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Howard changes Lady Broncos’ outlook

First-year Mustang softball coach Bryan Howard was hired this past winter, and it hasn’t taken him very long to change the outlook of the Lady Broncos softball program.

When he was hired, Howard said he wanted to bring “toughness” and “tenacity” to the program. The Bronco girls already had the talent level and experience to compete for a state title. They just needed something to push them over that extra hump.

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As the Lady Broncos head into the summer season, they already have a different vibe than they employed a year ago.

“It’s going really good so far,” Mustang senior pitcher Jayden Chestnut said. “We all really like having workouts and playing games together in the summer. It gives us a chance to really come together as a team and form chemistry now instead of trying to do it right before the season starts in August.”

The Mustang girls are out on the field every morning at 7 going through conditioning and speed drills. Once their conditioning workout is completed, they go straight into several hours of practice working on individual things to improve their game.

The Lady Broncos softball team will also compete in a summer league schedule against other schools around the area. They will play eight games in the month of June, have several weeks off from games and then return to the practice field for preseason practice in July.

Howard said the most important thing is developing chemistry.

“Sure, we want to improve our speed, agility and conditioning level, but the main thing is we need to improve our team chemistry,” he said. “Other sports get four, five, maybe even six months together. If we were to wait until the end of July to get together as a team for the first time, we would only have two months together.”

Howard is not a laid-back coach. His players love to play for him, but he is not someone who is going to sugar-coat anything with you when it comes to softball. He said he wants his team to be tough physically, but fearless mentally.

“We are going to face adverse times during the season, during games, that’s just softball, that’s sports,” he said. “We have to be able to overcome that. Every state championship team I have ever been a part of had that ability. You cannot dwell on the past, whether it be good or bad, you have to always focus on what you can control and that is what happens in the future.”

Chestnut said she is excited to have a coach that is going to push them going into her final season with the Lady Broncos.

“We understand what we have to do in order to be successful on the field,” she said. “We know it starts right now with how hard we work when we are out here. We can’t just show up and win, we have to earn it right now. We are accomplishing that right now. I’m excited to see what this team can do in the fall.”

Mustang sports make the grade

Mustang Public Schools takes its sports seriously.
So does Mustang News’ sports editor Kyle Salomon. After spending countless hours covering teams, he decided to weigh in on each program. Thus, an ongoing series was born and continues below:

Boys basketball, Grade, A

The boys basketball team had a strong season under second-year head coach Terry Long. The Broncos made a semi-final state tournament run where they lost to Putnam City West for the third consecutive time in the season. The team was led by sophomore guard Jakolby Long, sophomore forward Austin Meyer, junior guard Terrell Williams and junior forward Geoffrey Hightower. Mustang had just one senior in the main rotation last year, which was guard DeMarion Love. With the addition of guard Curtis Haywood and the return of injured guard Aubrey Johnson, the Bronco boys will be one of the favorites to win it all in 2014-2015.

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Girls basketball, Grade, C

It was a tough year for first-year head coach Kevin Kortjens and his Lady Bronco basketball team. Before the season even started the girls squad lost starters junior guard Bailey Flynn and senior forward Candis Davis to season-ending injuries. That opened the door to young players such as guards Madison Maxwell and Addyson Lawson and forwards Sarah Kellogg and Rebecca Hicks to have strong seasons for Mustang. The highlight of the year for the Broncos girls was senior center Brooke Irwin, who in her first year as a starter was an All-State selection as she led the team in scoring and rebounding.

Wrestling, Grade, A-

In head coach Dave Rankin’s final year as the face of Mustang wrestling the Broncos sent their long-time coach out in style. Mustang sent the most grapplers to the state tournament in more than a decade by sending five to state. Seniors Gareth Ballard, David McCright, Zac Julian, Clay Feland and Jordan Kalmeyer led the way for the Broncos this season. Underclassmen such as Zach Butler, Trey Edwards and Gage McBride show Mustang has a bright future on the wrestling mat in the coming years.

