May, 2014

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Aaron Ross Hancock

Aaron Ross Hancock, 35, of Mustang died May 21, 2014 in Edmond.

Aaron Ross Hancock

Aaron was born Dec. 21, 1978 in Pordenone, Italy, when his father was stationed there. He moved to Mustang in 2009 and worked at Terracon. Aaron loved the outdoors and was an avid hunter. He enjoyed spending time with his family and dog, Sammie. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.

Aaron was survived by fiancée Lisa Woods and her children, Taylor and Takoda Ray, all of Mustang; parents, Stanley Hancock of Paliode, Neb. And Labeth Nall of Ardmore; siblings, Amy Hancock of Ardmore and Adam Hancock of Loveland, Colo.; nephew, Austin Hancock; and niece, Ali Hancock.

Memorial services were held May 24 in Ardmore under the direction of Harvey-Douglas Centennial Chapel.

 

 

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.

Stories of those lost part of Memorial Day remembrance

memorial day 6 web

By Traci Chapman

They were two very different men who traveled a long way and found a resting place thousands of miles away. Now home, they are just two of the stories that make each Memorial Day more than a day for barbecues or a Monday off from work.

On Monday, Mustang American Legion Post 353 members and a small crowd of residents gathered to honor more than 400 people who have given their lives in service of their country buried in Mustang Cemetery. Their stories are worth telling and remembering, CCMS (USAF Retired) Lloyd Smithson said.

Dave Schacher (Photo/Traci Chapman)

“It is important, what they did and what they sacrificed – their stories are important,” Smithson said.

Those who lived and died in service of their country each have a story – not just of their service, but of their lives and the people who loved them. They are the journeys of men like Finley Blanton and Donald Wann. And while those two soldiers didn’t hail from inside Mustang’s 12 square miles, the gift they gave their country was the ultimate sacrifice given by their peers laid to rest in Mustang Cemetery.

Clarence Finley Blanton finally made it home last year. It had been more than 44 years since the El Reno native was last seen, thousands of miles away, on a rocky cliff in Laos. Known to his fellow soldiers as Bill, none of them were supposed to be where they last lived and died – and that was one reason it took so long to get him home.

Long before that day, Blanton was loved and missed by the women in his life – his widow, Norma, who would never remarry, and his daughter, Karen Daughety. To them he was a warm and funny man with a huge heart who loved the country he served, knowing that dedication could ultimately cost him his life.

“He was something special all right,” Norma said. “Even that last assignment was something different, something people wanted to find out about.”

Chaplain Karen Douthit, American Legion Post 353 Commander Paul Ray and (in background) CCMS (USAF Ret) Lloyd Smithson.

Blanton became a part of the story of the Vietnam War. While many people later wanted to forget that war ever happened, for families like his, it was something they never forgot – not just because their husband and father was lost but also because he never made it home at all.

“There was never that chance to say goodbye, to have somewhere to visit him, to know he was home,” Norma said.

An Air Force man, the story of Blanton and the men who served with him on that final assignment would remain as misty as the fog that would blanket the place where they died.

That secrecy involved a radar installation located on Phou Pha Thi mountain, rising about 5,600 feet with a near-vertical face on one side. Called Lima Site 85, it wasn’t its function that made Blanton’s outfit secret. It was where that mountain, and Lima 85, was located – in Laos, a self-proclaimed neutral country where Americans were not supposed to be conducting any kind of military operation.

The operation was so secret, the 19 men assigned to it were “sheep-dipped” – separated from the Air Force and proclaimed civilians. However, the men were still considered Air Force personnel by military officials. Many years later, documents revealed that Lima 85’s radar was used to help guide bombing strikes into North Vietnam and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. With the enemy’s capital – Hanoi – just 160 miles away from Lima 85, it provided a perfect location for a radar installation. Its height and sheer face gave military leaders confidence the small outpost would be protected from the enemy.

Clarence Finley Blanton’s ashes are returned to his family more than 40 years after he was killed during the Vietnam War. (Photo/Traci Chapman)

Those leaders were wrong. On March 11, 1968, North Vietnamese forces were able to scale the cliff. While bombardment rained down, Blanton and 10 other men died on the mountain, while eight men were airlifted to safety. Of those who escaped by helicopter, one – Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger – was killed by gunfire shortly after being lifted onto the helicopter. Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in September 2010 for helping four injured airmen board the helicopter, saving their lives.

