Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sports Talk: Top 10 Casey County Sports Stories of 2013

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Dec. 25, 2013.  
1. Track & Field State Champions: Micah Smith & Shelby Stringer
Casey has done well to bring home a single state champion from the KHSAA 2A State Track and Field meet every so often, but last spring both the girls' and boys' team saw a gold medalist. Micah Smith, a 2013 graduate, cleared 6'4" in the high jump to set a new school record and take first among the state competition. Stringer not only won the girls' pole vault, but her height of 10' tied the state record, in addition to re-breaking her CCHS school record.

2. Girls' tennis team wins 12th Regional Championship
The Lady Rebel tennis squad returned a team last spring that earned the regional runner-up title for the first time in school history in 2012. They made history again when the team advanced both of its singles competitors and both of its doubles teams to the semifinals of the regional tournament and went on to claim the 12th Region title for the first time, which meant the ladies competed at state as a team for the first time in school history.

3. Girls Cross Country team qualifies for state
After having only a single varsity runner in 2012, the girls' cross country team qualified a team for the 2A State meet for the first time since 2007. The team was composed of only three high school athletes, Kelsey Arthur, Tiara Cochran and Caitlyn Pollick, while the bulk of the team were seventh grade athletes: Hailee Byrd, Laura Cuin, Breanna Davison, Noel Davison and Jenna Vaughn. With no seniors, the team hopes for a repeat in 2014.

4. CCHS adds girls’ soccer team
The high school added a new sport, girls’ varsity soccer. The last new sport came in 2003 with the cross country team. With a small roster and a limited number of games, the team, coached by Jeremy Franks, picked up two wins in its first season and qualified for the district tournament.

5. Lady Rebel basketball earns back-to-back district titles.
For only the second time in school history, the Lady Rebel basketball team earned back-to-back district titles. The last time the feat was accomplished was 2003 and 2004 when Casey County was part of the 45th District, rather than the 47th District. The team went on to compete in the 12th Region finals, facing Lincoln County for the second year in a row. The Lady Rebs narrowly missed a trip to the Sweet Sixteen Tournament when they lost by two in overtime.

6. Coach Randy Salyers announces upcoming retirement
Lady Rebel head coach Randy Salyers earned a spot in the 12th Region Coaches Association Hall of Fame as an athlete last March during the regional tournament. Shortly thereafter, the coach announced that the 2013-14 season would be his last year coaching the CCHS girls' team, ending a career that began in the fall of 1995 and has seen over 300 wins.

7. Maze Stallworth hired as new boys' basketball coach
After a two-year stint as boys' basketball head coach, Darry Burkett was fired from the position last spring. Maze Stallworth was hired as the new coach over the summer and began his first season with the Rebels this past fall.

8. Softball team earns district runner-up
After a season of only three total wins in 2012, the Lady Rebels advanced to the 47th District finals and took home the runner-up trophy after losing by one run to Rockcastle County. It was the team's first trip to the 12th Region tournament since 2005.

9. VolleyRebs earn district runner-up
The VolleyRebs continue to represent Casey County well with yet another trip to the 12th Region tournament. They earned the 47th District runner-up title after falling to Pulaski County in the championship game. They prevailed over Danville at the region and then fell to Wayne County in the second round, who went on to become the regional champs.

10. Boys' tennis regional runner-up
The boys' team took the 12th Region runner-up title, something somewhat unexpected.. 2012 was the first year since 2007 that the Rebels did not earn the regional runner-up or championship title. The team, which graduated its only 2012 state contender, came back with four seniors that led the team’s regional performance with three seniors advancing to the state tournament.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sports Talk: The New and Exciting Young Rebel Basketball Team

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Dec. 11, 2013.   
I've always enjoyed basketball and I've especially always enjoyed Casey County basketball. I suppose it's kind of a natural thing when you grow up playing for a team and cheering for them, that even in their weakest moments and seasons, you find yourself the optimist and rooting them on and finding the highlights.

However, I want to stress to all Casey County fans (and even those who maybe are not fans but love basketball) that it's time to get out of the house--even if that means facing some cold--and check out this year's teams.

I cannot actually speak for the Lady Rebels just yet, as I have yet to watch them play live... But considering where they left off last year and who they've returned (and what I've gathered from following them for my articles) they are no disappointment from what one would expect this year.

The Rebels, however, I have watched play, twice now. While the win over Washington County was of course fun, it was actually our loss to Marion County that got me so excited about this team. I was disappointed no one in my family had attended the game to share the excitement with me after the two-point loss that came in the final seconds of regulation time.

This year's boys' basketball team is truly an exciting group to watch. First of all, I get a great sense of "team" from these boys simply in the way they interact in warm ups and before games and during time outs. You see slaps on the bottom, high fives, arms around each other constantly. Every time a player comes out of the game, the bench stands and gives them five for their work on the court whether that player is having a stand out game or things just aren't going his way.

On the court... now that is something to see. This team is fast, fun and unselfish. Their hustle never stops. Multiple times Marion County got an 8-10 point lead on the Rebels last week, but we always bounced back. That's impressive for a team with only two seniors and starts three freshmen. Ninety percent of the time, these young guys are going to be facing primarily juniors and seniors--which usually makes a big difference and can cause some intimidation. You see none of that with these young men.

In addition to their nonstop hustle up and down the court, I love the way this team moves the ball. They read each other well and stealing the show for themselves is the last thing on any players mind. There have been times they've even fooled me into thinking they had turned the ball over, but before I knew it, we'd scored. Instead of a turnover, it had been a crazy fast pass to another open Rebel I had not even spotted. I'd much rather watch that kind of play any day than some one man magic show.

And on a side note, I'll mention this team loves us, the Casey County community. Before their game Saturday, they started their day off by volunteering for the Salvation Army and ringing bells in Liberty. They also attended the Pictures with Santa fundraiser taking place at the high school to raise money for Braydon Taylor's battle against.

Kudos to Coach Stallworth for what your doing for these young men both on and off the court.