Boys swimming, Grade, B-

Boys swimming continues to rise up the ranks of swimming programs across the state in the program’s young age. Mustang swimming is not even a decade old, and it’s still turning heads every time they take the pool. They boys squad has improved their overall finish across the state every year they have been in existence. If the city and the school came together and decided to build an indoor pool in town, the school swimming programs could do even greater things.

Girls swimming, Grade, B

Much like the boys team, the girls swimmers are climbing the ladder every year they are in existence. With young swimmers like Lauren Oliver leading the way for the Lady Broncos in the pool, the girls squad will be a force to be reckoned with under head coach Bruce Clifton. It is scare to thing where this program will be five or even 10 years from now.

Boys tennis, Grade, B

Anytime you qualify your entire varsity team to the state tournament you are having a strong season. Even though the boys tennis team didn’t win one match in the entire state tourney, they still had one of the best seasons in school history by winning several tournaments and placing high at the regional tournament. Head coach Will Allen will have another strong group next year as most of the varsity starters return next season.

Girls tennis, Grade, B+

Lady Bronco girls tennis had another strong season under head coach Dave Rankin in his final season as the team’s head coach. The Bronco girls won numerous tournaments and placed no lower than third in every tournament they competed in throughout the year. They took a second-place finish to Edmond North in the regional tournament and qualified five girls for the state tournament.

 

 

Day should be for remembrance, honor tribute of fallen

It’s become a three-day weekend, a holiday that many people really don’t give that much thought to and one which some don’t really understand.

But Memorial Day is something we all need to take a closer look at and reflect on the real meaning of one of only two days dedicated in our country to those who have served our country.

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On Monday, a small group of people attended American Legion Post 353’s Memorial Day ceremony. Many of those obviously served their country. There were some families, some small children, but – like many ceremonies over many years – the crowd was small. Many people were at the lake, getting ready for a barbecue, taking the day off work, going to the variety of “big sales” advertised for that day.

That’s not what Memorial Day is all about and we should be ashamed we’ve lost that.

Veterans Day and Memorial Day are the only two times we, as American citizens, gather to remember those who have served our country. While Veterans Day, and our living military who have or are serving, are widely thanked, it’s in great part due to the efforts of school districts across the country. As it is done in Mustang, students and their teachers and administrators gather to hold assemblies and thank those who have fought for our freedoms, those who have traveled far from home to represent our country.

But Memorial Day is different. Maybe it’s because school is already out, maybe it’s because the loss doesn’t touch as many people, but it seems the importance of this day is swept under the rug. That’s certainly not the case for those who have lost a family member, but for many others, Memorial Day’s true meaning has been forgotten.

Memorial Day was established first as Decoration Day, an opportunity to honor soldiers lost in the Civil War. Originally held on a Sunday, it was eventually changed to make it a Monday holiday – and thus, a three-day weekend. Maybe that’s where the real reason for the day was lost. It doesn’t matter really, I suppose, but ask 10 people and perhaps six or seven of them will not realize that Memorial Day means exactly that – a time to remember and to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It’s not a “holiday” and it’s also not a day to remember anyone who has died – it’s a day to remember those who have given their lives in service for their country.

Those words are used a lot – let’s face it, they sound dramatic, they conjure up images of heroic men who have done everything to ensure our freedoms. And let’s face it, war is not always that simple. Conflicts like the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan – there are well-known debates about the real reasons for them and questions about whether any of our freedoms were ever in peril. Was there a need for us to be there at all?

That’s a debate for another time. What we all know is that everyday people – people like you and me, our brothers, our sisters, our dads, our kids – have made the chance to dedicate their lives to serving their country. It doesn’t really matter their reasons for joining, the when’s or how’s – the fact is, they stayed. They faced the chance of death and ultimately, they gave their lives for a country that largely forgets them. That’s not right and it’s not worthy of these people and their families who put their own personal happiness and future aside to make the world a better place.

It’s Memorial Day – and not just on that day, but every day, we need to remember them and be thankful.

When will officiating in Oklahoma be addressed?

