Wildcats sweep Macon County in opener

MT. JULIET — Wilson Central teed off its seasons Tuesday with a pair of wins over visiting Macon County at Pine Creek Golf Course.

The Wildcats won 322-344 while the Lady Wildcats prevailed 159-172.

Trey Melvin shot 74 to lead the Wildcats while Andrew Lena and Mason Adcock each carded 82s and Connor Smith 84. Ty Baker’s notched a 91.

Meryl Castle shot 78 and Kristen Fredericks 81 for the Lady Wildcats. Hannah Roberts notched a 92.

Staff Reports

Wilson Central wins at Windtree

MT. JULIET — Wilson Central’s boys won by one stroke and the girls by 20 in a nine-hole tri-match with Portland and host Mt. Juliet on Thursday at Windtree.

Ty Baker fired a 41, Connor Smith and Mason Adcock 42 each and Parker Bruen 45 for a total of 170 for the Wildcats. Alec Harper’s 52 and Eston Parson’s 58 missed the cut.

Molly Castle fired a 45 and Sarah Castle 47 for a total of 92 for the Lady Wildcats. Kate Castle’s 59 and Grace Bingham’s 66 missed the cut.

Staff Reports

Central doubles Shelbyville late

SHELBYVILLE — Dalton King, Wilson Central’s lone returning offensive starter, caught a 2-yard pass from backup quarterback Dylan Carpenter with 50 seconds left to break a tie and send Wilson Central to a 14-7 jamboree win over Shelbyville on Friday night.

Zay Kern’s 50-yard run put the Wildcats on the board early before Shelbyville tied the score with eight minutes left in the first quarter.

Central will open its season at 7 p.m. next Friday at home against Beech.

Staff Reports

Bucs edge Bears in final seconds

George Page • Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet quarterback Cody Glass (left) rolls out to the right and looks for a receiver.

MT. JULIET — Beech scored a touchdown and two-point conversion with 33 seconds to play to leapfrog past Mt. Juliet 15-14 in the third-annual Bears-vs.-Bucs Jamboree.

Lawson Rich’s 34-yard touchdown broke a 7-7 tie for the Golden Bears.

Quarterback Cody Glass scored on a keeper to give Mt. Juliet a 7-0 lead.

“We were very fortunate to get into so many situations with our JV two quarters and our varsity two quarters,” Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry said. “I was really pleased with the way our work went with a good football team in Beech.”

The Bears will open their regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Glencliff.

Staff Reports

Mayor names Joan Elmore Day in honor of horseshoe champ

George Page • Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty reads a proclamation signifying Monday as Joan Elmore Day in the city following Elmore’s return from the world horseshoe pitching championships in Utah with her ninth title.

Elmore recently returned from Utah with her ninth title

Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty named Monday as Joan Elmore Day in honor of the Wilson County resident’s ninth women’s world championship in horseshoe pitching.

Elmore recently returned from two weeks in Utah where the women’s world championships were held. During the event, she finished with a 29-1 record, averaging 80 percent ringers.

Hagerty encouraged all Mt. Juliet citizens to congratulate Elmore for her win and wish her luck in next year’s world championships in South Carolina.

Elmore didn’t discover the sport of horseshoe pitching until she was 48 years old. Just a short time after she started practicing, she qualified just one step below the highest possible ranking.

In 2009, Elmore was inducted into the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America Hall of Fame. She is only the third woman inducted in the last decade.

Elmore spends most of her days practicing pitching horseshoes in a pit built for her by her husband in their backyard. She encourages everyone to find something they enjoy and pursue it.

“No matter what your age, find something to do,” said Elmore. “Keep active with something you enjoy.”

MJCA spikes HCA in opener

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet Christian opened its season Monday with a 25-7, 25-8 win over Hendersonville Christian.

Felicity Keen led the Lady Saints with 12 service points.

MJCA will next travel to White House to take on Christian Community at 6 p.m. next Tuesday.

Staff Reports

MJCA routs Glencliff 35-0

NASHVILLE — Glencliff will open the season next week at Mt. Juliet. Friday night, the Colts were overwhelmed by Mt. Juliet Christian 35-0 in two quarters of the Metro Jamboree at Hillwood.

Running back Darius Hylick scored a pair of short touchdown runs. Wide receiver Logan Collier caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Pitman and, playing cornerback, returned an interception 50 yards for a score. Backup running back Jacob Hall capped the scoring with a short run.