The Marion County game, the season kick-off for this team, was the kind of game any basketball fan wants to watch. I suggest you get to the CCHS gymnasium sometime soon before you're stuck hearing about another amazing game instead of getting to see it live.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sports Talk: Loving Some (Delayed) Rivalry Weekend Excitement

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. This edition of my column was scheduled to be published Dec. 4, 2013 but never ran due to space issues.  
There is an episode of the TV show How I Met Your Mother where the five main characters suddenly realize they will not be able to watch the Super Bowl as they had been planning all week. They decide to simply postpone their ball game fun until the next night and all agree to not find out the result of the game until then. The episode brings numerous entertaining and funny situations as all five attempt to go through their normal Monday and not find out the winner of the game. 

I had my own small dose of this experience over rivalry weekend. While the Super Bowl is something everyone and their mother knows about, even watching your favorite team in delay without finding out the end result takes a real effort these days. 

It was quite an exciting weekend for my family in sports and social aspects. Not only was it the Ohio State-Michigan game, but ever since my brother attended vet school at Auburn University, the Auburn-Alabama rivalry has come to have meaning in our house as well. It was planned that our family "Wood Day" would take place Saturday where my siblings and family friends gather to help my parents build up their firewood supply for the winter. We knew this would interfere with both of the games we wanted to watch, but were all OK with simply recording the games and watching them that night.

Easier said than done.

It used to be common for my dad to record an Ohio State game and wait to watch it on a Sunday. It simply meant avoiding sports news on the TV that night and making sure the other football fans at church knew right away that he hadn't watched the game yet. Today, information travels so quickly and we acquire it in so many ways, it's a challenge to shut off all alleys of communication.

We do have the advantage of my parents living down a long gravel road in a valley so we didn't have to worry about running into someone who would spill the beans. However, we also had to avoid all social networks--no Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus--really it was safest just to avoid the Internet in general. Phones really became risky also. Not only could you not check your social apps, you had to be cautious of text messages and really just not check them. Most people were not aware we weren't watching the game, but know the Buckeye fans we are and wanted to chime in during the game. Smart phones in general were just trouble, because if you had any type of sports notifications set to your phone, there was a chance of big scores or updates popping across your screen.

Somehow, someway, though, we managed to disconnect ourselves from the online, connected world and stay in the dark about the outcomes of both games. However, I will say that even had we heard that Auburn took down Alabama, we might not have believed it watching the final minutes of the game when they were down seven and Alabama continued to drive the field. Talk about a crazy and fun end to any game--let alone a rivalry game where the winner is playing on their home field. And even for us, fans watching on screen, having been to games and tailgating at Auburn made it that much easier to imagine what it must have been like to be there.

I was extra grateful we watched our two games in delay because of the fact my six-week-old baby girl did not allow me to tune in completely to the OSU game and had me miss the Auburn game completely; yet after hearing how incredible the AU game was, I was able to watch it Sunday on the DVR. Fan of either team or not, if you enjoy football, this game was as entertaining as they come and if you have the opportunity to watch it, don't pass it up.

I have two favorite parts to Auburn's victory. First, the fact that the decision about whether regulation time expired when T.J. Yeldon's foot hit out of bounds made Alabama fans happy, but inevitably resulted in Auburn's victory. That one second seemed to be a major threat to the Tigers but it ended up being the greatest thing that could have happened to them. Chris Davis' 109-yard return will go down in history as possibly the greatest ending to any college football game. Seriously, if Hollywood had given us that game, no one would have believed it.

My second favorite part are all of the reactions--primarily to Auburn fans, obviously. One of my favorites, though was watching (listening to) the Auburn announcer commentary during the final play. The shrill, in-the-moment excitement and realization of what was happening as it unfolded is great. Announcers like to be entertaining but keep it together for the most part. In this case, the announcer cannot hold back his disbelief and excitement, repeatedly shouting, with his southern accent, "Auburn's gonna win the football game!! Auburn's gonna win the football game!" (Close second was watching the ball boy run down the field alongside (as best he could) Chris Davis, only to slip and fall when he reached the end zone.)

The play itself was unbelievable, but the game all around was a great one--so many missed opportunities and mistakes for both teams, and so many great plays at the same time. Chris Davis just might become Alabama's own Christian Laettner with the finish that game brought. It's a play that will be remembered by both teams forever and shown again and again.

Between that play (and the win it resulted in) and the Buckeye win, I can't complain much at all about the beginning of this holiday season. We're definitely off to a fantastic start in this family!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sports Talk: 15 Reasons I'm Thankful for Sports

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Nov. 27, 2013.  
It's been quite the trend over the past couple of years to do the "30 Days of Thankfulness" on Facebook during the month of November. Obviously, showing and expressing your gratitude for things at this time of year is nothing new. Our lives are blessed in so many ways it's easy to lose track of the small things and take them for granted. 

Sports are often times something we see as just 'fun'' or, on the flip side, we sometimes let sports consume us. We can get carried away with emotion and forget what it should really be all about.

So, in honor of Thanksgiving, here are 15 reasons I'm thankful sports have been a part of the majority of my life.

1. Friendships: I'd say more than half of my friendships have originated with sports and even those whom I did not play sports with, there is likely some sports connection in our friendship. Without sports, I would not have many of the best friendships and memories that have shaped my life and who I am. In addition to teammates, though, I've made many friends who were my opponents that allowed me to branch out and make connections with people across the state and country.

2. Silent camaraderie: Not only have I met so many great people in my life through playing sports, but also being the fan of a like team has nurtured many a relationship in my lifetime. Through attending games or fan events, you meet fellow fans and have an instant connection. Simply seeing a stranger in scarlet and silver and giving them a smile and saying "Go Bucks" or "O-H", only to get an "I-O" in return is something that I have thanks to sports. Sports give us an unspoken bond with complete strangers.

3. Building character: As much as I learned in classrooms, so much of my character and approach to life came from my sports experiences. Working as a team and learning to motivate and encourage one another was a huge part of what made sports fun for me. (See #1... there is a reason friendships easily develop in sports!) Every sport I ever played demanded my hard work, which translated into having personal responsibility and discipline. You truly learn that the best things in life are not attained without some pain and heartbreak along the way.

