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At Boston Marathon, a chance to finally finish

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.

  • icon Posted: April 16

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Friday 04/11/2014
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Updated: April 11, 2014 - 1:21 pm

RMS girls soccer team finishes in second place
Posted: April 11, 2014

A quick-strike in the opening minutes, a penalty kick goal for both teams and a late defensive stand allowed Model’s girls to gain revenge for their only loss of the season Thursday afternoon in the middle school championship game with a 2-1 win over Rockmart.

While the game had lots of high drama in the waning moments, Model took most of the drama out of the first half behind solid offensive runs from Kyla Reynolds and Jennifer Espinoza.

Reynolds seemed to find open space for most of the first half making runs and crossing the ball in the Yellow Jackets box.

Less than two minutes into the game, Reynolds’s attack paid off with a Model goal, giving the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead.

“I think when we scored the first goal it took a lot of pressure off of the girls,” Model coach Robby Dooley said. “Any time you get ascore first, it takes the pressure off you and puts it on the other team.”

Both sides would have more scoring chances in the opening half.

The Yellow Jackets had two solid chances in the first half.

The first came 15 minutes into the game when Model keeper Alexis Jackson made a save but had the ball slip away but was able to get it back before a Rockmart player could reach it.

Rockmart’s best chance of the half came when Montana Barber got loose in Model’s box. Her first shot was partially deflected, but she got the rebound and slammed the ball again only to have it bounce off the far post, allowing Model’s defense to clear it.

Late in the half, Reynolds again broke free and launched a solid shot at the goal, but Rockmart’s keeper managed to grab it for the save.

Six minutes into the second half, Reynolds again got loose on the outside edge of Rockmart’s box and was fouled in the box by a Yellow Jacket defender.

Model’s Espinoza buried the ensuing penalty kick in the right side of the goal and then punched the air in celebration with her right hand, giving Model a 2-0 lead.

Two minutes later, Rockmart’s Madison Bozydaj had a solid shoot snuffed by Jackson.

“Our goalie (Alexis Jackson) is a sixth grader. She really came through under pressure tonight,” Dooley said. “We always tell her if you can’t catch it, just grip it with your hands. Just to control it and then grab it when you can.”

Both offenses continued to have chances, but as time ran down Rockmart continued to press up hoping to get a goal.

“They’ve got a great player in 20 (Ashlyn Jay). We worked all week on guarding her,” Dooley said. “Madison Harper did a great job marking her. I’m really proud of her.”

The push paid off late when a Model player was called for a handball in the box. Bozydaj wasted little time on the penalty kick, cutting the Blue Devils’ lead to 2-1.

Rockmart wasn’t finished as Ashlyn Jay took a free kick from just outside the box and launched a near perfect strike at the goal, but Jackson was just able to get her hands on it for the save.

“Rockmart is a great team. I told my girls the game wasn’t over until the final whistle blew,” Dooley said. “I think they bought into that, and I’m just speechless for these girls right now.”

The Yellow Jackets couldn’t find the sting to equalize the game however and time expired and Model players streamed onto the field to celebrate the win.

“These girls have worked so hard this year. I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls. We have eleven eighth graders, and I’m going to miss all of them next year,” Dooley said. “I’m super proud of them. Our only loss this season was to Rockmart, so you always want revenge on the team that beat you.”

CMS boys win soccer championship
Posted: April 11, 2014

For 52 minutes Thursday afternoon, Darlington’s defense stood stalwart turning away every scoring opportunity but in the 53rd minute, the Bulldogs’ offense broke through for a key goal and a 1-0 win in the boy’s middle school soccer championship game at Grizzard Park.

Cedartown’s Raymond Velasquez, who had several scoring opportunities on the afternoon, took a pass and battled through three Tiger defenders before knocking a picture-perfect strike into the far right corner, giving the Bulldogs the 1-0 lead.

