Suiting up one last time; Hounds pay tribute to fallen teammate

For one last time, Isaac Davis put on his Slidell Greyhounds basketball uniform Tuesday morning.

“I never thought I’d wear the uniform again,” said the 2014 graduate. “It was a good feeling putting it on again – but knowing it was for a funeral ate me up inside.

“It means a lot to have all my teammates here as he goes away.”

Back Together

BACK TOGETHER – Slidell basketball players gather one last time to pay their respects to fallen teammate Colton Perkins at his funeral Tuesday at Bolivar Baptist Church. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Greyhounds, who shared so many victories and good times with each other last spring, came together in full uniform to celebrate the life of their fallen teammate, Colton Perkins.

The 17-year-old 2014 Slidell High School graduate died in an accident Friday morning on Farm Road 455 outside of Bolivar. More than 500 family members, friends and community members packed Bolivar Baptist Church Tuesday for over two hours to mourn his passing. Many were clad in pink, Perkins’ favorite color.

PAYING HIS RESPECTS – Trent Garrett took emergency leave from his post at Virginia Beach with the U.S. Navy to attend the funeral of his friend and former teammate Colton Perkins. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“He would be very impressed to see his team do this for him,” said Perkins’ cousin Mitchell Burkham. “He was pretty popular.

“He was more of a big brother to me. I didn’t want him to go. I loved him so much.”

The entire Slidell basketball team served as pallbearers, including brother Levi, who also sat during the service with the team.

Slidell basketball coach and athletic director Todd McCormick passed out the uniforms to his players. He also gave the Perkins’ family Colton’s jersey for him to be buried in.

“You could tell with the seniors when we were passing them out, they never thought they’d don those jerseys again,” McCormick said. “It was emotional.”

At a visitation Monday, Slidell players presented the family with a signed basketball. The team also came together once last time in a huddle. As they recalled, it was usually Perkins in the center of the huddle leading the chants. At the request of Perkins’ mother Autumn, Khristian Talamantes filled that role.

“It was hard to do, but it was an honor,” Talamantes said. “He always told us to go out and give our best. He was the one to get everyone riled up. He was definitely the most spirited.

“This shows how much the team meant to everyone, that we all wanted to suit up one last time with him.”

Along with the spirit and leadership he brought to the court, the three-year starter was a skilled and versatile player. He averaged 13.2 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Class A Region III quarterfinalists. He had 27 points and 13 boards in the Greyhounds’ bi-district win over Dodd City. At the end of the season, he earned first-time selections on the 21-A and All-Wise County teams.

But his teammates and friends recalled their times off the floor together. Even while grieving, they couldn’t help but swap stories about Perkins.

“He was really fun. One of the funniest people I’ve met,” said point guard Tyler Maynard. “Every time he’d go to my house, he’d go to the fridge. He ate more than anyone I met.”

A former teammate and close friend, Trent Garrett, made an extraordinary effort to get back one last time to see Perkins. Stationed in Virginia Beach in the U.S. Navy, Garrett took emergency leave to attend the funeral.

“You usually are only allowed emergency leave for family. To me, he was family. He was no doubt the best friend I’ve ever known,” Garrett explained.

“One word to describe him: flawless. He’d walk in a room and brighten it with his smile. He was flawless.”

As Bolivar Baptist’s Rev. Dickie Amyx pointed out during the service, Perkins touched more people with his actions and smile than he ever knew.

“From the elderly to the young ones and everyone in between, he touched their lives,” Amyx said.

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Bobby Colton Perkins

Bobby Colton Perkins

Bobby Colton Perkins, a recent graduate of Slidell High School, died Friday, July 18, 2014.

Funeral was July 22 at Bolivar Baptist Church with Dickie Amyx officiating. Burial followed at Bolivar Cemetery.

Pallbearers were Hayden Crane, Tyler Maynard, Mason Maynard, Trent Garrett, Jarrett Tinsman, Khristian Talamantes, Isaac Davis, Walker Gladden, Levi Perkins, Mitchell Burkham, Shelby Vanover and Dustin Davis.

Honorary pallbearers were Todd McCormick, Casey Pierce, Cody Vanover and Dennis Stroud.

Colton was born Aug. 14, 1996, in Denton to James Robert and Autumn Lyn Perkins. He had attended Slidell schools since third grade and was working as an apprentice carpenter for Carl’s Handyman Service while waiting to start classes at North Central Texas College in the fall.

Colton was an athlete who excelled in basketball, tennis, baseball and track. Whatever he did, he did it with all that he had.

Colton was a special and unique individual who touched many lives during his short 17 years. He was an active member of the Bolivar Baptist youth group, where he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, prayed, played, wept with and led his peers to Christ.

His passing leaves a hole that will never be filled.

Colton is survived by his parents, James and Autumn Perkins of Slidell; the love of his life and future bride, Alexis Terry of Sanger; brother Levi James of Slidell; grandparents Vic and Monica Burkham of Slidell, Steve and Debbi Williams of Krum and Charlie and Becky Perkins of Mertzon; aunts and uncles Joe and Jennifer Jonas of Krum, Trey and Jennifer Perkins of Midland, Will Perkins of Midland, Zack and Kalyn Fichter of Justin and Shane and Brandy Morrow of Sanger; and many great-aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.