“Got some good work in,” Mt. Juliet Christian coach Dan Davis said. “It was a good night, and getting ready for Week 1.”

Mt. Juliet Christian will travel to Franklin to take on Grace Christian at 7 p.m. Friday.

Staff Reports

Catching on with the Sounds

Kaitlyn Teeter
Gunner Osborne, who attended Mt. Juliet Middle School before playing high school baseball for Friendship Christian, warms up a Nashville Sounds pitcher in the bullpen at First Tennessee Park.

He wears No. 39 for the Nashville Sounds. But you won’t find him on any roster.

He plays catch with Sounds players but never comes to bat. His name is never announced over the public address system, nor does his name and/or likeness appear on the big digital guitar-shaped scoreboard.

With the exception of the batboys, he is the only uniformed person not employed by the parent-club Oakland Athletics. Every other on-field person (except for the grounds crew) from players to coaches to manager to even the trainer have aspirations of getting the call to The Show, either in Oakland or one of the other 30 teams.

For Gunner Osborne, when the Sounds play their final home game of the season Aug. 31 (he doesn’t make the road trips), his next appearance in a uniform will be next spring when he coaches the middle school team at his alma mater, Friendship Christian. The former Mt. Juliet Middle student’s aspiration is to coach in junior college.

Yet, it’s a heck of a summer job for any young man with baseball running through their veins.

Gunner Osborne, who was behind the plate when Brennan Swindoll pitched a shutout for Friendship in the 2013 state championship game, has spent his last three summers warming up outfielders and relief pitchers for the Nashville Sounds.

His journey from Friendship to First Tennessee Park is an odyssey which has taken him from Vol State to Tennessee Tech to Vol State to Mississippi College and will likely end back at Tech, where he plans to graduate with a degree in sports administration. Before that, he also expects to have his real estate license.

During the spring of his sophomore year at Vol State, a contact with his summer travel coach, Lipscomb University director of baseball operations Brian Ryman, led him to the Sounds.

“I had texted him going into the spring of my sophomore year in college if he knew of anything baseball-related that summer,” Osborne told me earlier this week.

As the Sounds moved into their new stadium, they had a new bullpen catcher who took the burden of warming up relievers off the backup backstop. Of course, some fans naturally assume he is the No. 2 catcher.

“They do ask for autographs, a lot of the kids,” Osborne said. “I have a jersey on and they ask, but not usually unless they personally know me.

“Everybody’s been extremely good to me and have been really welcoming for the most part.”

While he technically isn’t a player, he is sometimes treated like one by the players, even drawing fines from the kangaroo court, a baseball tradition at all pro levels in which players can be find for unknowing violations of unwritten rules.

But drawing a $3-4 fine and catching Triple-A pitchers and outfielders have proved to be less risky than being behind the plate of a high school game or even playing in college. It was while he was at Mississippi College (not to be confused with Ole Miss) last fall when he was hit in the face by a line drive, which shattered the whole right side of his face, resulting in reconstructive surgery and six plates in his face. He had a doctor’s follow-up appointment Friday and plastic surgery is a distinct possibility. That blow ended his playing career.

It wasn’t the first time he suffered a serious injury on the field.

During his underclass days at Friendship, he was behind the plate one night when a pitch hit the plate and bounced against his neck, causing his carotid artery to swell and impeding the flow of blood and oxygen to his brain.

Dr. Larimore Warren happened to be attending the game that night and quickly sprang into action as the ballpark fell silent.

“If it hadn’t of been for him being there, I don’t know how that would have turned out,” Osborne said.

He has persevered in the game enough to have caught past and future big leaguers. He didn’t catch Sonny Gray on his rehab start in Nashville earlier this summer, but he did get the former Smyrna High star to sign a pair of baseballs. He did catch former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito when he was a Sound a couple of years ago.

“It’s cool to see them there one day and gone the next,” Osborne said. “It’s cool to see them get called up to the big leagues. I see them on TV and think I was just catching him in the bullpen a few days ago.”

Osborne said he wouldn’t mind catching bullpen again next summer. But he also plans to graduate from Tennessee Tech with his eyes on the future.

“I wouldn’t mind being an assistant junior college coach,” Osborne said. “Once the Sounds are done, I’m trying to get my real estate license.

“I was asked by (Friendship) Coach (John) McNeal earlier this week to coach the middle school team at Friendship in the spring, so I’ll be doing that.”

