57 and 63 miles and anyone wanting to check them out can go to this Website: www.tourdemeers.org
Also, use that same Website to enter. Anyone having specific questions can email them to this address: tourdemeersgmail.com
Tennis entries due We mentioned the Museum of the Great Plains Tennis Classic this coming Saturday and Sunday and there is still time to get your entry in for that great event as well.
Spokesperson Janie Billingsley indicated that the event will be for both adult and junior players and she is already getting entries from Oklahoma and North Texas. This event is sanctioned by the USTA and will include levels from 3.0 and up.
Awards will be given to the top two finishers in each bracket. Entry fee is $26 for singles and $16 per player in doubles. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Museum of the Great Plains.
The Class A state baseball tournament is getting to closer to resuming, we think. On Friday, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association filed its brief to the Oklahoma Supreme Court last Friday, which means that Wright City has until Friday to submit its brief. What does all of that mean? Well it means that the court could have a ruling in place by next week. While it seems like that would bring some closure to the events, it doesn't. If the court makes its decision on Monday, May 20th, the OSSAA could decide to play the tournament that weekend which sounds great, only Sterling won't be available due to a senior trip to Branson, Missouri. The No. 1 Tigers are not available from the 23rd through the 27th which adds even more plot twists. "Our seniors just want to know when they are playing," Sterling head coach John Morgan said. "We've told (the OSSAA) the dates we can't play. It's the craziest thing I've ever heard of. It's like Groundhog Day." Right now what's being lost in the shuffle is what the players are doing while waiting to be told when they can play. Basically, what they're doing is pre-season stuff, just practice. It's all they can do. "I gave them a couple days off last week, but other than that we've just been doing some light practice just to stay in shape," Morgan said. "The biggest thing is just managing the situation. Next week the seniors will be out because of graduation and the senior trip. More than likely when this gets settled it will have been a month since we played."
The track at Velma-Alma High School is like that of the horse so sorrowfully sung about by the 1970s folk-rock band "America" it has no name. But a core group of athletes for the Comets have competed the past three seasons like they badly want it named after them. A little more than a week ago, Velma-Alma won its third straight Class A state track title when before 2010, the program had never won a championship. Led by a slew of strong relay teams and dominant hurdler Checotah Lynn, the Comets have recently unleashed a gusher of hardware that, in the past 20 years, barely trickled with just two runner-up finishes in 1994 and 1997. This year, on a blustery, 50-degree day with 20 to 30 mph wind gusts at Carl Albert High school, Velma-Alma solidified itself as a force in small-school track. Success breeds success, and a mixture of youth and experience has been as key as anything. "When you go on a run like this and put three titles together like this," the Comets' track coach Scott Combest said, "you have to have some little kids and a few older kids." It doesn't hurt to have dominant relays Velma-Alma won the 400 and 800 relays, while placing third in the 1,600 and second in the 3,200 but veterans like Lynn, who broke his own state record in the 110-meter hurdles last year with a 14.11, are also must-haves.
Regardless of the sport, few teams have mixed feelings about possessing a top-five ranking.
When MacArthur's boys track team begins the Class 5A state meet at Yukon High School today, that's where their 400-, 800-, and 1600-meter relay teams find themselves.
According to the Oklahoma track ranking website, OHStrack.com, the Highlanders have the state's best time in the 800-meter and fourth best in the 400- and 1,600- meter. Mac also qualified its 3,200-meter relay squad for state while posting its fastest times of the year in all four relays at the Norman regional last week, where it finished second behind Duncan.
Relay winners net 20 points at track meets, increasing the importance of placing as many as possible, as often as possible. That becomes even more important at state where only the best relays will compete.
Knowing all four of his relay teams will run at state and are seemingly on an upswing has left Mac head track coach Odell Gunter Jr. with a good feeling.
"As a team, we have a great chance of placing in the top three," the coach said of his boys squad. "To win it, you really need all your relays (to qualify). We're peaking at the best time, right now."
Larry Reese, Jacquez Henderson, Lorenzo West, and Gary McKnight Jr. comprise the Highlanders' 400- and 800-meter relays. Its 1,600-meter squad is steadied by Trent Meisel, Will Collins, West, and Reese, while Brett Barrientes, Aaron Pemberton, Jay Canada, and Collins run the 3,200-meter.
One common denominator amongst three of the four groups is Reese, who won the 400-meter run at regionals with a 43.23 time and is ranked fourth in the state in the event.
Reese the last leg of the 400 and 1,600 teams and first off the line in the 800 is the backbone of Mac's relays. While undersized, his lengthy stride gives him a slight advantage.
"That helps me," Reese said, "Especially in the 400." If given the option, Reese said woudl love to run the 200-meter dash this weekend, too, but is at the maximum of four events. Coach Gunter allowed him to run the 200 at a meet Chickasha earlier this year and Reese's time still stands as the state's fourth best.
"If you look at him, he's a little undersized," Gunter said. "You'd think he couldn't compete but he's a big-hearted kid. He loves to run. When we do our workouts, when everyone's bent over and has their tongue hanging, out he's ready for another one."
