Whether it is hitting a tumbling pass on the cheer floor or getting tumbled by life’s setbacks, Joel Jones has proven he will land on his feet.
“He’s an incredible tumbler,” said Broken Arrow Tigers varsity cheer coach Kyrstin Delehanty about the senior Jones, who cheered for the first time last year.
Delehanty has made Jones’ tumbling skills a focus of this year’s competitive routine in hopes that the Tigers can win its seventh Sate Cheer Performance championship and first since 2016.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association has canceled this year’s regional, which was originally scheduled for Saturday at Bixby High School. Broken Arrow will compete in Large Co-Ed Division at 6 p.m. in the state competition on Jan. 30 at Union High School. Time for that division’s competition has yet to be announced
“The more tumbling you have the better,” Delehanty noted. “He does a pass down the diagonal where he throws full-punch-full-punch-full, which is very hard on dead mat. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else do it, honestly.”
Jones’ acrobatics on the mat impressed Delehanty nearly as much as the way he handled the twists that put upheaval in his home life a few months ago.
Jones’ mother, a single mom, became sick last spring. Her illness resulted in exorbitant medical bills and loss of work. The struggling times cost the family their home. Six of Jones’ family members, including mother and siblings, lived in a hotel room for two months, before his mother could recuperate and begin working again.
“When I heard this summer about everything going on with him, I wanted to know what we could do to help,” Delehanty said. “He’s one of the best kids I know. The fact that he had to go through that just pulled at my heart. I was doing anything I could to help him out.”
Through it all, most of Jones’ teammates were unaware of the incident that befell his family life.
“It was really hard,” he said. “I was a little lost. I honestly was so scared to even talk to the team. I was working to make them happy. I was just thinking that I’m not that important to be crying over this. It happens. I hid it away.”
Delehanty and Jones both believe the number of cheer members aware of Jones’ difficulties is small.
“There’s not a person out there who would have said, ‘Hey, Joel’s going through something,’” Delehanty said. “He didn’t show it. It’s been incredible to watch him push through what he’s been through. He’s been so strong.”
By watching him in cheer practice, it’s easy to recognize that determination is a powerful component of Jones’ DNA. That quality was enhanced and displayed during a time that would challenge an adult’s fortitude, let alone that of a teenager.
Jones was instrumental, along with his grandmother, in caring for his younger siblings, which included a two- and three-year-old.
“I felt like I had to step up,” the understated Jones said. “Just seeing that my mom was struggling was a wake-up call to me. My mom was really struggling with work and being sick.”
The valor he showed in caring for his family extends to his “second family” – BAHS Varsity Cheer.
“My motive for cheer has always been to come in and work hard,” he said. “When I come in here, everything is left at the door. There is no need to bring it. Cheer is a good distraction.”
But it is more than a distraction for a kid who started tumbling classes while in kindergarten and, who after just one season of cheer, was named a captain.
“He’s just an easy person to get along with, but he’s also really straight forward,” Delehanty said. “He’s not going to sugar coat something for you, but he tells you in a way that isn’t going to make you mad and make you hate him.
“Everybody knows he wants the best for this team and that he is here for this team. He’s not doing it for himself. He’s a good leader.”
The power tumbler, who was hesitant to join the cheer team, is now focused on working with teammates to capture a state championship. Regional champions a year ago, the Tigers fell short of nabbing the state crown in January of 2020.
“We just came in a little too confident,” Jones said looking back at last season. “I think we’re aware now that we just can’t be like ‘hey, we just won regionals, so now we can chill out and not work as hard.’”
Following Tuesday’s final home meet of the season, the Broken Arrow Tiger competitive swim schedule is cleared for two weeks. Don’t view that as a time of rest, however.
“Last week, we started our hardest workouts of the season, so we will be finishing those this week,” said Tiger swim coach Casey Beck. “Then we will really focus on sprinting and tapering for regionals. We are going to stick to the little tweaks in perfecting their technique to increase their speed, and not make any large changes.”
Up next is the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association Class 6A East Regional at the Jenks Aquatic Center, Feb. 5-6.
On the girls side, expectations are high for Rachel Kramer and Kaylee Sticka to advance to the State Championships Feb. 19-20. Both girls earned medals in the Frontier Valley Conference Championships a week ago.
