STARKVILLE -- Al Schmidt remembers Tiffany McWilliams carrying the Mississippi State women's track and field team at the NCAA Championships six seasons ago.
The right gear is just one part of a committed lifestyle. But double-barreled backpacks, wheeled coolers filled with caffeinated and clear beverages, bags of Cheez-Its to Cheetos to chewy fruit snacks, a rainbow's array of hair ribbons, or eye-black configurations that would make an artist jealous don't win games. They only make persevering through a day's worth of travel softball a little easier for players and parents. The reward for all of that preparation, which is an integral sidekick of commitment, comes from the chemistry players deliver after playing as many as three to five games in a day.
Thomas Velek can't help but smile. In five days, Velek and the rest of the world will watch as the World Cup begins in South Africa. The United States Men's National Team will play England in its first game Saturday in what it hopes will be a month filled with excitement. Velek, who is a professor at the Mississippi University for Women, has another reason to be proud as the world's biggest sporting event begins. As competitive director for the Columbus United Soccer Club, Velek can look back with pride at how Columbus teams fared in the third year of competitive soccer in the city and in the club's second season.
STARKVILLE -- Ja'nae Poe and Tarshayla Stephenson would love to continue to play volleyball in college. In the eight months since their high school volleyball careers ended, the Starkville and Columbus high school standouts have started to piece together the next phases of their lives. Next month, though, Poe and Stephenson will have what could be their final chance to make an impression on the volleyball court when they compete July 14 for the North team in the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star game.
STARKVILLE -- In an effort to spark youth interest in tennis, Starkville Tennis Association is beginning a program that's been in the works for the past three years. Quick Start, a United States Tennis Association program, is aimed at giving children 10-years old and younger the chance to learn the sport using modified scoring, special equipment and smaller court dimensions. With solid tennis infrastructure in Starkville, Quick Start will help strengthen area tennis by making the game more appealing for youth.
DESTIN, Fla. -- The smuggling of cowbells into Davis Wade Stadium is finished -- at least for a year. Friday, in Destin, Fla., the Southeastern Conference amended its artificial noise-maker bylaw to allow the Mississippi State spirit symbol into Bulldogs' home games. The agreement is a one-year trial.
The number of injuries to pitchers might not have happened like Brandon Johnson thought, but that doesn't mean plenty of lessons weren't learned in the 2010 high school baseball season. Johnson, a certified athletic trainer at Rehab at Work, a physical therapy clinic in Columbus, said at the beginning of the season that he saw a "potential for an increase in arm trouble" after the Mississippi High School Activities Association cut the amount of preparation time teams had before the start of the season.
MSU president Dr. Mark Keenum's press release on ringing cowbells at bulldog games.
STARKVILLE -- Dee Bost is hopeful to rejoin the Mississippi State men's basketball team after school officials confirmed he is enrolled in summer school and seeking to regain his college eligibility. Bost declared for the National Basketball Association draft but failed to withdraw his name before a new NCAA deadline of May 8. He kept his college option open up to that point by not hiring an agent, but the former Bulldogs' point guard faces an uphill battle to play at Mississippi State again.
Rachel Hollivay's goal is to become the best basketball player she can be. The 6-foot-5 junior also knows improved academic performance will help provide her with a solid foundation. Hollivay's desire to enhance her study habits recently led her and her family to explore transferring to other high schools in the area. After much consideration, the Hollivays decided Rachel would transfer from New Hope High School to Heritage Academy, a private school in Columbus.
A family that practices together gets to travel together. That is the reward Kendrick Conner, 14, Kendré Conner, 11, and Kiara Conner, 11, earned for their recent performances in the local and sectional competitions in the Pitch, Hit & Run. The performances of the Conners and Deandreya Sykes, 10, and Tyler McAdams, 8, also of Columbus, secured the athletes invitations to Minute Maid Park, which is the home Major League Baseball's Houston Astros.
Former Mississippi State basketball player Jarvis Varnado has heard all the detractors who've analyzed his game. Some say he's too skinny. Others believe his limited offensive skills will stunt his pro potential. Then there are skeptics who believe Varnado's transition to playing power forward and his lack of bulk will limit his shot-blocking ability in the NBA.
Tradition-rich high school baseball programs New Hope and Hamilton will be well represented Saturday in the D.M. Howie Mississippi High School All-Star Baseball Games. Both schools will have two players take the field at Trustmark Park in Pearl for the games sponsored by the Crossroads Diamond Club. New Hope will be represented on the North squad by Jake Smith and Philip Tice in the Class 4A-5A-6A game at 1 p.m., while Hamilton's Dylan Earnest and Kevin McCartney will play for the North in the Class A-2A-3A game at 6 p.m.
It was Karoline Holsonback's ambition to be the best player she could be to help the South Lamar High School softball team win games. Holsonback realized her goal. The freshman catcher was instrumental in helping the Lady Stallions make it to the Final Four of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A State Tournament this season.
Chase Davidson has seen Brach White make a difference in two years as the Pickens Academy baseball coach. Pickens Academy is 40-10 in two years, including 17-6 and making it to the second round of the Alabama Independent School Association Class AA state playoffs this season. "We've won 40 games in two years compared to us winning nine games in three years before he came so he's definitely helped us out," Davidson said. "He's taught us a lot about the game. "He keeps us fired up. He doesn't let us quit."
Dante Oliver and Tavaris Tate have a relationship that's seen them take similar paths to prep athletic greatness. Though not related through blood, the pair consider each other family after Oliver's family met Tate's family close to nine years ago. The Olivers, an Air Force family of four with no immediate family in Mississippi, had most of their relatives based in the Grand Strand of South Carolina.
STARKVILLE -- For one of Mississippi State's most decorated student-athletes, winding down is a delicate process. A three-time first-team All-American who is sure to earn her fourth selection this week, Chelsea Bramlett has used the last three weeks to decelerate her mind and body after completing her senior season. Her performance this season was typical Bramlett; who led the Southeastern Conference in steals and batting average en route to another hoard of awards and honors.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State's men's basketball team hopes to be at full strength when it makes its first trip outside of the United States for a game. With contracts close to being finalized for MSU's game in the Bahamas against fellow 2010 NCAA tournament snub Virginia Tech, the idea is to have sophomore forward Renardo Sidney, who must sit out an NCAA-mandated nine games to start the 2010-11 schedule, available to play. Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said the game should be official soon and it's "just a matter of getting everything signed" for the tentatively scheduled Dec. 18 game in Nassau.
Athletes from West Point and Aberdeen Friday were recognized as players of the year, during a Dispatch party to celebrate the launch of a new sports magazine, Sports Review.
STARKVILLE -- Change is something Starkville Academy athletics became used to in 2009-10. Win-loss records, experience, head coaches, confidence, spirit -- all were affected greatly by a down year in boys athletics. The football and basketball programs managed one win between both seasons.
1. Looney has helped EMCC's offensive line develop COLLEGE SPORTS
2. New recruiting rules help fuel EMCC's success COLLEGE SPORTS
3. MSU volleyball looks to continue progression COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Columbus, Starkville split in basketball HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. MSU women use strong first half to beat Alabama State COLLEGE SPORTS