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Held back by covid complications, construction challenges, and other problems that occur with building a facility as large and sophisticated as the new Blackhawk arena, Opening Night was finally held last week to an enthusiastic crowd of Hawk fans, visitors, and media figures.'

The expansive edifice is a monument to engineering and local planning, with the now finished project sure to host any number of important athletic contests as well as other events in the future.

In my 40 plus years of covering high school basketball games, I have perhaps seen a few gyms as large as this one, but none with near the charm or practicality. With all the exits, up and down, it was amazing how fast the building can be emptied. The concourse makes the ability of fans to traverse the facility rather easy.

The first time I attended a St. Louis Cardinal baseball game in St. Louis new stadium, I came away with the same feeling. In that case, the more than 45,000 fans there that day were out of the stadium about as fast as they cared to walk with no lines backing up or sidewalks being congested.

If there is a better high school venue that the one here in Pea Ridge, I have yet to see it.

It's Leah!

As a sportswriter, I usually avail myself the opportunity to print off teams rosters when needing it to identify players.

A couple weeks back, in my game story, I identified the player with the No. 2 jersey as someone other than who it was, in this case Leah Telgemeier. There was a senior player with that number on the roster who has since departed from the team. Telgemeier is a freshman who was moved up off the junior high to begin her varsity play early. I had the original roster which was changed later.

Though a only freshman, Telgemeier has made an impact on the team, coming off the bench to drain some 3-pointers as well as playing well on defense. As the Lady Blackhawks prepare to pick up steam down the stretch in what they hope is a long run in the playoffs, adding good players is a very good thing.

The year 2021 could be a memorable, perhaps even a historical, one for Lady Blackhawk basketball.

Covid skews high school athletics

The covid-19 response continues to reroute, redirect or outright cancel high school athletic events this year.

In 2020, the covid-19 response wound up canceling the entire baseball, softball, outdoor track and tennis seasons. It played havoc with football and volleyball scheduling, and it has complicated basketball operations.

Basketball tournaments have been outlawed this season, so I wondered if there were even going to be playoffs this season. Talking with coach Heath Neal, I discovered that the district tournament will be conducted like the football playoffs, with the higher seeded team hosting single games. I figure six teams will get to host this year in basketball. The regional and state tourneys have not decided on their format to date, as far as I know.

Indoor track is no more as the event was canceled outright. This will be the second likely state championship trophy that will be snatched from where they would have gone in the Blackhawk girls' trophy display. Coach Heather Wade's crew had won five state track titles in a row, counting indoor and outdoor seasons, and they were favored to win last spring (canceled) and this winter (canceled).

Track is still on track to operate this spring but with some new rules. Races with lanes have to have empty lanes between each runner. For example, runners can only be in lanes 1, 3, 5 and 7 in the hurdles, 100, 200 and 4x100 relay. I'm not sure about the 4x200 and the 4x400 races as those runners are staggered away from reach other much more than six feet at their respective starts. Of course, that doesn't mean that the AAA won't make them leave lanes vacant.

In the 800, 1,600, 3,200, 4x400 and 4x800 races, runners will break for the curb which means they will spend way more time close together than they ever will standing at the starting line. Leaving lanes open in lanes all the way events will add a lot more time to track meets, which will likely mean fewer schools get invited, which means schools without tracks will have a hard time getting track dates.

Adding the 4x200 event will add maybe another 30 minutes to the meet, so there is that.

4A-1 Basketball standings

Girls

West Division

Pea Ridge^3-0

Farmington^1-1

Gravette^1-1

Gentry^0-2

Prairie Grove^0-3

East Division

Harrison^3-0

Shiloh^2-0

Berryville^0-1

Huntsville^0-2

Boys

West Division

Farmington^2-0

Prairie Grove^2-1

Gravette^1-1

Gentry^0-2

Pea Ridge^0-3

Games this Friday:

Shiloh at Clarksville (non-conference); Berryville at Harrison, Farmington at Huntsville; Gravette at Prairie Grove; and Gentry at Pea Ridge.

MaxPreps/CBS State 4A

Girls basketball poll

School Power Rating

1. Star City^14.7

2. Farmington^14.6

3. Harrison^12.0

4. Pea Ridge^11.8

5. Pottsville^10.8

6. Gravette^10.7

7. Shiloh^10.6

8. Pulaski^7.6

9. Valley View^6.7

10. Brookland^6.4

Five of the top seven schools are now listed with the 4A-1. There is a big drop off from the top seven to No. 8. Only 1.4 points separate No. 3 Harrison and No. 7 Gravette. No. 8 Pulaski is a full 3.0 points behind No. 7 Gravette.

The 4A-1 has long been one of the top, if not THE top districts in the state for girls basketball. Once again, with only four teams advancing to regional play, one of the state's top seven teams will likely be relegated to staying home again this season all five highly ranked 4A-1 teams cannot advance.

•••

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. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through The Times at [email protected]

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