The scene — a seemingly incongruent juxtaposition of sports — was the template of what was outstanding in Faulkner County in 2012.
During one of the promotions at the Bank of the Ozarks John Stanton Wampus Cat Invitational basketball tournament, the name of Summar Roachell, one of the top female junior golfers in the country and a manager for the Lady Cat basketball team, was drawn for a shootout in which the competitors had to hit a 3-point shot, a free throw and a layup in 60 seconds to win a prize. It took Roachell, a manager for the basketball team, four shots to dispose of her male opponent and win a chicken dinner. She swished the 3-pointer.
Just about everything went straight and in for Faulkner County golfers in 2012.
As I reflected on the sports season in the county for this annual column, one trend and ongoing story consistently emerged as the clear choice for the No. 1 spot.
Golf in Faulkner County, from pros to college to high school to amateur, had unprecedented success. The success cut a wide swath through various individuals with local connections or in our coverage area.
A brief review:
• Roachell won her fourth straight Class 7A girls title (unprecedented), her third Overall title in four years, a major amateur tournament and signed with the University of Arkansas.
• Mary Michael Maggio at Texas A&M, a former Conway High star, won the Big 12 individual title and won the Texas Collegiate Amateur Tour championship.
• Former Wampus Cat golf star Bryce Molder had one of his most successful seasons on the PGA Tour, using a late surge to just miss the final leg on for the FedEX Cup. He finished 82nd the money list, earning $1,166.115 and having two top-10 finishes.
• Conway High hosted the 7A boys and girls state championships and easily won state titles in both divisions. In addition to Roachell winning the girls title, Parker Rice and Carson Roberts finished 1-2 in the boys division. And the Cats were so balanced that the state champion’s score (Rice’s) was discarded the final day of the team competition.
• St. Joseph’s and Conway Christian’s boys finished 1-2 in the state Class 2A golf tournament.
• Mount Vernon Enola’s girls won the state A championship.
• Central Baptist College’s Justin Burns finished 18th in the NAIA national tournament.
• Young golfers Casey Ott and Whit Parker emerged as rising stars on the state’s junior circuit.
It was all fairway and very little rough for Faulkner golfers in 2012 surging to the top spot as the No. 1 sports story of the year.
This reporter’s ranking of the other major stories:
2. UCA FOOTBALL: The Bears put together a 9-3 season, a Southland Conference championship and reached the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs for the second straight year. The Bears defeated Sam Houston State, which will play next week for the national title, and opened the season against their first SEC opponent (Ole Miss) and led the Rebels at halftime. They finished with their highest ranking FCS ranking ever (eighth).
3. HENDRIX FOOTBALL: Justin "Buck" Buchanan was hired to resurrect the Warrior football program, dormant since 1960 and establish it for NCAA Division III play. He hit the ground running in laying the foundation, hiring a staff, recruiting and public relations while Hendrix officials continued to create the infrastructure for the revival of football for the 2013 season.
4. SUGAR BEAR BASKETBALL: The UCA women won a Southland Conference regular-season title and made their second straight postseason appearance, this time in the WNIT, losing to eventual champion Oklahoma State in the first round. The Sugar Bears’ Megan Herbert earned All-American honors. Then, in early summer, coach Matt Daniel, who had established the UCA women as a national power, left to become head coach at Marshall University. Sandra Rushing, a highly successful coach at NCAA Division II power Delta State, was picked by UCA Athletic Director Brad Teague to take the reins.
5. SUGAR BEAR VOLLEYBALL: The UCA women continued their tradition as one of the most successful of UCA sports programs, winning both the Southland Conference regular-season and tournament championship, putting together a 30-win season and making the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time, losing in a first-round regional game to perennial national power Washington.
6. CBC SOFTBALL: The Lady Mustangs fashioned their third straight 50-win season, won a regional title and finished fifth in the NAIA tournament. Coach Jason Anderson, who built the program, left to become the head coach at North Alabama and Crystal Robinson, his assistant, took over.
7, HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Greenbrier led the way with the first 10-0 regular season in school history and a 5A-West title. Every county team (Conway, Greenbrier, Vilonia, Mayflower and Conway Christian) made the state playoffs and all reached the second round before losing. County teams featured some of the best and most prolific quarterbacks in the state (and some of the best in their school’s history) in Greenbrier’s Seth Peters, Conway Christian’s Tanner Stevenson and Mayflower’s Adam Dycus (who led the state in passing, according to unofficial statistics). Conway’s Jeff Anderson emerged as one of the state’s best backs.
8. FOOTBALL WEATHER: It was unprecedented. After a summer drought, much of the early part of the high school season was played under rain and thunderstorms, forming a continuing series of weather delays affecting almost every state team and frustrating fans. For several weeks, if it was Friday, it meant rains and storms acoming. Conway High and Vilonia each had games called off. It was four weeks into the season before the Wampus Cats played a full game.
9. VILONIA TRACK: On a mission to help revive the spirits of a community still suffering the effects from a major tornado the year before, the Eagles won the Class 5A boys track championship, completing one of the most dramatic achievements in school history and one of the feel-good stories of the year.
10. CCS SUCCESS: Conway Christian continued its rise as a fledgling Class 2A sports power, qualifying for the state playoffs in almost every sport and winning the all-sports trophy for its division. The Eagles’ Drew Dodge won a state tennis championship.
HONORABLE MENTION: Hendrix’s Amy Weaver became the first female athletic director at a college in the state ... UCA opened state-of-the-art skyboxes at Estes Stadium ... Hendrix left the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference for the newly formed Southern Athletic Association, composed of many former SCAC members ... UCA soccer teams had their most successful seasons in NCAA Division I, the men making the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the first time ... High school soccer was again strong in Faulkner County highlighted by the Conway girls having a bid for a second straight state title denied by Bentonville in the championship game in the finale for coach Whitney Allison, who resigned to pursue a law degree ... Softball and baseball also continued a string of success at Conway, Vilonia, Greenbrier, Conway Christian, Guy-Perkins and Mount Vernon-Enola ... Hendrix had its most successful soccer seasons in NCAA Division III with Conway’s Connor Silvestri become the school’s all-time scoring leader ... Conway’s R.J. Thomas became the winningest baseball coach in Hendrix history, then left for a similar post at Southwestern University in Texas ... Conway’s volleyball team wins a conference title and loses in state playoffs to old rival Fort Smith Southside ... Record-setting Greenbrier quarterback Neal Burcham signs with SMU.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)