Five Freshmen Raiders Leave Legacy for KJH

With the chaos of the COVID-pandemic-filled school year coming to a close, five freshmen reflected on being the final Raiders to play Softball or Baseball for Northside.

Being one of the last Kimmons 9th graders to play Baseball for Northside was special to Landon Parnell.

“I got to be part of history, and it was only my first year at a Fort Smith school,” Landon said.

Garrett Springs felt excited.

“I just love playing the game, and high school sports take it to another level as far as competition and excitement go,” Garrett said. “I have dreamed of playing high school Baseball because it opens doors later on in life to get scholarships or even just make new friendships that you can carry with you for a long time.”

Jaxson Stephens felt privileged to be one of the last Kimmons freshmen.

“Coach Hankins only took nine players out of all of the junior high schools,” Jaxson said.

Jailah Vickers believed it to be a “really cool accomplishment.”

”I feel like I’m leaving behind a legacy,” Jailah said.

In addition to being grateful for the opportunity to join the NHS team, Mallory Craig appreciated the chance to play at all.

“I’m just happy that we even had a season this year because last year it was canceled due to COVID-19,” Mallory said.

For Garrett, the biggest challenge of playing Baseball in the ‘new normal’ of COVID was avoiding quarantines.

“The pandemic kept us from practicing,” Garrett said. “We didn’t want to miss practice because it was easy to lose your skills quickly in Baseball.”

The biggest challenge to Jaxson was having to spread out from your teammates in the dugout to keep from touching them.

“We couldn’t celebrate together after someone scored, and celebrating is important because it makes your teammates feel good about themselves when they did something good,” Jaxson said.

Games getting canceled proved challenging to Landon.

“The other team could have issues that caused our team not to play, which could ruin chances for Playoffs,” Landon said. “It could also ruin our record because Playoffs are a race between every team, and not being able to play a game could put another team ahead of us and take us out of the playoff race.”

Jailah found the masks a big annoyance.

“We didn’t play in our masks, but the problem with the masks was traveling and having to keep them on in the bus while trying to have a good time and talk to teammates,” Jailah said.

The boys appreciated how motivating Coach Hankins was throughout the season.

“Coach Hankins was honest with us and pushed us to be our best,” Garrett said. “We also had been practicing since August, which helped us improve.”

No matter the score, Coach Hankins made sure the boys never gave up.

“A specific example would be when we were losing 9 to 2 and came all the way back to take the lead,” Jaxson said. “Coach Hankins kept us in the game.”

Coach Hankins encouraged the team to strive for improvement.

“Coach Hankins motivated me by pushing me to get better, telling me to keep my head up, and assuring me that I’m good enough for anything,” Landon said.

The girls valued how Coach Little saw great potential in them.

“When I messed up, Coach Little told me that he knew I could do better, and he had faith in the team,” Jailah said.

Coach Little also motivated the girls encouraging them to work hard in practice.

“He made sure that we kept our energy in the game,” Mallory said. “He encouraged us to cheer on our teammates in the dugout.

Pitching six strikeouts in two innings was Landon’s best moment of the season.

“I had never done that before, and I felt like I did really good!” Landon said.

Jaxson’s best moment was making the game-winning out against Springdale Har-Ber.

“It gave us our first win,” Jaxson said.

Pitching two innings without giving any runs was Garrett’s best moment.

“It is a hard thing to do,” Garrett said.

Getting to throw the ball home from Center and getting the runner out were Jailah’s best moments.

“As a freshman, you want to show out as much as you can,” Jailah said. “That was my way of showing Coach Little that I am capable of going above and beyond to get the farthest out.”

Mallory’s best moment was when she pitched against Van Buren.

“We won 16-6,” Mallory said. “My team played really well, and it was my first varsity win.”

Coach Little is most proud of how Mallory and Jailah contributed to the success of the NHS team.

“As freshmen, most girls don’t get the opportunity to play varsity very much,” Coach Little said. “Mallory and Jailah played significant roles for our varsity. What I am most proud of though, is how well rounded they both are as student-athletes. They are both good students, good citizens, as well as good softball players. Kimmons Junior High has done a great job of helping mold these two girls into successful people. I’m really excited for them to be full-time Northside Grizzlies next year!”