“I know Rachel will make it to state,” a confident Beck said. “With her increase in training this year, I think she will easily be top three, if not higher, in her events. She has dominated this season.
“Kaylee ended the regular season on fire. She has dropped a lot of time in both of her events this season, I know she will do well (at regionals).”
Kramer, who won the 200 Free at conference and placed second in the 400 Free, is a member of the 400 Free Relay that placed third at the FVC meet, so she could be swimming in three events at state.
Beck looks for Claire McDaris, also a member of the 440 Free Relay, and Erica Frescott to swim well at regionals and advance to the state meet. McDaris, who will swim the 100 and 400 Backstrokes, was just one spot away in qualifying for State in the 100 Back a year ago. Frescott, a senior, just recently returned from quarantine, so “we are hoping we can get her back into fighting shape before regionals, and if we can she will definitely make it through,” Beck said.
With just one boy swimmer earning his way to State last season, Beck is leaning on underclassmen to represent BA in the sport’s culminating event this year. The youngest is freshman Tyler Steffan, a talent swimmer who provides several event options for Beck.
“He is an outstanding swimmer,” Beck said. “We just have to figure out where he has the best chance to qualify.”
Dominic Benware heads up a group of sophomores, which includes Austin Brewster, Thomas Hamm and Isaac Hansbraugh, who could be swimming in mid-February.
“Dominic has been really impressive this year,” Beck said. “His hard work shows during meets. He was one that just missed out qualifying last year. He is several seconds faster in his fly, so I think this gives him a good chance at a state showing.
“Overall, our regional is always tough. The east side has the majority of the top eight teams in the state, so the competition is high. We will be there fighting our way to state and I’m excited about that.”
Her face is her canvas.
But don’t be fooled by the glamorous eye art. Alluring red hued eye shadow ascending toward silver-flecked eyebrows. Finely crafted, sparkling gold-chained accents frame the outside edges of her engaging blue eyes that belie a hidden passion.
For all the skill and delicate touch it takes to apply stylish makeup, Broken Arrow Tiger girls wrestler Skyla Walker is just as technical and precise in her approach of perfecting an outside single leg take down.
“She does more work outside of practice than anyone on our team,” said Cassidy Jasper, head girls wrestling coach. “She’s consistently getting better and better; mostly with her mind set. She’s the kind of girl that has bought in so much that if she told me ‘coach, I’m going to quit,’ I would laugh. I‘d be like ‘no, you’re not. That’s a joke.’ That’s how into the program she is.”
Her love for wrestling is new. Her love for art is not. Surprisingly though, lessons in wrestling technique proceeded her training in makeup.
Walker did not learn of Tulsa Tech’s cosmetology classes until this school year. Here experience with wrestling began in 2019.
Prior to the discovery of wrestling, Walker was a varsity cheerleader and played soccer.
“Cheer, soccer…I liked them, but I didn’t know what it was like to really love the sport that you’re in and I feel in love with it,” Walker said of wrestling. “I would be in math class dreaming about matches. I just started to love it.”
Jasperson noted that the first few days of wrestling was a feeling out period for Walker.
“She was one of those kids that I was sure hated wrestling,” said Jasperson, who remembers thinking, “This girls not going to make it. She just doesn’t like the sport.
“It’s a hard sport to come right into your junior year in high school, but her mindset has completely changed. You can see the confidence in her wrestling. She’s so much more aggressive and offensive. She’s not only fallen in love with the sport, she’s actually taken a leadership role.”
Walker’s senior school days are now bookended by her two passions: facial art and bodily combat.
“I couldn’t’ believe they count this as a class,” Walker said of Tech’s cosmetology class. “I even wondered, ‘is that allowed?’ It’s so fun. It’s the first three hours of my day. It’s a great way to start my day.
“I Love make up. I Love art. Most people who don’t go to school with me and I’m friends with them, they’re like ‘you wrestle? No way. I would have never thought.’ I’m an artistic, creative person and I guess that doesn’t fit the stereotype.”
This self-described “girly, girl” is just one of many who may not fit the so-called stereotype of a female wrestler. When Jasperson discusses the interest of her girls beyond wrestling one quickly discovers there is no stereotypical BAHS girl wrestler, however.
