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Minden looks to restrict private pool placement, require fences

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on August 5, 2016. 

MINDEN — The Minden City Council has approved a second reading of a proposed ordinance to help combat safety concerns associated with private swimming pools.

Ordinance No. 1211 would require all private swimming pools and hot tubs be placed in the side or backyard, with pools required to be surrounded by a fence. The ordinance also states that hot tubs or spas are required to have a cover when not in use, but don’t have to be enclosed by a fence.

Minden City Administrator Matt Cederburg said the ordinance started because of an increase in the number of pools within the city limits.

“I think it came to the forefront because there have been a lot of above-ground pools going up,” he said. “It seemed like there were two or three going up this year.”

Cederburg said Minden modeled its proposed city ordinance off similar ordinances in Hickman and Grand Island. He also said the ordinance should help keep homes more aesthetically pleasing by requiring owners to keep pools or hot tubs in the side or backyard.

At the previous two City Council meetings, no one came forward to express displeasure with the proposed ordinance. Still, Cederburg cites a potential concern associated with the costs of building a fence.

If the ordinance passes as expected, city officials plan to create a user-friendly pamphlet that clearly explains the requirements associated with the ordinance.

 

The third and final reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Aug. 15. If the ordinance is approved at that meeting, citizens will have 30 days to get up to code.

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Old Geneva city pool demolished

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 30, 2016. 

GENEVA — With temperatures nearing the triple digits during the month of July, Geneva City Administrator Kyle Svec admits that the timing of the closing the city’s pool wasn’t ideal, but it was necessary in order to meet next year’s deadline for opening a new water park.

To meet the self-proposed Memorial Day 2017 deadline for the water park, demolition of the city pool, which is near completion, had to start when it did, Svec said.

He said that to beat the heat Geneva patrons had the option to utilize one of the three area pools within a 12-mile radius in Shickley, Fairmont and Exeter.

“One of the reasons we wanted to get started during July is because it’s the driest time of the year and that’s good for dirt work,” Svec said. “I feel very good about where we’re at because we haven’t had any rain.”

The city pool closed for the summer on July 10 and destruction of the existing pool and bathhouse started a week later.

Workers earlier this week were removing pieces of the pool and bathhouse, along with old fencing and concrete before the construction of the new park on the same site begins.

Svec expects dirt to be laid for the new park in the next few weeks.

“They’re moving along very well,” he said.

The city plans to salvage parts of the old park, including a couple smaller slides and a mushroom-shaped sprayer from the baby pool.

Those items will be available for purchase by the public.

A refrigerator and camera system from the old water park will be salvaged and used in the new water park.

Among the features of the new water park are one large slide, a family slide, a climbing wall overlooking the pool and one diving board. The park will also include a lily pad rope feature, a splash pad for children and more shade structures for parents. Wifi and an expanded menu of food will also added.

The park project gained traction in 2015, after community members voted in Geneva’s first mail-in election to support both the water park and a half-cent sales tax to cover the cost.

Following the 62 percent in-favor vote, the city began working with officials and completed a final design, before starting the demolition in mid-July.

Featured

Arena home of “biggest small college” video board

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 28, 2016. 

The game day experience is going to be noticeably different inside Lynn Farrell Arena at Hastings College with the recent addition of a new video board.

The college put the finishing touches last week on the installation of the new state-of-the-art video board inside the arena.

“It’s being promoted as the biggest small college video board in the country. There is just no one out there that is claiming that,” said Adam Maser, Hastings College sports information director. “I’m excited for it, because it’s something that no one else has.”

The ScoreVision video board, which is 10 feet by 33 feet, has live video stream, LED video, instant replay and Apple TV capabilities.

It is “basically a giant TV,” Maser said with the capability to provide a whole new format for motion graphic content during games.

The board is operated through the ScoreVision app on an iPad and will allow operators to keep score, record player stats, highlight player achievements and integrate graphics, sound and video on the display.

The data from games is automatically saved to in real-time and through a companion fan app, parents, students and fans can receive instantaneous live game information from anywhere.

“I’m excited about it, but I’m also nervous, because it’s new, it’s different and it isn’t at any of the schools we play against,” Maser said. “If it comes together, it can be fantastic and could be groundbreaking.”

While the board’s primary use will be for athletic events in the arena, the increased video functions will allow for the college to expand its horizons far from traditional scoreboard use.

The new features will leave the door open for use at events such as award ceremonies, graduation and the dedication ceremony for the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center on Aug. 20.

The plan to upgrade the scoreboard at the arena has been in the works for a while, according to Maser.

He said the college’s athletic department had discussed replacing video boards at both Lynn Farrell Arena and Lloyd Wilson Field in 2012. The college replaced the scoreboard at Lloyd Wilson Field with a Daktronics video board in the summer of 2014.

The college then negotiated plans for a video board at the arena, opting to go with ScoreVision, an Omaha-based company that specializes in creating state-of-the-art, LED scoreboards. Gordon Whitten, who graduated from Hastings High in 1989 and Hastings College in 1993, is the company’s CEO and co-founder.

Whitten, who was vice chairman of the Board of Trustees for the college in 2011, said that once the college expressed the need to replace the arena’s scoreboard he thought a partnership between ScoreVision and the college would be a good one.

“Basically, Hastings College was ready to make a change and they looked at their options out there and they concluded that this had the greatest number of features and had the best value of anything they could find,” he said. “Then we started down a path of working that out.”

Whitten worked with the college’s administration, Maser and Chad Power, chair of the Hastings College journalism and media arts department, to coordinate an internship program at ScoreVision for Hastings College students.

The internship started this summer and allowed four students a chance to live in Omaha for the summer and learn about all the features the ScoreVision board and app have to offer, in order to help operate the board during the school year.

The partnership between the college and ScoreVision is something intern Tyler Murphy thinks will open the door for many possibilities.

“It’s an opportunity for athletes to see themselves on a scoreboard that would look appropriate in a Division I gym,” he said. “Beyond athletics, it offers students the opportunity to create pretty much anything they can dream up to be displayed on the board and it offers marketing or business students the opportunity to make connections in the community and create advertising content to be displayed on the board.”

Throughout the summer, Murphy has been learning more about the scoreboard and app in preparation for video board’s debut in late August for the opening of the art center.

“For the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center grand opening I’ve been working with David Sutter, Hastings College class of 1991, on a video showing the progress of construction, a little bit of what it will mean to the school and students and honoring Jackson Dinsdale,” Murphy said.

The video board is expected to be used a few times at the beginning of the school year, but it’s athletic debut will come on Sept. 7 in potential top-10 volleyball match-up between Midland University and Hastings College.

Featured

Gas line struck, homes evacuated

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 28, 2016. 

SUTTON — A natural gas line was struck on Wednesday afternoon here, causing a gas leak and prompting the evacuation of a residential area.

The gas leak occurred in the alley west of Saunders Avenue near Myrtle Street at 12:52 p.m. when workers accidentally hit the gas line while replacing a telephone pole.

According to Assistant Fire Chief Tracey Landenberger, the gas line was believed to be mismarked.

Gas leaked for 20-30 minutes, according to Landenberger, and caused residents within a two-block radius to go two hours without access to gas. Landenberger said the leak impacted 12-15 residential homes and caused those individuals to evacuate their homes.

“It had a bigger impact on the crews to come out and fix it and it took a big toll on the volunteers with the heat,” said Landenberger, who also is the Sutton police chief. “But it affects everybody, including the people who had to leave their houses. It was just good that it was summertime, because people didn’t need their heat.”

Workers repaired the damages to the line in a little over an hour, and Landenberger expects no issues going forward.

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Deshler hopeful mitigation plan can prevent future flooding

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 26, 2016. 

DESHLER — After two major floods within the last two years, the city of Deshler is hoping to minimize the chance for another flood.

The effort to lessen the likelihood of another devastating flood comes in the form of a flood hazard mitigation study and a partnership between the city and the Little Blue Natural Resources District.

During a meeting in Davenport on July 12, the LBNRD and officials from Deshler entered into an agreement under the Interlocal Cooperation Act of the state of Nebraska and agreed to share costs of the study.

The agreement will allow the LBNRD and the city of Deshler to split 25 percent of the local contribution costs for the study. Both Deshler and the LBNRD will pay $6,250, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to cover the rest of the costs. The total cost of the project is estimated at $49,650.

Both parties are hopeful the study will help combat the flooding problem.

“We’ve had two incidents in the past 12 months,” said Julie Buescher, Deshler city clerk and treasurer. “It’s been a problem.”

The two most impactful floods came in May 2015 and April 2016.

During the flood of 2015, Deshler High School had to be used as an evacuation center for residents of the Parkview Haven and Meadowlark Heights Assisted Living Centers, said Al Meier, superintendent of Deshler Public Schools.

The school also suffered damages in the form of a flooded football field and track, as well as water damage to the elementary school.

“We had water coming into the elementary school … we had 3-5 inches of water in it,” Meier said.

The school received help from FEMA and district funds after the flood and has since repaired the damages to custodial rooms, vents and the football field, as well as the track.

During the April 2016 flood, the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network reported more than 5 inches of precipitation fell just southeast of Ruskin during a 24-hour period.

The damage from that particular flood was extensive, too, including damages to area ballparks and city parks and the destruction of playground equipment.

Buescher hopes the study will help find solutions to the flood problems.

“I guess they’re hoping to identify what some of the issues are to why it’s happening and some of the solutions to keep it from happening,” she said.

Mike Onnen, general manager of the Little Blue Natural Resources District, says the study will be extensive.

“The firm that has been selected will be looking at all the elevations of the structures,” he said. “Hopefully by next year they will have all of that data collected.”

The study will include an examination of the structures in the flood plain and running storm frequencies to determine the level of flood it would take to damage those structures located in the flood plain. Onnen said moving structures out of the flood plain and rechannelization of Snake Creek to prevent the likelihood of flooding also are preventative measure possibilities.

After receiving funding from FEMA, conducting field work and planning, the city of Deshler is expected to review its options and conduct a public meeting before final plans are put into place.

Featured

Kids pedal for ribbons, soda and chance at state

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 25, 2016. 

On a cool and windy day, kids and parents alike gathered at Windmill Park Sunday afternoon for the Adams County Fairfest pedal tractor pull.

This year’s competition featured 30-plus kids, ranging from ages 4 to 12 and gave them all a chance to win a purple ribbon and a free soda.

For 9-year-old Nicolas Reynolds, the event was a new, but worthwhile experience.

“My dad asked me if I wanted to do it, so I did it,” he said. “I really liked getting to ride the tractor.”

For the event, kids climb aboard a pedal tractor equipped with various weights on the back of the tractor. The rider pedals down the track to see who can travel the furthest distance. The weights and tractors vary by age group and tends to get heavier the further the tractor goes.

“We have like six tractors and they’re all lengthened. The older you get, the longer the tractor is,” said event coordinator Cindy Ash. “(Bruce) changes the skid plate that makes it harder to pull.”

The kids are separated by age and sex and are then paired with the corresponding size of tractor.

While every participant received a reward, only three kids from each class earned the right to represent Adams County at the Nebraska State Fair.

“They qualify for the state pull at all the county fairs,” Ash said.

 

Cindy and her husband, Bruce, have plenty of experience with kids’ tractor pulls, considering they attend about 20 county fairs a year. Despite the long weekends spent at fairs, seeing the kids’ reactions during the event is reward enough.

“I just like seeing the kids’ faces,” Ash said. “They like to win and they even like to lose. It’s just a good kids’ event for any age and really any person can do it.”

Featured

Poultry show tests 4-H’ers knowledge

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 23, 2016. 

On a warm Friday morning, 4-H’ers gathered beneath a tent at the Adams County Fairgrounds to showcase their most prized poultry.

The show, which didn’t allow for the entering of live birds last year because of the threat of avian flu, was back to normal this time around.

This year’s broilers class — one of four different classes of competition — featured kids of all ages showing off the birds they’ve worked with for six straight weeks.

“Everyone gets chicks from the same production facility on the same day, so they start out of the gate running at the same place,” said Lynn Devries, extension educator for Adams County. “The broilers is a six-week project from the start of day one baby chicks until today, where they’re market ready.”

The morning kicked off with the broiler’s competition, followed by the showmanship, bantam class and clover kids competitions.

Every 4-H’er receives a ribbon for their submissions, which can act as an incentive for the extensive preparation needed to enter these birds into the show.

“A lot of preparation is needed for any show,” said 16-year old Dariana Burr of Juniata. “We have to get the cages ready, bathe the birds, polish their beaks, trim their nails, clean their legs. Birds are so dirty, so that takes a lot of time.”

After getting the birds ready for competition, 4-H’ers bring their birds to the fairgrounds and anxiously wait to hear from the judges.

Birds are judged according to the American Standard of Perfection standards, and depending on the class, can be judged on any number of things including meat capacity, plumage, comb quality and health of the bird’s feet.

One aspect of competition in particular requires a special amount of courage, knowledge of the bird and speaking skill. The showmanship portion involves a participant explaining the anatomy of the bird, identifying the types of feathers and posing the bird in front of a judge, along with the crowd, which can be quite the daunting task.

But for Burr, she tends to think of the opportunity as a chance to perfect some real life skills.

“The speaking experience, getting out in front of people, it’s really hard, but it helps you later on with college, high school and job interviews,” she said. “It’s just a great way to learn.”

While the 4-H’ers are often eager to receive recognition for their work in the form of purple, blue or red ribbons, to some, the competition can also be used to teach a lesson or two.

“I think it (the competition) just gives them a lot of confidence and some independent skills, as well. Many of our 4-H’ers are building responsibility and showing they can grow and take care of an animal,” Devries said. “It’s a project with a little guidance from their family. It’s something they can do on their own.”

In Burr’s case, being a part of a family full of 4-H’ers has not only kept her involved with 4-H, but has even prompted her to ponder a career working with animals.

“My mom was a veterinarian, so it makes you really get familiar with it,” she said. “I think I could see myself being a vet in the future.”

Featured

Thayer County Fair exhibitors cope with heat

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 22, 2016. 

DESHLER — With scorching temperatures hovering around the 100-degree mark on Thursday afternoon at the Thayer County Fairgrounds, fairgoers, 4-H’ers and livestock were feeling the heat.

The high temperatures forced the Thayer County Fair Board to tweak the fair schedule, which led to the decision to postpone the horse judging contest. Instead of judging horses, more of an emphasis was put on keeping all parties involved — including the animals — safe.

“It’s been pretty warm, but for the most part everyone is dealing with it and taking the proper precautions to keep their animals safe,” said Jacie Milius, Thayer County extension educator.

