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Derek Belt


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NHRA crews spend hours tuning for 5-second run

Speed demons

By Derek Belt
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
July 23, 2004

KENT, WASH. — Anticipation mounted as driver Tommy Johnson Jr. and the rest of the Blue Skoal Racing Team prepared to test the engine of their 7,000-horsepower Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

Johnson, a 17-year NHRA veteran, slipped on his helmet while crew members hustled to complete several last-minute touches and strap him securely in place. Fans gathered as crew members backed away. Then Johnson let it rip.

The engine erupted in a blast of power that rocked through the pit area and rolled its way through spectators’ cheap earplugs and cupped hands. Some loved it, some hated it. But everybody felt it. Continue reading “NHRA crews spend hours tuning for 5-second run”

What’s hampering a once-proud high school athletics program?

Lean years for the Lions

Foley’s athletic teams have fallen on hard times—what’s the cause, and what’s the cure?

By Derek Belt
Mobile Press-Register
Dec. 26, 2004

FOLEY, ALA. — Michael Ebert stood in the visitor’s dugout at Daphne High School late in a 1999 baseball game, watching intently as his Foley team clung to a fragile one-run lead. It was his second year as the Lions’ baseball coach, and one of his first trips to Daphne’s state-of-the-art diamond facility.

“I was standing there looking around and it just kind of hit me,” said Ebert. “I mean, everything is the best you can buy. They’ve got indoor batting cages, a locker room built into their dugout, names on the back of their jerseys, matching bat bags and state championships everywhere.

“Then I look in their dugout, and the head coach had just won a state championship in Georgia on a team that was ranked in the top 10 in the nation. The assistant coach had won two state championships as a head coach, you had Bernie Carbo in there, who was an ex-professional baseball player, you had another guy who was just the head coach at LeFlore, and you had a kid from the University of Mobile who had just graduated and was helping out.

“I said to myself ‘There’s five guys in that dugout that know more about baseball than I do.’ But it was a 5-4 game and we were winning.”

Unfortunately for the Lions, Daphne stormed back to steal a 6-5 victory that helped steamroll Foley’s chances of making the playoffs later that year. Such is the status quo at Foley High School, where the odds have been stacked sky-high against an athletic program that was once a showcase of stability and success in Southwest Alabama. Continue reading “What’s hampering a once-proud high school athletics program?”

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