“I feel like we’re breaking that stereotype,” the coach said. “We have girls that are very tomboyish that don’t wear makeup. We have very tough girls who know that it’s okay to be girly. It just takes courage to go out there in a singlet in the middle of a mat, where everyone is looking at you and only you. It doesn’t matter what you’re interested in away from wrestling. It can be a cheerleader, a soccer player, there’s a girl from Jiu Jitsu, who’s started wrestling this year. We have girls from everywhere. It’s important to let a girl know that it’s okay to be whatever kind of person you want. You can come to practice with a whole face of makeup, wiping your make up off as your walking onto the mat. That’s awesome.”
With hopes of wrestling in college, Walker may continue the described pre-practice routine for a few more years. Looking to earn a business degree and eventually finishing the two-year tech cosmetology program, Walker plans to parlay those degrees into her own cosmetology studio. The initial attraction of makeup art has led to an interest and the likability of hair styling and, to some extent, even nails.
“Make up is definitely my favorite,” she said. “It’s funny because hair is the main point of cosmetology at Tulsa Tech and I wasn’t super into hair. I wanted to do make up and get a grade for it. Then we started doing hair, and I actually like doing hair now. I didn’t know how to do it, so it didn’t pique may interest very much. Learning how to do all of them, I really like doing every single thing.”
Including wearing a singlet. After she cleans off her facial art, of course.
Broken Arrow girls and boys are scheduled to wrestle District Duals Thursday. The girls are at Ponca City and the Boys are at Norman. The girls wrestle in "The Warpath" Women's Wrestling Tournament at School of the Osage in Osage Beach, Mo., on Saturday at 9 a.m.
When word reached the team that their first game in the COP/Arvest Invitational would be canceled because of COVID-related issues with their opponent, Broken Arrow Tigers most experienced player, Kelsey Duffey, did not allow frustration to set in with her teammates.
“Since we didn’t get a game, that’s just more practice for us leading up to the next game,” Duffey said of her approach to that and other games that were impacted by the pandemic. “It’s more time getting better and working on our skills. I’ve learned to take it one game at a time. I’m focused on little steps and not just the whole year.”
The extra day to focus on Class 5A’s No. 2 ranked girls team, Carl Albert, paid off as the Tigers played possibly their best game of the year, winning 69-64. Duffey scored 19-points, her season high, in possibly her best game of the season.
Duffey, a starter since her freshman season, is Broken Arrow’s only senior with meaningful game experience. With that comes the expectations of being a leader. Her head coach is pleased with the way she has embraced the role.
“She’s leading not just on the court, but she’s leading off the court with her actions of trying to do everything she can to make sure she is ready to play,” said Mike Dooney, BA girls head basketball coach.
“She’s asserting herself more. She used to be passive and let things affect her like crowd noise or other people’s opinions. That’s something that is not affecting her this year. I’ve seen a lot of growth there.”
So has Duffey.
The five-foot, four-inch point guard credits “listening to Dooney” in helping her grow into a leader.
Dooney recognizes that for Duffey, her maturity comes from perspective.
“She understands how hard it is to come in as a freshman,” said Dooney, who took over the helm as head coach before Duffey’s sophomore season. “She’s been in their shoes. Very few kids are a freshman playing on a varsity team and she understands that role.
“She has been accepting of those young kids. She has brought them under her wing and done a good job leading them. She mentors them, talks to them, and has built a relationship with them. I always see her around the freshmen making sure they don’t feel left out and making sure they feel like they are part of the team.”
Duffey recalled challenges during her freshman season, noting that she often felt isolated on a team dominated by upperclassmen.
“I want to bring my freshmen in and let them know that they don’t need to worry about what other people say,” Duffey said. “If you’re good enough, you’re going to play. As a senior, I’m just trying to welcome them in.”
Duffey’s growth goes beyond her role as a teammate. She’s also seen improvements in her game since those days as a ninth grader.
“My freshman year and sophomore year, I wasn’t a scorer at all,” she said. “I was on the floor to give assists. I have progressed in shooting the ball and getting to the rim, and helping our team there.”
Duffey is Broken Arrow’s second leading scorer at 8.7 points per game. She leads the team with nearly three assists per game. Both are career highs.
