Thursday, May 26, 2011

News and notes from DII outdoor championship

TURLOCK, Calif. – News and notes while contemplating putting on a jacket here at the NCAA Division II outdoor track and field championship meet:

• ACU senior thrower Tyler Fleet – competing in his final event as a Wildcat – entered the men's hammer throw ranked 12th in the nation, but was able to reach the final with an opening-round throw of 193 feet, 1 inch.  Fleet, however, wasn't able to better that throw in the final round and finished ninth, just out of the points and all-America contention.

Fleet, however, has other things on his mind these days.  Things that former ACU president Dr. Royce Money likes to call "Kingdom Work."  Fleet will be leaving the United States next Saturday for Nairobi, Kenya, where he will be working at a high school as a Young Life / FCA representative.  He'll be gone for 15 months, and as his dad and ACU letterman, Gary, watched his son compete Thursday morning, he said through a choked-up voice, "This is a tough weekend."

Gary said it's doubtful that they'll see Tyler in person for 15 months after he leaves the USA, but added that with "video chat, Skype and other communication devices, we'll still be able to see him on a daily basis."

Look for more on this story this weekend.

• Senior thrower Paige Newby of Colorado City landed in San Francisco with her teammates Monday night, but for the next few days she'll be more cheerleader than athlete.  Newby – the defending national champion in the discus – won't compete at the national track meet until 7:30 p.m. Saturday (9:30 p.m. Abilene time).  Newby did say she was a cheerleader as a youngster growing up in Longview, so she might break out a few routines in support of her teammates.

• Junior thrower Ryan Loughney of Ashland (Ohio) put on quite a show Thursday morning on his way to winning his second straight national title in the hammer throw.  Loughney's worst throw of the competition was 222 feet, 1 inch.  But it was his final throw in the preliminaries that had everyone around the ring buzzing as he posted a mark of 70.15 meters (230 feet, 2 inches) to establish both Division II meet and Al Brenda Warrior Stadium records.

Loughney's mark made him just the second Division II thrower in history to top 70 meters, joining Division II record-holder and current USA thrower Kibwe Johnson, who posted a Division II all-time best mark of 75.95 meters (249 feet, 2 inches) in July 2007.

• The 2012 NCAA Division II outdoor championship meet will reportedly be in Pueblo, Colo., although official word of the meet's destination hasn't been made official.  If the meet is in Colorado, it will mark the first time in the meet's history that it will held in the Rocky Mountain State.

• While those of you in Texas are sweating through the air conditioning this weekend, consider this:  tonight's low in Turlock will be 52 with the high temperatures the next two days set for 78 and 74 degrees, respectively.  Good thing I packed the jacket and a couple of long-sleeve shirts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Community Bands Together After Historic Tornado

A day usually reserved for rest and relaxation turned into an afternoon of worry, frustration, and sadness as a town I called home during college was hit by a massive tornado causing unimaginable destruction and chaos in Joplin, Missouri.

Just 48 hours after an EF5 tornado landed in the middle of the southwest Missouri town where I grew up I stood on a street that had become unrecognizable. It was the spot of a friend’s apartment complex I had spent many hours studying, playing video games and hanging out at, but was completely leveled by Sunday’s horrible storms.

Many local and national organizations have made their way to Joplin to help in search and rescue efforts along with relief to the many people that have been left without. The American Red Cross and the United Way are just among the many organizations as well as numerous local volunteers coming together to help a hurting community.

I was able to go into the aftermath of what experts have already called one of the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in United States history. Standing on the streets of friend’s houses I thought of the community efforts and how people can help just not in southwest Missouri, but within a community that we have branded ourselves, “I choose Division II.”

Joplin is the home of Missouri Southern State University where I attended college which has been set up for shelter and to help with relief efforts. As people around Division II athletics have come to know the school as Southern, head men’s basketball coach Robert Corn has helped partner with the Red Cross which has taken over his gymnasium, the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. Leggett & Platt is a place where Corn and the Lions have been extremely successful advancing this last season to the NCAA South Central Regional tournament.

After having a first person account of the devastation many people still need help as a few student athletes have lost homes and apartment buildings were also leveled. Pictures and videos I had seen Sunday night on national news watching from Texas did not do justice or put in perspective the type of destruction roughly 30 percent of the city had endured.

I would like to encourage the ACU community and Division II community to continue to help as many local universities have already started the process as well as the local professional organizations. The University of Missouri along with head men’s basketball coach Frank Haith along with Missouri State’s Paul Lusk, a former Missouri Southern assistant, have began to help as much as they can. Also President Obama will land in Joplin on Sunday to visit and asses the damaged area.

Individuals wanting to help can help in a number of ways, but the most effective way for people to get involved is to donate money according to the national and local organizers.

Below is a short list of ways to help in the disaster relief:

Text-to-help: text JOPLIN to 864833, to give $10 or text REDCROSS to 90999
You can also donate to the United for Joplin by clicking here.

To donate more than $10 to the Red Cross for efforts or donations click here for more information.

The picture above is a convenient store that stood in the heart of a business district and looked across the road at a heavy residential area.

Phillip Dowden enters his second year at Abilene Christian as the Assistant Director for Athletic Media Relations and is a 2008 Missouri Southern graduate.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nelson: A Man in Full

This is the piece I wrote for upon the passing of Byron Nelson in September 2006. Part of it was read both at his funeral and the ceremony in Washington, D.C. when he was posthumously honored with the Congressional Gold Medal on June 26, 2007. That remains the highlight of my career in journalism.