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1-vehicle wreck claims Slidell teen

A recent Slidell graduate was killed Friday morning in an accident on Farm Road 455 West in Denton County.

Bobby Colton Perkins

Bobby Colton Perkins, 17, of Decatur died at 5:15 a.m. in the 7900 block of FM 455 West between Bolivar and Sanger according to the release from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner.

Perkins was traveling eastbound on FM 455 when he lost control of his Chevrolet pickup just east of FM 2450.

“For some reason he went off onto the shoulder and over-corrected trying to get back on the roadway,” said Department of Public Safety Trooper Kyle Bradford. “The truck went into a skid and slid into a tree. He was ejected.”

Perkins was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bradford said the roadway was wet. He added that investigators were looking into whether speed was a factor.

Perkins, who went by Colton, played basketball and ran cross country at Slidell before graduating with the Class of 2014 in May.

He was first-team 21-A and Wise County selection in basketball as a senior. He averaged 13.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in helping Slidell to the Class A Region III quarterfinals.

“Colton was a great kid and hard worker,” said Slidell boys basketball coach and athletic director Todd McCormick. “He improved so much from his sophomore to junior and even senior year. He was always in the gym. He was a great kid and comes from a great family. It’s tough. All my thoughts and prayers go out to them.”

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Joseph L. McCullough

Joseph L. (Joe) McCullough, 71, of Slidell, died peacefully in his sleep Tuesday, June 24, 2014, at his home, surrounded by his family, after courageously battling cancer for seven months.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. on his birthday, Friday, July 5 at the First Baptist Church of Slidell. Coker Funeral Home of Sanger is in charge of arrangements.

Joe was born July 5, 1942, in Kittanning, Pa. to O.J. McCullough and Naomi (Bell) Christy. Joe served in the U.S. Army 1959-63, then married Theresa A. Heath March 21, 1964.

He worked as a truck driver for 40 years and stayed in the trucking industry when he went to work for Kenosha – now Active, USA – delivering semi-trucks. He and his wife eventually relocated to Slidell, where he became a longtime, respected resident and friend of the community.

Joe worked for Kenosha for 28 years and retired when he was 62.

Joe was a man of few words, but he made every word count. He believed a handshake was as good as gold, and if you happened to glimpse his face when talking about his family, you saw that twinkle in his eye and you knew he loved them.

He is survived by his wife, Theresa McCullough of Slidell; children Joseph McCullough, Jr. of Muskogee, Okla., Kardi McCullough and husband, Barry, of Overland Park, Kan., Anthony McCullough and wife, Gina, of Slidell, and Mary McCullough and husband, Paul, of Denton; grandchildren Cody McCullough, Derek McCullough, Jennifer McCullough, Kyle Conley, Hannah Conley, Rachel Conley, Samuel McCullough, Alex McCullough, Madison McCullough, Nolan McCullough, Justin Lopez, Elizabeth Lopez and Marissa Lopez; great-granddaughter Alexandria; and sister Caroline Souldworth of Ohio.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother and a sister.

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Driver charged in deaths of motorcyclists

The driver who caused the Memorial Day weekend wreck that killed two motorcyclists near Slidell has been arrested and charged with manslaughter.

Sherrie Ann Rose

Sherrie Ann Rose, 36, of Weatherford was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Wise County Jail. She remained jailed Friday afternoon on two charges of manslaughter. Bond was set at $100,000 for each charge.

The wreck happened the afternoon of May 25 on Farm Road 51 at the Wise/Denton County line.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit of investigating Department of Public Safety Trooper Greg Hair, Rose told the officer she had been traveling behind a slower-moving vehicle southbound on FM 51 when she attempted to pass the vehicle in a no-passing zone. She estimated that the vehicle in front of her had been traveling around 50 mph in the 70 mph zone.

Rose estimated she was traveling around 65 mph when she topped a hill in the northbound lane and collided with two northbound motorcycles.

The operator of the first motorcycle, Thomas Edward Garcia, 53, of Ardmore, Okla., was killed instantly. A passenger on his bike, Cassie Marlana Turner, 32, of Ardmore, died shortly after her arrival at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

The operator of the second motorcycle, Dustin Bailey, 33, of Ardmore, was flown to Medical Center of Plano where he remains hospitalized for his injuries. His passenger, Megan Michelle McCleary, 30, of Ringling, Okla., was flown to Medical Center of Plano where she was treated and released later that night.

A third motorcycle operator riding with the group avoided the collision.

Rose and her sister, Debra Crouch, 49, of Weatherford, were flown to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, and Rose’s 7-year-old son, Jacob Perrine, was flown to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

According to the affidavit, Rose said she had been visiting with family in Terlton, Okla., and had left earlier that day to return home to Weatherford. The motorcyclists had attended a Memorial Day event in Chico and were returning home to Oklahoma.

The affidavit also states that the motorcycle driven by Bailey had been reported stolen in Houston in January of 2013.