4. Social fun: I'm thankful for the hours and days of fun I've enjoyed throughout my life at events that revolved around sports. Whether it be Super Bowl parties, tailgating at football games, attending my first baseball game with my Uncle--a special memory I'll always cherish--, or simply cheering on my friends alongside other friends at high school and college games. Sports have given me a great deal of fun.

5. Lifelong competition: Becoming an athlete in my youth instilled an appreciation for competition early in my life and I'm grateful for the ability to continue to compete even past the point of being a high school or college athlete. I've played on intramural sports teams and participated in random pick-up games of all sorts. Friends and I have even planned social events centered around competition. I'm grateful to appreciate and enjoy competition and that even as an adult there are ways to compete.

6. Live games: Obviously live games have to exist with the existence of sports, but just imagine if it didn't; if the only way you'd ever experienced any sport was through radio or television. Being a part of the live action, is something special, whether it be a child's pee wee game or a professional game in an awesome arena. Nothing beats live competition.

7. Travel: Thanks to sports, I have gotten to travel to certain places and see things I may not have seen otherwise. Traveling with teammates is a special memory in general, but getting to go out of state to new places and see new sites is a gift whether it be with your team or to attend a big game in a new place.

8. Sportsmanship: We are taught good sportsmanship from the beginning of our sports careers, but I don't think we always realize it's a lesson that we must learn for life in general. In the end it's really preparing us for so much more than just how to act on the court of field. Down the road, it teaches us a type of self control and professionalism for life.

9. Coaches: Our teammates are one thing to be grateful for, but our coaches are on an entirely different level. Aside from our parents, they may be the only people in our lives that can yell at us or make us cry and we love and respect them more for it. Anyone who has played a sport knows the special place that remains in your heart for your coaches, because they know you in a different way than most. They are special people and I'm glad sports allow them to exist. Who knows, maybe one day I'll have the joy of being one.

10. Fan gear: Who doesn't love to sport (no pun intended!) their favorite team colors? Whether it be getting a new hoodie to wear to games or simply putting together a crazy, creative outfit that is decked in your team's colors, showing off your team spirit in what you're wearing is great and it's always fun to get something new.

11. Food: No sports fan can say they haven't enjoyed some pretty fantastic food thanks to athletics. (I didn't say fantastic for you!) Ballpark food is part of the experience and every great sports gathering is accompanied by excellent finger foods and snacks--if not also a grill! YUM!

12. Numbers: Sound like a silly one? Well, whoever first gave players numbers didn't know what they were starting... Few athletes don't have favorite number; one that is "theirs" and magically brings together all that they are as an athlete. This number becomes important for life. Even as fans, we come to love the number of our favorite players and find ourselves wearing them, painting them on our cheeks or chest and holding up posters to show them off. Numbers gain a whole new level of importance and meaning thanks to sports.

13. Health: Sports help us maintain our health and, oftentimes, learn how to at an early age. Having had to stay in shape for running my entire life, as an adult I still feel the need and importance to keep my body in good shape. Thanks to the workouts I did with sports, I know how to stay in shape. Sports keep us active and healthy and our health is always something to be grateful for.

14. Losing: No one is grateful for losing, but I'm grateful that sports have taught me to accept loss and to grow from it. We all must experience failure and loss in life, and call me old fashion, but I've never been a fan of the "everyone's a winner" approach to sports. In life, you do not always win, but when you do fall short, it's important to know how to learn from the loss and still take a step forward. That is how you come out a winner even when you lose. Learning to lose is one of life's most important lessons.

15. That moment: There is an indescribable feeling one can capture in sports--it can happen as an athlete or as a fan. It's that moment of perfection. It's that moment when all you'd worked for and hoped for comes together and sometimes you do not even know it's happening until it's done and you realize what you just achieved. It's the moment of a big comeback or the win you weren't expecting. It's the moment the person you're cheering for accomplishes their dream that you've been watching them work toward for years. Sports bring us unbelievably bright, victorious moments in life.Moments we remember and cherish forever.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sports Talk: Don't Hate Just to Hate

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Nov. 20, 2013.  
I like rivalries. Honestly, would sports be fun without them??

There are different kinds of rivalries. There are the ones that only last a single season or so. These typically spawn from an extremely close game in a pivotal time or some sort of upset. The hard feelings of the losing team usually carry over into the next meeting between the two--sometimes further. Usually this type of rivalry, though, only lasts so many games, before the incident that initiated the rivalry becomes just a memory and part of the history books for both teams.

A good example of this would be last year's Lady Rebel basketball team and the Lincoln County Lady Patriots. Both team returned an identical roster from the 2012 regional championship game (where Lincoln took the title and advanced to state.) The 2012-13 teams were complete with the same roste, same emotions and same fans as the season before, so there was no doubt these two teams were out for each other. As we hoped/expected, the two ended up in the regional final again. Unfortunately, Casey came up just short of the victory and Lincoln repeated their title. The thing is, Casey County and Lincoln County do not regularly "hate" each other and the Lady Pats will be much less of a rival team to the Lady Rebs this year. The rivalry of the past two year's will simply become a memory.

Then there are the long-standing, never going away rivalries. These are hardcore and cold and never cease, even if a decade passes where one of the two competitors repeatedly blows the other out of the water. In many ways, these rivalries stand more because of fans than athletes themselves.

We in the Bluegrass state obviously know a thing or two about this type of rivalry. It's called red versus blue. I have friends who won't even wear the color royal blue or bright red unless they absolutely must. (And doesn't it say something about our mentality in this state when I had trouble even writing that last sentence without using the descriptors 'wildcat blue' and 'cardinal red'?)

But here is what I do find funny and a little ironic about these rivalries and some of its hardest of hardcore fans: they get upset at their opponents rubbing dirt in their faces. I see this on Facebook frequently... one side calls out every flaw of the other--every loss is laughed at, every player who screws up is ridiculed, the coaches are torn apart, and the programs are constantly under scrutiny. Then, I see fans trying to belittle those on the other side for acting in such a way. These people act as if they are above those on the other side because they don't laugh at the losses and failures of their rival and that those who do are lesser than.