After American forces determined no one was left alive at Lima 85, the radar unit was bombed to keep it from falling into the enemy’s hands.

All of those facts were kept from the families of Lima 85’s casualties. While the men were first listed as Missing in Action, a change in their status to “killed in action” did not bring closure.

“We really didn’t know what happened to them, and it was a terrible thing,” Norma Blanton said. “It’s like what people say – the not knowing is the worst.”

Back home, Blanton’s family had to cope with the news he was missing. A month later, his mother, Mabel Blanton, died.

“It was a horrible time, and she never had an answer, his father never had an answer about what had really happened to him,” Norma said.

But Blanton himself might have had a foreshadowing about what was to come, Norma said. In his last letter, written just three days before he was killed, Blanton’s tone changed from his usual correspondence.

“He said, ‘It’s very spooky up here tonight,’ and that was uncharacteristic for him,” she said.

As the years went on and files were opened, Norma and the families of the 11 other men lost that day learned information, bit by bit. Finally came the news that Vietnamese troops said they had thrown the American casualties over the side of the mountain because they could not be buried on the rocky surface.

“And that’s where they found him,” Norma said. “They had dummies they threw over the side of the cliff to see where they’d land, and that’s where they were.”

Searchers found five vests and four different sizes of boots at the mountain’s base. They also found bone fragments and – a “miracle,” Norma said – Blanton’s identification card.

“It was in pretty good shape so they didn’t know if it had been there that whole time or if someone had it and then knew about the search effort and returned it to the spot,” she said.

“After 44 years to be even getting him back, I can’t even describe it,” Norma said.

And as for that spot so far away where Finley spent his last moments?

“Bill – Finley – would always say in his letters how beautiful it was,” Norma said. “That’s what I hold onto.”

Shannon Wann Plaster knows all about the search for a missing loved one.

She, like Norma and Karen, experienced a loss during the Vietnam War – when she was 9 years old, her father left to serve and he never returned. Like the Blanton family, it wasn’t just that her father was killed in action, she said.

“It’s the not knowing, the fact that we didn’t know where he was – that was the most difficult part of it,” Shannon said.

The search for her father, Chief Warrant Officer Donald Wann, would become a defining part of Shannon’s life. Convinced he could be found, Shannon never gave up until he actually was –39 years after he was last seen.

Donald Wann volunteered to serve long before war came to a far-away place called Vietnam and a soldier who signed up for two tours of duty once war broke out. He was awarded 152 air medals, two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, a Good Conduct Award and the Vietnam Medal.

Wann was nearing the end of his second tour when on June 1, 1971, he and 1st Lt. Paul Magers were flying an AH1G Cobra gunship helicopter on a two-copter mission to pick up a ranger team stranded near Dong Tri, South Vietnam. After the first team picked up the rangers, Wann and Magers flew closer to destroy some ammunition and mines left on the site. As the helicopter neared the site, it was hit by rounds from anti-aircraft artillery, spun out and crashed on a steep hill, before exploding. Because the area was under heavy fire, rescue or recovery attempts were impossible.

Wann’s final flight was the day after his 34th birthday and five days before he was set to come home on leave.

That was the official story of her father’s disappearance and it was all Shannon, her mother, Ruth, and her sister, Michelle, had as they struggled to understand how their lives had changed so radically.

“It was strange for a kid to have your dad go away and never go back, and then there was the aftermath,” Shannon said. “We lost our house and in a way, we lost our way. It took a long time to try to accept how our lives changed.”

Wann was declared dead in 1973, but that didn’t clear up the “lingering doubts” in his daughter’s mind. With the documents concerning her father’s activities in Vietnam still classified, answers were hard to come by.

“We didn’t know where he was, we didn’t know a lot of things about him,” she said. “As a teenager, of course, I had a lot of anger and confusion. I always had these dreams that my dad would come back, and I wouldn’t believe people who said that he was dead. I had no closure.”

During those years, Wann said she had no idea that a single decision would change not only the course of her own life, but also set the stage for her father’s final journey.

“I was searching and I finally decided I was going to do something to try to get some answers,” she said.

That something was to write a letter to the Pentagon. In 1990, after reading about other Oklahoma soldiers missing in action, she sent an appeal for information. Twenty years after writing that letter, she finally got the news she had dreamed of for so long – her father had been found.