The horse judging originally was scheduled for 3 p.m., but the decision to postpone the event allowed for fair organizers to regroup and prepare for the night’s festivities.

While fair organizers were prepping for the night portion of the fair, livestock owners were busy in the 4-H Beef Barn tending to livestock in an effort to keep them cool. Preventative measures were taken, such as the placement of numerous fans and misters in the barn, along with steady refills of water to ensure the safety of livestock and poultry entries.

“In the middle of the afternoon, we normally go fill up buckets so they can drink some water,” said 12-year-old Cayden Huber of Hebron.

The heat also has caused livestock owners to pay special attention for signs of heat-related issues and even forced a tweak in the animals’ feeding schedule, among other things.

“A lot of early mornings and late nights … they don’t eat as good in the heat,” said livestock owner Tyson Hissong. “We feed in the morning anyways, but we just do it earlier and later to deal with the heat. They’re like humans: When it’s hot out, you don’t want to eat. When it’s hot out, they don’t want to eat.”

Hissong said the heat also has made livestock owners spend less time moving their animals out of the shade, which has had an effect on the preparation portion of the entry shows.

He also noted that the heat has forced many 4-H’ers to spend less time in the 4-H barn and more time at home.

Cayden was forced to get creative to stay out and about at the fair.

“We brought a mini fridge!” he announced with a smile.

While the livestock tend to receive a bit of special attention during the dog days of summer, so, too, do the people attending the fair.

Much like with the animals, a number of measures to ensure safety and fun were put in place well before the afternoon.

The Deshler Fire Department set up a booth inside the Thayer County Fairgrounds Activity Center equipped with free bottles of water, blood pressure machines and nurses on site.

In conjunction with those efforts from the fire department, the Thayer County Emergency Management team had a trailer set up right outside the Activity Center to help, too. The team was prepared to help fairgoers stay cool and stay safe.

While the horse judging event was the primary event affected by the weather, it wasn’t the only one.

The Thayer County Fair parade, a signature event of the county fair, runs past the Parkview Haven Nursing Home and traditionally allows for members to sit on the lawn and watch the parade.

The heat didn’t entirely stop Parkview Haven members from watching the parade, but they were forced to take precautions in the form of sun hats and plenty of water.

Overall, Milius has simple advice for those attending the fair.

“The people who come to the air just need to know that if they get too hot to come inside, drink plenty of water and be smart.”

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Open Class a hit at Smith County fair

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 16, 2016. 

SMITH CENTER, Kan. — With aspirations of recognition on the mind, patrons across Smith County gathered at the Kansas National Guard Armory there Thursday morning to enter exhibits in the Open Class portion of the Smith County Free Fair.

FFA and 4-H members, along with all other Smith County residents, had the opportunity to submit a variety of items for the Open Class exhibits.

“This is sort of the kick off of all the entries,” said Sandra Wick, Crop Production Agent for Kansas State University in the Post Rock Extension District.

The Open Class event allows people of all ages to submit items that are then separated into a number of categories, including crafts, foods, photography, fine arts and self-determination projects, among others. Foods and clothing were judged prior to Thursday, but all other categories were judged on site throughout the day Thursday.

All submissions have specific judging criteria, depending on the category in which they are entered. FFA and 4-H divisions use a special type of judging, called consultation judging, which allows judges to provide feedback on their decisions. This, in turn, allows kids to do better for the following year’s exhibits.

This event, in particular, is important in showcasing the creativity of the people of Smith County.

“They’ve worked all year on these projects, so we like to promote our 4-H youth programs through this,” Wick said. “So we encourage community members to come out and look at the accomplishments.”

Not only was there a foods category, but Smith County 4-H’ers also sold a wide selection of delectable foods as a fudraising effort for the organization.

The highlights of the Open Class submissions included a 15-foot cornstalk, a craft submission of a half-Christmas tree, half-mannequin dress design and self-determination project that showed community members how to transform old blue jeans into shoes for children in Africa.

The armory also was littered with school projects about reading, charity work and interests of children throughout the community.

“It’s cool just seeing the kids enjoying the event, which is what its all about,” said Shelley Garlow, a former 4-H kid who now helps organize the event. Perhaps the neatest project came from Ross Inland, a high school student from Smith Center High School. Inland turned a woods class project into an opportunity to explore and connect with his family and athletic heritage. He built a 42-by-35.5- inch walnut display case, and inside displayed a Kansas State letterman jacket and newspaper clippings from the 1930s track days of his great-grandfather, Lewis Sweat.

“My dad is always telling me he grew up woodworking, and I’ve been doing woodworking … so I thought it would be a great project,” Inland said.

Throughout the building process, Inland learned about a special connection he had with his great-grandfather: It wasn’t enough that they both ran competitively, but in fact, they both ran the same event — the 4×800.

“At the time (of building the case), I didn’t know it,” he said. “I thought it was really cool … it was just great to see my family had a great heritage with long-distance running.”

While there something for everybody at the Open Class showcase, the event itself gives the entire community a chance to interact and have fun.

“I think it definitely bonds the community together,” said Abbye Hendrich, the 4-H event coordinator. “You have all the different clubs from all over the county…they really don’t interact a lot during the year, but the fair brings them together and it’s a bonding process.”

The Smith County Free Fair continues through Monday.

Featured

‘Terry’s Skybox’ to be unveiled Saturday night

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 16, 2016. 

BLADEN — The Webster County Fair and Rodeo and 4-H club will unveil a memorial for a longtime member of the rodeo community Saturday night.

The memorial — a new PA announcer’s booth nestled inside the rodeo arena — is in memory of Terry Plambeck, who died of cancer on Feb. 22, 2015, at age 49.

The 10-by-24-foot wooden structure overlooks the rodeo arena in Bladen and is aptly named “Terry’s Skybox.”

“When we were talking about it (the memorial) and everything, it was kind of like Terry is looking over us,” said Troy Bonifas, chairman of the Webster County Rodeo.

The structure took about two months to build. After it was finished, it was then lifted into its place overlooking the arena.

The new PA booth was entirely constructed by volunteers who are friends and associates of the Plambeck family. The old one was in need of renovations, Bonifas said.

“It was time for a new one,” he said. “Terry always talked about sitting up there and how that was the best seat in the house. That was his dream for the rodeo arena — to have the best.”

The funds for the memorial were raised by Webster County 4-H’ers, who organized a barbecue supper, silent auction and dance to celebrate Plambeck’s life in 2015. During the event, the community raised around $21,000 and settled on the plan to build the booth in his honor.

The booth is a reminder of Plambeck’s impact on the rodeo and the people in the Bladen community.

“The 4-H and FFA programs benefited from his hard work, vision and support, and they wanted to give back to him in supporting this event in cooperation with his fellow members of the agriculture association to put a lasting memorial on his hard work and dedication to the fair, the rodeo and the youth of our country,” said Dewey Lienemann, Nebraska extension educator in Webster County.

Terry was widely regarded as a key player in making the county fair and rodeo a success for nearly two decades.

“He was the center point for the rodeo for 17 years,” Bonifas said. “Not having him there (last year), I felt lost. Everybody felt lost. The whole fair board felt lost. He was the go-to guy.”

The Webster County Fair and Rodeo runs through Saturday with the unveiling of the booth scheduled for 8 p.m. on Saturday during the rodeo festivities.

Though Plambeck is still dearly missed, Bonifas said the community is happy about the opportunity to honor his legacy.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “But we’re going to be proud.”

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Fire destroys home in Westbrook

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 11, 2016. 

Authorities are investigating the cause of a fire Monday afternoon that destroyed a home in the Westbrook subdivision on the west side of Hastings.

At 4:19 p.m., firefighters from the Hastings city and rural fire departments and Juniata Fire Department were called to 1411 Hillcrest Drive after flames were seen coming from a garage, which was attached to the home owned by Jeffrey and Candice Consbruck.

No one was home at the time of the fire and it is believed that the fire was first reported by a neighbor, according to Hastings Fire Chief Kent Gilbert.

He said the home is a “total loss.”

After arriving at the scene, Gilbert said firefighters were able to get the fire under control in about five minutes.

The siding of a neighboring home was damaged because of the radiant heat and large flames from the garage fire, Gilbert said.

Firefighters returned to the home Tuesday morning after the fire rekindled, which Gilbert said is a normal occurrence. He said it likely was caused by hidden embers and a change of wind direction.

Hastings Fire and Rescue also extinguished a fire Monday morning that damaged an unoccupied house at 701 Sewell Ave. Gilbert said firefighters returned to that location multiple times because of rekindling.

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Mutton bustin’ ‘good time’ at Clay County Fair

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 8, 2016. 

CLAY CENTER — Behind the backdrop of a rich Nebraska sky, a crowd gathered around a dirt-floored arena on Thursday evening to take in one of the main attractions of the Clay County Fair: mutton bustin’.

The event, which features children riding on the back of sheep for four to five seconds at a time, gives kids an opportunity to experience something different.

“It’s just something new, something to try,” said Kayla Onderson, mother of Zarriana Witherspoon, 5, who was one of the riders. “I wanted her to try something new, even if it wasn’t something she was familiar with.”

 Thursday’s competition at the Clay County Fairgrounds in Clay Center featured 27 riders, varying in ages and weight classes with a chance to compete at the Nebraska State Fair on the line.Kids, dressed in traditional short-sleeve or cut-off plaid shirts, jeans and cowboy or cowgirl boots, simply had to walk up and register to ride the sheep.

“Anyone who wants to mutton bust, come on up and we’ll get a number for you,” shouted Lorraine McClain, manager of McClain’s Mutton Busters, prior to the event.

After registering for the event, riders are assigned a number and are instructed to line up single file to wait their turn to ride.

Once their number is called, kids are helped onto the back of the sheep and then instructed to “grab a hold and don’t let go.”

While riding a sheep can feel like a daunting task for the kids, it also can cause a feeling of uneasiness for the parents.

“I was a little nervous (watching), because I did that as a kid and I got stepped on,” Onderson said. “(Zarriana) hasn’t been brave enough the past couple years to do it, so I suggested it again and she wanted to do it.”

Mutton bustin’ has a 20-plus year history at the fair and, according to McClain, has even been a springboard to the rodeo circuit for a few former riders.

“A lot of the kids are hung on to (by the rodeo clowns); the next year they ride alone,” McClain said. “We have a lot of riders now who are bull riders. They got started when they were 3 years old and they keep it going.”

Regardless of the result of the ride, the event gives kids a chance to learn more about animals and have fun while doing it.

“It gives them a lot of confidence and it gives kids the chance to know animals,” McClain said. “A lot of them just have a big, good time.”

Featured

Holstein ready to ‘Party in the Park’

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 7, 2016. 

HOLSTEIN — With traditional fair season in full swing, the town of Holstein is putting a spin on its own version of fun and entertainment with a Party in the Park event Saturday.

The event features activities throughout the day and night and is the first of its kind in the community since 2012.

“The last event we had similar to this was the 125th Celebration in 2012,” event spokesperson Heather Kuhn said. “The committee hopes to have a good attendance so we can make it an annual event.”

She hopes the events will shine a light on all the hard work that goes into an event like this.

“The Holstein Improvement Committee takes pride in the projects and pride we do,” she said. “They are made possible by the generous patrons who attend and support Holstein events.”

Things begin Saturday at 11 a.m. with the Holstein Fire Department field day, which will teach children about fire equipment and trucks. The field day events will also include a street water slide and a Medi-Vac Helicopter ride raffle drawing. A lunch will also be provided at the Park Pavilion.

After the field day, there will be a sand volleyball tournament and various games at the Holstein sand volleyball courts.

Following the volleyball tournament, patrons have the opportunity to indulge in a smoked pork chop evening meal with a baked potato and green beans at the pavilion.

After dinner, partygoers have the opportunity enjoy a beer garden from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. and an outdoor concert from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. featuring the Element Variety Band of Omaha.

“We’re super pumped about this band because they play a little bit of everything that will appeal to all ages,” Kuhn said.

She expects the event will have a close-knit feel and hopes newcomers learn a little more about the town.

“Folks socializing and having a good time in a smaller town like Holstein is always a good thing. Holstein has a pretty laid back, friendly vibe and I hope everyone gets to experience that first-hand at our events,” she said. “Our activities that out-of=towners attends should allow them to see that Holstein has more to offer than expected.”

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CCC grads offer dental care in Haiti

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 7, 2016. 

After years of classroom practice, four graduates of Central Community College-Hastings and their instructor traveled to Haiti and recently spent a week providing dental services to those in need.

During the May 23 to June 1 trip, the group also partnered with Mission II Haiti, a nonprofit organization in Kearney, to install water wells in Cap-Haitien.

“Our main focus certainly was the dental portion, which was seeing patients and applying dental sealants,” said Kim Danehey-Nibbe, a clinic assistant at CCC-Hastings.

The group of students consisted of Kayla Keep of Hastings, Chelsi Anderson of Brush, Colorado, Michaella Beck of Gregory, South Dakota, and Hannah Fleecs of Sutherland.

The trip allowed the graduates a chance to put what they had learned into action.

“It was a nice experience,” Keep said. “It was something I had never done before, so it was really nice to share the skills I learned in school to people who don’t have access to care like that.”

The trip was proposed last fall with 10 students interested at first, but, over time, the group dwindled to four.

After firmly selecting a date, Danehey-Nibbe explored grant options to help cover the cost of the trip. A month before the trip, the group was awarded what’s called a mini grant opportunity through CCC, which covered about 90 percent of the costs for the trip.

After arriving in Cap-Haitien, the students began seeing patients and giving dental treatments. In total, they saw 135 patients and applied 1,372 sealants.

The students worked in impoverished neighborhoods and lacked an office or traditional work setting.

“The first place we went was a local church,” Keep said. “It was super hot and we were drenched in sweat. It was different because we were used to being inside and basically we only had the lights on our glasses and kids were sitting on the ground. But, to be honest, as we were working, we were so focused on the kids that we didn’t even notice.”

The heat and limited lighting weren’t the only workplace complications.

“At one of the orphanages, we had chickens and cats around our feet,” Danehey-Nibbe said.

Along with providing basic dental care, the students distributed toothbrushes and toothpaste and educated the locals on the importance of dental care. They also conducted dental assessments, which wasn’t unlike what they did as part of their education at CCC-Hastings.

“They counted the total number of teeth, counted how many were decayed, counted how many were missing and how many were filled, so we could do statistics,” Danehey-Nibbe said. “They were used to doing that here (at CCC).”

Despite the lack of dental education and dental care treatment, records indicate that the number of dental problems in Haiti were similar to that of children in the United States.