But here's my perspective: loving your rivals failures is part of why that team is your rival and not just another opponent. As a fan, you always want your team to win; in turn, this means you always want your current opponent to lose--rival or not. However, you never, not a day in your life, would you ever consider cheering for your rival, no matter what team they are up against. You will never rejoice in their victories.

So while you might say I have a pet peeve for fans who are bothered by their rival fans outing all of their failures, I will admit to another pet peeve that sort of is the reverse of this. While I think it is right and I almost expect a rival fan to give me a hard time when teams, coaches, players or institution screws up, I hate it when someone who is not a fan of my rival decides to hate on my team just for the heck of it.

If I play your school and you beat me... sure, rub it in my face. If you're a true Michigan fan, sure, hate on my Buckeyes all day long. But people who go out of their way to bring up a loss or screw up simply because they know I am a fan of the team--not because they are on the winning side of the failure--that bothers me. That is just someone feeling like being a meanie. (I cannot come up with a more mature way to state that at the moment.)

So, to summarize and get off my soapbox... if you are a Cats fan... don't whine when a Cardinal makes 40-0 jokes... If you're a Cardinal fan... don't act like UK fans are rednecks for making fun of your players' or coaches' faults. As an Ohio State fan, I don't care what Michigan fan talks trash to me, but if you don't know the first thing about college football and simply hear something negative about the Buckeyes, don't choose that moment to jump on the bandwagon for badmouthing a team. Keep sports rivalry fun alive and hate on your current opponents and your rivals... But don't hate just to hate.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sports Talk: Taking Sports to the Woods

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Nov. 13, 2013. 
Snow?? Really?? I suppose the fall athletes should be at least somewhat grateful their seasons have come to an end. It's one thing to play or run on cold nights here and there--that is expected--but snow is supposed to be reserved for winter when we can enjoy the warm comfort of gymnasiums!

So the fall sports came to a close and basketball is taking off. Last week's excitement over the first college games of the season was evident through my Facebook feed. However, while we're waiting on our own local Rebel hoops seasons to begin, last weekend marked the beginning of another sport--and one that isn't held indoors avoid of weather: hunting season.

I myself have never been hunting and wonder when that first time experience might be. (I've seen plenty of friends post online just this year bragging about taking on their first hunting excursion... living here it's bound to happen for me sometime, right?)

In addition to the UK/UofL basketball chatter on social media, I also saw the surfacing of many friends in their camo gear and neon orange and many of them were accompanied by their prize shot--already! Opening weekend and you've already gotten something? That's impressive to me... It seems the people I know or ever talk to who plan to hunt never have that kind of luck.

I remember my dad hunting when I was much younger and was always excited about the idea and I'm not even sure what it was that I found so cool about deer season. Maybe it was simply that he was doing something besides working his garden or splitting wood... But I think it was more thef knowing that he was out there somewhere. When I'd hear shots fire off in our valley I'd wonder if it was him or a neighboring hunter. I'd then wait to see if he showed up any time soon with big news.

But it wasn't just the thought of him bringing home a buck that intrigued me about hunting. It was the whole ordeal. He would get up so, so early--when it was still so cold even if there wasn't snow on the ground. He'd suit up and have extra gizmos to wear and strap on to help keep him warm, knowing he'd be sitting still for hours possibly. It was like preparing for a camping trip but more intense even if it was for a condensed time period. Usually he was gone by the time I awoke and I just knew he was out there among the trees, perched high in his stand, patiently waiting.

I think dealing with the cold would be the biggest struggle for me, but aside from that, I believe the opportunity to sit among the natural world and observe is a special thing. We reside in such a beautiful part of this world and there is so much to take in and appreciate about God's work. Having never hunted myself I cannot say I know anything to be true, but I would guess hunting tries your patience as well, but can also calm the spirit.

In addition to the time demand of hunting, one of the main reasons I've never taken up the sport is the aftermath. I'm not someone who is bothered by the idea of shooting and killing an animal. It's not like I fool myself into thinking the meat I eat everyday was not once alive and then killed for my feasting pleasure. It's more the fact a deer is a LOT of meat and I wouldn't want it to go to waste but I surely would not want to have to deal with it. I also do not know what on earth I would do with that much meat. (A lot of jerky, probably... I love that stuff!)

Well, this year will not be the one I get out and have my first hunting experience, but  that's OK for now. I'll just be sure to wear my hunter orange when I'm out and about. I'll keep up with my friends who are lurking among the perfectly wooded terrain we have in this area and see who has luck so I know who to go to for advice when my time comes. Good hunting, friends!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sports Talk: Soid Finale to Casey County Fall Sports

 As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Nov. 6, 2013.
Casey County athletics may not be a sports powerhouse recognized across the Bluegrass, but the beauty in that is the excitement we can all have over the week to week and season to season victories. Last week, three of Casey's sports teams had those victories that continue to make me proud to be a Rebel. 

Cross Country
: The girls' team qualified for the state meet, something nobody saw coming at the start of the year. The "team" was really only an individual runner last year, but thanks to Kelsey Arthur sticking with it and the motivational efforts of new coach Jon Vaughn, not only did the girls grow by enough to have a full team (at least five runners), but they had eight runners who steadily improved their times throughout the season. Coming from the girl who ran cross country solo before Casey had a team, I'm so proud of these young ladies and their coach and the direction of this program.

Football: Never count out this program. It's so easy to look at the Rebels' record or some of the game scores and write them off, but that's because we forget just how hard our district is and that we must compete in tough games that are not mandatory for other teams in other districts. While we definitely had some games we all wish had been "W's" (Taylor County... Metcalfe County...), the team's win over Adair County last week in their last regular season game showed just how this team is improving and that their record is not a reflection of their capabilities. Adair was a 4-5 team going into the game and hoping to be 5-5. Beating the 1-8 Rebels probably seemed like a cake walk to the Indians, but instead we dominated from start to finish. I love the positive attitude coach Sam Marple continues to instill in his team, knowing the future is bright.