Oddly, the trail leading to Donald Wann’s helicopter wreckage veered into the past, Wann said. Investigators first believed they had found the crash site in 1993. Located on a steep mountain in dense jungle terrain, crews began what would be the first of several excavations. Initial finds – an empty wallet, helicopter parts, a seat belt and boot parts – were encouraging, but the items could not be positively linked to Wann or Magers.

Throughout the excavations, the interviews and the endless paperwork, Wann – now living in Yukon – said she never lost faith her father would be found, although frustration was a constant part of the process. That’s when fate stepped in, Wann said. Two witnesses came forward with information, men who said they had seen the downed helicopter and the two victims after the crash. One of those men claimed to have buried one of the Americans.

“He gave them information, as did the other man, and it started to become clear this man believed he buried my dad,” Wann said. “In the end, he was right about that.”

Eventually, the most important clues were found – teeth and a bone fragment. Although it didn’t seem like much, it was enough to finally determine it was the Wann/Magers crash site. DNA and dental records determined the teeth belonged to Wann, while Magers’ family also finally learned, for certain, his fate.

In 2010, Donald Wann finally came home. Buried in a military funeral attended by hundreds of people, it didn’t erase the pain of all those years of loss, but it gave Shannon a chance to say goodbye and to reflect on the journey that led both of them to that place.

“Throughout this process, I have learned so much about my father and the man he was – even just recently, I’ve learned so much,” she said. “I want to make sure people know who he was and what a great person he was, and I want other families to never go through this alone.

“I will never stop missing my dad and grieving for what we missed, but I know one thing – he was doing what he believed in and what he loved, and that makes me very proud,” Wann said.

Rankin retires after stellar career

Dave Rankin

By Kyle Salomon,

Every once in awhile a person comes along who has the ability to change a high school athlete’s life.

Mustang High School is losing one of those people to retirement this year as head wrestling and girls tennis coach Dave Rankin is officially stepping down after 39 years of teaching and 30 years of coaching at the high school level.

Rankin said when he was hired to be the head wrestling coach at Mustang High School, he couldn’t have imagined how much he would love it.

“One thing teaching and coaching helps you become is adaptable. When you are out there competing as a wrestler, you have your own style, your own way of doing things. But when you are a coach, you have to be able to teach multiple styles and handle many different personalities.”

Rankin has coached many All-Americans and All-State wrestlers in his time with the Bronco grapplers. He has been responsible for three-fourths of the All-Americans and All-Staters Mustang has employed on the mat.

Rankin coached three national champion wrestlers in his career. Matt Bean was a four-time national champion, Mark Allen won the national championship two times and Tony Ellison was a two-time national title winner as well.

Rankin also was a sparring partner in the 1990s with eventual Olympic gold medalist Kendall Cross, who was a Mustang native.

“I have had the honor of being around some great people in wrestling in my career,” Rankin said. “A lot of those guys were so talented and driven, I don’t want to say it was easy coaching them, but it didn’t take a lot of motivating on my part to get them to get after it.”

Rankin said wrestling is one of the toughest sports to coach because it’s so mental.

“Wresting is like a street fight with rules. It is 80 percent mental. As a coach, you almost have to be like a psychologist out there. You have to know how a wrestler thinks and what will give him that mental edge he needs to be successful.”

Rankin was a three-time state champion at John Marshall High School where he graduated in 1970. He received a full-ride wrestling scholarship to the University of Oklahoma. Rankin helped the Sooners win a national championship on the mat in 1984.

Rankin went into coaching right after his collegiate career was completed. He started his coaching career at Moore High School as an assistant on the staff. He spent two years at Moore before being hired by Mustang as the head coach in 1977.

In his first year with the Bronco grapplers, Rankin led the team to a seventh-place finish in the state tournament. In his second season, he took them to a second-place finish and was awarded Coach of the Year in the state for wrestling.

In 2013, Rankin was selected as the Large-School West All-State wrestling coach. He led the West team to a win against the East side in a highly competitive dual.

“Getting to coach kids of that caliber was a lot of fun,” Rankin said. “I coached them like they were my own kids. It was an honor to be there. We all had that competitive spirit flowing and we wanted to come out on top in that competition.”

For the last seven years, Rankin has been the girls tennis coach for Mustang. He said coaching girls tennis following the wrestling season was like a breath of fresh air.

“The mentality is just so different. The girls are really fun to work with and they really work hard. I wish I would have coached tennis every year in my career.”