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Final Point

By Kyle Salomon,

Last Friday evening in Norman at the L. Dale Mitchell Park on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, I witnessed the worst call I have ever seen in high school sports.

The Jenks Trojans were taking on the Stillwater Pioneers in the state tournament semifinal game, with the winner advancing to play Bishop Kelley on Saturday afternoon for the state championship.

The game was evenly matched as both teams had dominant pitchers on the mound. Each squad was able to muster enough offense to score two runs, but the score remained tied at two apiece after seven innings of play, which sent the contest into extras.

Jenks was the visiting team, so they were batting in the top half of the inning. The Trojans got a runner on second base with nobody out, but failed to execute and get the runner across the plate. The score remained knotted at two heading toward the bottom half of the inning with the Pioneers coming up to bat.

Stillwater got the bases loaded with two outs against the Jenks starting pitcher. The next Stillwater at bat would start the chaos that erupted at the end of the game.

Jenks started off the Pioneer batter with two pitches in the dirt that were clearly balls, but the 2-0 and 3-0 pitches were in baseball terms, right down the pipe. The catcher’s glove didn’t move as the Trojan pitcher spotted up two fastballs.

On both pitches, the home plate umpire stood there and called them balls, which walked in the winning run for Stillwater, advancing the Pioneers to the state championship game and ending Jenks’ season.

The Trojan coaching staff, players and fans erupted in disbelief as did the rest of the people in attendance at the ballgame.

Jenks coaches had to hold back their players from getting to the home plate umpire, who was taking his sweet time leaving the field.

Trojan players were yelling obscenities at the blue, and the umpire was screaming them back at the players and coaches before leaving the field.

Now, a lot of people will assume I am just writing this article out of sour grapes because I am a Jenks alum and was a baseball player for the Trojans almost a decade ago.

However, this article is not about Jenks not having the opportunity to win the baseball game and advance to have an opportunity at a state title on the diamond. This article is about the lack of quality officiating throughout the state of Oklahoma when it comes to high school sports.

The truth is, I would write the article if it had happened to Tulsa Union or even Yukon because what happened was just flat out wrong in every way possible.

This kind of error doesn’t just happen in baseball, it happens in every single high school sport across Oklahoma. As long as the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association continues to ignore the fact that their officials are below average, the integrity of high school sports in our great state will be under strict questioning.

I don’t know if that home plate umpire had a vendetta against Jenks that night or if he was just ready to go home, but it was clear he had made the decision to take the game into his own hands and crush the dreams of winning a state championship for those young men from Jenks.

Imagine the devastation those kids went through after spending countless hours working their tails off to have the opportunity to win a state title, only to have it taken away by a cowardly umpire in a state semifinal game.

The message needs to be simple and clear to the OSSAA – high school athletics in this state is way too important and way too good to have it ruined by the worst officiating system in the nation. Something has to change, and it starts with the OSSAA.

Durant has been more than reliable – in every possible way

Exactly two weeks ago, the so-called “state’s newspaper”, the Oklahoman published a headline on the cover of the sports section that read “Mr. Unreliable” talking about Thunder star player Kevin Durant.

The headline was referring to the play of the Oklahoma City superstar forward Durant in the first-round playoff series against Memphis, but it was the most disrespectful headline I have read in my lifetime.

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Not only was it unjust, it was flat wrong in so many ways. Durant has been the biggest reason Oklahoma City is now on the map when it comes to professional sports. He stands 6-feet 9-inches tall and weighs 240-pounds, but that is not the reason he has lifted this great city to new heights.

His play on the basketball court combined with his generosity off the hardwood shines a beacon of light on our rising city that wouldn’t be there if he did not play for the Thunder.

Durant won the Most Valuable Player Award for his accomplishments on the basketball court in the 2013-2014 NBA season, but that is not the only reason he is the MVP in every Oklahoman’s heart. If you saw his speech when he received his MVP Award, you would understand what I’m talking about.

Sure, we love watching his amazing basketball skills on display every time the Thunder suit up for a game. His silky smooth shot, his quick ball-handling skills and his panther-like leaping ability dazzle our eyes and drop our jaws, but it’s what he does off the court that makes him truly the MVP.

