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AHSAA BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: Piedmont advances to second round with 11-4 win over Glencoe

PIEDMONT - Payton Young went 2-for-4 with three runs and a RBI to lead Class 3A, No. 10 Piedmont to an 11-4 victory Saturday against Glencoe in the opening round of the state playoffs.

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Friday 04/18/2014
GOLF: Piedmont claims tournament at Cherokee Country Club
Posted: April 18, 2014

CENTRE – Piedmont’s Trevor McCarley took first place after shooting 37, leading the Bulldogs to a team total 178 on the Cherokee County Country Club links Thursday.

AJ Starr and friends launch foundation for Cerebral Palsy awareness
Posted: April 18, 2014

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – On Saturday, Cherokee County’s own AJ Starr, with the help of friends and family, will announce the launch of The Real AJ Foundation at halftime of the Alabama A-Day football game at Bryant Denny Stadium.

Thursday 04/17/2014
TENNIS: Lady Warriors finish second in Class 4A, Section 3 Tournament
Updated: April 17, 2014 - 3:54 pm

JACKSONVILLE – It was close, but the Cherokee County Lady Warriors managed to secure another trip to the state tennis tournament with a second-place showing at the Class 4A, Section 3 Tournament at Jacksonville State University on Wednesday.

BASKETBALL: Sand Rock’s Mackey signs with Gadsden State
Posted: April 17, 2014

SAND ROCK – Sand Rock senior guard Dylan Mackey has been on Gadsden State basketball coach Todd Ginn’s radar for quite some time.

ASWA BASEBALL/SOFTBALL RANKINGS: Sand Rock drops, Piedmont enters final baseball poll of season
Posted: April 17, 2014

Several changes for area teams highlighted the final Alabama Sportswriters Association baseball poll of the season, released late Wednesday evening.

BASKETBALL: Dallas County’s Lee, Sylacauga’s Thomas named ASWA's Mr. and Miss Basketball
Posted: April 17, 2014

MONTGOMERY – William Lee of Dallas County and Shakayla Thomas of Sylacauga earned the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Mr. and Miss Basketball honors during Wednesday’s annual Player of the Year luncheon presented by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association.

Wednesday 04/16/2014
At Boston Marathon, a chance to finally finish
Posted: April 16, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Just one tiny misstep at mile 15 of the Boston Marathon last spring ruined any chance of amputee runner Jeff Glasbrenner breaking four hours.

He stumbled over a pothole, opening a cut where his running blade attached below his right knee. Glasbrenner cursed his luck as he stopped every mile to clean the wound.

That bump in the road just may have kept the 41-year-old from being in the midst of the chaos. He was three blocks from the finish when the marathon was halted by the two bomb explosions.

"A pothole," Glasbrenner said, "just may have saved me."

This year, he's one of 4,781 runners taking the iconic race up on its offer to return — an opportunity to settle some unfinished business when they line up at the start again.

For many, it's a chance to finally make good on their months of training — dozens of workouts and hundreds of miles logged — and achieve that finish line. For Glasbrenner, his journey back to Boston became much more than simply finishing.

He's bringing some company as he trained right-leg amputees Andre Slay and Chris Madison, both whom had never even imagined running a marathon before.

"This is going to be a day filled with lots of joy and tears," said Glasbrenner, a motivational speaker and three-time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball. "But we're going to get to that finish line together."

Glasbrenner has always been a "bucket list" sort of athlete — finish one adventure and move on to the next. He has completed 13 marathons and 22 Ironman triathlons.

So Glasbrenner just had to go back to Boston, to conclude this quest. For himself and for those injured when the twin pressure cooker bombs exploded, killing three and injuring 260. At least 16 people lost a limb or limbs. He could understand the devastation, having lost part of his leg in a farming accident when he was 8 years old.

"I had a hard time watching the news for a few days after Boston," said Glasbrenner, who was at 25.9 miles — according to his GPS tracker — when police stopped runners. "I'm not going to let a couple of bad guys steal my finish line."

He talked Slay and Madison into joining him at the starting line. It wasn't easy: Neither had even run as much as a 5-kilometer race. And first, they had to run a qualifying event (to get into the field for Boston, a mobility-impaired participant has to finish a marathon in less than eight hours).

The trio began training together late last June on paths around Little Rock. At least once a week, they met for a run. On those other days, Glasbrenner gave them a training schedule to follow. He was always a phone call or text away for questions, too.

Slay, 32, and Madison, 39, had plenty: How many socks to wear on their stump? How often to stop and clean the sweat from their prosthetic leg?

And the biggest one: Could they really run a marathon?