Reese's own tongue is likely hanging out at his opportunity this weekend. He can't help but think about his individual third-place finish in the 400-meter dash last year now a senior, there's a nasty itch to unseat 2012's champion, Claremore's Trey Jackson.
"It makes me push harder for first," Reese said. "The person I didn't beat (last year) is still here. I feel great. I feel like I can actually win state this year. My legs are great right now, I'm running pretty good and breathing alright."
Reese is joined in the 400-meter dash by relay mates West and Meisel, ranked seventh and 10th in the state, respectively. Along with sixth-ranked McKnight Jr. in the 200-meter dash, the quartet is in position to pick up additional points in events other than relays.
Meisel carries the load for MacArthur in the field events, having qualified for the high jump and long jump.
Events like the one this writer will be staffing this afternoon at Eisenhower High School are starting to make me feel older and older, but I can stand a few aches and pains in the old joints to see young people rewarded for their hard work as well as their athletic and academic success.
Today I'll be watching Ike's James Cross sign a basketball letter of intent with Cameron University around 1:30 p.m. in the Ike Commons Area. Heck, he might just be signing a blank sheet of paper because often these signings are actually done early in the morning so the college can get the FAX as quick as possible and start all the paperwork that is required, but it doesn't matter, these events give family and friends a chance to witness the big day, not just the head coach in some small office under the bleachers at the Ike gym.
Today will be an exciting time for the Cross family, one this writer has known and been writing about for nearly 40 years. In fact, James' father Jesse is on my short list of the best athletes I've seen in action during those 40 years. Jesse Cross was among the first group of wrestlers who took the mat when the Lawton Public Schools started the sport in the mid-1970s and he proceeded to make history as the first medal winner from our city, taking a silver medal at 168 pounds, losing only to Midwest City legend Paul Ameen that season, once at regionals and then again at the state meet.
Jesse was also an amazing football player, one of the toughest running backs I've ever seen. In fact, on a fall night at Moore High School, he carried the ball more than 40 times in a tough Wolverine victory and earned the fitting nickname "The Old Rugged Cross."
Is James as tough as his dad? No, not at this point but the younger Cross has plenty of time to become a force on the basketball floor for the Aggies. At 6-8, and probably 250 pounds, he can sure be a force inside. One might ask how did he slip under the radar of the NCAA Division I schools and here's how he's just 17-years-old and has only been playing competitive basketball for a couple of years.
That was because his was like so many military families, moving around to different assignments every couple of years. When Jesse retired as a 4-star general in the Army, the family decided to return home to Lawton where many family members reside.
So, you can see that James still has a great deal to learn about the game of basketball and new CU head coach Nate Gamet and assistant Ron Hill are going to be doing a great deal of teaching over the next few months. But, there is a wealth of potential wrapped up in this big young man and if he works as hard as his dad did during his prep and college days at West Texas, he could be just as special when all is said and done.
After today's signing session, we'll corner James and get his thoughts on Cameron and his own evaluation of where his game stands after his prep career and prior to starting college.
The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association filed its appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court Monday in regards to whether or not Wright City is eligible for the Class A baseball state tournament. As of Monday evening, the court hadn't decided whether or not to hear the appeal. No. 9 Wright City was supposed to face No. 1 Sterling in a first-round game on Thursday, but last week the OSSAA found out that the Lumberjax had played too many games and declared them ineligible for the tournament. A judge in McCurtain County gave Wright City an injunction which would have allowed the Lumberjax to play, but the OSSAA fought the ruling. The initial ruling was upheld on Friday, as the tournament started, but the OSSAA decided to appeal to the highest court in the state. Several scenarios could come out of this ruling, but what follows is just a sample. One scenario is that Sterling and Wright City play their game and then the semifinals begin the next day. That situation would be disadvantageous for both teams as they would be facing an opponent's best pitcher in the semifinals while not being able to throw their own. Another is that the two teams would play their game followed by a one or two day break and then play the semifinal game. That ruling would allow either the Lumberjax or Tigers to possibly throw their best pitcher.
DUPONT, Wash. The conditions on Monday were spotless, the venue exquisite, and the stakes high. While that may have sounded perfect to the Cameron University men's golf team on the first day of the NCAA Division II Men's Golf South Central and West Regional at The Home Course, the Aggies still struggled to putt and find themselves in 13th place going into today's 1:50 (PST) tee time. After one round, Cameron came into the clubhouse as a team with a 293, 5-over-par scorecard but they aren't sweating just yet, especially knowing they're just five shots out of the top-5, which would qualify them for the May 20 NCAA Championships. "We didn't putt very well, that was our biggest mistake," CU head coach Jerry Hrnciar said Monday as he and his team eased their minds by taking in some the sights and sounds in Seattle. "The course is not too hard tee-to-green, but around the greens is very difficult. On the last hole we missed three short putts. We missed probably four or five others that normally we wouldn't have missed that short." The 20-team field in Dupont is stocked with nine of the country's top-25 teams and 16 of the top-50 players. The conditions at The Home Course, host of the 2010 U.S. Amateur, are expected to worsen today and could raise some of the low first-round scores shot by top-5 teams CSU-Monterey Bay (279), Western Washington (283), Abilene Christian (287), Grand Canyon (288), and CSU-Stanislaus (288).