Durant attends schools around the Oklahoma City area and even all over the state of all levels and sizes and visits with the children. He makes sure he spends time with people who are very less fortunate than he is, whether they are suffering from illness or poverty, he always spends time with those people and puts a big smile on their faces.

Probably the most impressive thing Durant has done was his reaction to the May 20, 2013 E-F5 tornado that ripped through Newcastle and Moore destroying everything in its path. Durant and the rest of his Thunder teammates came out and helped the victims in any way they could. Durant even donated $1 million of his own money to the rebuilding effort.

This came after the Thunder were eliminated from the 2013 NBA Playoffs by the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round. Instead of doing what many professional athletes and entertainers would have done in the situation, he stepped up for the people of his current community.

A lot of other people in his shoes would have released on statement to the press via twitter saying what a tragedy it was and then go home and be on their way. Durant did the exact opposite.

That alone makes KD our true MVP.

However, if some of you out there still believe Mr. Durant is still “Mr. Unreliable”, here are his stats ever since the headline was published. Durant has averaged 33.7 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game, 4.3 assists per game, one block per game and one steal per game in the six games since that fateful day.

For the season, Durant averaged 32 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game and 5.5 assists per game. Perhaps before the Oklahoman wants to publish another “fringy” headline, maybe they should actually put thought into who they are talking about when they hit that send button.

Letter to the Editor

By Sean McDaniel, Mustang Superintendent

Mustang Public Schools is committed to the full implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Districts across the state have spent over three years along with considerable time and resources in order to bring our students the rigor necessary to develop them as college- and career-ready graduates.

I am curious and concerned about the practical implications of HB 3399 – the bill to repeal Common Core in Oklahoma.

Seemingly, changing course now could prove to be a monumental waste of all of the efforts and tax dollars that have been committed to CCSS implementation. If we truly dump Common Core, which I would suggest is the message of HB 3399, then additional resources would be necessary to finance the development and implementation of an entirely new set of standards.

Common Core State Standards are not perfect but full implementation of the standards and the assessments will allow us to compare student performance in Oklahoma with that of other states to ensure our students are receiving the same high quality education as their contemporaries throughout the country. If we were to create our own Oklahoma standards, there is a great risk that competitiveness and comparability on a national scale might be no better than it is now.

Further, HB 3399 requires that Oklahoma adopt new standards in just one year. Developing a new set of rigorous standards requires time and effort from seasoned educators. There is much to be concerned about relative to the quality of any standards that are purported to be developed in just one year’s time.

Oklahoma students deserve rigorous and well-developed standards. My encouragement to the Legislature is that it will pause long enough to remove the politics surrounding the Common Core debate and consider the negative impact HB 3399 could very well have on our classrooms. While not perfect, CCSS is good for Oklahoma students. It is not practical nor in anyone’s best interest to abandon full implementation now.

Sean McDaniel

 

Good acts have a ripple effect

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Like a pebble in a pond, an Act of Kindness ripples outward through the world, influencing lives in ways we could never imagine.

- Unknown

Amazing how far a good act can travel.

On Monday, members of Cub Scout Troop 398 came to the Mustang News to earn a merit badge. What a great group of kids. Six and 7 years old, I’m sure a newspaper office isn’t that exciting. But they asked questions, got their picture taken and were great guests to have. It was a lot of fun, probably more so for the News staff than it was for them.

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But the visit wasn’t the story, and those boys ended up giving – and receiving so much more.

After they finished in the News office, the boys asked for some trash bags. They were going to collect trash in the ratty field adjacent to the center where we are located. As they ran around, laughing and picking up whatever people throw into the field, a Good Samaritan saw what they were doing and stopped.

The man told the boys what a great thing they were doing and then he did something unusual – he gave the Scouts $200 for cleaning up the field. The boys were excited – two $100 bills?! The Scouts decided to evenly distribute the $200, receiving $28 each. Not a ton of money, but when you’re 6 or 7, that’s a pretty good chunk of change.

