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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:

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.


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.

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:


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

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.

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.

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.

First Razorback Football Player to Publicly Announce Homosexuality?

Was Arkansas offensive lineman Brey Cook’s Twitter account hijacked?


Just scrolling through Cook’s Twitter feed, I’m thinking this has #GottaBeShenanigans.  He seems like a really funny guy, but if this was done in jest, there are plenty of people who would think otherwise.

UALR basketball star Will Neighbour On the Mend

UALR’s top player discusses his recovery from shoulder surgery. (Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

In a perfect world, UALR’s leading returning scorer from last season would near home right now, representing his native Great Britain.

Instead, he’s in his second home – Little Rock – trying to finish off the last few weeks of rehab from an April surgery to repair a a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a torn left bicep. Neighbour suffered the injury on December 31, but still produced an All-Sun Belt second-team season, averaging 10.5 points per game on 41.3% three-point shooting.

For the last few years, his goal had been to show off that perimeter stroke in front of family and friends in this summer’s London Olympics. Priority shifted in the spring, though, when he weighed the risks and rewards of trying out for the British national team (thus postponing his surgery) and getting surgery out of the way to come back strong for the start of the 2012-13 season.

He chose the latter, and doesn’t seem to regret the decision much. The rehab “is coming along real well,” he told me on Tuesday during an interview for an upcoming SYNC and KUAR FM 89.1 story.

Here’s more on his progress:

I’m working out with the team, but I can’t do any of the contact stuff. I can do the shooting drills, dribbling drills and I’m working out every day with my two trainers – coach [John] Barron, a fantastic weight coach and Michael Switlik. He’s doing amazing too. We’re doing rehab everyday and just trying to get full range of motion back and just get my shoulder strong and ready for the season.”

The trainers estimate he won’t be ready for contact drills and scrimmaging for another two months, he added.

Pitting SEC States Against Each Other in the Olympics

Pole vaulter Earl Bell is in the middle of any debate on Arkansas’ most accomplished Olympian.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/BENJAMIN KRAIN 7.10.00

 In Southeastern Conference territory, competition is a way of life. Year after year, SEC sports programs spew jetstreams of cash to beat each other on and off the field. Stadia, facilities, coaches’ salaries, TV contracts just keep getting bigger and better. There’s really no choice. Snazzy helicopters, after all, can only do so much to lure the big-time recruits which make college sports’ premier conference go round.

With the Summer Olympics opening ceremony this Friday, though, now is a good time to figure out which SEC state is top dog in terms of all-around athletic talent. For this exercise, we’ll tear down institutional walls which divide states. No Auburn/Alabama or MSU/Ole Miss delineations here. We only care about state borders, and the  Olympians who grew up between them.

With this in mind, it turns out the biggest states have produced the most gold medalists at all modern summer Olympic Games since 1896. Not a surprise.

It gets interesting, however, when examining the numbers on a per capita basis:

Breaking Down SEC states’ # of Gold Medalists Per Capita



# of Gold Medalists

2010 Population

# People per Gold Medalist

Most Impressive Olympians?

1 Mississippi 22 2.97 million 135,000 Calvin Smith, Ralph Boston
2 Missouri 31 5.99 million 193,226 Henry Iba, Helen Stephens
3 Arkansas 14 2.92 million 208,571 Earl Bell, Scottie Pippen
4 Louisiana 21 4.53 million 215,714 Rod Milburn, Karl Malone
5 Kentucky 16 4.34 million 271,250 Muhammad Ali, Mary Meagher
6 Alabama 17 4.7 million 276,471 Harvey Glance, Jennifer Chandler
7 Georgia 35 9.69 million 276,857 Gwen Torrence, Angelo Taylor
8 Texas 72 25.15 million 349,306 Babe Zaharias, Michael Johnson
9 South Carolina 12 4.63 million 385,833 Joe Frazier, Katrina McClain
10 Florida `43 18.80 million 437,209 Bob Hayes, Rowdy Gaines
11 Tennessee 11 6.35 million 577,273 Wilma Rudolph, Tracy Caulkins