Manslaughter is a second-degree felony. If convicted, the punishment range is two to 20 years in jail.

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Something worth crying about

What can I say? I’m a crier. Not a whiny, sniveling one or a loud, wailing crier or a hollering howler … but a quiet, lip-quivering, eyes fill up and spill over, run down my cheek, try to wipe it away before anybody sees crier.

I cry for lots of reasons. Tears fall at the miracle of birth and the separation of death. I weep at sad movies and romantic flicks and feel-good stories. I cry when “we” win a close game or experience defeat; I am moved by valiant efforts.

I’ve been known to laugh until I cry uncontrollably, and if you make me mad enough, tears can fall at the same time I talk through gritted teeth. I am misty eyed at the sweet kindness of children … yep, I cry for lots of reasons.

I guess last Friday was no exception, the last day of the school year (not for me, I work year-round).

I’m always a bit melancholy at the end of the year. Can’t exactly put my finger on the feeling, a bit of sadness mixed with lightness. I’m happy for the change of pace during the summer break, but this year is gone and so too some of the teachers and students who won’t be back.

So amidst awards assemblies, cleaning out lockers, dismantling bulletin boards and setting up lost-and-found, there are moments of “see you later,” “be back soon,” and “can’t believe it’s summer.”

You see, I love school … the teachers, the kids, the staff. I enjoy what I do and look forward to the challenges each day brings. And of course, there’s the monetary benefit. But the real reason I work at a school is for riches money can’t buy.

Friday, on a Post-it note size square of paper with LaQuinta Inn at the top, was a note from a second grader named Izzy, a heart drawn with these words:

“Thanks for evrethind” (She marked through the ‘d’ and wrote the’ g’ above the word).

There is wealth of all kinds in this life, but the words of a kid written on a small square of paper are a treasure for sure.

Yep, I cried!

Irene Wilson

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These transitions are big stuff

”Hey, Mimi. You got any money?” She met me when I came in the cafeteria.

“Not in here … right this minute … besides, you can’t buy anything,” I told her.

She’s in the fifth grade, and they aren’t allowed to use the snack bar in the cafeteria; just grades 6-12 have that privilege.

“Oh, but we can this last week of school since we’ll be in sixth grade next year.”

She grinned from ear to ear. So here it was … she’s big stuff now; almost sixth grade, snack bar and all. I got her a dollar, and she hurried to the snack bar to spend my money.

In a few minutes, the bell rang, signaling lunch was over. (If you’re a kid, teacher or staff member you have to learn to eat quickly.) She came by my table and handed me an unopened bag of Doritos and a Gatorade with only one sip missing.

“Don’t eat my chips or drink my Gatorade,” she instructed.

I laughed and told my table of lunch buddies, “She didn’t want anything … just wanted to be able to go up there and make a purchase.”

Coach Vanover told us that today second grade was allowed to get off the rocks of the playground and venture onto the grass. Big stuff they are, going to be in third grade, and now they can get on the grass. But they didn’t stay long … came back to the rocks and began to play on the swings and slides.

Rites of passage … the changing of social status … the time that comes along and we make a transition from one stage to another. Big stuff we are …

Tuesday I watched kindergarten graduate. They counted by fives and tens, sang their ABC’s and each student told us one thing they learned this year – things like “how to raise baby chicks,” “coloring nicely in the lines,” “learning vowel sounds” and “how to read,” “knowing how to make bubbles and duck tails” – important lessons to allow their rite of passage to first grade.

Thursday evening eighth grade marched across the stage and shared a glimpse of their past nine years at Slidell … lost library books, overdue papers, basketball games won and lost, review sheets and tests, STAAR and sweat, friendships forged … moving on … headed to high school. Big stuff they are …

Friday, “Pomp and Circumstance” echoed in the halls of Slidell. Seniors completing this phase of their education took center stage. We heard well-spoken young men and women give speeches and share collective memories … future hopes and dreams.

A slide show revealed some of those photos only a mother and father can love, a few tears fell. Scholarships were awarded, certificates bestowed.

Seniors – big stuff headed out into the world, toward the snack bar, off the rocks and onto the grass. Good luck to the graduating class of 2014.

And thank you, Slidell faculty and staff for a wonderful and successful year!

Irene Wilson

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Crash kills 2, injures 5

Crash kills 2, injures 5

Two people were killed and five more sent to area hospitals when a car collided with a pair of motorcycles near Slidell Sunday afternoon.

The accident happened at 5:45 p.m. on Farm Road 51 at the Wise/Denton County line.

Tending to the Injured

TENDING TO THE INJURED – Medics and fire department personnel work on one of the injured from Sunday’s wreck near Slidell while a CareFlite helicopter comes in for a landing to take another of the injured to a Metroplex hospital. Four helicopters total were called to the scene. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Jodi Liukkonen said she had been traveling behind three motorcycles headed north on 51 when she suddenly saw a car directly in front of her.

“I saw that car in my lane, and I went to the right,” she said. “As I’m going off the road, I see her hit the bikes, which flew up in the air. It all happened so quickly. I called 911.”