Incidentally, Osborne isn’t the only one with Wilson County ties who work in the inner workings of the Sounds organization. Jon Boyce, a high-scoring forward for Randall Hutto’s Lebanon Blue Devils in the early 2000s who is now the radio/internet voice for Cumberland basketball, is in the game operations center in the pressbox where he works the video boards and plays the walk-up music.

Those are two cool summer gigs if you love baseball.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

Former Friendship star now Navy tackle

Phil Hoffmann • U.S.Naval Academy
Former Friendship Christian lineman Andrew Wood (61), now the right tackle at Navy, is a Mt. Juliet native.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Navy junior offensive tackle Andrew Wood is on the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy, which is presented annually by the All Sports Association in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Named after 1996 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel from the University of Florida, the Wuerffel Trophy is awarded to the FBS player that best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.

A two-time Tennessee Sports Writers Association all-state selection who helped pave the way for Friendship Christian’s back-to-back state championships in 2011 and ’12, Wood was a starter in all 14 games at right tackle last year for the Mids and helped pave the way for Navy to finish the year ranked No. 1 in the country in third down conversion percentage (.545), third in passing yards per completion (19.29), fourth in rushing offense (310.1) and seventh in team passing efficiencey (164.17).

The Mt. Juliet resident, who chose Navy over offers from Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Duke, Purdue, Syracuse, Memphis, Ole Miss, Cincinnati, Louisville, Virginia and Cal, carries a 3.53 grade point average in operations research.

Staff Reports

County mayor talks sports tourism

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto discussed the potential future of sports tourism in the county Wednesday during his State of County Address to the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce.

Hutto said conversations surrounding the need for additional sports facilities and complexes took for the last few years, with the county now in position to be able to explore options.

“We know that many of you parents get in the car on the weekend and travel somewhere else to play ball. We want to create that atmosphere here. We had to let the [Wilson County Expo Center] show a profit, we felt like, before we invested some more money in that, but it’s on the horizon,” Hutto said.

Hutto said one possibility includes a turf-surfaced outdoor facility suitable for tournament play.

In 2015, county municipalities started discussions on a potential partnership, spearheaded by former Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, aimed at increasing tourism in the area through recreation.

With the pilot, each city would designate 150 acres as a tourism development district that would serve as a funding source for future recreational projects. The county could also designate 150 acres. The 150 acres allotted in each city could also be split into five different districts with no district less than 10 acres.

New growth money generated in the tourism development districts would be placed under the direction of each individual county-city development board.

The three municipalities would transfer 10 percent of the county’s share of revenue generated within the designated district on an annual basis, and the funds would be transferred to whichever fund the county deemed appropriate.

Generated funds would be designated for improvements within each municipality to support the development of projects, which would be designed to increase the tourism industry through additional hotel and motel stays, retail sales and restaurant support of the area.

The project fizzled after several Wilson County commissioners questioned the county’s ability to contribute to the project as it faced concerns about employee pay and rising insurance costs.

“I conveyed that the county has problems. We have insurance problems. The only problem we have is money. I conveyed to the mayor that I could not get behind this. We’re just not in position to do it,” Commissioner Mike Justice, Budget Committee chairman, said last year.

Hutto said he believes additional recreational facilities would benefit the county.

“It would really set us up to have parents come here with their children to play ball Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It increases our sales tax and hotel-motel tax. I don’t have to build schools, roads and jails [for them], because those folks will go home,” Hutto said.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

CrossFit Mt. Juliet to hold competition to raise funds for Battle Flag Ranch

CrossFit Mt. Juliet plans to make an impact during an upcoming fundraiser for Battle Flag Ranch.

About 120 competitors signed up to compete in the third annual “Battle For the Flag” event July 29 at CrossFit Mt. Juliet at 1710 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

The money raised will be will be used for equine-assisted counseling for combat veterans and their families. Battle Flag Ranch has no paid staff or board members, and 100 percent of funds raised and donated directly impact veterans and their families.

“CrossFit Mt. Juliet makes people fitter in a positive friendly environment,” said Paul Kevetter with CrossFit Mt. Juliet. “CrossFit is the most effective physical fitness program in the world, and it is our passion to bring it to as many people as possible. We are focused on making people’s lives better by enhancing their fitness. CrossFit Mt. Juliet is what will forge those strong bonds of friendship that will become a priceless benefit of joining. And because CrossFit Mt. Juliet makes giving back to the community a priority, 100 percent of the proceeds raised during our Battle for the Flag event will be donated back to Battle Flag Ranch.”

Battle Flag Ranch is a nonprofit that provides free short-term respite to and high-impact retreats for combat-weary veterans and their equally weary spouses and families.

