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Focused Crook Loves Competition 9/3/21

Focused Crook loves competition

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


It’s 9:13 p.m. as one of Alma’s green coach buses roars across the mighty Arkansas River, the moonlit water further illuminated by fluorescent lights on the north bank of the river. Samantha Crook is sitting quietly near the back of the bus — her mind is playing out the next day’s schedule. 


Tiffany Scrivener's Pre-AP Chemistry class is first on the agenda. Then, as morning fades to early afternoon, Crook will saunter from Kim Dickens’ AP Literature class to Lakan Brumley’s Advanced Animal Science class — her sleeves rolled up, a smile on her face. 


The wear and tear of a nine-month grind may be tough for some students. But for Crook, the rigged academic load and steady flow of afternoon volleyball and basketball practices are part of the journey.


“My whole year is back-to-back, and with volleyball and basketball, there's a lot of physical activity — it's a lot to put on your body,” Crook said. "My only free season is when basketball season is over, even though it's really not because I do other activities like choir and FFA (Future Farmers of America).


"After basketball, I go straight into FFA and do science competitions. "


Crook signed on to Brumley’s first FFA class in the fall of 2018-19. This year, the Alma junior serves as the group’s reporter. 


But late-afternoon workouts and late-night drives from Greenbrier, Hot Springs, and Vilonia, among others, can be daunting for those with heavy academic loads.


"I love it so much, and I love my girls on my team so much that I don't want to quit (volleyball)," Crook said. "Right now we're trying to raise money to go to a competition, so we can make it to the state (FFA competition) this year."


What is vet science? There’s nothing simple about it, Crook explained. 


"You go to other schools and take a three-hour test — an hour of math, an hour of practicum, and an hour of identification on different animals," she said. “There’s a lot to it, but I love it.”


So much so, in fact, Crook initially sought to become a vet. 


"But then I thought vet science may not be for me," she said. "But I still love vet science; I have really good friends in that class. 


"Everything I do, I love it or I wouldn't be in it."


“I think there are definitely a lot of benefits to her (schedule),” Alma volleyball coach Kimberly Weaver said. “You interact with different groups of people; you have different leadership and different strengths. I think it accelerates maturity and development, and you can definitely see that in Sam.”


Brumley, who started Alma’s FFA program at the start of Crook’s freshman year (2018-19), couldn’t agree more. 


“For our program, especially being so young, having students like Samantha who want to be present and want to be active, it pretty much makes the program,” Brumley said. “She leads others to want to be involved; she’s a natural leader, anyway.”


There are highs and lows with volleyball, too, a sport that includes more valleys than peaks. And, as hard as Crook is trying to forget about the night’s 3-0 loss to Hackett, as the bus speeds toward Charles B. Dyer after crossing Arkansas River, it’s hard when things are upside down. 


The Lady Airedales (3-5) open 5A-West play Tuesday, the weight of a three-game losing streak fresh on their minds. 


"You have to encourage one another and try and help one another," Crook said. "Like our last tournament, when we were playing Hackett, we all got really down. It's impossible to get back up when you get that down."


The Lady Airedales played well in two of their three losses last week at Pea Ridge. Then, against Farmington, inconsistent play led to a 3-1 loss. 


"It's hard because when one person gets down in volleyball, it affects everyone," Crook said. "The momentum of a volleyball game ... it's back-and-forth constantly. 


"When you get down, it's really hard to get you back up."


Such is the case with her other extracurricular activities, Crook doesn’t do anything halfway. 


"All I really think about when I'm playing a game is I'm doing it for my coaches, I'm doing it for my team," she said. "It's really not about me. It's like, I have to make this play because my teammates are depending on me. 


"I can't let my teammates down; they're depending on me."


“Having her in our classroom and in FFA, she’s an encouragement to others,” Brumley said. “She helps coax those that are on the fence of being involved … ‘Hey show up; at least try it out.’ 


“When you have someone like her, that’s where you get more involvement.”