But that gift, from a man none of them knew, wasn’t the end of the story either – what happened next showed that ripple in the pond effect and just how far kindness can travel.

But first we have to back up just a bit.

It was Hayden Weathers who was the undeniable “star” of the Scouts’ visit. Filled with questions and making funny comments, Hayden clearly has a lot of fun wherever he goes. So it was kind of surprising, in a way, what happened with Hayden’s share of the money given to the boys.

Pack 398′s cubs with Mustang News graphic designer Ashleigh Swingle. (Photo/Traci Chapman)

Hayden knows a little girl named Farrah. Farrah is a little girl who is battling cancer, and her family is going through a horrible time. Although Hayden doesn’t understand everything that’s going on, he knows they’re hurting, and he decided his $28 might just help. He decided to give this money, this gift he didn’t expect, to a little girl so things might be a little easier for a while.

Those ripples spread, they showed those of us who were lucky to hear the story just how warm and giving a heart can be, that no matter how old or how small, there are little acts of kindness that spread far beyond where they started.

The man was Chad McDowell. The boy was Hayden Weathers. Hopefully, the ripples they started will grow even more.

Time to get back to the “main dish” in high school baseball

Final Point with Kyle Salomon,

Baseball is one of the hardest sports to play, but it is a very simple game as long as you can do three things.

As a baseball player, if you can hit, throw and field, you have what it takes to be good. Of course, as you get older, with each level the game gets more and more complex, but those three basic fundamentals never change.

I played high school baseball and several years of collegiate baseball. When you talk about teams we had the most respect for, they were the teams we knew could hit the ball with authority, pitch it well, field the ball and play catch.

That was eight years ago when I graduated from high school, so not that long in the grand scheme of things, but from what I have seen across the state of Oklahoma in high school baseball is disappointing.

I don’t know if it’s a lack of talent across the entire state or if it’s just poor overall coaching throughout Oklahoma, but those three basic fundamentals have become lost arts.

It is truly hard for me to believe the talent level across the entire state is that bad, so I lean toward the overall coaching as being the reason for poor play in high school baseball.

Too many coaches are worried about what I call the “snacks” or “appetizers” in baseball rather than actually worrying about the “main dish.”

If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, well, you’re about to find out.

The snacks or appetizers in baseball are what I refer to as bunting, pick-off plays, bunt coverages on defense, first-and-third situations and numerous defensive situations with runners on certain bases.

The main dish in baseball is very simple. It’s the hitting, pitching, fielding and throwing aspects of the game.

I have seen many high school baseball teams from all over the state play this season, even the squads that are considered to be the favorites to win the state championship, and I have not seen a team that does the main dish very well. The reason is coaches are too concerned with the snacks or appetizers.

Research shows that the snacks and appetizers of baseball only happen 10 percent of the time during a game and that high school baseball coaches spend up to 90 percent of their practice time working on these things.

My question is plain and simple – why would you work on things that you will only have to deal with 10 percent of the game for 90 percent of your practice?

Instead of working on bunting or bunt coverages, why not work on hitting the baseball with power? Develop your players into hitters that can drive the baseball into the gaps, pitchers who can hit spots and change speeds and fielders who can handle the ball and make the throws they need to make.

Now, I’m not saying we just forget those snacks and appetizers completely. They are still very important, but don’t get carried away and spend your entire practice covering these things.

It seems like every high school baseball coach in the state of Oklahoma wants to bunt a guy over and then sacrifice him in with “doing your job” baseball. How about driving runners in with gap shots and home runs?

So please, high school coaches in our great state, let’s get back to the main dish and put aside the snacks and appetizers for a while.

Is that text worth it?

It only takes a second.

Strange that one second – literally one second – can change your life, the lives and futures of those around you and even impact someone you might not even know. Life can truly be a game of chance.

The problem with games of chance is they are just that, a risk. When you take a split-second mistake and throw in the element of chance, sometimes, somewhere, someone is going to lose.