“Our vision is to develop a model of healing that integrates evidence-based therapies with a safe and peaceful space and to improve physical, emotional, spiritual and economic well-being for our nation’s combat veterans and their families,” said co-founder Jason Henry.

For more information on Battle Flag Ranch, contact Henry at 615-969-8014 or jason@battleflagranch.com.

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet’s Sowell tells his own story of inspiration on ESPN

Chris Connelly • ESPN/Jalan Sowell’s Twitter page
ESPN’s cameras are rolling as Mt. Juliet senior Jalan Sowell addresses his Mt. Juliet teammates and other teams during a break in 7-on-7 passing competition earlier this month at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.

When life handed Jalan Sowell a lemon, he turned it into lemonade.
A condition called chronic pulmonary embolism all but ended the football playing career of the rising Mt. Juliet High senior. But the 16-year-old is having a summer “work”cation a lot of sports fans might prefer to a trip to the beach or Disney World.
CPE is the clotting of an artery in the lungs which has traveled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream. Blood thinning medication treats the condition, but it keeps Sowell from seeing most action on the field.
“As long as he’s on that, he can’t be cleared to play (in college),” Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry said.
Sowell was a kick returner as a freshman. He was diagnosed as a sophomore and missed much of that season.
“I have shortness of breath, get real sweaty, just pass out,” Sowell said of the symptoms.
But he returned in time to take a pass 60 yards to set up the game-winning score in the playoffs against Collierville. An episode during the following spring practice sidelined him during the 2016 season.
His senior season will be limited to holding for place kicks and signaling plays in from the sideline, which will be a segue into his next chosen career, coaching.
“The risk is not getting hit, it’s getting cut,” Perry said. “But we feel comfortable with him holding. He’s told me if it’s a bad snap, he’ll get rid of it.”
Sowell has committed to the University of Memphis where he’ll be a student-coach majoring in either sports management or communications.
“You can do a lot with a communications degree,” said Sowell, who is getting some first-hand experience in the field through an internship of sorts with ESPN. In fact, this interview was conducted from Bristol, Conn., where he was involved in post-production work on his story which will air sometime this week on SportsCenter, probably following Wednesday’s late baseball game which won’t likely end until after midnight. But the schedule was to have been finalized during production meetings Tuesday. He might also appear on a panel with other subjects in the “My Wish” series on Thursday before he and his father, James, return home.
The “My Wish” series is part of a partnership with the Make-A-Wish foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
“Vanderbilt turned my name in and (Make-A-Wish) contacted me,” Jalan Sowell said. “Instead of meeting afamous athlete or person, I wanted to share my story to inspire others to never give up.
“I did an interview. They sent it to ESPN and everything went from there.”
ESPN went to Cookeville to film the segment during Mt. Juliet’s appearance in a 7-on-7 passing league tournament at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium. Sowell wasn’t just interviewed, he’s heavily involved in the production of the feature.
“Jalan asked to produce his own story in conjunction with ESPN about the Mt. Juliet football program,” Perry said. “When I was interviewed, Jalan was part of the production, which is really cool.
“He is a jack of all trades and he does not lack in personality. I’ve never met someone who is so personable with so many people on so many different levels.”
Such a personality would serve someone well in front of a camera. But Sowell is getting a ton of first-hand experience behind the scenes. He wasn’t planning on making broadcasting his career.
“But now that I’m doing it, I’m loving it,” said Sowell, admitting the premature end of his playing career is still disappointing. “(But working with ESPN is) very cool and out of the ordinary. I’m going to stick with coaching, but I need a backup plan.
“I didn’t expect it to be this fun. It’s been stressful, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
“It’s been an eye-opening experience,” James Sowell said. “Between Make-A-Wish and ESPN, it’s been great.
“We got to give credit to God, to Coach Perry and to the Mt. Juliet football family. Since this happened, the support from the Mt. Juliet football family never wavered.”

By Andy Reed 

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

Young racer on ‘Wright’ track

Hunter Wright celebrates a victory with his mother Julie and sister Bmlyn.

After finishing runner-up to fellow Lebanon racer Dylan Fetcho in last season’s tight Legends Series championship battle at Highland Rim Speedway, Hunter Wright came back this year determined to improve his position.

So far he’s right on track.

The rising Wilson Central High junior has won four of five races so far this season to dominate the division and take a solid lead in the standings.

As if that weren’t impressive enough, Hunter is in second place in the Legends standings at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway with three third-place finishes and one second-place in four starts.