Liukkonen said it appeared the passenger car’s driver was attempting to pass in a no-passing zone when the collision occurred at the crest of a hill.

Sgt. Lonny Haschel, media spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the car made a direct hit on at least one motorcycle riding closest to the center line of the roadway. That motorcycle operator, Thomas Garcia, 53, of Ardmore, Okla., was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Cassie Turner, 33, of Ardmore was taken by ground ambulance to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur where she died about an hour-and-a-half after the wreck.

A second motorcycle was riding beside Garcia’s bike and was also struck. Haschel said that bike’s operator, Dustin Bailey, 33, of Ardmore, and his passenger, Megan McCleary, 30, of Ringling, Okla., were also seriously injured.

Two helicopters were dispatched to the location to take Bailey and McCleary to Medical Center of Plano. Bailey was listed in stable condition Tuesday afternoon, and McCleary had been treated and released, according to a hospital spokesperson.

A third motorcyclist riding with the group took evasive action and avoided being hit.

The driver of the car that was southbound in the northbound lane was identified as Sherrie Rose, 32, of Weatherford. She and a front-seat passenger, Debra Crouch, 49, of Weatherford, were flown to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth where they were listed in stable condition late Monday, Haschel said.

A hospital spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon that Crouch was in fair condition while they no longer listed Rose as a patient.

The fourth and final helicopter that responded to the scene took a back-seat passenger, 6-year-old Jacob Perrine of Weatherford, to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Perrine could be seen clutching his stuffed teddy bear as he was wheeled through the debris field to the waiting helicopter.

He was also in stable condition late Monday.

Haschel said there was no indication drugs or alcohol played a part in the wreck, although the investigation is still in the early stages. No charges have been filed.

According to television station KXII in Ardmore, the motorcyclists had been to a Memorial Day rally in Chico and were returning home when the accident happened.

Farm Road 51 was completely shut down until just after 8 p.m. as traffic was rerouted down County Line Road and County Road 2825.

Multiple law enforcement agencies and fire departments responded, including the Greenwood/Slidell and Sanger fire departments, Denton and Wise County Sheriff’s officers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers.

Medical personnel that responded included Wise County Medic 1 and 4, Wise County Rescue 1, Air Evac Lifeteam 68 helicopter and three CareFlite helicopters. Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home also came to the scene to pick up Garcia, whose funeral arrangements are pending at Craddock Funeral Home in Ardmore.

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These boots are made for computing; Slidell junior returns to state competition

Morgan Barnes wears her boots just about every day. Next week, she’ll stomp across Austin in them as she competes in computer applications Wednesday at the UIL State academic meet at the University of Texas.

“I guess you could say they’re my good-luck charm,” she said.

State Bound

STATE BOUND – After a top finish at district competition and a bronze at regionals, Morgan Barnes of Slidell will compete in computer applications at the UIL academic state meet Wednesday. She qualified for state last year but was slowed by a medical issue. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Slidell High School junior earned a bid to state competition with a first-place finish at the district meet in Bryson and a bronze medal at regional competition at Abilene Christian University.

But this year’s state contest won’t be her first rodeo.

Barnes qualified for state in the same event last year, but then spent several weeks in the hospital with pancreatitis.

“I was back just a few weeks before going to state,” Barnes recalled. ” … I was just glad to be there.”

She didn’t place. This year, completely healthy and practicing just about daily, she should fare better.

“She’s got a good shot to do well,” her coach, Becky Reeder, said. “Morgan is an amazing student. She’s dedicated and always right at the top of what she does.”

The 30-minute competition involves Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access. It focuses on word-processing speed and accuracy, skill in the use of database and spreadsheet applications, and the integration of all of these, according to the UIL website.

Students have an hour before the competition to connect their laptop and printer.

“Usually what I do is I go in there and set up, and I take practice tests,” Barnes said. “I practice typing to warm up my fingers and look around at everything so I remember exactly where it is.”

The competition begins with a five-minute tiebreaker where students input data.

“They put all these big words to make it hard and symbols to make it complicated,” Barnes said. “One of my favorite parts is when competition just starts and we’re doing the tiebreaker and all you hear are just keyboards clicking. The sound is soothing, even though the contest is very stressful.”

Then students access files that outline what tasks must be executed.

“There’s usually a goal you’re accomplishing by the end,” Barnes said. “It could be you take school students and their grades then write a report about it … It doesn’t tell you how to do it, but it gives you directions on what it wants, so you have to remember how to do it.

“I take it one step at a time.”

Before 30 minutes are up, contestants should have sent to be printed two documents and the tiebreaker.

Each printout is assigned a weighted point value to be judged accordingly.

According to the UIL, the goal is for students to have a thorough, working knowledge of the three applications, to be able to complete substantial tasks in all of them and to direct data from one application to another.

“You must not only be knowledgable but also very efficient,” Reeder said.

Just like Barnes, wearing her boots or not, is.

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Pruett takes third in 800

With just over 200 meters to go, Caitlin Pruett sprinted to the front of the pack in the Class A Division II 800 finals Saturday afternoon.