Duffey, along with teammates Lucia Gomez, Evie Herring, Abby Jones, Ruth Folly and Cami Harger will be honored during Senior Night activities prior to the Tigers game against Muskogee on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
As Apryl Vann-Jackson came to the sideline during the second-quarter of the COP/Arvest Invitational Championship game on Saturday, she clearly had done something to earn the ire of Broken Arrow girls basketball coach Mike Dooney.
After a few nods of agreement with her coach, Vann-Jackson took a seat on the bench and responded immediately with hand claps and encouraging words for her teammates on the court. The junior’s action at that moment was no different than any other time that she has been called to the bench. It is a trait of Jackson's of which the Tiger coaching staff is well aware. It also garnered Vann-Jackson a Tiger S.T.R.I.P.E.S. Award for Positive Attitude.
“Whenever I’m getting on her, no matter what it is I’m saying, she owns it and says ‘you’re right coach,’” Dooney said of Vann-Jackson. “When she comes off the floor, hits the bench and starts clapping for her teammates it’s because she understands it’s not about her, it’s about us. When you have kids that have the kind of attitude that they are focused on the team more than themselves, man. you can build championships off that.
“Apryl is always putting team first. She’s never worried about her own feelings.”
Dooney presented Vann-Jackson a Tiger S.T.R.I.P.E.S. medallion in front of teammates at the beginning of practice Thursday.
While encouraging coaches to create an atmosphere of competition and excellence in each sport, athletic administrators established Tiger S.T.R.I.P.E.S. to instill attributes within young BA athletes that go beyond the game.
Throughout the year, coaches recognize players for demonstrating the traits of Tiger S.T.R.I.P.E.S.: Service, Trust, Respect, Integrity, Positive Attitude, Excellence, and Self-Discipline.
The cancelation of Broken Arrow baseball’s annual Wildlife Festival must feel like a rally-killing triple play or a called third strike for the final out of a big game to head coach Shannon Dobson.
First, the COVID-19 virus wiped out the 2020 season. Second, during winter break, Dobson landed in the hospital with COVID pneumonia. Now, and thirdly, the traditional mid-January fundraising dinner for the Tiger baseball booster club is the latest pandemic victim.
However, in late -inning, game-saving fashion Tiger baseball boosters managed a pinch-hit home run, and are refusing to allow the virus to no-hit the team’s largest fundraiser.
While a wild-game dinner served in the Broken Arrow High School cafeteria will not be part of the 2021 fundraiser, an online auction that begins Sunday will still provide funds to support Broken Arrow Tiger baseball.
“Our Baseball Booster Club has been working extremely hard to come up with a solution to continue our tradition of our annual Wildlife Festival and having an on-line auction allows us to keep moving forward to raise money for program and kid,” Dobson said. “By doing this it provides a safe way to continue our fundraising efforts and keep our community and alumni involved in the baseball program.”
The silent auction will be hosted at 32auctions.com. Login information will be made available through Broken Arrow Athletics and Tiger Baseball social media sites around noon on Sunday. The auction continues through Jan. 27.
A Lake Texoma guided fishing trip with lodging is one of the highlights of the auction. The list of more than 30 items also includes a one-night stay and round of golf for two at Shangri-La Resort on Grand Lake and a Broken Arrow High School Prom packet that is listed at nearly $800. Many of the baskets up for auction carry familiar themes like Hunting (donated by BA alums Archie Bradley and Mak Monkton’s Crash Landing Outdoors), Coffee Lovers, Golf Outings, Girls Night and a Set of Tires (valued at $950 and donated by Shamrock Tires).
Other companies who donated items include Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, Safari Joe’s, DBat, BA Med Spa, Tex’s Smoke & Chew, Glamour Gowns and More, Men’s Warehouse, Black Riffle Company, Arrow Flowers and Tulsa Firearms.
“The boosters have some great items for the auction and we’re looking forward to seeing how successful we can be doing it on-line,” Dobson said. “Hopefully, next year we can pick back up with the traditional festival.”