After last year’s tough title loss, how gratifying would it be to come back this season and capture not one, but two, championships?

“It would be great,” says Hunter, who was just a few laps from a five-for-five sweep at Highland Rim. In the one race he lost he was in second place, challenging for the lead, when something broke in his car with 10 laps to go.

“I’d like to win championships at both tracks, but my first priority is to get the one at the Rim,” he says. “That’s the one I’ve been chasing the longest. It would be special.”

Hunter, who won Rookie of the Year in 2015, says this season’s turnaround is due to a couple of factors:
“I’ve got more experience as a driver, and that always helps,” he says.

“But the biggest thing is we’ve been having a lot better luck this year than we did last year. Last year we lost some races on plain bad luck. This year our luck has turned around. Except for that one race, we haven’t had any mechanical problems, and I’ve been able to avoid trouble on the track.

“They say that racing luck runs in cycles, and I guess we were due for ours to turn around this season.”

Defending series champion Fetcho moved up to a bigger division this year, which opened the door for Hunter to make a move. That means their racing rivalry is over – for now. There’s a likelihood the two talented young racers will cross paths again in the future as their careers progress.

“Dylan and I started racing against each other in karts about 10 years ago before we both moved up to the Legends Series,” Hunter says. “We’ve always raced each other hard, but we’ve raced clean, and we’re friends when it’s over.”

Hunter credits his dad Dwayne for much of his success. Dwayne is a retired veteran racer who competition included Dylan Fetcho’s father Scott in the Late Model Division at Fairgrounds Speedway. Both dads are passing along their years of experience and knowledge to their sons.

“My dad is a great coach,” Hunter says. “He has taught me a lot about driving and setting up cars. We do all the work on our cars ourselves.”

Hunter says his mother Julie has also been an enthusiastic supporter of his racing, and gives an appreciative nod to his sponsors: Tennessee 811, Al’s Tire Repair of Lebanon, Sanders Lawn Care of Mt. Juliet and Ace Fence and Supply (acefenceandsupply.com)

Hunter’s family owns and operates Premier Sign & Trophy in Gladeville, site of their race shop. Part of the business involves engraving trophies and t-shirts. How satisfying would it be to finally engrave his name on one of those championship trophies?

“That’s what I’m working for,” Hunter says. “That’s my goal this season.”

+++

Rim’s Big Rig race: Mike Morgan of Wartrace took home one of the biggest purses in Highland Rim Speedway’s half-century history — $10,000 – by winning the recent Bandit Big Rig Race.

The event was billed as the biggest spectacle in the track’s history and such a success that track co-owner Roger Cunningham of Mt. Juliet plans to hold another one in September.

The schedule, point standings, and other information is posted on the track’s website.

By Larry Woody 

Correspondent

Clark has big July

George Page
Page from
the Playbook

July has been special for former Mt. Juliet High Lady Bear Alysha Clark, who celebrated her birthday July 7, but that probably wasn’t her biggest feat accomplished this month.

Clark now plays professional basketball for the Seattle Storm of the WNBA league. On July 1, she scored her 1,000th-career point with a three-pointer against the Dallas Wings.

While at Mt. Juliet High School, she led the Lady Bears basketball team to the 2005 state basketball championship her senior season.

While at Mt. Juliet, she was named Midstate Player of the Year by The Tennessean and Class AAA Miss Basketball in Class AAA.

She averaged 24 points and 11.6 rebounds, while shooting 67 percent from the floor and 78 percent from the free throw line that season.

After graduating from Mt. Juliet, she played two years at Belmont University.

While at Belmont, she helped the Lady Bruins to their first ever NCAA tournament appearance in 2007.

Clark averaged 20.1 points per game, recorded 18 double-doubles her first season at Belmont, the second most in the nation that year by a freshman and was third in the nation among freshmen with 10.9 rebounds a game. She was named the Atlantic Sun Conference’s Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, the first player in league history to win both in the same season.

The next year, she earned player of the year honors again, averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds – the third most in the nation. She also became the fastest player in school history to reach 1,000 points, doing so in just 52 games.

Clark decided to transfer after her sophomore season to play at nearby Middle Tennessee State University. Her reason for transferring from Belmont after two years was, she wanted to be challenged more as a player and play against some of the best competition in the nation. She wanted to become one of the elite players in the country. And to do that, you have to play against the best. That is typical Alysha Clark and her competitive nature and work ethic.