“I knew the kick has always been my thing, and if I wanted to have a shot at it, I had to kick early and hope my kick would outlast them,” Pruett said. “They ran a great race and caught up with me. It’s still an awesome opportunity.”

Standing Out

STANDING OUT – Slidell’s Caitlin Pruett rounds the corner during the Class A Division II 800. She finished third in the race. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Calvert’s Tiffany Williams and Rockspring’s Abellyca Ramirez passed Pruett in the final 100 meters. Williams took the gold medal in 2:20.43, slightly ahead of Ramirez in 2:20.92.

Pruett earned the bronze, running 2:23.01.

“It’s awesome,” Pruett said. “My goal this year was to make it to state and to run at least a 2:27. I broke that and once I finished at regionals I revamped my goals to get on the medal stand, and I got that. I’m very blessed God gave me that opportunity.”

Pruett and the top two runners all broke the division’s record of 2:23.89 set last year.

“I’ve been looking at records at the school, and our record is 2:17,” Pruett said. “That’s my goal, to eventually break that. To break the state record was cool even if I did get third.”

Pruett stayed with the lead group from the starting gun. She finished the first lap in 67 seconds in third place.

“That was awesome. The pace is what I’ve been training for,” Pruett said. “I’ve been training for a 16 to 17 second per 100. It was quick but it was comfortable.”

Slidell coach Cody Vanover said Pruett ran the race they wanted.

“She came out quick. We wanted to run a 67 split and she did,” he said. “I’m really proud of her.”

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Slidell’s Roof finishes fourth in 300 hurdles

Rounding the final corner, Slidell’s Kayson Roof found an extra gear to move up several spots in the Class A Division II 300 hurdles Saturday afternoon.

“There were a couple of girls in front of me,” Roof said. “I caught a couple and got fourth. I just told myself you have to go.”

Roof took fourth in the event at Mike Myers Stadium at the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships in 49.9.

“I beat my personal best,” said a smiling Roof after the race.

Cross Plains’ McKenzie Halsel won the race in 47.64. Buckholts’ Sara Cowan took silver in 48.21, and Roscoe Highland’s Beth Richburg was third in 49.1.

Running out of lane 5, Roof held her own early in the race before making her late push.

“The second hurdle I stumbled a bit. Other than that it was a clean race,” Roof said.

It was her second event of the day. The freshman finished sixth in the pole vault Saturday morning.

Roof got her body over the bar on all three attempts at 9 feet but barely clipped it each time Saturday morning.

She was one of three competitors to go out at 9-0.

“I let my nerves get the best of me,” Roof said. “I’m a freshman. I’ve got a couple more years. This will help me a lot next year.”

Ira’s Hannah Womack took the gold medal, clearing 10 feet. Cross Plains’ Allanta Wheeler finished second with a vault of 9-3. Comstock’s Breanna Jorgensen cleared 9-0 for third.

Roof flew over 7-0 and 7-6 on her first attempts. She missed her first try at 8-0 before getting it on her second effort. Roof also needed two chances at 8-6.

“I just wasn’t rolling,” Roof said about her misses.

The Slidell freshman relished her opportunity to compete at state.

“It was an amazing experience. [Friday] I didn’t know if I was ready. After the pole vault, I was ready,” Roof said. “It’s amazing for a freshman to come down here and compete.”

Slidell coach Cody Vanover praised his young athlete.

“She ran hard and competed well,” he said. “Mentally, she showed how tough she is. To finish fourth as a freshman is great. The expectations will be high next year.”

Roof is already setting high goals for herself and other Slidell athletes.

“Next year I want to come back with more girls,” Roof said.

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Coming back strong: State track meet holds no fear for Slidell freshman

Coming back strong: State track meet holds no fear for Slidell freshman

The best high school athletes from across Texas will convene Friday and Saturday in Austin to test their strength, skill and will for a spot on the podium.

Hours of practice and preparation will culminate into these few precious seconds of competition on the state’s biggest stage.

“It means a lot. Not many freshmen get the chance to go to state,” explains Slidell freshman Kayson Roof. “My hard work has really paid off.”

Hurdles Cleared

HURDLES CLEARED – After several surgeries following crash a child, Slidell freshman Kayson Roof will compete for state titles Saturday in the pole vault and 300 hurdles. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Roof will vie for state crowns in the Class A Division II pole vault and 300 hurdles.

But aside from the chance to compete, it’s another celebration of life for the 15-year-old, who narrowly escaped death just eight years earlier in a horrific car accident.

“I’m a Christian,” she said. “The reason I believe in Jesus is he didn’t let me die that day. God wanted to use me to show my strength and how I could recover.

“Now, I’m strong, and I am going to the state track meet.”

FEARLESS VAULTER – Slidell’s Kayson Roof won a region title, clearing 9 feet. She enters the state meet, seeded second. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Roof was just 6 years old on April 20, 2006, when she was riding with her stepfather and brother on U.S. 82 between Nocona and Saint Jo.

“It was a rainy day, and we were going to pick up my mom at work,” Roof explains.

“I don’t remember anything other than my stepdad telling me to put on my seatbelt. I always wore it behind me.”