This would have been the 22nd year for the Wildlife Festival, which along with serving as a fundraiser also includes the recognition of a past baseball team. This year’s event was originally set to honor the 1991 and 2011 state championship teams on Friday. Dobson, anticipating a larger-than-usual crowd, schedule the fundraising dinner for the Varsity Training Center indoor practice facility instead of the BAHS cafeteria. Dobson has invited the teams back for the 2022 festival.
Broken Arrow Public Schools Board of Education approved the hiring of Josh Blankenship as the new head football coach at Broken Arrow High School in a special meeting Friday.
“Josh’s unmistakable passion for using the game of football as a vehicle to leave a lasting legacy with his players led us to today,” said Broken Arrow Executive Director of Athletics Steve Dunn. “The high standard of excellence that he has set for this program and his unyielding will to motivate his staff and players in daily pursuit of that standard is going to lead to championship culture and championship football in Broken Arrow.”
Blankenship was introduced to his team and the media at a press conference following the Board meeting.
“I’m blown away by this opportunity,” Blankenship said. “This place is home to me. To be able to bring my family here is what excites me the most. I’m humbled and I’m grateful.”
Blankenship has coached at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado for the past seven years including the last three as the head football coach. The Adams State football program competes at the NCAA Division II level in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Blankenship has a record of 8-14, which is the highest two-year win total since the 2013-2014 seasons.
In 2018, Blankenship coached a back-to-back Harlon Hill finalist, which is often considered to be the Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. In the same season, he coached two AP All-Americans, and his starting running back broke the school record for rushing yards in a season. Blankenship developed the Adams State University offense into the nation’s second-ranked passing offense (2017), and in back-to-back season (2018-2019) he coached the nation’s individual leader in both receptions and receiving yards per game. In 2019, he coached the nations individual leader in tackles for loss, who averaged 2.2 TFLs per game, including a collegiate best 20 solo tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 11 games.
“Coach has been like a father to me,” said Chad Hovasse, a 2018 All-American at Adams State. “He never accepted anything less than my best and brings the best out of his players both on and off the field.”
Prior to his time in Alamosa, Blankenship was an assistant coach at the University of Tulsa working with the Golden Hurricane quarterbacks. Prior to that he was the head coach and acting athletic director at Muskogee High School. Before his time there he was on the football staff at Union High School for five state championships including three as the offensive coordinator (2008-2010) and two as the quarterback coach (2004-2005).
As a player, Blankenship spent three seasons as the signal caller for Tulsa from 1999-2001 before ending his collegiate career at Eastern Washington in 2002. In three seasons as the starting quarterback for Tulsa, Blankenship compiled 5,273 yards passing and 21 touchdowns. At Eastern Washington he threw for 3,243 yards and 30 touchdowns en route to being named second-team All-American by Football Gazette. He was also named the 2002 Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Blankenship had a brief stint with the Miami Dolphins in 2003 and from 2005-2007 played in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League for several different organizations.
“This is unbelievable. The talent is unbelievable,” the Tigers new football coach said. “I’m excited about what we’re going to do and the way we’re going to do it. I’m excited to build on the culture that’s already established here and has been grown here.
“As a little kid, I was a ball boy for my dad (Bill Blankenship, now the Owasso head football coach), and I would go catch those PATs and field goals falling down out of the tree in the end zone at Kirkland. A legacy is something we’re going to be focused on. It’s going to be hard and the standard is going to be very, very high. But, the reward is worth it.”
Like the rest of the Broken Arrow Tiger wrestling schedule, a weekend that starts with Thursday’s dual at Mustang has taken on a change.
What was originally going to include a trip to the nation’s oldest wrestling tournament – Geary Invitational – now will feature an expanded tournament in Jenks. The Geary tournament, like the Iron Man in Ohio and the KC Duals in Missouri, has fallen victim to the still-raging pandemic.
The Geary cancelation is what has become the norm in a season of change for Coach Rod Jones and the state’s reigning Class 6A Dual and Team State champions.
“Four out of the five tournaments we usually go to collapsed and the fifth one changed to an alternative date,” Jones said. “We’re trying to stay one week ahead. My intention is to get into as many competitions as we possibly can.
“It’s not just 14 main dudes. It’s a group of 20 to 23 guys, and we have done a good job to this point of getting them matches, so some of these (younger) kids are ready to fill in spots the following year.”
