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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
MLS, Atlanta planning 'major announcement'
Posted: April 14, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) — Major League Soccer and Falcons owner Arthur Blank are planning a "major announcement" Wednesday on a proposed expansion team to play in Atlanta's new downtown stadium.

Blank has long coveted a top-level soccer team for the city, and negotiations with the MLS intensified after he reached a deal on building a new $1 billion retractable roof stadium next to the Georgia Dome. Site preparation has already started, and the facility is expected to open in 2017.

Both the MLS and a top official from Blank's organization acknowledged last week that the two sides were close to a deal. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the new team would be announced Wednesday.

Blank, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed are scheduled to attend the news conference.

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."

Hawks add Turner exec Koonin to ownership group
Posted: April 14, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) — Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin is joining the Atlanta Hawks ownership group, which hopes he can raise the profile of an NBA team that has struggled to draw fans or lure big-name free agents.

The Hawks announced late Sunday that Koonin would take an ownership stake, serve as chief executive officer, oversee all business operations and represent the ownership at league functions.

Koonin comes to the Hawks after 14 years with Turner Entertainment Networks, where in his most recent role he led the division that included TNT, TBS, TruTV and Turner Classic Movies. He previously spent more than a decade as a marketing executive at Coca-Cola.

"Steve Koonin's reputation as a game changer in both marketing and media makes him the ideal leader to usher the Atlanta Hawks into a new era," said Bruce Levenson, the team's majority owner. "He has created a legacy as an expert in sports marketing, television, branding and digital media."

The Hawks clinched their seventh straight playoff appearance this past weekend but perennially rank among the worst teams in attendance.

The team is hoping Koonin can change that after his stint at Turner, where he was involved in programming and media rights acquisition with both the NBA and the NCAA. At Coca-Cola, he served as vice president of sports and entertainment marketing.

Koonin is a lifelong resident of Atlanta, headquarters of Turner and Coca-Cola.

"My family has been a part of this city for nearly a century," Koonin said in a statement. "We have a lot of work to do, but I believe my professional experience, my passion for this team and the NBA, as well as the Hawks' great existing executive talent ... make this organization's future very bright."

Under general manager Danny Ferry and first-year coach Mike Budenholzer, the Hawks are in the midst of a major rebuilding effort. Only two players, center Al Horford and point guard Jeff Teague, have been with the team longer than two years — and Horford missed most of this season with an injury.

Koonin's focus will be off the court. Heading into its final home game Monday night, the Hawks were averaging crowds of 14,400 a game — 28th out of 30 NBA teams. The actual turnouts are generally much lower, with thousands of empty seats a trademark of games at Philips Arena, where capacity was actually reduced by curtaining a section of seats at the top of the upper deck. Over the past decade, the team has never ranked higher than 18th in attendance and is largely overlooked in a market that also has the NFL, Major League Baseball and a passion for college football.

"I have known Steve for more than two decades and based both on firsthand experience and his stellar record of accomplishments," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "He is one of the very best executives and creative minds in the entertainment industry."

Saturday 04/12/2014
THE MASTERS: Kuchar, Born right behind Watson
Updated: April 12, 2014 - 5:26 pm

Bubba Watson has managed to get back to six-under par and now holds a one-stroke lead over Matt Kuchar and Thomas Bjorn. Five other golfer remain within three strokes of the lead and the ageless Fred Couples is at two-under par.

Friday 04/11/2014
Rockmart All-Pro Rodeo is Friday and Saturday
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
RMS girls soccer team to play for league title
Posted: April 10, 2014

First Baptist Church of Cedartown is holding soccer sign-ups
Posted: April 10, 2014

Wednesday 04/09/2014
The Masters: Thursday, Friday tee times
Posted: April 09, 2014

Thursday-Friday

The Masters: The 5 biggest heartaches at the Masters
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.

The Masters: Kids are definitely all right heading into Masters
Posted: April 09, 2014

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

Tuesday 04/08/2014
The Masters: The 5 best Masters debut
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.

The Masters: Father and son gearing up for historic Masters
Posted: April 08, 2014

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.

The Masters: Test your Masters' knowledge
Updated: April 08, 2014 - 2:30 pm

AUGUSTA — How well do you know the Masters? Try this quiz:

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
Connecticut wins NCAA title, 60-54 over Kentucky
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.

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