When they weren’t providing dental care, the group was installing water wells throughout villages in Cap-Haitien. The water well installation process involved digging the wells, putting casing in the wells and applying pump heads to the wells.

The surrounding communities were thankful of the group’s willingness to help provide more accessible sources of water.

“They were very appreciative, especially of the wells. They were having to travel so much farther just to get water — drinking water and cooking water,” Danehey-Nibbe said.

Overall, Keep enjoyed the experience and felt the trip impacted her as much as it did the people they helped.

“Overall, my favorite part was going to know a different culture that I wasn’t used to,” she said. “That was good for myself, just to see how other people live and to be accustomed to another culture. I wish we could’ve helped more, but I think it made a difference in their lives.”

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Area siblings like to race cars, chase storms

UPLAND — Siblings Dylan and Emma Steinkruger like to race cars and chase storms.

Dylan, 20, and Emma, 12, of rural Upland have 17 years of racing experience between them and an impressive record of victories at KAM Raceway. And while they both love racing at the track southeast of Hastings, they also enjoy a hobby that many might deem a bit more obscure: Storm chasing.

“The first time we ever went, I started crying,” Emma said. “It was one of the really big storms where one of the tornados touched down and we were really close to it.”

Storm chasing — the act of traveling toward a storm and attempting to get as close as possible towards the eye of the storm — is often deemed a perilous act.

But for Dylan, that danger and rush of adrenaline, much like in racing, is part of the allure.

“It probably has something to do with the adrenaline rush. More so, I think they are just related by the fact they are two things that I’ve been passionate about since I was young, and have been lucky enough to be able to pursue,” he said.

While the two are now known around KAM Raceway for their driving prowess, it didn’t necessarily start out that way.

Dylan and Emma’s father, Jim Steinkruger, recalled how after Dylan’s first attempt on the track, Jim wondered if he would ever go back because it wasn’t good experience.

“The first night that Dylan and I went to the races, he went out there and it didn’t go very well,” Jim said.

But Dylan stuck with it.

For Emma, it was her first wreck on the track that cause her some panic.

“I spun out, then the first car hit me and another car hit me,” she said. “I was kind of scared, because it hurt and I flew against the side of the seat.”

She, too, stuck with it.

Emma races in the Jr. Karts class and has two straight second-place points finishes under her belt.

Dylan is the defending champion from the Wingless 600’s class and, after three first-place finishes already this year, is eyeing a second title.

Their success on the track means different things for both of them.

For Emma, it’s about taking pride in being one of the few girls competing on any given night at KAM.

For Dylan, it’s about applying what he’s learned on the racetrack to the classroom, and vice versa.

“I think I’ve learned a lot about having expectations, dealing with failure, dealing with success — you name it,” he said.

Applying what he’s learned in the classroom — specifically his physics courses via his course load at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln — has equipped him with a different perspective on how to approach Friday night races.

“It’s given me some guidance in terms of making adjustments I’m making on the car,” he said. “I think racing makes the classes I take less tedious when I can find a way to apply a theoretical concept, like Newton’s second law, to the physical affect that 15 to 20 pounds has on the acceleration of a racecar.”

As far as those grander plans go, Emma plans on attending college in hopes of becoming a veterinarian. By her own admission, she already has some practice taking care of animals.

“I love animals,” she said. “I’ll take in any animal. We have tons of cats we take in and feed every morning.”

Dylan has his eyes set on becoming a meteorologist and plans on chasing storms to continue to be part of his future.

For him, it’s the rush that keeps him turning left on the track and driving toward the eye of the storm.“Each of them provide unforgettable moments that keep me coming back,” he said. “Just like there is no better feeling than winning a race on a Friday night, the feeling of the wind behind your back getting sucked up into a developing super cell is indescribable.”

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Golden memories of Glenvil High School

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 2, 2016. 

GLENVIL — For one school day per year, the seniors at Glenvil High School roamed the halls to let the freshmen know who was running the show.

They controlled the freshmen’s every move that day, including their school day attire, and put the high school newcomers through the proverbial ringer.

While that would land those seniors in all sorts of trouble today, more than 50 years ago it was part of a ritual that to this day provides lasting memories of attending school in the two-and-a-half-story brick building that still stands next to the town’s water tower.

“The freshman initiation started early in the morning and it was done by the seniors and we started at the flag pole downtown,” said Donna Meyer of Hastings, 68, a member of the class of 1965. “We dressed in ridiculous costumes and they assigned us a character to be. We had to do terrible things like wear a garlic string around our throat or eat gross things, but when we went down the (school) fire escape, that ended our initiation.”

At the bottom of the fire escape, which was a long, circular tube that sloped down the outside of the south side of the building, seniors were waiting to douse them with buckets of water and a handful flour. That pastings signified the end of the initiation.

This little caveat was just one of the memories that makes the story of Glenvil High School so special to Meyer and other graduates who over the Memorial Day weekend made the difficult decision to stop having alumni banquets. This May marked the 50th anniversary of the last class to graduate from the high school.

The high school closed in 1966 as a result of consolidation efforts between the rival towns of Deweese, Edgar, Fairfield and Glenvil and the creation of the Sandy Creek school district.

Since Sandy Creek didn’t open until the 1967-68 school year, high school students in Glenvil attended Fairfield High School for one year.

The 113-year-old Glenvil school building, which was used for elementary classrooms in the town as part of the Sandy Creek school district for another 30 years, has been renovated into apartment-style housing but many remnants from generations ago still remain.

A stone-etched sign hangs on the main entrance reads: GLENVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT – 49 – 1903, which reflects a time before the town changed its spelling to Glenvil.

After crossing the threshold, the interior still resembles that of a schoolhouse.

The hardwood, mahogany brown wood floors look worn, but remain sturdy. Tattered doors still hang and coat hooks still line the halls.

On each side of the first floor entrance a wooden staircase leads up to the second floor where about halfway up the two staircases merge into one central, wider set of stairs.

“I remember the segregated stairs and it was tradition,” Meyer said. “The girls went up the right hand-side and boys went up the left-hand side.”

The main floor was a beehive of activity with students in grades 1-12 buzzing through the hallways, despite that floor being reserved primarily for the younger grades.

That section of the building was equipped with elementary school classrooms and one classroom that could house all students, which was known as the assembly room.

“The one side where the fire escape was, we called that the assembly room and all of the students could assemble in that room,” said Elmer Murman, 86, of Hastings, a member of the class of 1947. “We would assemble in that room and we had five rooms off of that assembly room that we would go to class in.”

The high school classrooms were on the second floor along with offices for administration.

Not all school activities took place inside the school building, however. Many, including basketball and volleyball games, proms and even graduation, were also held at the Glenvil Auditorium, which is on the main street through town.

The auditorium was often the site for school and community events and celebrations, including a potluck dinner in 1950 after Glenvil won its only state championship. The Bulldogs, coached by Howard Zook, beat Uehling 43-33 to win the Class D boys state basketball title.

If something wasn’t going on either at the school or the auditorium, students often found something to do downtown usually in the vicinity of the town flag pole in the middle of the street.

Murman said students often played basketball or baseball on the playground area over their lunch break, but there were occasions when they journeyed downtown for something else to do.

“We played pool sometimes during the noon hour, if we had time,” Murman said.

Meyer said she is glad that she got to attend a small school in small town.

“My fondest memories were that I just knew almost everybody here,” she said.

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Siblings race toward a bright future

*This story was featured in the June 29 edition of the Hastings Tribune. 

For siblings Dylan and Emma Steinkruger, racing is just a stepping-stone for grander plans.

Dylan, 20, and Emma, 12, have 17 years of racing experience between them and an impressive resume of victories at KAM Raceway, but have aspirations that extend far from the racing world.

While they both love racing, they also enjoy a hobby that many might deem a bit more obscure: storm chasing.

 “The first time we ever went…I started crying,” Emma Steinkruger said. “It was one of the really big storms where one of the tornados touched down and we were really close to it.”Storm chasing — the act of traveling towards a storm and attempting to get as close as possible towards the eye of a storm — is often deemed a perilous act.

But for Dylan,that danger and adrenaline, much like in racing, is part of the allure.

“It probably has something to do with the adrenaline rush. More so, I think they are just related by the fact they are two things that I’ve been passionate about since I was young, and have been lucky enough to be able to pursue,” he said.

While both are now known around KAM Raceway for their driving prowess, it didn’t always start out that way.

Dylan and Emma’s father, Jim Steinkruger, recalled how after his son’s first attempt on the track, he wondered if he would ever go back.

“The first night that Dylan and I went to the races, he went out there and it didn’t go very well. He said, ‘I don’t know if I want to go back out there and do this’,” Jim recalled.

Cooler heads prevailed and Dylan stuck to his racing plans. For Emma, it was her first wreck that left a lasting mark.

“I spun out, then the first car hit me and another car hit me,” she said. “I was kind of scared, because it hurt and I flew against the side of the seat.”

Both overcame those initial obstacles and never looked back. Emma races in the Jr. Karts class and has two straight second place points finishes under her belt. Dylan is the defending champion from the Wingless 600’s class and after three first place finishes already this year, is eyeing a second title.

Their success on the track means different things for both of them. For Emma, it’s about taking pride in being one of the few girls competing on any given night at KAM. For Dylan, it’s about applying what he’s learned on the racetrack and applying it to the classroom, and vice versa.

“There have been a lot of things I have been able to apply. I think I’ve learned a lot about having expectations, dealing with failure, dealing with success — you name it,” he said.

Applying what he’s learned in the classroom — specifically his physics courses via his course load at UNL — has equipped him with a different perspective on how to approach Friday night races.

“It’s given me some guidance in terms of making adjustments I’m making on the car…I think racing makes the classes I take less tedious when I can find a way to apply a theoretical concept, like Newton’s 2nd Law, to the physical affect that 15-20 pounds has on the acceleration of a racecar,” he said.

That non-traditional perspective hs certainly paid off in the form racing results.

“He’s an excellent driver,” said Kim Hermann, Secretary/Treasurer of KAM Raceway. “He’s one of those guys who can get to the front and not have confrontations with anybody.”

As far as those grander plans go, Emma plans on attending college in hopes of becoming a veterinarian. By her own admission, she already has some practice taking care of animals.

“I love animals,” she said. “I’ll take in any animal. We have tons of cats we take in and feed every morning.”

Dylan has his eyes set on becoming a meteorologist and plans on chasing storms for sometime to come. For him, it’s the rush that keeps him turning left on the track and driving towards the eye of the storm.

“Each of them provide unforgettable moments that keep me coming back,” he said. “Just like there is no better feeling than winning a race on a Friday night, the feeling of the wind behind your back getting sucked up into a developing super cell is indescribable.”

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Ricketts announces grant for Omaha and Hebron companies

*This story was featured in the June 29 edition of the Hastings Tribune. 

A Hebron-based manufacturer was among 2016 grant recipients for the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative.

Governor Pete Ricketts announced Monday that MetalQuest of Hebron and Distefano Technology & Mfg. (Distefano) of Omaha are grant recipients this year.

The program, which Ricketts proposed in January of 2015, connects young Nebraskans to careers in the manufacturing and technology sectors.

MetalQuest, a manufacturing company based in Hebron, which has partnered with the Manufacturing Career Pathway Program at South Central Nebraska Unified School District, anticipates this grant will open doors for a number of students.

“MetalQuest is thrilled to be the recipient of a Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Grant,” Scott Volk, Vice President of MetalQuest, said in receiving the grant. “This grant will have a direct impact, exposing area students in grades 6-12 to exciting and challenging manufacturing careers.”

For students at the South Central school districts of Sandy Creek and Lawrence-Nelson, the DYTI grant will provide students a chance at real world experience through project-based learning strategies and is expected to assist with the growth of the manufacturing talent pool. MetalQuest, in conjunction with the South Central Unified School District, plans to support and offer the Career Pathway Program, which will place an emphasis in manufacturing to students in grades 6-12.

Students in grades 6-8 will have the opportunity to enroll in exploratory courses in manufacturing while under the supervision of a college-level instructor. These classes are designed to allow students interested in a manufacturing career path to learn about project development at the Ninth and 10th grade level.

Last year, Governor Ricketts and DED awarded the grant to Flowserve in Hastings, and Hollman Media, LLC, of Kearney for the 2015-16 school year.

Through this grant, DED is providing upwards of $125,000 in financial assistance to both MetalQuest and Distefano for the 2016-17 school year.

“Congratulations to MetalQuest and Distefano on receiving the 2016 grants to support their efforts to expose young Nebraskans to careers in manufacturing and IT,” Governor Ricketts said. “Public-private partnerships like these are setting the bar when it comes with working with their communities and schools to connect youth with career paths with good-paying jobs.”

During the press conference Ricketts applauded both recipients for applications that demonstrated strong collaboration with areas schools in creating plans to actively address workforce needs of industries in south central Nebraska and the greater Omaha area.

The manufacturing industry is identified as Nebraska’s second largest industry and this grant is expected to create jobs, connect companies with highly skilled employees and promote awareness of the industry’s growing workforce needs.

“This program is helping us increase awareness among our younger students about the many excellent careers that exist for them,” said Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) Director Courtney Dentlinger.

In 2015, Governor Ricketts proposed DYTI in response to spikes in innovation in the information technology and manufacturing sectors. In order to qualify for the DYTI grant, businesses must be in the manufacturing sector or in need of high-skill information technology professionals and must partner with schools to increase participation in hands-on career exploration and workplace learning opportunities, starting with students in the seventh and eighth grades.

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KFKX holds send-off reunion at college

*This story was featured in the June 27 edition of the Hastings Tribune. 

More than 20 current and former Hastings College students spent Saturday participating in live, on-air broadcasts and radio shows one final time before “KFKX 90.1 the X” goes off the air Thursday after 18 years.

The event was planned in order to allow former KFKX on-air talent to recall memories of their time with the radio station, and to hop on the airways one last time at the C.J. and Marie Gray Center for the Communications Arts on the Hastings College campus.

“Today is something that I’m glad is happening. It’s a sendoff for KFKX and it’s a celebration to what KFKX was for so many people,” said Russell Heitmann, a current Hastings College student.

In 1988 when President Ronald Reagan spoke at the college he introduced the on-campus radio station, which became a facet of the college’s journalism and broadcasting programs throughout the years. The first on-air content came on Sept. 6, 1988, when Reagan famously said “KFKX is on the air.”

Over the years, KFKX has evolved from not only a community and campus radio station, but as a medium for students to broadcast athletic events, provide news updates, host live radio shows and stream music.

It even became an integral part of the journalism curriculum in the form of the audio fundamentals class taught by KFKX General Manager Sharon Brooks.