Over a hill in front of their pickup was a truck pulling a flatbed trailer, loaded with iron pipe.

“We ran into the trailer and a pole went through the window and hit me in the face,” Roof describes. “My stepdad looked at me and picked me up. He called for help, saying my daughter was dying. All my skin was coming off my face.”

Clinging to life, Roof was taken to a hospital in Nocona before being flown to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

She was soon rushed to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, where surgeons skillfully reconstructed her face during a 12-hour surgery.

“It broke all the bones in my face. I had plastic surgery, and they put in several screws. I’m missing my right jaw. They took part of my skull to build a nose,” Roof said.

She continued her inventory, explaining problems with her sinus cavities and pointing to the hole in the roof of her mouth.

That first surgery was one of many she’s faced since the wreck. She has up to five remaining.

“She’s had a lot of surgeries and some they can’t do until she’s done growing,” said her mother, Jennifer Lopez.

Roof spent her seventh birthday on May 4 in the hospital. She was eventually sent home May 7 – which she points out is close to the date of this year’s state track meet.

Miraculously, Roof escaped the accident with no lasting brain trauma. She was, however, left with deep scars around her face.

“I don’t feel them, but I do get self-conscious about them. But people tell me I’m beautiful the way I am,” she said. “That helps.”

In recent years, sports have become the outlet to get Kayson out of her shell. She quickly became a standout in basketball, along with track. She also plays tennis.

“Once I got into sports in the seventh grade, I became more outgoing,” Roof said.

Her mother credits not only sports but also the family she’s found in the Slidell schools for helping her.

“They’ve accepted her, and she’s fit in so well there,” Lopez said. “She’s had such acceptance from everyone. She even said that in her speech last year as the eighth-grade salutatorian.”

Last year is when Slidell coach Cody Vanover began planting the seed, telling Roof she could be a state qualifier.

“She’s surprised herself more than me,” he said. “I told her last year that if she kept working, she’d make it to Austin in the 300 hurdles.

“She started the year running a 58 and every meet ran quicker.”

Roof earned the state spot, clocking a 50.12 to finish first at the Class A Region III meet in Bullard April 26 – eight years and six days after the accident.

But before earning a state berth in the hurdles, she had already claimed the region title in the pole vault, clearing 9 feet before stopping.

“I think I can get a lot higher,” Roof said. “I’m not even turning at the point where I need to.”

That event is now her favorite.

“It’s more fun. I’m not scared of heights. I love it,” Roof said.

Vanover said the freshman still has a lot of upside.

“She’s fearless, athletic and strong,” the coach said. “She doesn’t understand how good she can be.”

Watching her pole vault, Mrs. Lopez admits to getting a bit nervous.

“I do worry about her,” she said. “But I know she’s a strong person. If she falls, she’s going to get right back up and do it again. She’s not one to give up.”

When Roof takes the track Saturday, her mother said she will be surrounded by family ready to cheer.

“I’m really proud of her. It’s going to be exciting to watch her there. She’s made it to the top after going through so much,” Mrs. Lopez said.

Roof said former classmates at Nocona and others have reached out to her since she qualified for state.

“People say I’m a real inspiration to them because I’ve come so far,” Roof said. “To know that I’m helping people in their lives makes me happy.

“For myself, I’m really proud of how I’ve grown so much since [the wreck] to now.”

She even credits her brush with death to helping her become the champion she is today.

“Knowing you were so close to death and knowing it was so close to being so different makes you appreciate everything,” Roof said.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

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Roof earns 2 golds at region

Kayson Roof admitted to having some nerves before competing over the weekend at the Class A Division II Region III meet in Bullard.

But the Slidell freshman put aside her anxiety to earn a pair of bids to the University Interscholastic League track and field championships May 9-10.

Roof won the girls pole vault and 300 hurdles.

“Going to state as a regional champion is awesome,” she said.

Roof cleared nine feet to win the pole vault.

“I got my personal best,” she said. “I was so excited.”

She expects to go after 10 feet at the state meet.

Her teammate Kylie Franklin finished third, clearing seven feet.

In the 300 hurdles, Roof caught the leader at the curve and went on to win in 50.12. Shauna Coleman of Lipan took second in 52.07.

Roof was one of two Lady Greyhounds to earn a state spot. Caitlin Pruett won the 800 in 2:25.93. She finished more than six seconds in front of second place.

The Slidell girls 4×400 finished third in 4:28.25. Roof and Pruett joined Kayleigh Miller and Franklin on the relay.

Miller took third in the 400 in 1:05.59.

Makayla Fitzgerald was sixth in the 3200 in 13:44.49.

As a team, Slidell finished third at the regional meet with 55 points. Gorman won the title with 92.5.

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Greyhounds win 7th UIL academic district title

Slidell High School won the District 14-A UIL academic meet by more than 300 points.

The Greyhound competitors teamed up last month to earn 488 points, winning 11 of the 17 events and securing the school’s seventh consecutive district title.

Second place was Newcastle with 163 points.

The meet was held March 19 in Bryson, and the top three individuals in each contest advance to regional competition May 1-3 at Abilene Christian University. First place teams in some events also advance.