That’s what happened recently, when an area student made the decision to text and drive. It was probably a spur-of-the-moment decision, maybe it was a regular habit, what followed wasn’t a normal occurrence at all because in the few seconds that followed, a family lost a daughter, a sister, a friend. As sad as it was for her family and friends to feel her loss, there was a bright note because the person she hit, head-on and in the dark, was not killed when her texting caused her to cross the yellow line.

Teen drivers can be a hazard. Inexperience, combined with the myriad distractions on the road today, can make a bad situation that much worse. Maybe a young driver gets distracted, perhaps too many kids are in the car, it could be late or slick or just the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet again, the end result is the same – a family, a community is left to mourn and wonder what might have been.

Since the first automobiles rolled off the assembly line there have been people who have made the mistake of underestimating the hazards associated with a moving piece of metal weighing thousands of pounds. There are those who were innocent, the victim of someone else’s mistakes. Perhaps it was simply bad luck. That’s the way it is sometimes with life, the way it always has been.

But that’s not entirely true, is it? As time has gone on, things have changed. A lot. I remember growing up in the 1960s rarely wearing a seat belt as I stood on the front seat of my mom’s Corvair. There were a lot less people on the road back then and a lot less distractions.

Jump to today and it’s amazing how many distractions there really can be. Not just texting, but Facebook, there’s Twitter, how about Instagram and Snap Chat? Young drivers today are part of a generation that doesn’t know what life is about without digital products or the Internet. They are part of a society where everything is immediate – who can post that status update first, we have to let so-and-so know where we are and what we’re doing.

The problem is when we do it and we’re driving, we may not be doing whatever it is we thought was so important for long.

It’s not just teens who decide to “multi-task” while they’re driving. Last week a North Carolina woman was killed after posting photos of herself driving and a status update to Facebook, talking about a song she liked. It was easy to see what happened – less than a minute after her last post, her car crossed the median and hit an oncoming truck.

She was 32 years old.

What can we do? How do we get our children, our friends’ children, our friends to stop this practice? How do we get off the treadmill ourselves? Why don’t we want to?

Oklahoma is one of only eight states in the country that doesn’t have legal restrictions on texting and driving (except for those in special circumstances, like bus and truck drivers and those holding a learner’s permit). Many times, bills have come before the Legislature to put something into place; every time, the ideas have stalled. Words like “individual freedoms” and “personal rights” always seem to become the focus of efforts that never make any headway.

I wonder how I would feel if my son’s “personal rights” mean he could text and kill someone else’s child. How about their “individual freedoms” allowing them to make the decision to update Facebook and put one of my friends in a wheelchair – or worse.

It’s time we start taking personal responsibility – for ourselves and for our children. We need to teach those around us that it’s not only not worth it to take that second and send a text or update Facebook – it simply is not right.

It’s time to take a second and make a difference. Stop playing that game of chance and commit to putting down the phone while we’re driving, encourage our representatives to take a stand and help those who will not make the right choice on their own to do the right thing.

There will always be car accidents and there will always be tragedies. We can make it so there are less of them, so our next status update or text is, “I made it here safe and sound.”

 

Give mom some help for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. It’s always nice to give Mom a card, flowers or candy, but this year, people all over the country are helping their moms save an estimated $4,000 annually on the cost of Medicare prescription drugs. You can help your mom, too — and it won’t cost you a dime.

If your mother has Medicare coverage and has limited income and resources, she may be eligible for Extra Help — available through Social Security — to pay part of her monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments.

To figure out whether your mother is eligible, Social Security needs to know her income and the value of her savings, investments and real estate (other than the home she lives in). To qualify for the Extra Help, she must receive Medicare and have:

  • Income limited to $17,505 for an individual or $23,595 for a married couple living together. Even if your mom’s annual income is higher, she still may be able to get some help. Some examples where income may be higher include if she and, if married, her spouse:
    • Support other family members who live with them;
    • Have earnings from work; or
    • Live in Alaska or Hawaii.
  • Resources limited to $13,440 for an individual or $26,860 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds. We do not count her house or car as resources.

We have an easy-to-use online application that you can help Mom complete. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp. To apply by phone or have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020).

To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).