For alums, current students and even Brooks, the radio station became a form of service to not only the campus, but also to the community.

“It was a chance to have good ideas, make mistakes, experiment and learn about growing out of yourself,” Brooks said. “It’s the ultimate service learning, because that’s what the First Amendment is all about, which is serving those who want to know what’s happening in their culture and government with their leaders.”

The reunion activities Saturday included live radio shows, musical selections from those in the Gray Center and featured recorded content from previous years during the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. time slot.

The group was on the air throughout the day and the reunion concluded with a dinner at the Hastings College Barrett Alumni Center. Those attending the reunion also were allowed an opportunity to listen to old shows, either on cassette tapes or CDs, and purchase shirts for the event.

The reunion gave students — past and present — the chance to come together and share the KFKX experience one last time.

“Today is about coming together as a KFKX family,” said Dan Peters, a Hastings College graduate. “We have students here, we have employees and we have alums and we just are sharing that common connection we have working for this crazy radio station and sharing those experiences with one another.”

Although the radio station is going dark, students still will have the opportunity to produce content and broadcast sporting events via a live stream beginning with the fall semester.

KFKX, above anything else, is being remembered as an inclusive place that connected both campus and community members through sound.

“Over the years, it’s been an opportunity for students to participate in something they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise,” Peters said. “One of the cool parts about the history of KFKX is who has been a part of this station. It hasn’t just been media people — it wasn’t just broadcasters. It has been history majors, social science majors, biology majors and just people who liked music and wanted to be a part of that.”

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The end of the Thunder as we know it

July 4 2016: This is a day that will live in infamy. While much of the country was devouring burgers, chugging beer and shooting fireworks, Kevin Durant made more noise than them all.

During a post penned to The Players Tribune, Durant announced his decision to leave Oklahoma City and join a super team in the bay area. He’s inked a 2-year, 54.3 million-dollar deal with a player-option after next season. The internet went bananas, Twitter users lost their minds and NBA chatter ran rampant.

We know what this means for the Warriors: they’ve become even more deadly, they have the last three MVP award winners on their roster, they have perhaps the deadliest (and most versatile) lineup in NBA history (Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Green and Durant) and are set up nicely, barring a hitch in the Wheel of Fortune style game show that has become NBA free agency, to embark on a dynastic pursuit like the world has never seen.

But where does this leave the Oklahoma City Thunder?

The Thunder have lost their identity. Kevin Durant was the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was their leader. He was their franchise player. He was the first star player for a city and a franchise that never had one. But now he’s gone to be a part of something we’ve never foreseen and in the process, has left an irreparable hole in the hearts of millions.

The future looks grim for Oklahoma City.

They have Russell Westbrook for just one more season. The hope is that he will channel this loss of Durant into even more fuel for a player who appears to never need it. While Westbrook looked like the best player in the world in spurts without Durant two years ago, the Thunder also endured some nasty loses without the 7-foot sharpshooter.

There are a number of options for OKC to consider, but none of them look like good ones.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has to consider trading Westbrook, if not for anything but out of fear. OKC can’t dare lose Westbrook for nothing, like they did with Durant. The 2017 NBA Draft is shaping up to be a mega-class and the Thunder could try to ship Westbrook for a package of picks and begin to start over.

They could trade Westbrook for young players already, perhaps Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and a 1st round pick from the Lakers. Still, I’m not sure that either is going to keep them in the championship hunt out West.

There’s always the option of trying to manufacturer a star for a star type trade, but at this point, it looks tough to manage.

With Durant bolting for greener pastures, it’s safe to assume Westbrook might have the same thing on his mind next summer.

Perhaps Presti was prepared for this. That draft night trade, the one that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando for former No.2 overall pick Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilysaova and the rights to Domantis Sabonis, might have been more doomsday prepping than preparation for another title chase next year.

Shipping Westbrook immediately might allow OKC to begin to regroup immediately. Perhaps they should hold on to him, try to work on a new deal and make him the face of the franchise. Regardless, there is no easy route to take for Presti and the Thunder.

Presti — widely regarded as one of the most methodical and sharpest GMs in the business — is now facing the toughest task he will ever face: How do the Thunder move on from Kevin Durant?

The Thunder have lost their everything and its to fair to ask the question if whether or not we’ve seen the last of the Oklahoma City Thunder in a contending role for the foreseeable future.

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KAM Raceway official, family share need for speed

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 25, 2016. 

Secretary. Accountant. Marketer. Treasurer. Farmer. These are just a few of the hats Kim Hermann wears on a day-to-day basis.

Kim, 53, holds the job title of Secretary/Treasurer at KAM Raceway, but is more of a jack-of-all-trades, as compared to an ordinary secretary or treasurer.

“I do the secretarial stuff, so I count the money and get that deposited every week, I pay the bills, I do a lot,” Kim said. “The guys who usually end up president and vice president usually have jobs, and I can’t say that I don’t have a job because I help out a lot at the farm, too, but I have this free time to give back, and I think KAM is worth it.”

KAM Raceway, the only weekly mini sprint track in Nebraska, opened 37 years ago thanks to Charlie Reece and Dick Stelzer.

It has been a mainstay of the Hastings community ever since.

Highlights at the track have included the biggest race in its history in 1983 in the form of the Modified Midget Nationals. Now, it’s known for its Friday night races from the end of April through the end of August, including a roster of racers ranging 7 to nearly 60 years old.

Although KAM has experienced changes over the years, a few constants have remained.

“In high school, we would go out to KAM … us girls would go out there if some of the guys were racing,” Kim said. “KAM has been around, and it has gone through some changes, but some of those people who were there in the beginning are still around.”

Kim was introduced to racing during her adolescence, thanks to a babysitter who liked taking her to the racetrack near Doniphan.

Then, after spending her own Friday nights at KAM during her teenage years, she was a racing fan for life.

After getting married and starting a family, she made a point to keep racing in her life. Her family followed suit.

“To begin with, I think you have to like racing, and I grew up liking racing. Then, my husband liked it, too, so that was a common thing (for us),” Kim said. “We’ve taken family trips to NASCAR races and already had friends at KAM. Then from (son) Jeff deciding he wanted to race and actually going out there and doing it.”

While Kim is someone “everyone knows” at KAM, she isn’t the only Hermann who is a constant at the racetrack.

In fact, everyone in her family plays a role in the day-to-day tasks at the historic raceway.

Her son, Jeff, 26, is the president at KAM and has been racing for 11 years. Her husband, Gaylon, 54, volunteers and donates at the track, while also racing on Friday nights. Her youngest son, Walker, 19, is a consistent racer and spent much of his childhood at the track.

Jeff drives the No. 11 car in the winged 600cc sprint class. Gaylon drives the No. 23 car in the winged 600cc sprint class. Walker drives the No. 17 car in the non-wing 600cc sprint class.

With that being said, the Hermann name is certainly one spectators can’t go without hearing on any given Friday night.

“Anyone who comes out to watch a race night out at KAM would struggle to not hear the name Hermann at least three times,” Walker said. “KAM Raceway has become a piece of our family, as we’ve equally become part of the KAM Raceway family.”

Most families don’t have an activity that everyone enjoys, so racing is special to the Hermanns.

“It’s very nice and unique knowing that your family is going to be together on Friday nights,” Gaylon said. “And even though our sons are grown up, we still all enjoy doing this together.”

Aside from Kim’s immediate family, she also feels a sense of family from the racing community as a whole at KAM.

“KAM is definitely family,” she said. “A racing community is different than any other. KAM is very family-orientated, but when a group of guys is working on a car ready to race, it’s a group effort. If you win, you celebrate as a group.”

While she enjoys her time out at KAM week in and week out, the three-month season can take its toll. In fact, it can be a grind.

But for Hermann, she hasn’t let it get to that point yet.

“It hasn’t yet because it’s only my second year doing it,” she said. “But I suppose when the boys decide to quit I’ll quit, because we’re out there as a family.”

Even when Kim and her family decide to step away from the racetrack, she still thinks they won’t be able to stay away.

“It’s become very essential and important in our lives,” she said. “I know Walker is going to move on probably and I know Jeff is probably going to want to keep racing, but if we ever quit I’ll miss it and the people out there, and I could see us going out there and watching on Friday nights.”

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Pony Express rides again

OAK — Dozens of onlookers watched as Chris Boele of Oak rode into town carrying a parcel on horseback as a part of the 37th annual National Pony Express Association Pony Express Re-Ride here on Friday morning.

The re-ride — which began on June 15 in Sacramento, Calif., and is expected to travel nearly 2,000 miles to its terminal point at the Patee House in St. Joseph, Mo. — is a time-honored way to preserve history for this organization and its members.

“It’s a historical re-enactment and it was such a deal back in the 1860s when they started it and carried all the news to the central United States to the West Coast,” said Dick Heinrichs, a member of the National Pony Express Association and re-ride participant for 35 years.

Throughout the journey, riders across the country are dressed historically accurately — donning red, long-sleeve shirts; jeans; boots; a yellow bandana knotted around their collar; and brown vests, tattered with patches from years of participating in the re-rides.

The patches, which highlight significant years of riding, fill the vests of veteran riders and serve as badges of honor.

“That’s what they wore,” Alice Heinrichs said, referring to the Pony Express riders of the 1860s. “Every so many years you get another patch.”

Riders recalled memorable rides from over the years, including some rides that went straight through the night in certain areas. One ride in particular, during 1996, featured special historical significance.

“Back in 1996, when they had the Olympics in Georgia, we got to carry the Olympic torch,” Dick Heinrichs said. “Nebraska and Kansas carried it, and the torches were lit and we carried them.”

While on horseback, the riders transport the mochila — a leather mail pouch — and specially postmarked mail across seven states. The journey begins in California, and riders will venture through parts of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri during the trip.

The particular route through parts of Tribland started late Thursday night, with riders reaching Fort Kearny around midnight, and continuing south and east until reaching the Oregon Trail historical marker just off U.S. Highway 281 south of Hastings.

Boele took to horseback around 7 a.m. in Hastings and made the four-hour trek to Oak. He was pleased with his first experience as a re-rider.

“This is my first year, and it was pretty fun,” Boele said. “There was a lot of rich history, and it’s awesome to ride horses, and to be a part of this is pretty cool.”

After Boele arrived, fellow re-riders greeted him while they signed the mochila. The riders signed the mochila before it was transported to a different horse and Carol Anderson of Deshler embarked on the next stretch of transport.

Newcomers Boele and Seth McClure of Deweese also took the Pony Express Oath Friday morning and were initiated into the National Pony Express Association.

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Seniors enjoy ‘America’s game’ at Duncan Field

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 22, 2016. 

A group of more than 75 senior citizens filled the stands at Duncan Field on Tuesday evening during a pair of American Legion baseball games as a part of the annual Good Samaritan Society’s Senior Night.

The night allowed seniors to enjoy a night of baseball and fun.

“This will be the second year we’re doing this,” said Sandrea Marx, Good Samaritan Village’s community relations coordinator. “We started it last year. I thought, why not have a senior night at Duncan Field? So I invited all the other senior groups in town and brought a group out here for the evening to enjoy one of America’s pastimes — baseball.”

Adults 55 and over were given seat cushions and a coupon for a free popcorn and a 16-ounce soda. Some seniors also were involved in the game as a group from Good Samaritan Village sang the national anthem, while one lucky senior was chosen to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Jimmie Meers, 68, a Good Samaritan Village resident and veteran, was chosen to throw that pitch.

Meers admitted he was nervous upon hearing that he was selected.

“I didn’t know how far I can throw it,” he said. “I don’t know if I can make it … if I would’ve known sooner, maybe I could’ve practiced.”

His wife, Shirley Meers, 63, was a part of the group of seniors who sang the national anthem Tuesday night.

For that group, singing before the game was a special moment.

“I think it’s an honor to have us sing tonight,” she said.

Along with the group singing the national anthem, Paul Hamelink, Good Samaritan’s senior living administrator, took part in the broadcast alongside Mike Will, sports director for Platte River Radio.

The idea to join the broadcast was to help further add to the experience for everyone involved.

“As we planned senior night, we thought about ways to make it a great night for everybody. We knew the broadcast was a part of that,” Hamelink said. “It’s just a blast for me to sit next to him, talk about Good Samaritan and watch some baseball.”

Overall, the night allowed seniors to support Hastings Legion baseball and enjoy “America’s game,” he said.

“Not only does this support our local kids, which I think we should do, but it’s America’s game,” Hamelink said. “Everyone has a connection to baseball.”

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Rodeo teen keeps her eye on the prize

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 17, 2016. 

Libby Winchell remembers all too well the first time she thought she was blind.

Libby, then just a sixth-grader in middle school, recalls waking up and not being able to see clearly.

Still, she woke up, completed her normal morning routine and went to school. It was only when her social studies teacher called upon her when she revealed to others about her vision problems.

“My social studies teacher asked me to read something and I couldn’t read it. I couldn’t read anything,” said Libby, 17, who is competing in this week’s Nebraska State Finals Rodeo at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Hastings. “She didn’t think I was for real.”

She wasn’t kidding.

Later that afternoon, she revealed her vision issues to her parents and was subsequently taken to the emergency room and began a battery of tests, which included an MRI, CAT scan and lumbar puncture.

With no luck on the prognosis, her mother, Shawna Winchell, 49, took her to the Children’s Hospital in Denver.

That drive from Scottsbluff to the Children’s Hospital in Denver became one of the biggest low points in Libby’s medical saga.

“After she had the lumbar puncture in our hometown and they punctured her six times … you’re supposed to clot and she didn’t clot,” Shawna said. “Her and I were driving to Denver and she was throwing up. That was our low point.”

Upon arriving at the hospital, Libby was diagnosed with optic neuritis, which is an inflammation of the optic nerve or the bundle of nerve fibers that transmits visual information from your eye to your brain. The condition had eliminated her ability to see and caused debilitating migraines.

“When I entered the hospital, my vision was 2400, which is legally blind,” Libby said.

To combat her optic neuritis, doctors prescribed her a regimen of steroids, which were intended to help with her vision problems. Instead, they unintentionally caused an already existent ulcer in her abdomen to perforate.

The perforation of her ulcer, Libby’s words “blew up her stomach,” and caused her situation to go from bad to worse.

“I woke up and went to the bathroom and it hit me,” Libby said. “My dad saw it and my stomach was black, so it was all air. They stopped one surgery and put me in another surgery. I was on the X-ray table and (the doctors) said ‘we need to get you in surgery now.’ ”

After a successful surgery, the ulcer was treated, but one issue still remained: Libby’s vision.

Once again, she was prescribed steroids and this time, the steroids, slowly but surely, helped repair her vision.