Volleyball: After falling in the district championship game in a less than stellar performance, it was nice that the VolleyRebs still had the opportunity to continue on to the 12th Region tournament and end their season on a high--and that they did. Sure, they ended on a loss--all but one team will--but there is a major difference in ending on a game your proud of as opposed to one you yearn to redo. The eight dedicated seniors led this team through a fantastic season right to the end when they fell to Wayne County, who went on to be the regional champions. It was a semifinal game, the furthest than the VolleyRebs have made it in the regional tournament since moving from the 45th District to the 47th District. It was a great season for the team and it's hard to imagine them hitting the court next year without those eight talented girls.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sports Talk: The Best Damn Band... No Denying it

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Oct. 30, 2013. 
Thanks to social media, there are all sorts of topics, videos, events, songs and people that go "viral" and, let's be honest, 75% of it is nonsense that our lives would be just as good having never seen. (I suppose there is something to be said for "laughter is the best medicine"...)

However, there are the cases when social media's ability to send something spiraling across the interwebs for millions to see or learn about is a positive; we learn about or see things that perhaps open our world to something new.

While the Ohio State Buckeye football team has always been a favorite of mine and a big deal in my house, we were never able to overlook the magnificence of OSU's marching band: "The best damn band in the land," as they say. As much as my mom loves football, watching the halftime show is an equal thrill to her, especially if it happens to be the occasion where they performed their famous "Script Ohio."

I know a lot (most) people in this area have less than favorable feelings about the Buckeyes, but thanks to social media, more and more people--even non-sports fans, are gaining some level of respect for Ohio State, but not because of football. It's their phenomenal marching band giving them the spotlight and leaving people across the country with nothing but positive things to say.

Script Ohio, the band members spelling out "OHIO" in script lettering has been a long-time tradition of the school as a halftime performance, originally being performed in 1936. Other performances have been equally impressive but the past few years I have seen the Buckeye band spread across social media like wildfire due to their incredible halftime shows that especially engage and impress a younger generation. Last year a tribute to video games was the jaw-dropping performance I saw appearing on my Facebook newsfeed for a large part of football season as many couldn't help but share it, while adding the disclaimer, "I may not like their football...but this is awesome."

The latest hit from the best damn band in the land is a Michael Jackson tribute. Categorize marching band however you please when it comes to "sports," but watchg this performance and remind yourself that the fluid movements and moonwalking man you see on the field is being created by individuals rushing across the field in perfect step all while playing an instrument. If that doesn't take talent and endurance I'm not sure what does.

All you have to do is google "Ohio State Marching Band" and you'll find a plethora of incredible halftime shows--everything from Harry Potter themed to Superman.

While I don't expect to win anyone over to cheering scarlet and silver on game days, put aside your Ohio State hate and enjoy their band, if social media hasn't helped you do so already. How they keep coming up with new, equally impressive performances continues to astound me, but unlike Script Ohio, most of these performances are aimed to entertain one and all, not just Buckeye fans.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sports Talk: Saying Farewell Early On

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Oct. 16, 2013. 
It often seems the "in-between" seasons go much faster than winter and summer. The days of perfect weather are limited and the beauty of the changing natural world are brief so we must soak them up while we can. 

With the fleeting fall, it also seems fall sports move rapidly. The beginning of this month already saw the conclusion of our golf team's schedules and last week the volleyball and football teams both hosted their final home games and celebrated senior night.

Spring time always brings for lots of sadness in saying farewell to seniors, but it seems a little overlooked in the fall, when several months of school and graduation still lay in the distance. I was involved in numerous sports in different ways during my high school career--basketball, football--but track and field was my number one. While I did run cross country, my senior season was actually the first time Casey had an actual team in years, so it mainly just felt a lot like a different form of fall training.

In some ways I think it might be harder for the seniors who have to say goodbye to their sport in the fall than those in the spring. By spring, everyone is saying goodbye, whether it be to a sport, a club, classes, friends...high school in general. Everyone is sharing the same sentiments as the end of so much draws near.

The fall still looks to many adventures for a senior year, but these athletes already have to let go of something that has likely been (and will always be) a big part of who they are. Sure they will still be going to class and seeing their teammates frequently for another seven months, but putting on the uniform and giving the blood, sweat and tears at practice and games is coming to a close. I suppose those involved in these sports are the only ones who really understand the difficulty there is in doing so sooner rather than later in their senior years. Perhaps it brings a new sense of reality of all they will be saying farewell to in the coming months.

Some of the sports do not get the traditional senior night--golf, cross country and soccer. Given, this year, there are two seniors collectively among those sports, but it makes their exit no less difficult or meaningful. Even the cheerleaders, who have a competition season ahead as well as basketball, had an ending of sorts. Playing--and cheering--under the lights, in everything from hot to cold weather--is special. I can't put my finger on what it is, but anyone who has experienced it knows it's true. It was also obvious at the VolleyReb senior night how difficult it will be to see the season end for the group of eight seniors themselves, as well as their coaches and teammates.

While home game activity for Rebel and Lady Rebel athletics has concluded for the fall, not all of the teams are done with their seasons and those seniors still have ambitious goals for how they will conclude their careers. Be sure to show them your support in one way or another, even if you cannot attend their road events. And if you see any of them out and about in the community, congratulate them on their career of wearing the Rebel colors with pride.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sports Talk: Love the game or the come-from-behind?

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Oct. 9, 2013.
We know I thoroughly enjoy football, but I admit that I'm not one to glue down in front of the TV regularly to tune into games. I did it a lot more in high school if family members were tuning in or in college with groups of friends. While I LOVE football, there is no denying it can be for a long time suck.

This past Saturday night was an exception, though. I didn't plan for it to be a football night, but it turned into one. In the process I realized something about myself. I now believe that the reason I learned to love football was because of winning close, come-from-behind games. It seems they are still the ones that really get me.

I've watched some Ohio State this season and tuned into a little UK football. While I love the Cards, I haven't bothered with them (aside from the Kentucky game) simply because, well, the games aren't exciting.

