Return to Headlines

The Way We Were 8/9/21

The Way We Were 

In 1993, Alma shocked the world with an unforgettable championship softball run 

By Kevin Taylor 

Alma Schools

 

The trophies stashed along the east wing of Charles B. Dyer Arena include all the usual suspects: volleyball, football, track, tennis, and basketball. The last case moving forward might have included more softball trophies, too, had Alma started fielding softball teams before the mid-’90s. Heck, not only did the program not exist at the start of 1990, they didn’t even have a coach. 

But they had plenty of volunteers. 

For Angela Rushing, the memories come flooding back. 

“Alma was a lot different then,” remembers Rushing, an assistant girls basketball coach who sought her teaching license following a short-lived banking career. 

Back in the early ‘90s, high school kids flocked to Pizza Parlor (yep, that Pizza Parlor), along with a few joints that no longer exist, most notably the Dairy Queen across the street from Bank of the Ozarks and Burger Boy that was along Hwy. 71 north. 

The infrastructure that was Alma High School was a far cry from what it is today, too. 

“We didn’t have the big facilities we do now; it's such a big difference between '93 and now,” Rushing said. “All of the classrooms were outside — nothing was enclosed.” 

Alma had cheerleaders back then, too. But there was no dance program; ROTC was still a dream of Charles Dyer’s that wouldn’t come to fruition for another few years. 

"Back when I was in school, we had athletics, choir, and band … that was it,” Rushing said. “It’s insane how it was when I was growing up to how it is now.” A ‘93 graduate of Alma High School, the former Angela Roark grew up with a ball in her hand from the time she was barely old enough to crawl. Her dad Clarence made sure of that. 

“Sports were a big deal whenever we were growing up,” Rushing said. “My dad always had my brother (Justin) and me involved in sports. They tried to get me to come out and play football when I was younger. 

“My dad had a football in my hand when I was little, along with a softball, anything else that was a ball.” 

As a senior, Roark spent most of her time making sure Kim Sullivan (the Lady Airedales’ leading scorer) had her paws on the basketball. Sullivan averaged 22.7 points per game for the 17-12 Alma squad, then coached by Donnie Smith. 

Later that season, Roark set a school record with five first-half 3-point baskets during an 80-38 blowout of Pulaski Robinson. 

Despite competing in a few track events (Roark ran the 800) that spring, Roark and her teammates sought to compete in the state softball team — an open event that included 24 teams, from Class B Yellville-Summit to some of today’s established programs such as Greenbrier, Conway, Benton, and Russellville. 

Keep in mind, the Lady Airedales softball program didn’t yet exist. “We talked about it for a while, and then it looked like it was going to happen,” Rushing said. “I think we played a few games (three) before state, but we didn’t play many.” 

That April, Rushing helped lead Alma to the first of two state softball championship appearances. Charla Parrish took over as coach in 1994. 

Who can go to Conway! 

On April 25, 1993, Alma shocked Greenbrier, 3-2, in the state softball championship — a 35-game double-elimination state tournament hosted by the Amateur Softball Association. (The Arkansas Activities Association hadn’t yet sanctioned high school softball). 

To reach the finals, Alma first had to beat Greenbrier twice. After losing to the Lady Panthers in the double-elimination tournament, 14-3, Alma regrouped by trouncing Russellville 11-2. The Lady Airedales then popped Greenbrier 7-2 to set up a winner-take-all game. 

Junior pitcher Paige Dean (Jones), sophomore shortstop Ralynn Holt (Wilkinson), and second baseman Roark were part of the Alma Bombers’ squad. The team’s coaches, Clarence Roark, Ray Holt, Ron Blunt and Jim Wilson, all agreed to help coach the state tournament squad. 

Roark, Sullivan, the future Ouachita Baptist basketball phenom, Lisa Oliver, Tracey Jones, and Kym Merechka rounded out the group’s five seniors. Juniors Landi Blount and Kim Aldridge and sophomores Christy Fields and Kim Wilson contributed, too. 

To play in the state tournament, however, Clarence Roark first had to reach out to Dyer, the school’s longtime affable superintendent. 

“Dad went to Charles Dyer and asked him, ‘Do you mind if we get some girls and go play in this?’ Dad and Ray Holt and Ronnie Blunt coached us, and we went out there and won it,” Rushing said. “It was pretty cool.” 

Burger Run 

Although Rushing still has the tiger's eye she had as a player, adulthood is a far cry from the carefree summer days of the early ‘90s. 

"We didn’t practice (basketball) in the summer as we do now,” Rushing said. “The gym was open. I came up here in the morning and did my shooting, and along with a couple of guys, we would always play pickup games until noon.” 

Lunch was usually Pizza Parlor, Dairy Queen, Sonic, or Burger Run. Sometimes, Roark and Co. might grab a bite at the recently opened Airedale Express. 

We would go to the pool after lunch, and usually, we'd end up back at the gym (Crabtree) for more pickup games.” 

Back to school 

Rushing spent a dozen years working for Citizens Bank. She quickly worked her way up the system, too 

“My second year of college, I dropped out and went to work at the bank,” Rushing said. “I was a teller for eight months and a loan processor after that.” 

Eventually, Rushing returned to college. “I went back to school at night to get my business administration degree from Arkansas State at Westark. They (Westark) had either Arkansas Tech or Arkansas State, and I got my degree from Arkansas State.” In 2007, Rushing started her coaching career in the same gym she’d once flourished in. “I love it,” added Rushing. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”