Greyhound teams advancing include those in accounting, current issues, computer science, mathematics, number sense and speech.

Ashley Mills led the charge in accounting with a first-place finish, followed by teammates Walker Gladden and Melinda Guinn in second and third, respectively.

Slidell students also went one-two-three in computer science, led by Sarah Beaver in first, Mills in second and Shelby Vanover in third.

Beaver also won first place in mathematics and number sense.

Other first-place finishes included Morgan Barnes in computer applications, Marisol Millan in informative speaking, Jason Fuller in news writing, Jarret Tinsman in persuasive speaking, Jessy Goode in poetry interpretation, Caitlin Pruett in prose interpretation and Cisco Martinez in chemistry.


Slidell 488
Newcastle 163
Forestburg 144
Saint Jo 136
Bryson 108
Midway (Henrietta) 87
Throckmorton 72
Graford 53
Woodson 35
Gold-Burg (Bowie) 28
Bellevue 27
Prairie Valley (Nocona) 24
Paint Creek (Haskell) 24

*denotes regional qualifiers

Accounting – 1. Ashley Mills*, 2. Walker Gladden*, 3. Melinda Guinn*, 5. Kayler Talamantes

Current Issues – 3. Ashley Mills*, 5. Isaac Davis

Computer Applications – 1. Morgan Barnes*

Computer Science – 1. Sarah Beaver*, 2. Ashley Mills*, 3. Shelby Vanover*, 4. Mason Maynard

Editorial Writing – 3. Lisbeth Licea*

Headline Writing – 4. Kayleigh Miller

Informative Speaking – 1. Marisol Millan*, 2. Jessy Goode*

Mathematics – 1. Sarah Beaver*, 2. Mason Maynard*

Number Sense – 1. Sarah Beaver*; 2. Mason Maynard*

News Writing – 1. Jason Fuller*, 2. Tyler Maynard*

Persuasive Speaking – 1. Jarrett Tinsman*, 3. Caitlin Pruett*, 5. Dustin Davis

Poetry Interpretation – 1. Jessy Goode*, 2. Norbert Martinez*, 3. Adina Zidermanis*

Prose Interpretation – 1. Caitlin Pruett*, 2. Makayla Fitzgerald*, 3. Marisol Millan*

Ready Writing – 3. Shelby Vanover*; 6. Kylie Franklin

Chemistry – 1. Cisco Martinez*

Social Studies – 3. Kevin Oney*, 5. Francisco Martinez

Spelling and Vocabulary – 3. Rosa Verdugo*, 4. Lisbeth Licea

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Slidell’s Brown wins area in hurdles

Slidell hurdler Chris Brown captured a pair of gold medals Thursday at the 21/22-A Division II area track meet held in Alvord.

The Greyhound junior won the 110 hurdles in 18.56 and captured the 300 hurdles in 47.89 to earn a trip to the Class A Division II Region III meet in Bullard April 25-26.

Brown garnered two of Slidell’s nine gold medals at the area meet for Districts 21 and 22. The two leagues elected to forgo a district meet and hold an area meet.

Kayson Roof also earned a pair of gold medals, winning the 300 hurdles in 52.5 and clearing 8-6 to win the pole vault.

Khristian Talamantes took first in the 3200 in 11 minutes and 34 seconds. He also finished second in the 1600 in 5:24.38.

Makayla Fitzgerald won the girls 3200 in 14:13.67. She finished second in the 1600 in 6:29.93.

Caitlin Pruett captured the 800 in 2:23.04. Her teammate Adina Zidermanis was third in the race.

Kaylie Miller won the 400 in 1:05.75.

The Slidell girls qualified two relays for regionals, winning the 4×400 in 4:37.65 and finishing second in the 4×100 in 56.94.

The Greyhounds qualified the 4×400 for regionals, running 4:12.25 for third place.


3200: 1. Makayla Fitzgerald, Slidell, 14:13.67

4×100: 2. Slidell 56.94

800: 1. Caitlin Pruett, Slidell, 2:23.04; 3. Adina Zidermanis, Slidell, 2:53.83

4×200: 2. Slidell 2:05.67

400: 1. Kayleigh Miller, Slidell, 1:05.75

300 hurdles: 1. Kayson Roof, Slidell, 52.5

1600: 2. Makayla Fitzgerald, Slidell, 6:29.93

4×400: 1. Slidell, 4:37.65

High jump: 4. Kayson Roof, Slidell, 4-0

Pole vault: 1. Kayson Roof, Slidell, 8-6; 3. Kylie Franklin, Slidell, 7-6

Shot put: 4. Melinda Guinn, Slidell, 26-8.5


3200: 1. Khristian Talamantes, Slidell, 11:34.18; 4. Shelby Vanover, Slidell, 11:48.48

800: 3. Kyler Carnes, Slidell, 2:25.42

110 hurdles: 1. Chris Brown, Slidell, 18.56

300 hurdles: 1. Chris Brown, Slidell, 47.89

1600: 2. Khristian Talamantes, Slidell, 5:24.38

4×400: 3. Slidell 4:12.25

Triple jump: 4. Colton Crane, Slidell, 33-6

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About to give up on Lent

March 5 wasn’t just another day in the countdown to spring break, it was Ash Wednesday, observed mostly by Roman Catholics, which I’m not – but I always give up something for Lent. To me it’s “long-term fasting” of something in particular. After all, Jesus gave it all up for me on the cross so I figure I can give up some token for Lent.