My football love and attention developed between 2001-2003. This was a time when Casey County football was picking up wins, but oftentimes in close games. It was also during what all Buckeye fans know as "Tressel Ball." Former OSU head coach Jim Tressel, throughout his 10-year career, became known for his high-ranking teams always playing in close games. It was rare for the Bucks to run away with a game, even when polls and stats said they should. Instead, the score would stay close or OSU would even fall behind, leaving fans on edge until the end. Look at Tressel's record though and you'll know that somehow, he almost always came out on top in those games.

Saturday night brought for a 'first' in mine and my husband's relationship. We were tuning into the OSU/Northwestern game as well as the Notre Dame Arizona State game. (I wanted to watch Kentucky as well, as I saw their score creeping closer and closer to South Carolina.) When the Buckeyes were down 13-23 and Notre Dame was barely holding a lead, my husband said he was ready to watch something else. Yes, I am a sports fan, but typically when he is ready to stop watching ESPN, I do an internal happy dance. Not this time. For once, he was ready to stop watching sports and I wouldn't have it and took control of the remote.

As the Buckeyes cut down Northwestern's lead through the second half, it dawned on me, "Oh... This is why I started liking football so much...these kind of games."
I suppose the more favorable option is to have a competitive game and be winning, but I'll be honest and say, I think I realized that it is the "barely behind" scare that engages me. I suppose the fact that with Jim Tressel this still usually led to a win is what allows me to enjoy it and not absolutely hate it. If it had regularly resulted in losses it could be a different story.

So, as silly as Tressel Ball was and is, I may actually owe my early development and love for football to the way Jim Tressel's teams played in these games. It allows me to watch any game now, and be cheering for a losing team and truly believe there is a way they will pull it out in the end. On Saturday night I was happy to see both Notre Dame and Ohio State win. I wish Kentucky could have done the same. Their second half scoring sure was on track to do so...and as usual, I was holding out hope they'd find a way. Maybe next time.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Showered with Friends!

My final shower was held exactly one month prior to the big DUE DATE. I had some of the most dear friends in my life join me for some baby celebrating and prep. This also resulted in what Mingus referred to "baby bootcamp weekend," as we had babies coming and going all weekend! The shower was actually held in the Rumpus Room that is connected to our Loft. We considered having it in town at the church, but there were complications with that. Obviously having it where I live was SUPER convenient for me (No travel and no packing gifts home!), but I am especially grateful for all of those who made the trip to attend. I know I don't exactly live close to...well, anyone or anything!
I was fortunate to have two close friends visit for the entire weekend. Valto, her husband and two little boys (4 months and 2 years) as well as my friend Kara and her 8 month old came down Friday and stayed through Sunday. Valto, the busy, busy doctor lady that she is, had been hoping to make a family trip to the Valley sometime in September and it just happened to work out that the shower weekend was the best option. Kara, who'd generously volunteered to throw me a shower in Louisville, came down to help with these shower arrangements instead. She did a fabulous job decorating with fall decor--which we all know I love!
I had friends come that spanned all corners of my life--GSP and high school, church and Bellarmine, to friends I've made in more recent years... So many of them were people I do not get to see too often but mean so very much to me. I hate that it is only on these occasions that I see some of them, but better than never. It's fun to be joining my close friends who are already on the motherhood path. Luckily for those who are and brought their young ones, my cousin Ru came down with her kiddos and played babysitter for several hours. She is so great with the little ones--seeing her occupy them and keep them happy made me realize all the more how lucky I am going to be to have her right up the road from me when the Peangling arrives!

My sister Rachel made it to the shower despite getting in SUPER late the night before from a flight traveling back from Rhode Island after being there all week. And not only was she there...but she hosted our games! Seeing how accurately someone could estimate my belly circumference was much more entertaining than I'd anticipated! KelKel had it practically dead one (with Valto maybe an INCH too long) while Rebecca's string made it around me nearly three times!
I received so much great stuff that really and truly rounded out our supply of baby "stuff" we were still in need of and I cannot get over it. In the beginning, Mingus and I browsed Walmart and Babies 'R' Us and were overwhelmed realizing the things we would need--everything from the big stuff like a car seat, down to the little things like first aid supplies and crib sheets--but we have been so blessed by family, friends and loved ones in their support and generosity so that this baby prep has been that much easier.

Thanks to all of those who attended this shower and again thank you to those who attended previous showers or who have sent their love and support in the mail or simply via text or Facebook message or a hug along the way. We feel the love and prayers more than you know.  Here are a few of my favorite non-shower shots from our weekend of fun!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Surprise - The Unexpected Baby Shower!

How blessed we are! 

It would be one thing if I were writing about a shower thrown for me by my coworkers...but I'm not. I'm here to write about a shower thrown for Mingus and myself by his coworkers a few weeks ago. I feel it's not uncommon for an expecting mother to have a shower from the people she spends so much of her day with through work, but it's so special that Mingus works with people that are this excited for us.
I suppose this just reflects yet another blessing of living in a small town and him working for a family-based business. While Tarter is an international company, the people care about each other and about family. Neither of us knew the shower was planned, but it was all spearheaded by Sheila, who is now his boss, but he has worked alongside in his department since he started at Tarter in 2011. They worked with my mom to get me into the office for the event, which actually worked out pretty easily. My mom makes regular trips to Tarter, as The 10th Planet (our family business) does a lot of work for Tarter. And while I may not work with these people, like Mingus, because I have lived here my entire life a lot of them are people I have known for a number of years (ie, I'm not just "Mingus's wife" to many of those who were at the shower.)
So mom made up some story about visiting a baby consignment shop and asked me to come along (I admit this is the most far-fetched part I had a little trouble with... It's not exactly in my Mom's character to use her non-work time to go on a random shopping trip. She didn't have to make up a reason to stop by Tarter on the way, as she actually did have a delivery to make. But while there one thing led to another and next thing I knew I was walking into one of their conference rooms that was full of smiling faces, pastel baby decorations and a pile of gifts! It was so overwhelming and I did not know what to say! I'm pretty sure I was shaking. Mingus wasn't even there yet and had no idea I was there. I had a chance to sit down, calm down and make sure I knew everyone who was there. It was great to faces to some of the names I hear Mingus mention regularly. They brought him down for a "conference call" shortly thereafter. It was entertaining to hear all of their stories about ways they'd been diverting him all day and leading up to the surprise to be sure no one gave it away.
We got SO much great stuff and the people were so generous; I can't get over it really. We got some awesome blankies--which, surprisingly, we hadn't gotten any regular cuddle baby blankets yet! We even got a handmade quilt in the absolute perfect aqua/green color to go with other stuff I've done in the nursery. I'm in love. We got cloth diapering essentials we were lacking... more clothes, which we don't have a lot of (gender neutral is tough!), some more baskets and such for storage, crib sheets and bath essentials. We also had some awesome group gifts including a walker and a monitor. And then the biggie: our car seat AND the jogging stroller (something we truly did not expect to get yet). Wow!
I still cannot get over the kind of love and support we are receiving from people. It's special for Mingus to know that the people he works with are genuinely happy and excited for him and so many people are praying for us.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Baby Growth: Weeks 34, 35, 36 & 37

And we've made it full term!