Despite her vision being repaired, the impact of her illnesses was certainly still being felt.

“She was a sick girl. She could care less about doing anything and that was a change that was very tough — knowing that wasn’t her,” Shawna said. “She was sick and sicker than we could ever imagine, so that was scary.”

Her illnesses certainly had an effect on both herself and her loved ones, but it also impacted something near-and-dear to her heart — rodeo.

Libby had missed a year of rodeo and felt a longing to get back to the sport she refers to as “her life.”

Still, her return — much like the previous year of her life — didn’t come without its fair share of challenges and hardships.

“Once I got out of the hospital, I competed and had a pretty good fall, but went back to the Children’s Hospital for a check up and they said that my optic nerve had swelled more and had gotten bigger,” Winchell said. “They said a fall could make it worse.”

After receiving news that a fall, which occurs as regularly as a bump or bruise in the sport of rodeo, could cause a step back in her progress, she made a decision.

She would forever compete while wearing a helmet.

Ever since, she, much like the horse she competes on, has hit the ground running.

“I came back my seventh-grade year in the spring and we went to junior high nationals. At that time, barrels were flat on the ground because my depth perception wasn’t very good,” Libby said. “I was relying on muscle memory coming back, just a lot of muscle memory.”

After finding herself back on a horse and back in the arena on a regular basis, Libby once again added another element to her riding attire. This time, it was a bell.

In the beginning, when her vision still wasn’t clear, she attached the bell to her saddle in order to alert riders that she was in the same area they were in. Now, she simply rides with it as a constant reminder – of both her past and what she’s overcome to reach this point.

“I have the bell, and it’s just for me,” Libby said. “And I just kind of kept it on there.”

Now, Libby appears light years away from her days of lying in a hospital bed and not being able to make out the faces in front of her.

Since returning full time she’s made junior high nationals (eighth grade), won a Nebraska state title and competed in nationals (freshman year) and picked up a third-place medal in state and finished reserve national champion in the goat-tying event (sophomore year).

This time around, she has her eyes set on a national championship crown.

“My dream right now is to win a state title and make it to nationals in all three of my events,” Libby said. “A national title in goat-tying would be great. I know what it feels like to be on top and I want to go back.”

Regardless of the outcome of her season, Libby as a vision for her future. She plans to compete in rodeo in college and wants to keep rodeo in her life for a long time.

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Competitors, livestock feeling the heat at state rodeo

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 18, 2016. 

With temperatures nearing the triple-digit mark across the state, it’s no surprise that the weather is a topic of discussion this week at the Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo at the Adams County Fairgrounds.

The scorching heat poses unique challenges for not only the competitors, but also the sometimes-overlooked livestock used for the competition during this weekend’s events.

“You have to be aware that they (the livestock) can overheat just like a human athlete can,” said Pat Wahlmeier, a veterinarian on-site at the rodeo. “So plenty of water is vital.”

The combination of warm weather and potential over-exertion during the competition can put the animals at risk for cramping, heat exhaustion and even hypothermia.

The latter, which is considered the most serious, usually takes place when an animal’s body temperature reaches a certain level.

A horse’s body temperature tends to run around 99 to 100 degrees, while a calf’s body temperature ranges between 101 and 102 degrees under normal conditions. Just a four- to five-degree change can prove deadly for the livestock.

To prevent heat exhaustion and other heat-related complications, Wahlmeier described a number of techniques used to keep the animals cool and in good health.

“Water is the biggest thing,” he said. “A wet towel over the head even seems to make the animals feel better. There are electrolytes that would have your salt content in it. It comes in a package with vitamins and electrolytes and you put it in water. It’s kind of like a Gatorade.”

Livestock that get lethargic because of the high temperatures and long days can be a challenge for the youth competing.

“It will make a lot of kids miss. The horse will keep going because you’re making them go, but the steers won’t go and they’ll walk out of the box,” said Chase Miller, 16, of Anselmo-Merna High School. “If your horse is fast enough they’ll run right on by and you won’t be able to slow down fast enough.”

Aside from the animals, competitors and fans also have to be prepared to deal with elements and stay safe. Staying cool can be difficult for competitors, considering the gear required to compete — jeans, long sleeves and boots — can make it easier to become overheated.

“We really encourage everyone to stay hydrated and stay out of the sun if they can, as well as to wear sunscreen,” said Corrine Huthoefer, an on-site EMT. “But if we do have someone who hasn’t been following those rules we bring them in and cool them down, give them an ice pack and give them water.”

Competitors and fans, too, can prepare ahead of time to combat the high temperatures. Bottles of water, plenty of rest and shade before and after competitions help in combat heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are always a concern for people when spending long days in the sun.

“Heat exhaustion will progress into heat stroke, which is a true medical emergency,” said Mary Meyer, another on-site EMT. “You’ve got to take those breaks in the shade and know when you’ve had enough.”

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Lawrence-Nelson’s Miller ready to pad up once more

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 15, 2016. 

After learning that he had been invited to participate in the 2016 Nebraska Eight-Man All-Star Game, Brennan Miller received a bit of advice.

That advice was simple.

“I was told by a coach last week, in all-star games, you do your thing and let everyone else do their thing, but you help them along the way,” Miller said.

This week, he’s trying to take that advice to heart and is enjoying his time on his new team.

“Practice has been fun. The practices are laid back, but you get to be with a lot of good people who you played against,” he said. “The whole environment is great and everyone wants to be your friend and do something great for one another.”

That camaraderie that has been forged between Miller and a few of his West teammates came long before Sunday’s introduction to the team.

Despite being the only Lawrence-Nelson player participating in the game, Miller had the opportunity to work with a few of his new teammates a week earlier.

“We just got finished playing in a TWC All-Star basketball game last week and coming into this, it’s good coming back and playing with those guys,” he said.

Miller, a two-sport standout for the Raiders who plans to walk-on to play basketball at Chadron State College in Chadron, thought his career was over after a 38-0 loss in the 2015 Class D-2 playoffs against Wynot.

While the final loss during a senior season can be crushing for some, for Miller, it was just a part of life.

“It’s not the end of the world for me,” he said. “I didn’t really think about it, because I had basketball to look forward to.”

Since he accepted his invitation to join the West team, he has been able to look forward to praise from his community back home.

 “During our successful season, people were supportive, and now, people walk around and say ‘hey, nice job on going to the all-star game.’ It’s nice to be a part of that,” he said.After just one half-pad practice, Miller feels good about his team’s chances on Saturday.

“I feel solid on offense and defense from what I’ve seen this morning,” he said.

He even went so far as to guarantee a win.

“(We will win), it ain’t no question,” he said. “Guaranteed.”

The East vs. West game starts at 1:30 p.m. at Lloyd Wilson Field at Hastings College.

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Edwards’ perfect game propels JIH in sweep

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 14, 2016. 

HASTINGS — On perhaps the warmest day of the year thus far with temperatures nearing 100 degrees at game time, it was Cameron Edwards who was hot.

The righty pitcher for Jackson Imperial Homes threw a complete-game, five-inning, perfect game in a 9-0 victory over the Norfolk Daily News Junior A’s. Edwards had command of his pitches early and was dominant throughout.

“He (Cameron Edwards) threw a great game. Actually, a perfect game,” Hastings coach Blake Marquardt said. “He located and dominated with his fastball. He jams a lot of hitters and later in counts he’s able to throw strikes. We kept them off balance.”

While Edwards went unscathed for the entirety of the game, he was especially dominant in a stretch that started in the second inning and ended in the third. Edwards struck out four consecutive batters during that stretch, in what would be an eight-strikeout day.

Although Edwards needed little assistance from the Hastings lineup, he received it anyway. Hastings pushed across a run in the top of the second inning after a scoreless first inning, thanks to two hit batsmen and an infield single. Daniel Opperman scored on a double-steal attempt and Hastings took a 1-0 lead.

That speed on the base paths, coupled with the amount of walks and hit batsman Hastings tallied, allowed them to stay aggressive once they got men on base.

“Well, we anticipated being aggressive on the base paths,” Marquardt said. “If they aren’t going to hold our runners we’re going to be aggressive.”

Hastings scored another run in the third inning, in what was a prelude for a monster fourth inning. Triggered by one walk, a hit batsman and two more walks, Hastings tallied six runs in the top of the fourth. Hastings batted around the batting order and Mike Shaw capped the offensive explosion with a two RBI single.

On the day, Hastings tallied seven total hits, drew four walks and were hit at the plate seven different times.

Ashten Valentine and Michael Shaw led the way at the plate for Hastings, finishing with two hits, two runs, two RBIs and two walks between the pair.

Game 2

Pitching in the second game of a doubleheader when the pitcher in game one threw a perfect game is a tough act to follow. With that being said, JIP’s Tyson Gatto and Tyson Bonham did just that.

The pair pitched a strong seven innings and combined to allow just one run and four hits in a 7-1 victory to sweep Norfolk.

The strong pitching effort between the Edwards, Gatto and Bonham speaks to the depth of the rotation for Hastings this year.

“We’re very deep on the mound. Tyson Gatto is one of our top three or four pitchers. Tonight, I don’t believe he had his best stuff, but he only gave up one run, so it was a good game for him,” Marquardt said. “Then we brought in Tyson Bonham and we’re starting to look at him in the closing role. We have quality starts and we’re going to be that this year.”

Both teams started out slow, before Hastings broke open the game with a three-run second inning. During that inning Hastings tallied four hits in total and three in a row. Those three hits included RBI singles from Logan Noroby and Brian Warrick.

That stretch allowed Hastings to take control of the game and put pressure on the Norfolk defense.

“Our guys came in with a couple big hits in a row and drove in some RBIs. It changes the atmosphere of the game at that point,” Marquardt said. “It made them play a little more tense on the field.”

After allowing zero runs through three innings, Gatto found himself in a bit of a jam in the top of the fourth. He walked two batters and gave up an RBI single to Dylan Rodgers that allowed Norfolk to get on the board.

But after settling down, he forced both a fly out and groundout and go out of the inning with only one run of damage. Norfolk left the bases loaded in that inning.

Hastings added their final two runs of the game in the bottom of the fourth after two straight walks to begin the inning. With two runners on, Dylan Glaser drilled a two-RBI double down the right field line to extend the lead to 7-1.

Bonham pitched the final two innings and earned the save.

This set of wins is something Coach Marquardt hopes can propel the team through its next stretch of games.

“The loss to Kearney last night was a tough one and today, we came back and rebounded well,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep coming back and doing what we need to do.”

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Hoelck looks forward to one last game of 8-man

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 13, 2016. 

Corey Hoelck remembers his time as a student manager for the Giltner High School football team nearly as much as he does playing on the varsity team.

His eighth grade year, he recalled two players specifically having a profound impact on him.

“My eighth grade year was when Logan Rath and Drew Ott were seniors and I was a student manager. Rath went to South Dakota State University and Ott to Iowa, so that motivated me,” Hoelck said.

Fast forward five years and Hoelck still feels that tie with those two local heroes, despite no longer being an impressionable eighth grader.

“I still talk with them a lot and Drew (Ott) has given me tours at Iowa,” he said. “I saw them and said, ‘I want to do that and go big’. They’ve been my motivation.”

Nowadays, Hoelck is the player others are looking up to. The six-foot four, 265lb. Hoelck is signed to play offensive line at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, and this week, is slated to anchor the defensive line for the East team in the 2016 Nebraska 8-Man All-Star Game.

This Saturday’s game at Hastings College’s Lloyd Wilson Field gives Hoelck a chance to enjoy the often-overlooked sport of eight-man football one last time, before trying his hand at 11-man, college football in the fall.

“Just playing one more eight-man game, I ‘ve thought about it all week and I’ve played a lot of eight-man games during my life,” he said. “Playing one last one with all of these great football players is a fun thing.”

It wasn’t too long ago – just this past fall in fact – where Hoelck found himself representing a school and town that he loves to be a part of. Despite the Hornets’ uncharacteristic, opening round playoff lose to end Hoelck’s career, he continues to praise his hometown football program and their coaching staff for preparing him for this moment.

“I just fall back on the training at Giltner, and the weight training and hot practices that I’ve gone through,” he said. “Our coaches at Giltner have put us through so much.”

While he feels prepared by his experiences at Giltner, he realizes some of the unique challenges that an all-star game environment can pose.

“During practice at eight-man schools, you don’t go against the top notch talent every rep. Here (at the all-star game camp), everyone is really good,” he said. “You’re not the biggest guy on your team, but it’s going to be a really fun experience playing with these guys.”

Hoelck is excited for the game on Saturday, but is ready to start his college career at UNK. Two weeks from Saturday, he’s scheduled to report to campus and begin lifting and conditioning for the remainder of the summer.

He has big expectations heading into his freshman season.

“I want to play early and often…they said that I have a really good chance going in and playing,” he said. “I want to be on the field right away.”

Whether Hoelck will see the field right away is yet to be seen. But one thing you can guarantee – on Saturday, he’s prepared to show everyone what he and his town are all about.

“I want to show what Giltner is about. Everything we’ve been taught to be a good football player and everything everyone has heard about us,” he said. “That’s what I want to go out and show.”

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Zeleny ready for one last game, making friends

*This story was featured on hastingstribune.com on June 13, 2016. 

Despite joining his new teammates and coaches just a short time ago, Sam Zeleny already has a feel for this week’s Nebraska 8-Man All-Star camp and game.

“It’s going to be a hard-fought, competitive game,” Zeleny said. “But it’s going to be really fun, too.”

After arriving to campus Sunday for a week-long camp in preparation for Saturday’s game at Hastings College, Zeleny, who plays for the East team, joined his teammates for a team meeting, a barbecue and participated in a half-pad practice early Monday morning.

The camp experience, however short lived, has been good so far.

“It’s pretty cool. A lot of these guys, it’s good to see them,” he said. “Plus meeting new kids you never knew about is cool. It’s been a good experience so far.”

He, like every other player participating in Saturday’s game, has one last chance to play arguably the most admired aspect of teenage years – high school football. Although the game won’t be under the lights on a Friday night, it does provide players one last time to play the game they love and perhaps redeem late-season missteps.

Zeleny and his Exeter-Milligan teammates played what he thought was his last high school football game in the D-2 quarterfinals on November 10 against Wynot. Zeleny, who was later voted as a D-2 All-State ATH, completed nine of 14 pass attempts for 87 yards and a touchdown, while adding 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Still, Wynot rattled off 30 unanswered points and ended the T’Wolves’ bid for three straight state championship titles.

Ultimately, Zeleny hopes this all-star game experience will provide a bit of closure on his high school career.