She was originally drafted in the second round of the 2010 WNBA Draft by the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Now in her fifth season with the Seattle Storm, she has averaged playing 20.0 minutes per game, scoring an average of 5.9 and shooting almost 50-percent from the field.

In her 2016 season, Clark blossomed with the Storm, scoring a career-high 23 points on 7-of-7 shooting vs. New York on June 5, 2016.

She marked her fourth career three steals and first block of the season against San Antonio on July 20, 2016.

She dished out a career-high seven assists at Atlanta on Aug. 9, 2016, played a career-high 35 minutes against Washington on May 26, 2016, scoring 10 points and recording five rebounds and three assists.

She started in all 33 games she dressed for, missing one June 1, 2016 at Indiana due to a right knee bruise.

Happy Birthday and congratulations goes to Alysha Clark.

George Page is sports editor for Mt. Juliet News. Follow him on Twitter @pageplaybook.

Shea, Elrod make sports writers’ all-state team

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet state champion pole vaulter Greg Shea

Two Wilson County track standouts were named Tuesday to the Tennessee Sports Writers’ All-State track team.

Mt. Juliet High School’s Cole Shea was named to the Class AAA pole vault squad, and Wilson Central’s John Elrod made the Class AAA 1,600-meter team. It was the first time either athlete was named to the All-State team.

Shea, a junior at Mt. Juliet High School, became a state champion by winning the varsity pole vault competition during the TSSAA Spring Fling at Middle Tennessee State University’s Dean A. Hayes Stadium.

Shea’s vault of 14-6 was 6 inches better than Brentwood freshman Jeff Kinder.

“Cole Shea trains hard and was part of both the pole vault and 4-by-1 relay at state,” said Mt. Juliet High School track and field coach Al Bohannon at the time. “His 14-6 was his personal best at just the right time. His prior best was set at the New Balance Championship during indoor season. Greg Shea and Brandon Grass do an excellent job with Cole in only his second year of pole vaulting.”

Greg Shea, Cole Shea’s father, helped buy pole vault equipment for the school.

Senior captain John Elrod finished third in the 1,600 with a time of 4:22.56 at the TSSAA Spring Fling at Middle Tennessee State University’s Dean A. Hayes Stadium. Elrod also finished eighth in the 800 with a time of 2:00.30.

A Tennessee Scholar, Elrod will run for the Tennessee Vols next year.

Central has built a reputation, especially in the distance events, while not having a track which meets TSSAA standards, having to go to other schools for training sessions. Elrod joined three other seniors who didn’t run on a new track currently under construction around the Central football field.

Staff Reports

Johnson steps down as MJ Middle baseball coach

Mt. Juliet Middle School
Rick Johnson

MT. JULIET — Rick Johnson, who has helped develop the talent which has helped Mt. Juliet High baseball and girls’ basketball to great success during the 21st century coaching those sports at Mt. Juliet Middle, has stepped down as baseball coach but will remain as girls’ basketball coach.

Johnson has coached both sports since the school opened in 2001. He led the Golden Bears to TMSAA Midstate sectional championships in 2014 and ’16.

In an email sent to parents, Johnson cited family reasons for relinquishing the baseball job.

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” Johnson writes. “But it’s been a long time. During that time my children have married, grandkids have been born, grandkids have started playing ball and “Pa” has been pulled into their world more everyday.

“I’ve seen hundreds of the best young people our county has to offer, and will always feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with the families that became part of my family.”

Johnson will continue to teach at the school and coach the girls’ basketball team, a program he’s guided to six sectional titles, with his daughter Jennifer Roberts as an assistant. He began coaching girls’ hoops at the old Mt. Juliet Junior High.

Staff Reports

Vols’ Jalen Johnson hopes added pounds make difference on court

KNOXVILLE (TNS) – Sitting out the 2016-17 Tennessee basketball season as a redshirt brought challenges for Jalen Johnson.

It also produced results.

The 6-foot-5 wing from Durham, N.C. notices a difference when he attacks the basket now.

“When I was lighter, I would drive to the basket, if a guy came and bumped me off, I’d go off course,” Johnson said after his first game in this summer’s Rocky Top League at Knoxville Catholic High School. “Now I feel more adept at taking the blow and playing through it.”

Johnson arrived in Knoxville just more than a year ago weighing 168 pounds. Now the former three-star prospect weighs more than 190 pounds – 195 “on a good day,” he said.

The added muscle could help Johnson find his way onto the court as the Volunteers try to improve on last season’s 16-16 record.