This year I gave up (don’t laugh) Cheez-Its and Mini-Drumsticks with peanuts on top (Wal-Mart Great Value brand are the best). During the cold, icy winter, this weather wienie participated in lots of sitting and partaking in Cheez-Its and Mini-Drumsticks (do they call that a food addiction?) – gathering about seven unwanted and unneeded pounds.

Convinced the beautiful weather would allow for yard work and walking, I left school on that Friday pumped, stopped at the post office, picked up the mail and headed home for a week of no office work, get things done at home, enjoy the days off.

Oops! A fat letter from the IRS was not a good way to start spring break. Opening it reveals, I worketh and the government taketh away. They politely request $4,000 from me by April 2. (No problem, I’ve got that much under my pillow.) Seems my tax man forgot to report my TRS earnings.

During the course of the week I notice a spot on my living room ceiling looks like a water leak from above. And I just had a roofer out about two months ago, and he said my roof was great!

I get a call from my Mom’s aide. Seems she was taking a shower and the aluminum leg on the shower chair folded up and pitched her out in the floor. She wasn’t hurt, just bruised – but the carpet got soaked when the hose came out of the shower with Mom. I had to take up the carpet (a carpet man I’m not!).

During the week, my opthamaolgist says I have the beginnings of cataracts but not to worry, I have several miles before he will have to operate. For now he prescribes new glasses to the tune of $660. Oh my, goodness.

And then the wind came in blustery and cold. Not my kind of weather. What I really want is warm sunshine, no tax bill from Uncle Sam, no bubble water spot on the ceiling, dry carpet and 20/20 vision. Spring break wasn’t exactly as I had envisioned.

By the way, Lord: Next year, I’m giving up spring break for Lent.

Irene Wilson

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Davis earns top offense award

No one in District 21-A Division II was as prolific scoring this season as Slidell’s Isaac Davis.

The senior guard in district play averaged 26.2 points. He also had 11.5 rebounds, five assists and 4.8 steals per game. Those numbers were slightly higher than his impressive season averages of 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 4.8 steals.


SHOWSTOPPER – Slidell’s Isaac Davis earned the 21-A Offensive Player of the Year after averaging 26.2 points in league play. Messenger photo by Mack Thweatt

After leading the Greyhounds to a runner-up finish in 21-A and to the Region III quarterfinal, Davis was named the league’s Offensive MVP.

Davis was one of four Greyhounds to earn league honors.

Tyler Maynard and Colton Perkins made the first team. Maynard scored 13.2 points, grabbed 4.3 rebounds, dished out 4.4 assists and made 2.1 steals per game. Perkins averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 steals and an assist.

Khristian Talamantes earned a second-team spot. He contributed nine points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

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Pruett garners 21-A MVP

Slidell’s Caitlin Pruett torched opponents in District 21-A Division II play, helping the Lady Greyhounds to a runner-up finish and playoff berth.

The Slidell junior averaged 17.4 points and 11.4 rebounds along with 1.4 assists and 2.5 steals.

For her efforts, Pruett was named the league’s MVP.

Pruett was one of four Slidell players to earn district honors. Megan Garcia received honorable mention.

Kayler Talamantes was the district’s Newcomer of the Year, averaging 6.3 points, five rebounds, 2.1 steals and an assist as a freshman.

Sophomore Kylie Franklin made the first team. She contributed 10 points, 4.4 rebounds, two steals and 1.3 assists per game.

Jessy Goode earned a second-team selection for the Lady Greyhounds.

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Crimstoppers: Investigators seek info in church burglary

Wise County Sheriff’s Office investigators are seeking information related to the Feb. 14 burglary of First Baptist Church in Slidell.

Items stolen include a Soundcraft 16-channel soundboard, Tascam CD-RW900 CD recorder, Juice Goose power supply, ASUS laptop computer, Seagate 500GB data storage device, a LAM computer tower, a Kodak 8-megapixel digital camera, a Squier bass guitar and a Gator brand guitar case.

To report information about this burglary or the items stolen, call Sgt. Luke Campbell at 940-627-5971, ext. 237, or email

To make an anonymous report, call Crimestoppers at 800-643-TIPS or 940-627-TIPS. Lines are open 24 hours.

Reward: Up to $1,500

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Slidell Elementary Fourth Six Weeks Honor Roll


THIRD GRADE – Hannah Schumpert

FOURTH – Novalee Polanco, Kristal Gladden


THIRD GRADE – James Beaty, Lezley Beaty, Jayson Ellison, Paige McDaniel, Brianna Wright

FOURTH – Morgan Barzano, Caitlyn Cox, Adriana Deluna, Fisher Horner, James Hunter, Tyler Pruett, Collin Richards

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