“It’s nice to wrap it up and hopefully end with a win,” he said.

While his high school career will definitely end after Saturday’s game, Zeleny isn’t done on the gridiron. The dual-sport star — along with fellow Tribland standout and West team running back Preston Schnitzler — is poised to join the Concordia University Bulldogs football program next fall. He is preparing to play either slot receiver or defensive back.

He cited the support from his hometown of Milligan as a driving force in his pursuit of success on the field and in the classroom.

“(In all-star games) you play for yourself and your teammates, but you have to play for your town, too. That’s a big part. They’re really supportive and want you to do the best,” he said. “They’ve always been 100 percent supportive and they love sports, but it’s really an honor to have little kids look up to you like that.”

The competitor in Zeleny hopes for a win on Saturday at 1:30 at Hastings College’s Lloyd Wilson Field, but he realizes games like this provide other opportunities that go far beyond wining or losing.

“I hope to win, but also just to build some friendships,” he said. “I think we’ll do pretty good.”

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LeBron James is the Daenerys Targaryen of the NBA

If you don’t watch or follow Game of Thrones, I’m sorry. If you don’t watch or follow the NBA, I’m sorrier. Both are fantastic, make people wait days and weeks on end to see opponents clash and both sort of remind me of that 50 Cent movie Get Rich or Die Trying, because in both, all that really matters is that you have lots and lots of sex (relevant), have more money than everyone else (relevant) and most importantly, are the most powerful person in your kingdom (very relevant).

In case any of you reading this are hermits, live under a rock or choose to watch re-runs of CSI Miami instead of watch GoT on Sunday nights, here’s a quick synopsis of what Game of Thrones is all about: GoT a medieval-based world where everyone is trying to conquer land, have sex with people they aren’t supposed to have sex with and take over the seven respective kingdoms and in turn, become the all-powerful ruler. It’s filled with weapons, war, incest, power-moves, mortals, half-mortals and people who are immune to fire and own dragons (which is pretty damn cool). The series is perhaps HBO’s best work (and that’s saying something). If you don’t remember anything else about the series, remember this: Everyone is going for the throne (actually, multiple thrones), so until you get there, you kill, pillage and destroy anyone in your way. Once you get there, everyone will come after you until they get what is yours. Thus, it’s a never-ending, bloody cycle that is fantastic to watch. (This also sounds like the NBA if you think about it). Okay, enough about what GoT is. I’m here to tell you how LeBron James, the most powerful NBA player in history and the most influential athlete in sports is eerily similar to one of Game of Throne’s best characters – Daenerys Targaryen.

Who is Daenerys Targaryen?

Daenerys Targaryen is the daughter of someone referred to as “The Mad King” and was born at a place called Dragonstone, which is very relevant. After growing up in someone else’s kingdom after both of her parents died, she was arranged to marry this guy named “Kal Drogo”, who is the leader of the Dothraki. The Dothraki are these long-haired, bearded people who ride horses, rape and pillage villages and think they are all powerful. Eventually, Daenerys realizes that she is super-powerful (spoiler, she is immune to fire and can control dragons) and after Kal Drogo dies, plans to take over the seven kingdoms. Long story short…she falls off her path and ends up in this nunnery-type convent where the widows of Dothraki leaders and destined to sulk and rot forever. After announcing she wants to be a leader, she is laughed at by Dothraki leaders (aka all the men). To get back at them, she burns down a building filled with the leaders (aka men) and emerges naked to the rest of the village of men, soldiers and women bowing at her feet as a sign of their allegiance.

That particular scene, which appears in season 6 episode 4, reminded me of LeBron James’ performance in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. If you think about it, LeBron James and Daenerys Targaryen are pretty similar and I’ll tell you why.

Much like Daenerys, LeBron was disrespected by the NBA and the league’s fans when basketball fans started anointing Steph Curry as the new best player in the world. While the sample size is small (just the NBA Finals series) and while some may say I have fallen victim of the moment…LeBron is still and always has been, the best player in the NBA. Similarly, Daenerys is (IMO) the single most powerful character in GoT.


Here are the ways LeBron and Daenerys are similar:

Physical gifts:

LeBron is a physical specimen at 6’8’’ 250 lbs. I’m also convinced he’s an alien, because when he dunked that alley-oop from Kyrie Irving earlier in the NBA Finals I’m pretty sure he caused a 37 on the Richter scale. Daenerys is also a physical specimen, seeing as how she is immune to fire and can control dragons.

Cool nicknames:

LeBron is dubbed ‘King James’, much like Daenerys, who is often referred to as “queen” or “mother of dragons”. King or Queen, I don’t think you can get much better than that as far as nicknames go.

Followers:

LeBron has a loyal following across the planet, but also at the same time, has people that think he is a chump (which, I mean, get out of here). Daenerys has a kingdom of people willing to eat out of her hand…sort of like LeBron. Huh, weird.

Naked capabilities:

LeBron has a chiseled physique and Daenarys is a dream (sorry, Daenerys seems to get naked quite a bit and it’s pretty great).

They have really big teams, with really big rings:

LeBron, much like Daenerys, needed help to begin to take over the NBA aka the Seven Kingdoms. LeBron tried to win a ring on his own in Cleveland with a cast of beggars and imps, but after joining in forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he truly hit his peak winning ways and won a few rings. Like LeBron, Deanerys, too, needed help. So, she decided to join up with The Imp (aka the second best character in GoT) and they’re bound to take over some kingdoms and cause destruction in the process.

Dragons:

The next part is just creepy: Both LeBron James and Daenerys Targaryon have dragons that they can use at their disposal to destroy empires. Daenerys has these three dragons that we have seen grow into fire-breathing, reptiles of death that are by far the scariest aspect of GoT. So too, has LeBron. If you aren’t aware, LeBron’s three dragons are Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith. I mean, have you seen them? One game Kyrie goes and gets 41 points, puts Steph Curry in a skate-able body bag and put on one of the most memorable NBA Finals shows in history…all because LeBron James told him to do it. The very next game, Game 6, Tristan Thompson had 15 points, hauled in 16 rebounds and Tasmanian-deviled his way through the Golden State Warriors lineups, all while earning that 82 million dollar contract he signed last offseason. And J.R. Smith, where do I start? He reminds me of Sylvester Stallone in the first Rambo movie. Rambo always had AK-47s and was shooting them at people, so too, is J.R. Smith always firing crazy three pointers and teetering on utter madness on a basketball court. Oh yeah, he also had this no-look alley oop to LeBron late in the game that somehow perfectly sums up J.R. Smith in one play.

So, yeah, LeBron just calls on these guys and they burn shit down, just like Daenerys’ dragons. And, just like Daenerys did in Season 6 Episode 4, LeBron burned down the Golden State Warriors’ game plan/fan base and emerged, once again, the most powerful, best, unworldly, God-like player in the NBA.

Ultimately, I think Daenerys will end up on top in the Game of Thrones world-domination saga. I also happen to think – before it’s all said and done – LeBron will be known as the best basketball player the world has ever seen.

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Speaker shares impact of African Americans on WWI

*This story was featured in the June 3rd edition of the Hastings Tribune. 

Democracy, segregation and the African American unsung heroes of World War I were just a few of the topics discussed Thursday afternoon during a Hastings Chautauqua presentation titled “Men of Bronze: Black Units in WWI.”

Charles Everett Pace, a Chautauqua speaker across the country for nearly 25 years, spoke at the Masonic Temple in Hastings of the importance of acknowledging and understanding the impact of African Americans during WWI. The theme for this week’s Chautauqua is “World War I: Legacies of a Forgotten War.”

“I think it’s very important. That’s what democracy is all about. If you think you have 10 percent of people in the country who didn’t participate in a defining incident of a country, like the Civil War, the question is where do they fit in the society,” Pace said. “If you don’t know that, you’re missing part of the tapestry (of America).”

In the past, Pace has portrayed Booker T. Washington, Langston Hughes and Malcolm X, but during this particular Chautauqua in Hastings, he spoke from the perspective of W.E.B. Du Bois.

Pace chronicled Du Bois’ fight for the education of African Americans, his fight for democracy and, specifically, the role that segregation played in the U.S. Army during WWI.

Democracy, as Pace described, “pre-occupied Du Bois almost all his life” and drove him to expand the conversation about democracy nationwide.

He also referenced the Harlem Hellfighters, which was the 15th New York National Guard Infantry Regiment in 1916. They were a group that is famous for being manned by black enlisted soldiers, but, unlike other infantries, they had both black and white superior officers.

This experiment of placing all black soldiers under the command of both black and white leadership answered key questions that U.S. leaders had regarding segregation within the U.S. Army.

Pace pointed to the African American impact in WWI as a direct repercussion of the German genocide that took place in Africa years before the war. He described the often forgotten genocide as “an attempt to exterminate the people of Africa and one of the earliest cases of genocide in the 20th century.”

Overall, Pace hoped to educate audience members on the impact that both black leaders and black soldiers had on the evolution of democracy and WWI.

“The theme is the role that black leaders have played to advance democracy in America. The key thing that you learn from studying history is the particular ways people have overcome obstacles and advance opportunity,” he said. “The key point is to show the unity and diversity to advance democracy in America.”

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The 2016 NBA Finals: A rematch that isn’t quite a rematch

“I’m going going, back back, to Cali Cali.”

The infamous chorus from the late, great Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 anthem “Going back to Cali” immediately came to mind once the 2016 Finals showdown was set. Cavs vs. Warriors. LeBron vs. Steph. A rematch from 2015. There are storylines galore with this series, but I have a big problem with a certain narrative that is being pushed regarding this series: rematch.

Is this series truly a rematch? I would argue not so much.

41-12-7. This is the amount of points, rebounds and assists that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love logged this year — and the amount of points, rebounds and assists that the Cavaliers didn’t have last year against Golden State.

The absence of Irving and Love couldn’t be overstated regarding the 2015 Finals. Aside from a numbers standpoint, Irving and Love do things on the court that simply make the Cavaliers go. Irving’s ability to create off the dribble and shoot from outside is a legitimate threat, while Love’s ability to help space the floor and knock down shots is a must if the Cavs want a chance to knock off the defending champs.

Last year, LeBron put on an unworldly, Herculean-type performance. 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. Timofey Mozgov, Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson had big moments and they still couldn’t come away with a victory.

This season, Mozgov rarely sees the court, Thompson hasn’t played quite as much in the postseason and Dellavedova is a little more spotty when it comes to consistent minutes (but will play big minutes this series). So where do the Cavs go this time around?

I think the Cavs will do what they do best: Let it fly.

Who would’ve thought the Cavaliers saving grace — in a sense — would come in the form of Channing Frye? The stretch forward has played valuable minutes down the stretch for Cleveland (sometimes to their detriment) and has been a big asset from behind the three-point line. Plus, when Frye is on the court it really allows the Cavs to spread the floor, which allows them to shoot a ridiculous amount of three-pointers, but also clears up the line for LeBron to drive the lane.

I expect Frye to play a lot of minutes and could pose some potential match up problems for Golden State. The next burning question: What will Cleveland do with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving on the defensive end?

This seems to be the potential fatal flaw for the Cavaliers in this series (other than the fact that Steph Curry can go bazooka mode from three-point range and nothing can stop him). Love is pretty awful on defense, specifically in pick-and-roll situations, which I expect Golden State to try and exploit. While Kyrie is great on offensive, he’s a big time liability on the defensive end.

Folks around the league seem to think you can’t truly hide players while trying to defend the Warriors, but I expect Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers to try. I expect Cleveland to put Love on Iguodala and Barnes, which aren’t going to kill you from three-point range.

As far as Irving goes, I’m not sure what’ll they’ll do. Dellavedova will guard Curry as long as he’s on the court, but at some point, we might have to see Irving try and guard either Curry or Thompson which won’t end well. Shumpert will play big minutes and he will be key, along with Dellavedova, on the defensive end for the Cavaliers.

The big thing with Irving and Love — they’re going to have to make it worth the Cavs while to be on the court together for extended periods of time. They’re either going to have to ratchet it up on the defensive end (which, as far as we’ve seen, probably won’t be the case) or they’re going to have to pour it in on offense and hope to outshoot the Warriors.

Both teams pose unique mismatches against each other and I think this has the potential to be a very good series. Watch out for Cleveland’s “Let It Fly” lineup of Irving, J.R. Smith, Shumpert, James and Frye. This lineup has the ability to space the floor and jack up lots of three-pointers.

The Warriors are big time favorites, but I won’t count out a healthy Cleveland team with (for now) the greatest player in the world in LeBron James.

Again, this isn’t the same Cavs or Warriors teams, so as far as I’m concerned, this is a new series. I’m taking Cleveland in six games, but The Oracle will be rocking tonight and I think Golden State will take Game 1.

 

 

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The implications of Game 7

Tonight’s Game 7 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors has the makings to perhaps be the most important game in the NBA in recent history.

This game has storylines galore — the 73-win Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry’s injury riddled playoff run, Klay Thompson’s historic shooting array, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s unbelievable playoff run, the clutch gene, Billy Donovan’s reputation, etc. But far beyond the fact that tonight is Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals and the winner will advance to take on Cleveland, the fact still remains — there is so much more at stake.

Legacy 

Legacy is impacted every year in the playoffs and even more in Game 7 scenarios, but tonight, more than ever, has the potential to have a shattering impact on the foreseeable future of the NBA.

Golden State

After winning 73-games in the regular season, it’s hard to imagine the Warriors being doubted in just about any scenario. But that’s just where the defending champions found themselves after four games of this series. The Warriors were starring down the barrel of a 3-1 deficit after watching both Durant and Westbrook go super-sayan mode through four games.

But in history defying fashion, the Warriors regrouped. They’ve taken two straight, one at home and one in Oklahoma City, and are big favorites to win Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win tonight, they will have done something that only nine other NBA teams have ever done — overcome a 3-1 series deficit.

A second aspect from Golden State’s perspective: Do the Warriors have to win the championship to validate their 73-win regular season? This question has been discussed for months, but for the third time in three games — we might have the chance to find out. Old school ideology says yes. Others say winning 73 games is enough to crown them the greatest team of all-time. Just know that the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, much like the rest of us, will be eagerly watching tonight.

Oklahoma City

I can’t emphasize how much is at stake tonight for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder have the chance to bury the winningest regular season team in NBA History on the road. They have a chance to advance to the NBA Finals with two of the top five players on the planet in their primes. They have a chance to silence the doubters and do the impossible.

But more than that, and it pains me to even consider it — tonight, however likely or unlikely you believe it to be: This could be the last time we ever watch Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant play alongside each other. It’s hard to fathom how two of the top five players in the world could part ways on purpose, but that’s a distinct possibility if the Thunder lose tonight.