As Rick Barnes prepares for his third season as Tennessee’s coach, he has added junior college transfer Chris Darrington and graduate transfer James Daniel III to the backcourt in hopes of solving some of the Vols’ scoring woes. But Johnson, who is 5 inches taller than Darrington and Daniel, is believed to be the most athletic of five newcomers who will suit up.

“Talking to Coach Barnes, he really wants me to work on my rebounding and defense,” said Johnson, the son of two former college track and field athletes. “He wants me to be more of a two-way player, not trying to do too much on offense and just working on it from a defensive standpoint and affecting the game that way with rebounds and stuff.”

Barnes praised Johnson’s athleticism when Johnson signed with the Vols in November 2015. A year later, the coach pointed to Johnson’s need to gain strength when announcing he would redshirt his first season on campus.

“From a competitive standpoint, it was kind of challenging, because you want to be out there with your team when they’re doing well and having fun competing every night,” Johnson said. “You’ve really got to self-motivate to go hard, lift weights, practice, work out and stuff. Just getting my body right to prepare for this year.”

The Rocky Top League, which started June 19 and ends July 3, has allowed Johnson to flash his improved physique publicly. The biggest stage is yet to come, however. Johnson believes Tennessee “could do something special this year.”

“If we all buy in,” he said. “I really feel like we can all help contribute to that.”

This time he will be among the players in uniform, throwing some new pounds toward that goal.

“I’m a lot more nervous now this year,” Johnson said. “I was nervous coming in, and once I redshirted I kind of got the chance to sit back and work on myself and work on preparing myself for this season. So there’s a little nervousness and a little anxiety.”

By David Cobb

Chattanooga Times Free Press

Four named to Cumberland Sports Hall of Fame

 

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
(From left) Danielle Henry, Brandon Springer, Corey Bleaken and Pat Lawson were selected for induction into the Cumberland Sports Hall of Fame’s class of 2017.

Cumberland University announced its 2017 Sports Hall of Fame class, which includes former student-athletes Danielle Henry in softball, Brandon Springer in basketball and Corey Bleaken in wrestling, as well as administrator and contributor Pat Lawson.

The four individuals will be honored homecoming weekend Oct. 6-7 with a dinner and recognized during the football game against Cincinnati Christian. Henry, Springer, Bleaken and Lawson make up the 29th annual hall of fame class at Cumberland.

Henry played her final two seasons at Cumberland, enrolling in January 2001 after spending two years at Hiwassee College. The Knoxville native was a member of the Mid-South Conference Championship club in 2001 and ended her career with Mid-South Conference and NAIA Region XI Player of the Year accolades in 2002.

Springer earned Second Team NAIA All-America honors as a senior for the Phoenix, averaging 22.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per contest. The Nashville native added 2.1 assists and 2.2 steals that year, netting 20-plus points on 19 occasions, along with six 30-plus point contests and 15 double-doubles.

He recorded 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds as a junior at Cumberland on a club with seven seniors that was the last to reach the NAIA National Tournament. Springer netted double-digits in 23 of the club’s 31 games with six double-doubles and was named Honorable Mention All-America that season.

He garnered first team All-TranSouth in both campaigns and was voted TranSouth Conference Player of the Year as a senior. He earned five TSAC Player of the Week accolades and one NAIA National Player of the Week honor during his career.

Bleaken was a three-time All-American at Cumberland and won the program’s second individual national championship, taking the title at 157 as a senior. The Clifton, N.J., native earned the prestigious Gorriaran Award as the NAIA most outstanding wrestler in the national tournament in 2011, becoming the only Cumberland student-athlete to garner the award. He posted a 27-7 mark as a senior and finished with 101 career victories.

He placed third in 2007 and seventh in 2009 at 149 to earn All-America accolades in each of those campaigns, collecting 40 wins on the mat during the 2007 campaign and 24 in 2009. Bleaken was a first team All-Mid-South Conference selection and earned NAIA East Region most valuable wrestler honors in 2011, as well.

Lawson spent almost 15 years at Cumberland continuously from 1993-2008, first as an undergraduate student, then a master’s student and finally in several roles within the athletic department before becoming athletic director in 2002.

The Nashville native was a student assistant for men’s basketball as an undergrad, working three years under Mike Petrone and one year with Paul Peck. After completing his bachelor’s, he returned the following year as a graduate assistant for Steven Corey.