This is really the last 4-week update post I can guarantee, since at this point it's just a matter of when this little munchkin wants to make it's grand appearance. (I know they say your first rarely comes early, but you really never know!) I'm just excited that October is officially underway, as I absolutely LOVE this month. You'd almost think I planned to make this baby month, but I swear I didn't. It's the same birth month of three of my very best friends... It's our anniversary month... And I've always loved Halloween... Not to mention it's the best month for fall. Definitely glad it'll be the month of our first baby!

Comfort: It's not getting "better" but in some ways it is. Maybe I'm getting used to it? That's not to say I'm liking having to practically roll and rock (not as cool as rock-and-roll) to get from one sitting or lying position to another), but my pelvic soreness is getting better. Either my bones are starting to settle or the chiropractic adjustments are working. My belly officially feels like a table top and I can't help but rest my hand on it most of the time. Swelling is hit and miss. I took my wedding rings off shortly after my last post after being warned that it's not unknown for people to have had to cut their rings off when they get too tight. They are now safely on a chain around my neck. (But I do miss them...) My feet swell a little everyday but sometimes its more obvious than others. For whatever reason my left foot swells much larger than my right.

Sleep: I'm actually sleeping better. I wake up for more potty breaks through the night, but I fall back asleep much quicker than I did at the beginning of this 4-week stretch. The insomnia was getting tough and for a period it would regularly take me 45 minutes to get to sleep. Glad that has past and hope it stays away! I've noticed, though, my fatigue level overall is increasing, even if I do get good, decent sleep. If I happen to wake up earlier than normal, or am out during the day, I feel completely exhausted. I'm trying to do a better job of getting off my feet regularly during the day and not overdoing it. I'm also trying to actual elevate my feet more when I sit down to rest.

Labor Signs: My Grammo has insisted I no longer use the riding mower (or I may just vibrate the babe right out!) Luckily the green growth is slowing down. I notice the Braxton Hicks contractions on a daily basis along with some other slight menstrual cramping but it's not anything regular. The frequency in a day's time is increasing but in no real pattern. I still feel movement from the babe but according to an ultrasound I had at 37 weeks it is head down, so hopefully it's settled down there until the big day arrives. This may sound odd, but I am actually getting more confident about going through labor and delivery the closer we get rather than getting more nervous about it.

Classes: We attended the hospital's breastfeeding class and got to meet the lactation consultant. I had done my research and reading on a lot of what they taught but hearing it again, having Mingus also hear it, and learning a lot of the norms, benefits, tips, etc. was really, really good. I know it will help reinforce what I go through when the time comes. I'm so glad we went. We also went to the final birthing class for a second time. We initially decided to re-attend for a refresher on the breathing and relaxation portion, but we actually got a lot out of the first part, which was the session with one of the pediatricians. Fun Fact: I found out after the fact, this particular doctor was actually one that treated my brothers and I when we were kiddos! He  covered different stuff from the previous pediatrician (whom we also liked) and it made us all the more comfortable with our pediatrician options.

Other things to note: We have very little left that we still need. Our car seat is in the car and I've finally put our clothes, towels, sheets, etc, through the wash. I'm in the process of prepping our cloth diapers. (Several wash & dry rounds to increase absorbency.) The nursery is more or less done but I just need to tidy up from the laundry loads. I've sort of started a hospital bag, but it's kind of more in my head than actually all in a bag. (Does that even count??) I had an ultrasound at 37 weeks that wasn't initially planned, but it was simply to check my fluid levels since the external measurement of my uterus at 36 weeks seemed small. As the doctor expected, the levels were fine (she suspected it had more to do with my small frame) and all is good on the inside.

Fun Happenings: It's been a busy several weeks, including two showers. (I'm behind and haven't gotten to post about them yet, but I promise, it's coming!) We had a fun mini-photoshoot that was not expected or planned. I got to spend time with a lot of my girl friends over the past month, knowing I may not have the luxury to get out with the girls in the coming months. I also treated myself to a pedicure and a final haircut. Jo and I are going to get together one final time next week to bump bellies (we hope in our next meeting we will be able to share a drink!) I saw Michelle a couple of weeks for one last belly picture together. Becky and I even got to see each other and talk babies when she visited (her due date is almost exactly a month after mine). Also, I'm oh-so-grateful, STILL, for Valto lending her maternity that fall is upon us I'm able to dig back into her tub and find new fun stuff to wear!

Weeks 30, 31, 32 & 33
Weeks 26, 27, 28 & 29
Weeks 22, 23, 24 & 25

Weeks 18, 19, 20 & 21

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sports Talk: October events in Casey County

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Oct. 2, 2013.
October is here! I’ve been amazed at the number of people I’ve heard and seen express their love of this month. (And I thought it was just me!) I think we can all feel it is officially the fall season and we can thoroughly enjoy the beautiful weather, pumpkin everything, colorful leaves … The list goes on and on.

This month’s beauty motivates us all to be outside more and be active, enjoying the natural beauty and weather: hiking, biking, camping, Keeneland, golfing, tailgating. I wanted to point out two local events taking place this month that benefit great local causes:
-          The Indian Creek Relay on Saturday, Oct. 5
-          The Glow the Night Run on Oct. 25

Indian Creek Relay: Oct. 5
This event is fun and different from the other 5K runs hosted within our county. Rather than individually running, participants can come as teams of three and run nearly half the distance they would in a 5k—only 1.7 miles. That’s not so bad right?