In his time as the head girls tennis coach, Rankin has led the Lady Broncos to 30 tournament victories, 15 runners-up and eight third-place finishes. The girls tennis squad has also maintained a 3.87 GPA under his watch, including winning the academic state title in 2007.

Rankin said he wants to be remembered as a coach who taught life lessons such as a great work ethic, mental control and good citizenship.

When asked what he would miss most about coaching, Rankin emphatically said one word.

“Competition. I thrived on competition, watching the kids take what they did in practice and see it turn into wins was a special feeling.”

Mustang Elementary wins fourth consecutive prize

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By Traci Chapman

Two years, four wins. That’s the record held by Mustang Elementary art students.

It was announced Tuesday the group won their fourth consecutive Made by Milk contest. With the win came a prize of $1,500 students would dedicate to purchasing gym equipment, teacher Kent Hathaway said.

“John Wooden could not have said it better, ‘It takes talent to be a champion, but it takes Character to remain one,’” Hathaway said Tuesday. “Mustang Elementary students have shown that they have the talent, and character to remain a champion among the nation’s most talented students.”

Sponsored by Evergreen Packaging, officials there were “overwhelmed” at the students’ latest creation – “Smaug” from Lord of the Rings.

“The creativity from Mustang students and faculty thoroughly impresses us year after year. Their dedication to collecting and recycling thousands of milk cartons for the Made By Milk contest showcases their ongoing commitment to sustainability and teaching their students the importance of environmental responsibility.”

Students previously won for their visions of a coral reef, Golden Gate Bridge and, most recently, a space shuttle. They can now add the tally of their winnings at $16,500 on behalf of the school, Evergreen representatives said.

It was yet another honor for Hathaway, who was named both Mustang Elementary and Mustang Public Schools district teacher of the year. He said while the honors are wonderful, the best thing is helping the school and bringing art to students – while teaching them about other things, as well.

“That’s the most exciting part – that everyone gets affected by what all of us as teachers are trying to do,” he said. “It’s even more exciting when you think about the fact that most of these students are 10 years old.”

 

 

Mustang resident brings professional soccer to Canadian County

Team Logo copy

By Kyle Salomon,

Three years ago, Mustang resident Sean Jones and his two friends, Brad Lund and Debray Ayala, started the idea of bringing high-level professional soccer to the Oklahoma City area.

“I have known Brad and Debray for a long time through soccer and soccer-related ventures,” Jones said. “We knew if we could do it right, we would be successful with bringing a professional soccer franchise to Oklahoma City.”

Their dream came true nearly one year ago when the North American Soccer League approved a new professional men’s soccer team that will play at Yukon High School at Miller Stadium starting next March. The team will be called Oklahoma City FC (Futbol Club).

Lund is no stranger to owning professional sports teams as he was a partial owner of the Oklahoma City Blazers when they were the main hockey squeeze in the area.

“We sat down and brainstormed and talked strategy of how we wanted to do this the right way,” Jones said. “We have had some bumps in the road, but all in all, it has been a really smooth process.”

One of those bumps along the way came with a semi-professional women’s soccer team in the Women’s Professional Soccer League. The team played at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City, but was unable to attract enough fans to the games despite the women being talented.

Jones said they learned from that experience and felt if they made several changes to their process, they would be successful.

Along the way, Jones, Lund and Ayala started men’s and women’s amateur teams in the Professional Development League.

Jones said both those teams have been successful.

“We have a lot of local talent on those teams, so the response has been really good. There is a lot of good soccer played in this area, so we knew we could have something special with the two PDL teams. It is the highest level of amateur soccer in this country.”

The two teams play at Oklahoma City University and average roughly 1,000 fans per game.

Jones is no stranger to soccer as he has been around the game all of his life. He grew up in Edmond and along with his brother, helped start the Edmond Soccer Club in 1976 when he was in seventh grade.

Jones is not an Oklahoma native, however. He moved from Ohio to Oklahoma when he was a young boy.

Jones graduated from Edmond Memorial High School in 1982. He helped the Bulldogs win a state championship his senior season, but soccer was not an OSSAA sanctioned sport at the time, so it is not recorded in the record books.

Ironically, the OSSAA decided to honor soccer as a sanctioned sport the following year.

Jones received a scholarship for soccer to Southern Nazarene University where he played for a year before transferring to Oklahoma State University the following year and played on the Cowboys’ club soccer team.

Following his collegiate career, Jones graduated from OSU and started graduate school and continued playing the sport he loves at the semi-professional level. When his playing career was completed, he started coaching high-level club soccer in the area.

