Three girls and two boys track athletes were named to the Arkansas All-State 4A Track and field Field teams, an all-time record for the Blackhawks track program.
In addition, freshman trackster Blakelee Winn was named the top newcomer track and field athlete for all of northwest Arkansas, regardless of class. The honor, given by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was from among over 100 high schools including the teams of 7A classification.
Winn was the 4A state champion in both the 100-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles with school record times of 15.66 and 45.83, respectively. She also scored in the State meet in the long and triple jumps as well as the 200 with a scorching time of 25.84, also a Blackhawk record. The multi-sport athlete led her team to both indoor and outdoor state track and field team championships with the Lady 'Hawks coming in sixth as a team among all classes statewide at the Meet of Champions. The last Winn athlete of her generation cut a wide swath through her first high school track and field competition.
The last young high school athlete to have had such an impact on track and field in northwest Arkansas was Springdale HarBers Payton Stumbaugh who had similar numbers to Winn's as a freshman. Stumbaugh's sophomore year saw her dip her 300-meter hurdles time to 44, her 100-meter hurdles to 14 and her 200-meter time to 26. She later went on to dominate the 7A and is currently an multi-time All-American athlete for the University of Arkansas.
Joining Winn in attaining all-state status was freshman Adelina Means, the 4A state 400-meter silver medalist (1:02) who also anchored the Lady 'Hawks' 4x400-meter team to a relay State Championship. The third member of the girls all-staters was sophomore Cassidy Mooneyhan who won her second straight outdoor pole vault title, also scoring in the 200-meter (26.91) at state and scored points in the relays.
Two boys were included on the boys' honor list. Conner Escajeda was named for his second place finish in the 400-meter dash (50.83) with Eacajeda also earning 4A state gold in the 4x400-meter relay as well. The other member of the 4A elite was Shaed Cates, the silver medalist in the 800-meters, who was also a member of the state champion 4x400-meter relay.
I don't believe that any Pea Ridge track program has had this many athletes qualify for all-state honors in one season, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention other Pea Ridge athletes who ought to have been accorded this honor as well, at least in my opinion.
Shelby Duncan won multiple medals in the Arkansas Meets of Champs, proving that she was among the best of the best in the state of Arkansas. The same could be said of Cooper Elliott who did the same among.
Duncans' time in the 300-meter hurdles met the standard for second team All-American as established by the MileSplit.com folks, who are the official records keeper for Arkansas high schools. Elliott led the state in the 100-meter this season (10.91) and was six-hundredths of a second from second place in the 100-meter state finals and he was also just eight-hundredths of a second short of the second place in the 200-meter. He did win a state gold in the 4x400-meter and was a medalist in the Meet of Champs.
How could these two not make the list? You have to finish first or second to earn all-state status. The problem with this standard is that athletes who score perhaps three or four third places would be considered less of an All-State than someone who just got a single solitary second.
Of course, track and field isn't the only sport with wonky all-state guidelines in the state of Arkansas. In football, it is possible to lead the state in pass receptions and not be All-State, or lead the state in any recordable statistic and still be passed over for post season honors. In cross country, the All-State awards are based on mathematical percentages rather than a standard top 15 or top 25 finish.
In Missouri, as in most states, anyone medaling in the state meet is considered all-state. NCAA national meets are the same on the college level, awarding All-American status to those who medal in the top eight.
The Arkansas Activities Association? It is what it is. The students of this state deserve a better organization to take care of matters relating to interscholastic athletics, and while they do some things well, they do a lot of things -- not so well.
Although there were more athletes competing on the 4A level in track and field than in the 3A, just 19 boys were named 4A all-state while at the same time, 33 boys were named all-state in 3A. As a matter of fact, the AAA accorded the least number of All-State awards to 4A athletes compared to other classifications. The 2A and 5A classes had more than 30 all-staters with 1A, 6A and 7A having in excess of 20.
No matter the number of all-staters that are officially recognized at Pea Ridge, there is no denying that there are a bunch of talented and dedicated track and field athletes who are under the guidance of competent dedicated coaches. The spectacular success of the past season is only a prelude for the good things that are to come.
The end of an era
One of my earliest sports heroes passed away last week, 95-year-old St. Louis Cardinal player-manager-coach Albert "Red" Schoendienst.
He compiled a record that likely never be equaled. Schoendienst wore a major league uniform for 74 consecutive years!
Schoendienst broke into the Major Leagues in 1945 during World War 2. He nearly lost an eye due to an injury he received when he was 16. The doctors wanted to remove his eye which had gotten punctured by a nail. The injury led him to develop a talent for switch hitting which allowed him to see better against certain types of pitchers.
Not living far from St. Louis, just a few miles to the east, he participated in an open tryout. A scout then signed him to a professional contract. His eye injury kept him out of the military, but he wound up having a terrific two-year sojourn in the Minor Leagues, batting well over .300.
He played nearly 20 years in the Majors, winning numerous Golden Glove awards, once holding the Major League record for best fielding percentage of .9934 that he set in 1956, standing for more than 30 years. He also led the league in stolen bases once and was a Top 3 finisher for the league's MVP award.
Contracting tuberculosis led to having a partial lung removal, and though he was told he would never play again, he was back on the Cardinal roster as a pinch hitter a little over a year later. That led to an opportunity to serve as a Cardinal coach, and he batted over .300 in 1962-63 as a player/coach.
Schoendienst spent 1964 coaching only, the year the Cardinals won a famed World Series matchup with the New York Yankees. The St. Louis manager Johnny Keane shocked the Cardinal faithful by leaving his World champion team to manage the team he had just beaten, the Yanks. Schoendienst then was elevated to the manager and he led the team to another World Series title in 1967. He managed 12 years before stepping down to take on coaching again. In 1979, he took on the job as coach and special assistant, and fans could see their red-headed icon at the ball park from then on to the end of his life.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 and his No. 2 jersey number was retired in 1996. He was the last surviving member of the 1946 World Champion Cardinals team and was a player, coach, or manager for five World Series Champion teams.
Shoendienst was someone I became aware of during that World Series Champion year as an 11-year-old in 1964. The Cards were down 11 games to Philadelphia in late August, largely due to the retirement of Hall of Famer Stan Musial earlier that year. To shore up their lineup, the Cards traded for future hall of Famer Lou Brock, who was a huge factor in a meteoric rise from near last place to first place, winning the pennant on the last game of the season. I was hooked then and I remain a Cardinal fan to this day.
Shoendienst was the face of Cardinal baseball to me way back then and remained so until his death last week. He was a good guy.
Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. He can be contacted through The Times at email@example.com.Sports on 06/13/2018
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