Going up 3-1 seemed like a God-send for Thunder, but if they finish the collapse tonight, I find it at the very least possible that Durant would consider going elsewhere. Thus would be the end of perhaps the most interesting teammate to teammate, contrasting personality to contrasting personality NBA tandem of our generation.

Aside from the theoretical Durant-Westbrook break-up on the horizon, Durant has a chance to etch his name in the stone of NBA greats.

Every NBA legend had a defining moment in their career where skeptics became believers and fans knew they had just watched something special. Tonight, Durant has the chance to do just that.

LeBron James had one of his defining moments in 2012 (against Durant and Westbrook) when he went for 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to clinch his first title. Curry cemented his place in history after becoming the first unanimous MVP selection. Tonight, Durant has the chance to prove the skeptics wrong. He has a chance to do the unthinkable — defeat the 73-win Golden State Warriors on the road in The Oracle. He has a chance to become immortal.


I can’t believe that I’m actually typing this…

I think Oklahoma City will win. I don’t know why. Maybe the one-two punch of Westbrook and Durant will be too much for Golden State. Maybe OKC will out-scrap and out-physical the defending champs. Or maybe, just maybe, Durant will bury those fourth quarter/clutch-game demons, like LeBron once did, once and for all and ascend into NBA glory.

Tonight should be a rollercoaster. Let’s enjoy the ride.

 

 

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The 2015-16 NBA “Stay Ready” All Stars

While watching Game 6 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors, I stopped watching so much of the game and let my mind wander. Between looking up to check the score and shuffling through Chance the Rapper’s new tape, an idea hit me: If I had to assemble an NBA team of players purely for fighting, who would/should I select?

Now, I can’t take total credit for this idea. My favorite ESPN personality, Bomani Jones, has coined the term *”Stay Ready” All Stars* quite a few times, and I found it hilarious every single time. The concept of “staying ready”, being that the players are constantly prepared for an altercation.

So, back to the original idea. I figured before I do this somewhat idiotic thing I should probably set some criteria for my team:

  • To be on this team, you must have been on an NBA roster during the 2015-16 season. Also, you must always be ready for a fight, thus the name “Stay Ready”.
  • Secondly, you must have gotten in a “fight”, “altercation”, “shoving match” or threatened to “kick someone’s a–” during an NBA game. (Or, you could just act like you always want to fight people during games…because I appreciate that, too.)
  • Thirdly and most importantly, if I was in a hypothetical scenario (whether we were teammates, outside a bar a few drinks deep, or perhaps I was in a bare-knuckle, highly-illegal boxing operation in Tijuana) I have to trust you in said fight. So, what I mean is, I’ve got to want you on my side of said fight.
  • Fourthly (official/unofficial rule), I may or may not have included someone (or a pair of brothers) on this list because they pulled up on someone away from the court and tried to throw hands. I find that amusing. So, if you did something like that and I thought it was funny, I probably included you on this list.

Okay, here it is.

2015-16 Stay Ready All Stars


Player/Coach: Stephen Jackson

I mean, this was a pretty easy choice. Stephen Jackson is the epitome of what the Stay Ready All Stars set out to embody. These particular list of NBA marksmen set out to be legends at the bank and legends with their hands. But seriously, I mean, Stephen Jackson squared up on the entire Detroit Pistons team, anyone within a 13-mile radius of Auburn Hills on November 19, 2004 and if you ask me, was probably prepared to fight a full factory of automobile workers on that particular night. He even went so far to carry out this legacy after this playing days. While being a correspondent on ESPN’s NBA show “The Jump”,  regarding the D’Angelo Russell cell phone leak, he went so far to say “snitches get stitches”. He’s bout that action, boss.

THE ENTIRE 2015-16 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES ROSTER

Tony Allen. Chris “Birdman” Andersen. Matt Barnes (Which, whooo…I’ll get to later). Zach Randolph. Lance Stephenson.

Need I say more? Never before has there been a better assembled collection of heavy hitters ready to go to fisticuffs at the drop of a hat. This is hands down the grimiest and most physical team in the NBA. Hell, they play in a building called THE GRINDHOUSE. That should carry some weight here. I’d be willing to bet the 2015-16 Grizzlies could beat up the Justice League in a street fight. Plus, they used to be coached by Lionel Hollins. That guy is the scariest coach in the league. Also, they play in the city of Memphis. Which — if you’ve never been to Memphis — is the embodiment of staying ready.

Team Captain: Matt Barnes

Where do you even start with this guy? How about here: Before writing this, I wanted to see how many fights involving Matt Barnes I could find on YouTube. I found eight instances during an NBA game where Matt Barnes either: a) repeatedly cursed at the guy he was guarding or who was guarding him (wait, he does that every game…) b) pushed some guy after a play c) attempted to punch or successfully punched someone  d) pretended to throw the ball at someone’s head during an inbound play. Matt Barnes is as much guerrilla henchman as he is basketball player.

Important side note: While on this Matt Barnes fight YouTube quest, I found a video of Matt Barnes fighting an amateur street baller during a San Francisco Pro-Am game in 2011. Apparently, the guy elbowed and pushed Barnes, which in retrospect, seems like a very bad idea. Barnes was quoted as saying, “People just think they can talk any way or do anything to … me. You can’t. You can’t do that, ’cause you know people are men out here. So if you think you’re going to come out here and punk someone, that s— ain’t happening.”

I’m all in favor of Matt Barnes being a menace on the court. Oh yeah, let’s not forget about how he also drove 40 miles and ran up on then Knicks head coach Derrick Fisher because Fisher was playing house with Barnes’ ex-wife and kids. What I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on that wall.

Caron Butler

Caron Butler has an autobiography out titled: TUFF JUICE: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA. Yep, that’s about all I need to know about Butler. Butler was a successful player for a number of years, but even while his game has deteriorated…he’s always ready to act TUFF.

Udonis Haslem

Udonis Haslem — (damn, I just realized to have the name Udonis and not be eternally given swirlies and/or nicknamed Captain Underpants, you had better be a bad a–) —  has been THE Dwyane Wade and LeBron James bodyguard for as long as I can remember. Udonis aka the Cornrow Disciple is a classic NBA enforcer who never backs down from a fight. I used to love watching him mouth “Imma whoop your a–” to opponents from the bench. I want Haslem to be my personal bodyguard. Here is the time he and one of the other OG’s, (and fellow Stay Ready All Star member) David West, almost threw hands.

Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace aka the dude who drank Henny at halftime of games

The artist formerly known as Ron Artest once climbed in the stands and beat up someone for hitting him with a beer during a basketball game.

Oh yeah, a little known detail about that particular instance of staying ready, he actually beat up the wrong guy. An even lesser known detail about the Malice at the Palace, immediately following the chaos, while in the locker room, Artest asked a teammate whether he thought they might get fined for what transpired that night.

Artest uttered the following statement out loud: ‘Hey, do you think we are going to get fined?’…his teammate, Anthony Johnson said, [Expletive] a fine, Ron. They are going to suspend us.’ Arrest responded saying, ‘Oh man, you think they’re going to suspend us? I don’t want to be suspended.’

He got suspended 86 games, which is the largest suspension in NBA history. This gives him eternal status as a member of the Stay Ready All Stars.

Ironically, the same guy who fought a fan is now named Metta World Peace. So, do with that what you will.

Tony Allen

First and foremost, his nickname is The Grindfather. I’ll be damned if that isn’t one of the best nicknames I’ve ever heard. I think Don Corleone would pay his respects to Allen if he could. Aside from that, once during a game against the Warriors, Allen stole the ball and yelled, “First Team All Defense”. His display of authoritative and demonstrative confidence was amazing to watch.  The only thing that he could’ve said there that would’ve been better than that would be, “First Team Stay Ready”.

Perhaps the best part of Tony Allen (regarding his stay ready-ness) is that he once reportedly punched his own teammate over gambling debt from a card game called “Boo-Yah”. Man, if that isn’t staying ready I don’t know what is. Allen reportedly punched O.J. Mayo on a flight back from L.A. and left Mayo with a significantly swollen face. He also broke someone’s eye socket outside a restaurant in Chicago. Yeah, Allen is nice with the hands.

David West

David West is another one of those enforcers I became familiar with during my adolescence. When it pertains to keeping people in check on the court, West is a don. As I linked in the Haslem blurb, West doesn’t back down from anyone…not even a guy with cornrows named Udonis. West appears to be a very quiet guy, but never backs down from a fight.

Perhaps the funniest thing I read about David West: David West loves boxing. He loves watching and analyzing fights. He also stays in shape by boxing. Which, I don’t know about you, but someone that large that can box — watch out. Also, while playing in New Orleans, he told a reporter that his best off-court attribute was his left hook. Yep, he stays ready.

Marcus and Markieff Morris aka the Morris Twins

I know what you’re wondering…why did I include the Morris twins? I know, they don’t have the on-court credibility that the rest of the guys have. To that, I say you’re right. But the Morris twins did reportedly pull up on a guy they thought was sexting their mother. In fact, they beat the “mother lover” (for lack of a better term) two different times. As a matter of fact, they fled the scene in their own Rolls Royce Phantom. Come on guys, it doesn’t take a genius to know that you shouldn’t pull up a guy in your own car. Especially when it’s a Rolls Royce Phantom. If pulling up on a sexting culprit doesn’t scream say ready, I’m not sure what does.

Steven Adams aka The Toof

I’ll be honest, I have this weird obsession with Steven Adams. I’m not sure exactly what it is. Perhaps it’s his mustache that would make Tom Selleck jealous. Perhaps it’s his long, flowing hair. Perhaps it’s his tribal tattoo or the fact that he’s actually good at basketball. OR, perhaps it’s the fact that can’t feel pain. Seriously, one time Zach Randolph punched him in the head and it didn’t phase him. Plus, he gets under every single opposing big man’s head. I love it. He’s a New Zealand icon and last night, he dunked on Draymond Green’s entire bloodline.

The nickname The TOOF, which again, originated from Bomani Jones, is because he has a gold tooth. Steven Adams is a Mongolian warlord and menacing marauder all rolled into one. In fact, he’s the one NBA player I would select if I needed an ally in a fight.

Zach Randolph

Randolph is perhaps the craftiest player in the NBA. He has an irregular body shape, he can’t jump, he has small hands, yet, he’s become a force in the league. And for a while, he was a force off the court, too. He played with the notorious “Jailblazers” and was a part of a less than ideal culture while in Portland. In fact, he even punched then teammate Ruben Patterson during a 2003 practice. It is even rumored that he threatened to beat a guy with a pool stick over some gambling debt during his early days in Memphis.

All in all, I love Randolph. Randolph is a fun player to watch and he’s always ready to play. He’s also always ready for a fight.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett is the old head of the group. Garnett is by far the most intimidating player in the NBA. I mean, come on. The guy head butts the basketball hoop stand before games. He’s crazy. Speaking of crazy, he was once forced to sit out of a practice in Minnesota for rest purposes, but instead of resting, he practiced in place on the sidelines for the entirety of practice. That’s dedication.

Garnett head butted Dwight Howard once and it was awesome.Seriously, Garnett would’ve destroyed Howard. For all of KG’s antics and intimidation, he has earned a spot on the Stay Ready All Stars.

Kobe Bryant

This selection might cause a bit of controversy. I realize that a lot of people don’t think fighting when they think of Kobe Bryant, but hear me out. Bryant is crazy enough to go after anyone. Actually, he did go after just about anyone.

Here is a montage of Bryant beefing with guys over the years. I have two favorites from this group. The first — when he didn’t flinch from Matt Barnes pretending to throw the ball at his face. The second — man, he fought Reggie Miller at the end of the game and ended up pinning him against the score’s table. That’s epic. It’ll be weird not seeing The Mamba next year, but at least we have all of his stay ready moments.

Well, I just now realized that I wrote over 2,000 words about people in the NBA that I think are good at fighting. This is really what life has come to. Anyways, I’ll leave you with this:

Like the “Godfather of Soul”, James Brown, once said, “If you stay ready, then you aint gotta get ready.”

 

 

 

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The Boston Celtics draft lottery curse is real, but may be over soon

The Boston Celtics draft lottery curse is real. There’s really no denying it.

After defeating the Houston Rockets in six games during the 1986 NBA Finals, the Celtics were on top of the world. Finals MVP Larry Bird nearly averaged a triple double in the series (24.0, 9.7, 9.5) and had outgunned a Hakeem Olajuwon led Rockets team to capture the 16th championship in franchise history.

Following their championship season —  and a trade that sent Gerald Henderson Sr. to the Seattle SuperSonics — the Celtics held the second pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. That draft, which is now widely regarded as the most troubled draft of all-time, featured a nice crop of talent at the top.

Names like Brad Daugherty (No. 1 overall to Cleveland), Chuck “The Rifleman” Person (No. 4 to Indiana) and John Salley (No. 11 to Detroit), highlighted that draft class. But the most infamous name of the group, to this day, is Len Bias.

Len Bias, a 6-foot-8 perimeter player from the University of Maryland, was pegged to be a superstar, but died from a cocaine overdose just two days later after being drafted second overall by the Celtics.

His death shook the country, and was the first installment of the Celtics’ draft woes.

The second installment came eleven years later in 1997. During the 1996-97 season, the Celtics amassed the second worst record at 15-67, behind only the league’s newest expansion team, the Vancouver Grizzlies.

The ping-pong balls didn’t bounce the Celtics way, once again, and they were saddled with the third pick in the draft. This was normally considered a pretty good position, but not this year…not when Tim Duncan was at the top of every draft board.

Both the Celtics and their fans dreamed of acquiring Duncan, who is now considered the best power forward to ever play the game, during the 1997 draft. But as luck would have it, the Spurs landed the top spot.

After learning of their fate, the Celtics attempted to offer a king’s ransom for the rights to draft Duncan, but it was to no avail. Former Celtics coach M.L. Carr was asked about the trade proposal for Duncan and said, “Popovich wouldn’t give up Time Duncan for those two picks, your next five picks, the revenue for the Mass. Pike for the next 50 years, the John Hancock Building, and half of the city of Boston.”

The Celtics went on to draft Chauncey Billups at no. 3. Billups played just 51 games for the C’s after clashing with Rick Pitino and was quickly traded.

But tonight, there’s hope. There’s hope that the Celtics can reverse the one major blemish on a storied franchise — lottery luck.

Fans are clamoring for the team’s chance to land the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft. There’s two players at the top of the big boards — Ben Simmons of LSU and Brandon Ingram of Duke — who could be poised to take the league by storm.