Jones became a CPA and runs his own business in the medical field. He and his family moved to Mustang in 1990 and have lived in the community ever since.

Jones has four children, who all played soccer or are still playing soccer. All four of his children played soccer for Mustang High School and were, are and will be MHS graduates.

Jones’ oldest child, Jake, graduated from Mustang in 2009 and went on to play soccer at SNU following in his dad’s footsteps. Alissa graduated from MHS in 2011 and plays soccer at Troy University in Alabama. Lexi just walked across the stage as a Mustang grad this year.  She is attending Oral Roberts University in Tulsa this fall on a soccer scholarship.  Jaci is the baby of the family and she will be a junior at MHS next fall. She also has plans of playing soccer at the collegiate level.

“It’s such a blessing to have the wonderful kids that I have,” Jones said. “They are all really special, not because they play soccer at such high levels, but because they are amazing people.”

In 1999, the Jones family had the opportunity to watch the United States women’s soccer team win the gold medal live. Jones said it was a great experience for his family and him to witness that special event live.

Jones said if his family wasn’t as much into soccer as they are, he doesn’t know if he would have become the majority owner of the new franchise coming to Canadian County.

The team will be assembled by January before training camp opens in February. The season opens in March. There will be several open tryouts for local talent across the area to come and show their skills.

Jones said the majority of the owners in the NASL view their league as a rival league to the MLS and if the first several seasons go well, they would like to build their own stadium for the OKC FC.

“Canadian County is a great area that I believe is waiting to explode with professional soccer. The income level is great in the county. We expect to have a lot of success with this new team.”

Summer reading program kicks off on high note

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By Traci Chapman

Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan is kicking off its Save for College Sweepstakes with a plan designed to keep students reading throughout the summer.

Fizz Boom Save for College will award $2,529 each to two students through a partnership between the savings plan and Oklahoma Department of Libraries. The sweepstakes runs through Aug. 31 and is open to all Oklahoma parents, guardians and grandparents whose child is participating in a summer reading program.

“The goal of the sweepstakes is to keep kids from preschool to high school reading throughout the summer, expanding their knowledge on subjects that interest them,” Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller said.

Miller is board chairman for Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan. He said this marks the sixth year for the sweepstakes, running in conjunction with the Department of Libraries’ summer reading programs.

The sweepstakes program is heating up as Mustang Public Library gets ready Thursday to kick off its summer reading program. Registration for the program begins that day and from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., a free concert will be held at Wild Horse Park Gazebo. Musician Monty Harper and Sugar Free Allstars will be featured during the concert, and children and youth will receive a book bag, reading log and bookmark.

“Everyone is invited to bring their blankets, chairs and picnic dinner or snacks,” Mustang children’s librarian Lizzie Brown said.

Monty Harper will perform at 7 p.m., and Sugar Free Allstars will take the stage at 8 p.m., Brown said. Anyone attending is asked to bring new or “gently used” books for donation to Smart Start Canadian County.

Mustang’s summer reading concert is by Friends of the Mustang Library Endowment Fund and Oklahoma Arts Council.

Sweepstakes entry forms are available at Mustang Public Library. Forms may be completed and returned to the library or sent in by mail or online at www.ok4saving.org. Forms must be submitted or postmarked by Aug. 31.

For more information about Mustang’s summer reading program and other events for children and youth scheduled throughout the summer, contact Brown at (405) 376-2226 or [email protected].

 

 

 

Jones daughters share common bond

Jaci and Lexi

By Kyle Salomon

Most families have that common interest they all share with each other that helps bring them close.

For the Jones family, that common interest is the sport of soccer. In the six-person family, five either played soccer at a high level or are still playing soccer at a high level.

Sean Jones, the father of the family, has been around soccer all of his life. Whether it be playing or coaching, the sport has played a big role in who he is.

The four children in the family are also big into soccer. The oldest child, Jake played in high school and played some college soccer at Southern Nazarene University. Alissa, the oldest daughter in the family, played at Mustang High School and plays at Troy University in Alabama.

Lexi, the second to the youngest, just graduated from Mustang this spring and will be attending Oral Roberts University in Tulsa on a soccer scholarship. And then there is Jaci, the baby of the family, who is going to be a junior at MHS and is one of the best girls soccer players in the state.