The Larry Wilke Invitational in Jenks has increased its field form 16 teams to 24, due mainly to the canceling of the Geary Invitational. By incorporating a blind draw, it’s also going to have a Geary look and feel.
“I love that because it’s non-traditional,” Jones said of the non-seeded format. “We want competition and that’s all we really care about. It’s filling a spot where we have some west side schools coming that may have some tough kids that we need to see.”
Jones knows he’ll see “some tough kids” at Mustang, a team that finished runner-up to the Tigers in the team state championship last season and lost to BA the last two seasons – semifinals in 2019 and finals in 2020 – at Dual State.
“Mustang’s been trying to beat us for a while,” Jones said. “I would think they would want to beat us more than they would want to beat anybody else. I know I would want to beat them if everything was flipped.
“They have a good group. We’re looking forward to the competition, so when the postseason gets here, I’m confident our kids are battle tested.”
Like the Tigers regular season, the 2021postseason is experiencing a change from its original schedule, the Oklahoma Second School Activities Association announced Wednesday. The boys regional tournament will be Feb. 12-13, which was the original Dual State weekend. The OSSAA State Championships is set for Feb. 25-27, two weeks after regionals instead of the traditional week following. Dual State will cap the 2020-2021 season March 12-13.
For the first time since second grade, Jaiell Talley’s school year did not include a fall season of football.
“Football was on my mind, but mainly I was focused on basketball and the team,” Talley said, reflecting on his junior year, in which he led Broken Arrow Tigers basketball team in scoring (9.7 points) and rebounding (6.9).
As a senior, Talley returned to the football field. The lanky outside receiver caught 14 passes for 226 yards and four touchdowns in nine games.
As the Tigers, 2-3, return to the court in 2021, the hope is that Talley has worked his way into “basketball shape.”
“It’s a process,” said Talley, who is averaging 7.6 points and four rebounds a game. “I feel like I’m almost back into full basketball shape.”
With Tulsa Washington first up for the second semester, followed by three games in the Skiatook Tournament, Broken Arrow needs Talley to do more than “feel” ready. The Tigers need him to BE ready.
“I’ve always said of these football guys who come in late, that it takes until about January 15 for them to really be ready to go,” said Beau Wallace, BA Tigers boys head basketball coach. “We’ve seen it in practice over the last two weeks during break that Talley is just a different kid.”
At 6-foot, 5-inches, Talley’s ability to score and rebound effectively is necessary for the guard-heavy Tigers.
“We need more paint presence,” Wallace said. “Rebounding, and taking and making that second or third shot is something we can get from him. Plus, his leadership is valued. He’s just one of those kids that takes care of his business. He’s not going to say lot, but he knows what he has to do when it comes to playing hard and not making mistakes.”
With a 4.0 grade point average, Talley obviously doesn’t make a lot of mistakes in the classroom either. He plans to study electrical engineering in college. He has not decided on a college yet, nor which sport he will play at the next level.
“People ask me that all the time, and I always just tell them ‘the one that gives me the best opportunity,’” he said.
That “opportunity” is two-fold: athletic and academic.
“I pride myself in doing the best I can,” Talley said when talking about the classroom. “I’ve had all A’s since my freshman year. It’s more or less about keeping my GPA up. I don’t like my grades to get below 93. That’s more of a side challenge for me.”
Though the calm, level-headed senior, whose favorite subjects are math and science, is not ready to commit to either sport. However, during a conversation about athletics one can deduce that Talley’s love leans a little more toward basketball.
“I like basketball because I can be a little bit more involved,” he said. “It’s five-on-five, not 22 guys out on the field. The pace is so much faster compared to football. You don’t have timeouts where you’re in the huddle waiting for the plays.
“For football, being a receiver, I like just going one-on-one and proving that I’m a better athlete than the guy in front of me. It’s the same with basketball. In basketball I feel I can do more (to help the team), because I don’t get to play defense in football.”
Talley’s BAHS sports career may not end with basketball in March, however. Though it’s early in the basketball season, Talley is considering adding a third sport – track and field – to round out his senior year. The last time he ran track was in eighth grade.
So, as Talley looks to attend a college that offers him the best opportunities, he is fulfilling opportunities to give BAHS his best.