"Sure, I had doubt," Slay said, laughing.

Slay worked at an airline ticket counter when he met Glasbrenner, who frequently travels to give lectures and check items off his sports bucket list. Slay was 24 and finishing flight school when he lost part of his right leg in a motorcycle accident.

First, Glasbrenner attempted to steer Slay toward wheelchair basketball.

No interest.

How about a marathon then?

"Jeff's like, 'I didn't finish Boston. Come back with me,'" Slay recounted. "I was thinking, 'Well, I guess I can hand you water.'"

"He's like, 'No, run with me.'"

The offer came at a good time. Slay was around 240 pounds and suffering from high blood pressure, which put his commercial pilot's license at risk. This could improve his health.

One slight obstacle: Slay didn't have a running blade, which costs around $25,000 and isn't covered by insurance.

No trouble. Glasbrenner had an extra one he could use.

So that's how Slay found himself at a marathon in Colorado Springs last September, on a borrowed running blade, with only 10 miles of training under his belt, trying to qualify for Boston.

He didn't stop that day until mile eight, when he felt a blister where the blade attached. One blister soon turned into many more with each step he took.

"My leg looked like bubble wrap," said Slay, who finished in seven hours. "It was the most excruciating run of my life."

Those blisters eventually popped and became infected. For six weeks, he couldn't work, let alone run.

As he recuperated, he received a letter that bolstered his spirits — his acceptance into the Boston Marathon. Then, a prosthetic company donated a custom-made running blade.

"That starting line is going to be so emotional," Slay said.

Madison feels the same way. At the urging of a friend, he met Glasbrenner for lunch last spring. Madison simply wanted to get some training tips to complete a triathlon.

How about a marathon, Glasbrenner suggested.

"Thought it was a cool idea and fit in with my wanting to do something," said Madison, who lost his part of his leg when a boat ran into him while he was riding a jet-ski when he was 10. "I didn't realize the magnitude of what I was getting into."

Madison attempted to qualify for Boston by running a marathon in Tupelo, Miss., in early September. On a steamy day, with his prosthetic leg just not fitting right, Madison reached mile 25 in 5 hours, 45 minutes. Told the cutoff time was six hours, he decided to call it an afternoon.

Turns out, there was no cutoff time.

"Jeff was so mad. He's like, 'I told you to finish,'" chuckled Madison, a former police officer who's now an attorney.

A month later, Madison ran a marathon in St. Louis and crossed the line in 5:43 to earn his spot at the start line for Boston.

"What I learned is I'm the only one who can prevent me from achieving things," Madison said. "I've achieved the goal of getting to Boston. The next goal is crossing the finish line."

With Glasbrenner leading the way, of course, eager to finish what he started.

___

AP Sports Writer Pat Graham reported from Denver.

Monday 04/14/2014
SHANNON FAGAN: Baseball playoffs begin Friday
Posted: April 14, 2014

Believe it or not, the state high school baseball playoffs are set to begin this weekend. Five of The Herald’s seven area teams have qualified and will begin a best-of-three first-round series on Friday.

Olympic great Michael Phelps ending retirement
Posted: April 14, 2014

Michael Phelps is coming out of retirement, the first step toward possibly swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 22-time Olympic medalist will compete for the first time since the 2012 London Games at a meet in Mesa, Ariz., on April 24-26.

Bob Bowman, the swimmer's longtime coach, told The Associated Press on Monday that Phelps is entered in three events — the 50- and 100-meter freestyles and the 100 butterfly.

"I think he's just going to test the waters a little bit and see how it goes," Bowman said by phone from Baltimore. "I wouldn't say it's a full-fledged comeback."

Phelps returned to training last fall and re-entered the U.S. drug-testing program. He has completed his six-month waiting period by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to be eligible for competition.

Bowman said Phelps is "pretty far" from being back in top form. He's been training Monday through Friday with Bowman's team at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

"He's gotten back into good shape since September," the coach said. "He can give a good effort and certainly not be embarrassed. He's in enough shape to swim competitively."

Besides Phelps, USA Swimming said Olympians Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky are among those expected to swim in the Arena Grand Prix at Skyline Aquatic Center.

Phelps turns 29 in June and is the winningest and most decorated athlete in Olympic history. He captured 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall at the last three Summer Games. He broke Mark Spitz's record for a single Olympics by winning eight gold medals at Beijing in 2008.

Phelps had vowed that he wouldn't swim into his 30s. His camp is being low key about the comeback.

"I think he's just really enjoying it," Bowman said. "He enjoys the training and being physically fit. He just kind of wants to see where he's at. It's more really for fun. It's been nice for me to see him swim just for the joy of it really."