He worked as director of marketing and assistant athletic director before earning a promotion to athletic director in 2002, serving in that capacity for six years. Cumberland teams played in 22 national championships, including the 2004 baseball national title and a national runner-up finish from women’s basketball, during his tenure as AD.

He was instrumental in new construction and facility renovations in virtually every sport, including football, baseball, soccer, tennis, wrestling and softball, and helped secure the annual Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame banquet on the Cumberland campus.

Lawson worked tirelessly on improving the overall student-athlete experience, grew the number of sports offered and the total number of student-athletes in the department, expanded the footprint of the athletic facilities and added to the staff size with full-time assistant coaches.

Staff Reports

Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State softball

Class AAA

C: McKenzie Henry, William Blount, Jr.

IF: Loryn Sherwood, Stewarts Creek, Jr.

IF: Mia Edwardson, Science Hill, Jr.

IF: Leah Sohm, Gibbs, Sr.

IF: Gracie Osbron, Henry County, Jr.

OF: Katie Rutledge, Coffee County, So.

OF: Jazmine Geary, Heritage, So.

OF: Delaney Smith, Rhea County, Sr.

UT: Hannah Koenig, Brentwood, Jr.

P: Allison Farr, Powell, So.

P: Emma Frost, Morristown East, So.

P: Kayla Boseman, Ooltewah, Sr.

Class AA

C: Josie Willingham, Jackson South Side, So.

IF: Analeigh Coursey, Creek Wood, So.

IF: Kaitlyn Kelley, Lexington, Jr.

IF: Emma Webb, CAK, Sr.

IF: Caitlin Turner, Greenbrier, Sr.

OF: Jenna Johnson, Page, So.

OF: Taylor Hopper, Dyersburg, Sr.

OF: Bailey Griffith, Creek Wood, Jr.

UT: Lauren Brickey, Elizabethton, Jr.

P: Brooke Parrott, Chattanooga Central, Sr.

P: Alyssa Arden, White House-Heritage, Jr.

P: Allison Zimmerman, CAK, Sr.

Class A

C: Sophie Dunavant, Jackson Christian, Jr.

IF: Madelyn Dycus, Goodpasture, Sr.

IF: Ashley Ellison, Grace Christian Academy, Sr.

IF: Ari Ramsaran, Univ. School of Johnson City, Sr.

IF: Laura Mealer, Forrest, eighth grade

OF: Kristin Hunt, Grace Christian Academy, Jr.

OF: Kaci Fuller, Huntingdon, Fr.

OF: Tori Malone, Coalfield, Jr.

UT: Aubrey Reed, Meigs County, Jr.

P: Samantha King, Forrest, Sr.

P: Emily Harkleroad, Silverdale Baptist, Sr.

P: Ashley Rogers, Meigs County, Jr.

Division II

C: Grace Spain, Davidson Academy, Sr.

IF: Riley Walker, Friendship Christian, Sr.

IF: Kallie Pickens, Univ. School of Jackson, Jr.

IF: Cheyenne Lindsey, Baylor School, Jr.

IF: Regan Weekly, The King’s Academy, So.

OF: Davis Smith, Davidson Academy, Sr.

OF: Haley Smith, GPS, Jr.

OF: Carlie Jamison, Father Ryan, Sr.

UT: Madison Webber, The King’s Academy, So.

P: Kaylan Cole, The King’s Academy, Fr.

P: Shelby Walters, GPS, Jr.

P: Alex Behnke, Donelson Christian Aca., So.

*-2016 TSWA All-State honoree

Walker named to sports writers’ softball all-state

Andy Reed • Lebanon Democrat • File
Friendship Christian’s Riley Walker was the lone Wilson County baseball player to be named Thursday to the Tennessee Sports Writers’ Association All-State team.

Friendship third baseman lone player picked from Wilson County

Friendship Christian’s Riley Walker was named Thursday to the Tennessee Sports Writers’ Association All-State softball team.

Walker was the only Wilson County player to make the team.

Walker, a senior third basemen for the Lady Commanders, received the honor as an infielder. Walker finished last season with a .417 batting average, a slugging percentage of .775, 15 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBIs.

“She is tremendously talented and has a great work ethic,” said Friendship head softball coach Regan Ingram. “She has probably the most power I have ever seen out of a girl.”

Walker helped lead Friendship Christian to three straight Division II-A state finals appearances, including a state championship in 2015. Friendship lost to King’s Academy in the state finals in 2016 and 2017.

In November 2016, Walker signed a letter of intent to play softball at the University of Memphis. Walker was also named to the all-state team as a junior.

Staff Reports