The course itself is 5.1 miles and individual runners are welcome to take on the course, which covers Indian Creek Road (Hwy. 3270), beginning at the Middleburg Dairy Freeze.  Awards are given to both teams and solo runners in four different age groups.

The event is put on by several area churches as a memorial to Trenton Rayborn, who passed away in August 2009. The annual event’s proceeds this year will go to Little League Football, Noah Laman and Brayden Taylor.

Information can be found about the event on the FacebookPage “Indian Creek Relay: Trenton Rayborn Memorial Run,” or contact Bill Hill at (606) 787-5382.

Glow the Night Run: Oct. 25
The Glow The Night Run is actually a running series that takes place throughout the country and it’s coming to Casey County at the Ag/Expo Center this month. You may have heard of The Color Run before… so imagine this, but all of the color glowing at night!

“You will get completely covered in glowrific color dust with friends, family and silly strangers, while focusing more on the different color fun and participating in the three mile course, at night, under the cool glow of black lights,” says the official website. Participants are encouraged to wear white clothing to allow the color to show off at its fullest.

The course is three miles and coming to Liberty is quite the big deal. The other October events will be taking place in Minneapolis, Dayton, and Indianapolis. Lexington hosted a Glow the Night run in early September.

The event is being hosted by the local Relay for Life team, “Bertha’s Buddies” and will benefit Casey County’s Relay for Life. Those interested can still register for the race at a discounted price before Oct. 12. Visit for more information and to register.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

After 3 Years... I finally said, "I Do!"

Our relationship really began more than three years ago, but you were more just like a good friend that I took for granted. Either way there is no denying that you helped me grow and develop into the woman I became and even though I definitely went through an era of blowing you off more than embracing you, you were always there and I always knew you were an important part of my life.

Then, three years ago, I looked back to my roots and to the ups and downs myself and those close to me had been through. I knew it was time to bring you back into my life and embrace you and all you were willing to do for me. So I did. Healthy eating and getting the nutrients my body yearned for became a daily part of my life again, as well as my husband's (then boyfriend). With that, together we began eating healthy meals together, made from whole, raw fruits and vegetables. We set on a track to begin gardening and preserving our own foods. We also began taking Juice Plus+.
My commitment to "walk the walk" about healthy eating really began three years ago, as Mingus and I were dating and his food allergies (no dairy, eggs, red meat) forced him to do a lot of in-home cooking. At this time I also began to understand that even with my best efforts to eat well, fruits and vegetables were miracle workers when it came to my health and getting enough on a daily basis was next to impossible. In addition to smoothies being part of "walking the walk", Juice Plus+ also became a part of this walk.

Most people need to be told to "walk the walk" if they are going to "talk the talk". I, on the other hand, have spent three years walking the walk and have finally taken up the courage to "talk the talk".

I'm the furthest thing from a salesman anyone could be as I don't even like to push my general opinions with people unless I know they are are on the same page as me. (Unless we're talking about the color purple. I'll always tell you it's the best color ever.) 

But after three years of learning about Juice Plus+ and making it a part of mine and my husband's life and knowing our good health is a results of it, I can no longer not talk the talk. So I made the commitment to no longer be scared to bring the product to other people, if for no other reason than to simply reinforce and educate people on the unbelievable things fruits and vegetables can do for our health and futures. Health solutions are not all about medications and drugs after the fact. Prevention is a lot easier and cheaper. 

We all know fruits and veggies are healthy for us, but I don't think most people understand the miracle workers they are--and how badly we ALL need MORE of them with the direction our overall health as a society is headed.

I have much to share overtime about Juice Plus+ and why I've chosen to take it, support it, and now share it, but here are the highlights:
  • It's whole-food based nutrition (REAL fruits and vegetables, check the ingredients for yourself)
  • Fruits and vegetables have important antioxidants and phytonutrients our bodies need that we cannot get through vitamins or anything besides the fruits and veggies themselves, but eating enough a day, everyday, is VERY hard. Juice Plus+ helps bridge the gap.
  • Currently 29 Juice Plus+ published research studies have been conducted in leading hospitals and universities around the world proving its value--That's not to mention the studies that have not been published.
  • It's not a multivitamin, medicine, treatment or cure for any disease. It's prevention and has been proven in numerous studies to improve poor health.
Juice Plus+ or not, start considering how you can get more fruits and veggies in your daily routine even if you're healthy as a horse. Future you will thank you.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sports Talk: Volley for a Cure

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Sept. 25, 2013.
It’s quite the week in Casey County. The football team is gearing up for the first district game while also enjoying homecoming festivities. Golf teams are preparing for their regional tournament and there is no way to overlook the abundance of fun that comes with Apple Festival week.

But there is another big event taking place this Thursday that should not be overlooked: Volley for a Cure.

The VolleyRebs’ annual event is taking place this Thursday when they host Pulaski County, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The event offers shirts to the first 100 supporters and a silent auction will take place. All of the proceeds from the night are set to benefit Casey County’s Relay for Life program.

In the past, the event has benefitted the Susan G. Koman foundation, but the team has decided to keep the money close to home and put it directly to the local program helping those we know and love fight the battle of cancer.

Hearing someone has a form of cancer is becoming more and more common for everyone. Sometimes it is someone you only know by name or know is related to someone else you know; other times it hits very, very close to home. As head Volleyball coach Veronica Sengkhamyong said to me, it’s hard to find anyone who has not been affected by cancer in some way—especially breast cancer.

The VolleyRebs are also inviting all cancer survivors to attend the event and be recognized. It’s important to never overlook the amazing odds these people beat when they take on the battle with cancer. Every day is a gift for them and is a gift to those who love them. They’ve gone through something that someone like myself has never had to face, and, God willing, never will.

It’s a busy week in the county, but if possible I encourage you to come to Thursday night’s volleyball game at the high school and support the cause, the team, the research, the survivors and those currently fighting for their lives.