In Mesa, Phelps will swim 100 free and 100 fly preliminaries on the first day. Then, if he qualifies, he'll decide which race to swim for the evening finals, Bowman said. He'll swim the 50 free on the second day and might swim the 50 fly "just for fun," the coach added.

Phelps will stick to the shorter races and some relays rather than the grueling individual medleys he swam during the height of his career.

"He's really doing this because he wants to — there's no outside pressure at all," Bowman said.

Phelps has already entered the remaining Grand Prix meets in Charlotte, N.C., in May and Santa Clara, Calif., in June, although Bowman said no decision has been made on whether he will compete.

Depending on his early results, Phelps could compete in the U.S. National Championships in August in Irvine, Calif., where teams will be selected for the 2015 world championships.

"I wouldn't say it's 100 percent on the radar," Bowman said. "After Mesa, we're going to sit down and talk about it."

JSU FOOTBALL: Jenkins directs White squad to 21-6 win in J-Day Spring Game
Posted: April 14, 2014

JACKSONVILLE - John Grass' first spring practice as Jacksonville State head football coach wrapped up with the annual J-Day Spring Game on Saturday.

Friday 04/11/2014
BASEBALL: Warriors fall in another one-run contest
Posted: April 11, 2014

CENTRE - Cherokee County baseball coach Jim Garmany was looking back on the Warriors' schedule the other day. He counted 10 games that were lost by one run and three more by two runs.

SOFTBALL: Williams’ plate performance propels Spring Garden past Gaylesville
Posted: April 11, 2014

SPRING GARDEN – Spring Garden sophomore Hayley Williams isn’t your prototypical centerfielder. She stands only at 5-foot-2, but that isn’t stopping her from becoming one of the Lady Panthers’ clutch hitters.

BASEBALL: Dixon’s no-hitter propels Cedar Bluff to area title
Posted: April 11, 2014

CEDAR BLUFF – Cedar Bluff junior pitcher Devante Dixon did his part Thursday to make sure the Tigers clinched another area baseball championship.

BASEBALL: Piedmont clinches Class 3A, Area 10 title with sweep of White Plains
Posted: April 11, 2014

PIEDMONT – The Piedmont Bulldogs clinched the Class 3A, Area 10 baseball championship Thursday with a doubleheader sweep of White Plains on Thursday. The scores were 6-3 and 4-3.

SOFTBALL: Cedar Bluff blasts Coosa Christian
Posted: April 11, 2014

GADSDEN – Haley Kimberly and Katie McGinnis collected four hits apiece Thursday in leading the Cedar Bluff Lady Tigers to a 15-3 Class 1A, Area 13 softball win at Coosa Christian.

SOFTBALL: Sand Rock blanks Asbury
Posted: April 11, 2014

ALBERTVILLE – Courtney Williams yielded just one hit with four walks and five strikeouts to lead the Sand Rock Lady Wildcats to a 5-0 Class 2A, Area 13 softball victory at Asbury on Thursday.

Thursday 04/10/2014
BASEBALL: Cedar Bluff, Piedmont pick up crucial area wins
Posted: April 10, 2014

The Cedar Bluff Tigers and Piedmont Bulldogs are one step closer to clinching area baseball championships. The Tigers defeated Class 1A, Area 13 foe Coosa Christian 15-3 Wednesday in Gadsden. Cedar Bluff (16-9) hosts the Conquerors for a Thursday doubleheader beginning at 4:30 p.m. A sweep by the Tigers clinches the area title.

ASWA BASEBALL/SOFTBALL RANKINGS: Sand Rock baseball remains only area team ranked in poll
Updated: April 10, 2014 - 9:22 am

There were no changes this week for area teams in the Alabama Sportswriters Association baseball and softball rankings. The latest rankings were released late Wednesday evening.

Wednesday 04/09/2014
Baseball/Softball Stats for April 9
Posted: April 09, 2014

The following is a list of area baseball and softball statistics sent in by coaches for April 9. Baseball teams reporting this week are Cedar Bluff, Cherokee County, Piedmont, Sand Rock and Spring Garden. Softball teams reporting this week are Gaylesville, Sand Rock and Spring Garden.

BASEBALL: Sand Rock remains perfect in area play with 4-2 win over Westbrook Christian
Posted: April 09, 2014

SAND ROCK – Sand Rock junior pitcher Austin Chambers took his customary jog along the outfield wall Tuesday following the Wildcats 4-2 victory over Class 2A, Area 13 rival Westbrook Christian.

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