“He’d been taking shots all night long and just missed it (a goal) by a little bit each time. He just got right on it on the goal,” Cedartown coach Lynda Wiggins said. “He was open a lot, and he had the opportunity to take some shots and that time he just got it right in there.”

Although the Tigers were down they weren’t out. Barely a minute later, the Tigers took a free kick right on the goal, but the Bulldogs’ goalie was just able to corral the ball before a Darlington player could pounce on it.

The Tigers pushed up, but the free kick would be their last good scoring opportunity of the evening. Cedartown however had one more solid chance as again Velasquez broke free on the left side before firing on goal. The shot sailed just over the cross bar though.

The Tigers appeared to possibly have one more charge in them, but time ran out and Cedartown players jumped onto the field spraying water into the air and onto each other while celebrating the championship victory.

“It was a very close game. The first time we played them, we lost 2-0,” Darlington coach Randy Smith said. “We were really hopeful we could send this game into overtime and into penalty kicks like we did yesterday. We just came up on the short end of the stick, but we did the best we could.”

Darlington’s offense didn’t have tons of chances in the game, but the defense stood strong throughout, behind solid back-line play and a great effort in goal from Russell Shealy.

“Russell Shealy is awesome I can’t say enough good things about him,” Smith said. “I’ve been coaching him since he was seven years old, and I look forward to seeing great things from him.”

The Tigers turned away charge after charge from the Bulldogs in the first half. Three solid Cedartown shots all sailed over the goal in the half, but the closest chance came when Velasquez attempted to push the ball past Shealy, who had charged out to stop the shot.

Velasquez managed to get the ball past Shealy but it bounced wide left late in the first half.

Even though the Bulldogs couldn’t get on the scoreboard in the opening half, Wiggins said she wasn’t worried.

“This team has gotten progressively better as the season has worn on. They were executing things they way they needed to be,” she said. “They were nervous at the beginning of the game, but then they calmed down, and I thought they did a real, good job.”

And as the final whistle blew three times signalling the end of the game, the players celebrated the win.

“It’s awesome to win the championship. These kids have worked so hard this season,” Wiggins said. “Like everybody, we had those snow days, so it was a shorter season than we wanted, but the kids really put in the work and the extra hours and it really paid off.”

Thursday 04/10/2014
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Posted: April 10, 2014

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Wednesday 04/09/2014
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Posted: April 09, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. — With rare exception, no other major championship inflicts as much emotional pain as Augusta National. The perks of winning include a lifetime exemption to the Masters and a spot in the most exclusive locker room in golf.

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AUGUSTA — Jordan Spieth speaks with reverence when hanging out with the greats of the game at Augusta National.

Tuesday 04/08/2014
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Posted: April 08, 2014

AUGUSTA — Billy Horschel won the Zurich Classic two weeks after the Masters last year, and thus became first on the list of players who earned their first trip to Augusta National. He just had no idea how long the list would grow.

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AUGUSTA  — Kevin Stadler might be playing in the Masters for the first time, but he's already showing his old man a thing or two.

Co-defendant of former UGA football coach pleads guilty in Ponzi scheme
Posted: April 08, 2014

ATHENS, Ga. -- An Ohio man charged with operating a Ponzi scheme with former University of Georgia football coach Jim Donnan has pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge.

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Major League Soccer moving toward deal on Atlanta expansion team
Posted: April 08, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) — Major League Soccer is closing in on a deal with Falcons owner Arthur Blank to bring an expansion franchise to Atlanta's new downtown stadium.

A top official from Blank's parent company, Kim Schreckengost, said Tuesday negotiations continue and "we hope to complete an agreement soon." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported a new team will be announced April 16.

The MLS has long coveted the Atlanta market, the largest in the U.S. without a franchise, as it moves toward its goal of 24 teams.

The 19-team league already has announced new franchises in New York and Orlando that are scheduled to begin play next season. There also is a provisional franchise in Miami owned by a group led by David Beckham.

