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Steady Carmack helps Lady Airedales go 12/8/21

Call Her Moose

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... 


A … Moose?


Halyn Carmack admits she sometimes looks aloof when teachers call her by her given name, Halyn. The Alma senior started answering to "Moose" a long time ago. 


"I love it," she said. "Mr. (Alma middle school principal Bob) Wolfe, he calls me Moose, and sometimes when my teachers call me by my name I don't respond, because I'm so used to being called Moose."


The nickname, she said, was given to her by her mom Erin. 


"My mom started calling me Moose back in little league,” she said. "I wish I had a cool story, but I was just mean in little league and they (parents) just started calling me Moose. I've had that name for so long.”


“I don’t think I’ve ever called her Halyn; it’s always been Moose since the first time I met her in the sixth grade,” Alma coach Codey Mann said. “I think it’s a pretty cool nickname.”


When Carmack burst onto the scene as a seventh-grader, it was sometimes hard to spot her on the basketball court. The easy-going blonde — pigtails in tow — fluttered toward the basket before taking a tumble. She couldn’t have been more than a hundred pounds soaking wet. 


"Less than that," Carmack said. "I was not even out of the 4-(foot)-5 range then."


Fearless; a heart of gold. Pick one. 


“She’s gotten taller,” Mann said. “She’s probably about 5-3 or 5-4 now. She’s muscled up. She really took a liking to CrossFit. As a basketball player, for so many years we’ve asked her to do a lot. Last year, I thought she turned into a complete point guard.”


Alma Assistant Coach Chanlee Bottoms has done her best to get Carmack out of her shell. And it worked, too. 


“We probably work out about three times a week just on shooting,” Bottoms said. “Obviously, when you shoot the ball well it builds self-confidence. I think it’s helped her more this season; she’s been more active looking to score, versus being a passer.”


“I’ve known Chan since I was really little,” Carmack said. “She doesn't take it this way, but she really puts a lot of confidence into my game. I didn’t want to shoot; I didn’t want to dribble. She really taught me how to play. And coach Mann, he’s been there since sixth grade. Coach (Jernigan), coach Mann and Chan, they’re all so passionate about the game. 


“They have so much love for the game; they truly want us to be successful.”


Carmack has played alongside some of the top River Valley players during the summer over the past few years, including the Greenwood trio of Madi Cartwright, Megan Gray, and Abby Summitt. She’s also been a travel-ball teammate of Pocola standout Mica Scott. 


But that shot? It didn’t work at first. 


“My shot was so funky,” Carmack said. “I think I even had a granny shot (underhand heave) going on. I hated my shot; I wouldn't shoot. I don’t remember when it changed. I played for the Ladybacks (sixth grade) over the summer and my coach, the first thing he did was say, ‘We’ve got to fix your shot.’ 


“It went from granny shot to slowly getting there.”


Tight bond 


The Lady Airedales travel to Texas this weekend to compete in the Brookhill Invitational. Alma (2-4) will face T.K. Gorman. In the throes of a three-game slide, the Lady Airedales hope the Texas trip will strengthen an already tight bond - and bring with it a few more wins. 


"Sports, to me, it's not just about competing," Carmack said. "I mean, competing is great, especially when you're winning. (But the family aspect of it is probably the best part. When you win together, that just makes it so much better. 


"Competing is second nature to all these girls. That's what makes us all so aggressive ... we all just want it so bad."


Alma officials have no plans to retire Carmack’s No. 11 jersey anytime soon. And she’s good with that. It’s all about passing the baton to the next group of players. 


But for now, the team has some unfinished business.


"I don't think it's really hit yet that I'm a senior," Carmack said. "This team is full of a new kind of energy. It's unexplainable; we really believe we can win. 


"When you truly believe you can win, it's something else. (But) we have to overcome not being consistent. We'll have good games, and then we'll have a really bad game."


Little League


Carmack played little league hoops for longtime Alma Primary School Principal Shawn Bullard, as well as Rebecca Hatley and Romona Nelson. 


She carried her love for the game, and that nickname, to junior high. 


"We didn't know how good we could be when we were in seventh grade," Carmack said. "We were just kind of out there to be out there."


The roster is different now, of course. But two seventh-grade mainstays, Carmack and Kenzie Rushing, are still there. 


The blonde girl in the No. 11 jersey still carries the fight. The jersey, she said, “means everything.”


"It represents who we are, who we want to be,” Carmack said. “It represents togetherness because we all have the same jersey, and we're all playing for each other. It means the world, honestly. We're so blessed."


Business deal


Carmack hopes to play collegiately. But her bigger plans go far behind 3-pointers and assists. 


“I want to study kinesiology and hopefully one day I’ll own my own CrossFit gym,” she said. “When I was younger, my dad would always try to get us stronger. As a kid, you just don’t want to do that type of thing. We didn’t like him for it; we hated going.


“But after we were gone for a while, we started to go back again, and I started to fall in love with it.”


Carmack’s all in. 


“I love lifting and just going hard and digging really deep,” she said. “Once it’s over, you feel refreshed.”