“We have done it our whole lives,” Jaci said. “My dad played throughout his whole life, and he got us all into at a very young age. He coached all of us growing up. Anything we do, whether it be vacation or whatever, it is always surrounded by soccer.”

Lexi echoed her younger sister’s comments.

“It’s paying for my college, so I am very thankful we have it in our lives,” she said. “It’s something that brings us all together as a family that we can enjoy. When we used to go to soccer camps and stuff growing up, we always did that together, which was special.”

For all of the Jones family, as soon as they stepped foot on a soccer field for the first time, it was love at first sight.

“At first, I did it because it was something my dad and I could do together, and we like doing it together,” Lexi said. “I ended up being pretty good at it and I loved doing it, so I knew I wanted to keep doing it.”

Jaci said going to watch her older siblings play games and tournaments every week and weekend really helped her get into the sport as well.

“It becomes a part of you when you are around it so much. You almost feel really weird when you aren’t around it. It’s a big part of who we are and our lives. You learn things from them, too. We all pick things from each other’s game that makes all of us better.”

Sean Jones is going to be the majority owner of the new professional men’s soccer team that is coming to Canadian County next spring. The team will be called Oklahoma City FC and will play at Yukon High School at Miller Stadium until the organization can build its own stadium in the area.

The new team will compete in the North American Soccer League, which is a rival league to the MLS.

Lexi and Jaci both said they can’t believe their dad is an owner of a professional sports team.

“It is really cool,” Lexi said. “At first, it was really shaky and we weren’t sure if it was really going to happen, but when we knew it was going to happen for sure, it was a really cool feeling.”

Jaci said it was nerve-racking waiting to hear if her dad was going to get the team.

“We really wanted him to get the team here because he is really passionate about it and he really wanted it. He has put so much time into it, so to see it actually happen is really awesome.”

Sean Jones also owns two Professional Development League teams, in which all three of his daughters are members.

The two PDL teams are amateur soccer teams that play in the highest level of amateur soccer in the United States.

Lexi and Jaci don’t see a lot of playing time on the women’s team because of their young ages, but their older sister, Alissa sees a lot of playing time for the squad.

“The level of play is so high, it is just good to get out there and practice with them,” Jaci said. “Those girls are so good. It’s a lot of fun to go out there and compete with them, to see where you really are as a player.”

Lexi and Jaci have lived in the Canadian County area all of their lives and they believe the Oklahoma City FC will thrive in the location.

“Soccer is growing all over the country,” Jaci said. “I think people will take pride in having a professional soccer team in this area. It would be really cool to eventually see a women’s pro team come here, but for now, we are really excited to see how successful the men’s team is going to be.”

Coalition joins worldwide stop-smoking effort

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Canadian County’s anti-smoking coalition has gone international in its efforts to help residents become tobacco-free.

Canadian County Against Tobacco partnered with Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust and Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline to support World No Tobacco Day, set for May 31.

“World No Tobacco Day is an annual day of awareness sponsored by the World Health Organization that highlights the health risks associated with tobacco use in order to end the tobacco epidemic for good,” said Jenny Kellbach, Canadian County Health Department tobacco prevention coordinator.

According to Centers for Disease Control and state health department figures, smoking directly or indirectly is part of diseases suffered by 16 million people across the country. In Oklahoma, more than 6,200 adults die each year as a result of smoking – their own or someone close to them.

“Tobacco kills more people than drugs, alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, homicides and suicides combined,” coalition member Karen McKeever said. “But it isn’t just about the numbers of loved ones we’ve lost – it is also about illnesses, disability and reduced quality of life due to smoking.

“It is about missing a daughter’s wedding, a grandchild’s first steps or even your own wedding anniversary,” she said. “World No Tobacco Day provides an opportunity to take back those special moments by setting a quit date on May 31 and quitting for life.”

CDC official said reducing smoking worldwide by 20 to 25 percent could translate to 100 million premature deaths by 2020.

“If the current trends of smoking continue, approximately 8 million people worldwide will die each year from tobacco use by 2030,” Kellbach said.

Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline offers free quit coaching for all Oklahomans throughout the year, Kellbach said. Since 2003, the helpline has helped more than 250,000 Oklahomans stop smoking, she said.

“The Helpline offers free services, including ‘quit coaching,’ a customized plan to help quit, online support and a free starter kit of patches, gum or lozenges,” she said.

To contact Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit www.OKhelpline.com. For more information about Canadian County Against Tobacco, contact Kellbach at (405) 422-6447.