These two fabulous freshman have showed glimpses of star power. Simmons’ passing ability has drawn comparisons to Magic Johnson’s ability to distribute, while Ingram’s lengthy frame and offensive ability has teams dreaming of Kevin Durant 2.0.

There is a debate on which should go No. 1, but the once consensus is that they should go one-two in this year’s draft. Therefore, if the Celtics hope to snag Simmons or Ingram, they’ll need to be at the top of the board.

The Celtics have a 15.6% chance to pick first and a 31.3% chance to pick second. While the C’s made the playoff this season, this year’s picks came courtesy of a 2013 trade with the Brooklyn Nets. That trade, which is absolutely dreadful in retrospect, sent Celtics legends Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (along with Jason Terry and D.J. White) to Brooklyn, while the C’s received five players, three first round picks (2014, 2016, 2018) and the right to swap picks in 2017.

15.6% and 31.3% —  those odds are good. But as history has shown, it’s never a guarantee. Boston has young, up-start roster, a bounty of picks in the future and a rising star of a head coach in Brad Stevens.

Boston is poised for a big offseason, regardless of where the ping-pong balls land tonight. But for Boston’s sake, I’m sure Danny Ainge hopes the luck of the Irish will come out tonight.

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Ziepke’s record-setting day lifts Broncos

*This article was featured in the May 2 edition of the Hastings Tribune. 

Corrin Ziepke is good at hitting softballs.

The sophomore from Gretna, Neb. crushed her 14th and 15th home runs of the season Sunday night in a sweep over Mount Marty College. Her fourteenth was a two-run walk-off shot to win game one and number fifteen, which is now the new school record for home runs in a single season, came in the form of a grand slam in game two.

“It felt really good,” Ziepke said. “Being young and learning from the seniors has been really good.”

After her two home runs tonight, she sits second in the all-time home run record books for Hastings College with 25 home runs thus far in her career. And yes, she’s still just a sophomore.

Head Coach Troy Baker had high praise for Ziepke.

“If Corrin stays healthy, she’s going to break every single record there is,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of great players here, and some of them are her teammates right now, but Corrin has a chance to be the greatest of all time.”

Game 1

Despite the dreary and cold conditions at the Smith Softball Complex on Sunday, the Broncos used power hitting and effective pitching to sweep Mount Marty College.

Senior Taylor Erlenbusch started strong on the mound, tallying four strikeouts and allowing no runs in the first two innings. But in top half of the third, the Lancers nabbed three runs with one swing of the bat.

Olivia Rodriguez belted a three-run homerun over the left field wall off of Erlenbusch to take a 3-0 in the top of the third. In the bottom half of the third Hastings got one back, as Erlenbusch singled and later scored to cut the deficit to two.

Erlenbusch went back to her dominant ways on the mound – and at the plate – to close out the game. She redeemed that homerun she gave up in the third with a two-run homerun of her own in the bottom of the sixth.

She rocked a pitch towards the left field wall and after it deflected off a Lancer outfielder’s glove, was deemed a homerun. The blast knotted the game at three all heading into the top of the seventh.

Mount Marty went down one-two-three in the top of the seventh and Hastings had a chance to win it in the bottom of the seventh.

After a flyout to start the inning, junior Chloe Boeka slapped a single into left field and took first base with the chance to be the winning run. The next at-bat, sophomore Corrin Ziepke – who entered today’s games with 13 home runs this season — crushed a two-run, walk-off home run over the left-center wall to give the Broncos a 5-3 victory.

“They made a mistake on an 0-2 pitch to Corrin and it’s hard when you throw down to her,” Baker said. “You do that, you’re going to pay.”

Game 2

After a dramatic walk-off victory in game one, the Broncos picked up right where they left off in game two, drumming the Lancers 13-1 in five innings.

The Broncos dominated in all facets of the game and received a nice outing on the mound from Adams Central grad Josie Bumgardner. Bumgardner pitched a complete-game, tallying nine strikeouts and allowing just one earned run.

“Josie pitched really well,” Baker said. “If she figures out how to pitch, she’s going to be a phenomenal pitcher for us at Hastings.”

Hastings broke open the scoring in the second inning, where they batted around the order and scored seven runs on six hits. Ziepke led the team with three hits and five RBIs in game two.

The Broncos tacked on three more runs in the third and one in the fourth to win 13-1.

The win sets the Broncos up nicely for a potential deep run in the GPAC Tournament.

“We’re playing extremely well…I think the seniors want it and it doesn’t matter who we play,” Baker said. “I like where we’re at, but I don’t think we’ve peaked. I think this team has a higher ceiling if we can get there.”

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Arnold to spur the conversation about autism

*This story was featured on HCMediaOnline on April 26, 2016. 

Laura Arnold, a recent graduate of Hastings College and current resident director in Altman Hall, is set to present “The Spectrum and Beyond: Spurring Conversation about Autism” on Thursday, April 28 at 7 p.m. at the Hastings College Wilson Auditorium.

The all-campus lecture is a part of the Gregory L. Plock M.D. Memorial Scholarship that she won during the spring of her junior year. The scholarship was established in honor of Gregory Plock, a former Hastings College Bronco Award winner, and is used to support a student with significant interest in a field closely related to neuroscience.

Arnold plans to shed some light on autism and discredit some misnomers associated with autism.

“The first half of my lecture is going to be about autism in general, what it is, diagnosis criteria and just get a good idea of what it is,” she said. “I’ll talk about some misconceptions such as vaccinations, theories and I’ll go into what applied behavior analysis is and finally, my personal experience with autism and working with ABA.”

Arnold is currently pursuing her master’s degree online at Drexel University, where she is studying Applied Behavior Analysis with a concentration in autism. While she’s already graduated from HC, she fully believes Hastings College played a big role in her academic development thus far.

“If I didn’t go to Hastings College I wouldn’t be doing this. I wouldn’t even know what it was,” she said. “Dr. Heckman asked me to work with his son and by giving me that opportunity, that’s why I’m doing this, pursuing my master’s degree and I’ve finally found what I’m passionate for.”

Along with Hastings College, Arnold specifically credited Dr. Neil Heckman and Dr. Jeri Thompson as playing a vital part in her pursuing her passion.

Overall, she hopes viewers learn more about autism and can discover a passion for treating autism like she did.

“I hope people can get more of an idea of what autism is, a better understanding of what it is and maybe a newfound passion for autism and just really how rewarding it is to work with kids with autism.”

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President Jackson won’t offer LGBT statement at 2016 Commencement

*This story was featured on HCMediaOnline on April 13. 

Hastings College President Don Jackson issued a statement of support for the LGBTQI communities and specifically, the Hastings College LGBTQ community, but announced he will not give a statement of support or include a message in the program during the 2016 commencement or graduation ceremonies before Governor Pete Ricketts is scheduled to speak.

“I don’t plan to do it at commencement. I will do it everyday between now and then and after, if people want to hear it as it relates to our college and community,” Jackson said. “I think to do it at commencement would be to politicize it, and what I’m encouraging our community to…keep commencement a celebration for the students that are receiving diplomas.”

Jackson offered this particular statement of support, his second within the past week, after the Hastings College Social Justice League requested that he offer a public statement in support of the LGBTQ community at the commencement ceremony. The group also asked for a commitment for long-term student input regarding commencement speaker selections.

He has not committed to adding a student ambassador role, or other form of official student input plans to be put in place; however, he indicated he plans to receive input from Student Association leaders, as he has in year’s past.

“Generally, we have communication that occurs with the Student Association leadership with commencement speakers and there’s a chance to comment on that, but that did not happen this time and I’m sorry about that,” Jackson said.

His first official statement of support regarding the commencement controversy came in the form of an email to all Hastings College students and faculty on April 8. In the email, he applauded the school’s students, faculty and staff for their leadership roles on LGBTQ issues, as well as the school’s progressive support regarding those issues.

The second statement of support came in the form of an exclusive interview with HC Media.

Ricketts, a somewhat controversial figure within the state of Nebraska, has often been criticized for his harsh language, anti-gay legislation and lack of support for gay marriage in the state of Nebraska.

Members of the Hastings College community voiced their displeasure with the selection of Ricketts as the 2016 Commencement speaker soon after the initial announcement. Students, faculty and alumni members expressed their concerns with the decision to bring Ricketts to campus with Jackson directly, but also in the form of an online petition on change.org.

The petition, titled “Let Our Voices Be Heard”, was dispersed via social media and has nearly 400 supporters.

The selection, and specifically the selection process, has been especially criticized over the past week.

“Beyond just his [President Jackson’s] selection, there are a string of problems that were inherently linked with the selection. The students, faculty and a lot of administration were left in the dark about it and the decision was made behind closed doors,”said Brian Whetstone, Hastings College Social Justice League member. “To have someone be selected that’s supposed to represent the student body and the student body not take part in that selection is inherently problematic on its own.”

Jackson acknowledged that, while there are multiple individuals involved in the selection process, he makes the final decision.

“It’s a cadre of people in the president’s office (with input), but ultimately it’s my decision,” he said.

Jackson contends that bringing Governor Ricketts to campus is an honor and his political ideologies should have no impact on his ability to speak at the commencement ceremony.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our campus for the top-elected official in our state to see our beautiful campus, see what we’re doing here and see the passion of our students. I know for a fact that he has no intention in using this as a political forum,” Jackson said. “I hope that others would not do that [use it as a political forum] or minimize it as well.”

While the decision to bring Ricketts to campus at all has been criticized, many believe that this particular setting — commencement — isn’t the forum to have such a divisive speaker. Instead, some have asked that a speaker with this sort of controversy attached to them be asked to speak at a forum like the Artist Lecture Series (ALS), which allows for different viewpoints to be shared and discussed.

Jackson agreed that Ricketts would be an ideal candidate to speak at ALS, but also contends that Ricketts is a more than appropriate selection for commencement speaker.

“If we were inviting Governor Ricketts in an ALS-like forum, I would expect him to share his policy and perspectives and ideological views,” Jackson said. “He’s not here to talk about the stances he’s taken on one issue or another, but he’s here in an official capacity governor of the state.”

Members of the Social Justice League and President Jackson have agreed to meet on Thursday to allow both Jackson and the students to voice their concerns face-to-face. Jackson hopes the meeting can produce “good dialogue”.

Jackson said that students, faculty or community members won’t have the opportunity to discuss their differences with Ricketts due to his tight schedule. Jackson noted that doing so might “take away from the commencement ceremony itself.”

A few students have indicated that some form of public protest at the ceremony should be expected, but that is nothing new according to Jackson.

“As in the past, certain graduates and faculty members have, either in their tassels or other parts of their regalia, been able to communicate effectively their support of the LGBTQ communities, and that’s fine,” he said. “As longs as it’s tasteful, I’m supportive of that.”

Jackson expects no hiccups in the May 14 commencement ceremony and believes “we’re going to have a really great commencement ceremony.”

 

Featured

Students demand statement from President Jackson amid Ricketts controversy

*This story was featured on HCMediaOnline on April 12. 

The Hastings College Social Justice League, comprised of organizations such as Radical Notion, Alliance and the Multicultural Student Union, are demanding a public statement from President Don Jackson at the 2016 Commencement ceremony after Governor Pete Ricketts was selected as this year’s speaker.

“We want him [President Don Jackson] to make a public statement during graduation that says the LGBTQ community on our campus matters, and we want to hear their voices and make this campus better for them,” said Grace Rempp, Radical Notion president. “We want him to say this is still important.”

Ricketts was announced as the 2016 Hastings College Commencement speaker on Wednesday, April 6, and his upcoming appearance quickly became a divisive subject across campus. After the announcement, the Social Justice League created an online petition, via change.org, and has since gathered almost 400 signatures and messages of support from students, faculty and alumni across the country.

Members of the Social Justice League hope this petition will carry weight when presented to President Jackson later in the week.

“In our meeting, we’re going to use the petition as credence to what we’re saying. We’re going to voice our displeasure and the displeasure of those who have signed the petition,” said Brian Whetstone, Social Justice League member.

Along with voicing their displeasure with the selection, Whetstone and company hope to discuss the possibility of a future student ambassador who would give input about commencement speakers, so as to keep an issue like this from occurring in the future.

Governor Ricketts has been criticized for his harsh language, anti-gay legislation and lack of support for gay marriage in the state of Nebraska.

Despite the fact that Ricketts is currently holding office, which many acknowledge is perhaps the highest honor in the state, some students and faculty members believe that his mere presence at commencement sends the wrong message.

“What message does this send to our students and faculty — some of whom are gay and transgendered — that we are honoring this person who is not in favor of treating them with the basic human rights everyone else enjoys?” said Dr. Michella Marino, assistant professor of history. “This is a human rights issue, and I am seriously concerned about the message this sends to the campus community.”

While Hastings College is known for their support of LGBTQ rights, some believe the decision to have Ricketts speak could damage years of progress.

“Marginalized groups of any type deserve to be heard in any setting. The campus of HC is headed in the correct direction towards diversity and acceptance,” said Donato Santos, junior sociology major. “Allowing this speaker would only hinder progress.”

This issue hits closer to home for some, more than others. Becca Preisendorf, who is an openly lesbian Social Justice League member, has considered skipping commencement altogether because she feels so strongly against Governor Ricketts speaking at Hastings College.

“I thought about it, but he’s already impacted my life in such a negative way,” Preisendorf said. “I don’t want to let him do that too and keep me from going to my own commencement ceremony. I’m going to see that as a day for me, and I’m not going to keep him from letting me celebrate that.”

In fact, regardless of whether Ricketts discusses policy, some feel it is difficult to separate the two.

“The governor has openly and repeatedly explained his position on gay marriage and is taking no action to encourage the legislature in Nebraska to repeal state discrimination laws against the LGBTQ community,” Marino said. “So even if he doesn’t speak about these issues her at HC, his being invited is an affront to our values as an institution and support of the LGBTQ students and faculty on campus.”

Despite the outcry against the selection, not all students and faculty feel that it is a bad thing for a sitting governor to attend HC’s campus and speak at commencement.

“I think that Governor Ricketts should speak at this year’s commencement because it is truly an honor to have such a high ranking state government official to agree to come speak on behalf of the student body and congratulate our seniors,” said Jennifer Schmidt, president of the HC Republicans and Campus Conservatives.

Although they’re disappointed with the decision, Whetstone, Preisendorf and others acknowledge that they intend to protest in a peaceful, respectful manner.

“There will be a lot of people dressed in rainbows and I think we’ll send a respectful and quiet message,” Rempp said.

Though the Hastings College administration has shown no signs of rescinding Governor Ricketts’s invitation, President Jackson has agreed to speak with HC Media later today about his stance on the issue.