UConn’s duo outplays ’Cats’ twins
Posted: April 08, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas — Connecticut’s experienced backcourt made Kentucky’s guards look like, well, freshmen in the national championship game.

Monday 04/07/2014
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Updated: April 08, 2014 - 12:55 am

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — No conference wanted them. Several teammates and their coach left them. The NCAA wouldn't have them.

The Masters: Rains wash out 1st day at Masters
Posted: April 07, 2014

AUGUSTA — The first day of the Masters didn't last very long.

The Masters: 3 players have shot at No. 1 at the Masters
Updated: April 07, 2014 - 3:49 pm

AUGUSTA — Three players at the Masters have a chance to replace Tiger Woods as No. 1 in the world.

Cedartown holds Opening Day ceremonies for baseball, softball
Posted: April 07, 2014

Rain has been a constant in the forecast recently, but on Saturday boys and girls alike heard what they had been aching to hear for weeks now – play ball.

The Masters: Key anniversaries at the Masters
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US women's soccer coach Tom Sermanni fired
Updated: April 07, 2014 - 3:36 pm

CHICAGO (AP) — On Sunday afternoon, Tom Sermanni coached the U.S. women's team to a 2-0 win over China in Colorado.

By evening, he was out of a job.

Sermanni was fired by the U.S. Soccer Federation after a disappointing finish last month at the Algarve Cup. The surprising move came just 16 months after he took over the program.

"We want to thank Tom for his service over the past year and half, but we felt that we needed to go in a different direction at this time," USSF President Sunil Gulati said in statement. "We will begin looking for a new coach immediately to guide our women's national team toward qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup."

Sermanni was hired in October 2012, but Jill Ellis served as interim coach until he took over that January. Sermanni made his debut for a 4-1 win over his native Scotland on Feb. 10, 2013.

He spent the previous eight years coaching Australia's women's team, leading the Matildas to the quarterfinals of the last two Women's World Cups.

Sermanni helped the U.S. to a 13-0-3 record last year, but the Americans went 1-2-1 at the Algarve Cup, the last major tournament for the U.S. before qualifying for next year's World Cup. The seventh-place finish included a 1-0 defeat to Sweden and former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, ending a two-year, 43-game unbeaten streak. That was the first loss following a 16-0-4 start under Sermanni.

His firing came about six months before North and Central American and Caribbean World Cup qualifying, which takes place from Oct. 16-26 at Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Ellis, the USSF's director of development, will serve as interim coach. She went 5-0-2 in that role in 2012.

The women's team faces China again on Thursday in San Diego.

"I'm disappointed that things didn't work out, but I'd like to thank U.S. Soccer for the opportunity to have coached this team and also the staff and players for all their hard work," Sermanni said in the USSF statement.

Sermanni's dismissal was announced a few hours after Lauren Holiday and substitute Megan Rapinoe scored in the victory over China in Commerce City, Colo.

If he knew that was his last game with the team, it sure didn't seem that way. He experimented with a 4-3-3 alignment (four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards) as part of the team's preparation for World Cup qualifying, and talked about the team making the most of its offensive opportunities.

"I thought our movement was good, thought our passing was quite incisive," Sermanni said after the game. "What we should've done better is finish the game off a lot earlier. We really need to be finishing these games off when we're creating chances."

The U.S. outshot China 23-1 and ran its unbeaten streak on home turf to 81 games (71-0-10).

Holiday was back in the lineup after missing the Algarve Cup because of a family commitment. She scored in the 39th minute — the U.S. finally solving goalkeeper Zhang Yue after a flurry of shots. Holiday nearly had another goal early in the second half, only to have it deflected away near the goal line.

The defense only allowed one scoring chance to China, which played a defense-oriented game even after falling behind.

"The most important thing is coming together now and figuring out what works and what doesn't," forward Sydney Leroux said. "We're getting better every single day."

Any further improvement will come under a new coach.

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