By the numbers: Super 7 Sports/Outdoor stories of the year

Suspension of lawn mower racing turns heads, catches the eye

Editor’s note: This is the second of a seven-part series to close out 2014 looking back on the top stories and events of 2014.

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

The Pee Dee Post was first to report the decision announced June 14 from Ellerbe Lions Club officials to suspend lawn mower racing indefinitely.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A racer hits the turn of the Ellerbe Lions Club Speedway during a Memorial Day weekend event in Ellerbe.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A racer hits the turn of the Ellerbe Lions Club Speedway during a Memorial Day weekend event in Ellerbe.

The issue not only turned a few heads, it caught the eyes of more than 8,100 people — 8,172 to be exact — and, solely by the numbers, was PeeDeePost.com’s top sports and outdoors story of the year. Let’s be clear on what this article is and is not. This article is a report of most-read sports and outdoor stories on PeeDeePost.com since April 28, 2014. Why that date? Simple: That’s the date the digital newspaper went live. So it doesn’t include some great happenings in local sports and outdoors that took place the first one-third of this year.

That’s a perfect segue into what this is not: This report is not a top sports/outdoors stories of the year based on impact or overall importance to the community as judged by The Pee Dee Post‘s editorial board. It is, instead, only by number of readers — yup, people just like you — of the stories offered on PeeDeePost.com between April 28 and now. So the success enjoyed by the Richmond Senior High School baseball and softball teams, then, aren’t included. Fear not,  however — those teams’ playoff runs could be mentioned on Dec. 29 when the Post publishes it’s top sports/outdoor stories of the year on something other than statistics.

One obvious exclusion: The breaking story, first reported on PeeDeePost.com, about Rockingham Speedway going into foreclosure. Because the issue there was more on the news side of the house than on sports, that story — the most viewed of any single article on PeeDeePost.com — isn’t on this list. Rest assured, though, you’ll be reading more about that issue on at least one other list in this series.

This is the second of a seven-part series to close out the year, looking back on the top videos, news and sporting events of 2014. The remaining schedule includes:

Dec. 24 — By the numbers: Top videos of the year
Dec. 25 —  By the numbers: Top Sports/Outdoor stories
Dec. 26 —  By the numbers: Top News stories
Dec. 27 —  Super 7 Business stories
Dec. 28 — Super 7 Feel-good stories
Dec. 29 — Super 7 Sports stories
Dec. 30 — Super 7 Stories of the Year – final

On with the program:

No. 1 — Ellerbe Lions Club suspends lawn mower racing indefinitely

The Post saw the announcement on The Ellerbe Lions Club Facebook page within minutes of it being posted, and reported the news within a few minutes after that. Within only a couple of hours, we had reached out to both sides in the bout between Kermit Perkins and the Ellerbe Lions Club bout.

The story broke at about 10 p.m. on June 14, a Saturday night. As Richmond County’s only seven-day news outlet, the Post was the only place you could read about this for at 48 hours. We visited Perkins at his home and talked under the lights on his farm. We talked with Ellerbe Lions Club President Joey Bostick by phone, and, even though he declined to comment on the record at that time he knew we were open to reporting the issue as fairly as possible whenever Lions Club officials chose to comment.

That didn’t take long. Three days later, Bostick said it was a “misunderstanding” that led to the dispute between Perkins and Lions Club officials. Perkins decided to end his tenure as track manager there and later teamed up with Jeff Moss at Still Waters Arena for a new lawn mower racing opportunity called the Still Waters Mow Down Series.

Perkins and Moss worked to ensure race dates there didn’t conflict and, as the dust settled from the fallout, reached out to Ellerbe racers and made sure they felt welcome at either location.

In the end, the suspension of racing in Ellerbe, which lasted until the first race back on Aug. 24, might have worked out well for everyone. Wayne Taylor and Rex Crouch Jr. took over track management in Ellerbe and though rain had washed out the original return date of Aug. 10, lawn mowers returned on Aug. 24 with more than a few fans in the stands.

The original report of the suspension was read 8,172 times through Dec. 24 — 23.8 percent more than the second most poplar sports and outdoor story.

No. 2 — Ellerbe hunter combats ignorance with compassion

Female hunters might be rare, but female hunter who spent a majority of their free time in the world of animal advocacy might be among the most endangered species on the planet.

Photo by Scott Dycus Tessie Caulder proudly displays this 8-point buck taken on Oct. 6, her first buck. She’s been hunting since she was a child.

Photo by Scott Dycus
Tessie Caulder proudly displays this 8-point buck taken on Oct. 6, her first buck. She’s been hunting since she was a child.

Tessie Caulder, of Ellerbe, certainly had cause to feel that way shortly after she shot her first buck, an eight-pointer, about an hour before sunset on Oct. 6 along the Pee Dee River near Cordova. Her boyfriend, Scott Dycus, took a photo of Caulder holding the deer’s head by its antlers in the back of a pickup truck. Caulder posted the picture to her personal Facebook account. And after the expected congratulations from many, all hell broke loose.

The post generated some of the worst of social media, but more than 130 comments later — many of them personal attacks as far away as Australia — Caulder remained an unapologetic hunter and provider for her family.

The story on Caulder’s experience wasn’t published until Nov. 18. Unfortunately, there are times when a story doesn’t get done in as timely a manner as the Post hopes. However, the experience by Outdoor Channel television show co-host Eva Shockey in mid-November allows us to localize a regional, or even national, story. While hunting in Hyde County, Shockey legally harvested a black bear that weighed in at 510.2 pounds. Like Caulder, Shockey shared a photo of her harvest. And the threats began almost immediately. Shockey has more than 660,000 followers on her Facebook page. Thousands of verbal barbs and threats came in.

Caulder could understand Shockey’s plight. Again, Caulder stuck by her right to hunt and provide for her family while working to keep pets safe from harm in her spare time.

Caulder said she is not a trophy hunter. What is taken down by in the field — in this case her first hunt with a black powder Thompson/Center muzzleloader — goes into the freezer and ultimately, she said, on her grill.

“This was actually my second buck I had actually shot at in my life,” Caulder said, “but the first one that had come into my corn pile. I’m a nervous hunter. My adrenaline pumps so bad. I throw up after I kill one. I was in tears. I was happy, I was crying. We were meat huntin’ that day.”

Caulder discarded any threats made over Facebook as something not to worry about. And if the Post were giving an award for Quote of the Year, Caulder might have earned it with this:

Facebook, she said, is “a coward’s way out.” Besides, “nobody’s gonna confront a woman that’s good with the first shot anyway.

The story was read 6,601 times — 905 times more than …

No. 3 — Dannell Ellerbe’s visits brighten Thanksgiving, Christmas

Former Richmond Raider standout and current Miami Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe recently completed his third public return to Richmond County in 2014 by funding Christmas for 59 county children Monday morning in Walmart. Both he and wife Shervella helped children ages 5 to 13 spend gift cards at the Rockingham big box retailer to allow children to have a Christmas they certainly would not have been able to otherwise afford.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Carolyn Walker, a member of the board of directors for Richmond County Aging Services, thanks Dannell Ellerbe for his efforts in providing 85 meals to area seniors on Wednesday in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Carolyn Walker, a member of the board of directors for Richmond County Aging Services, thanks Dannell Ellerbe for his efforts in providing 85 meals to area seniors on Wednesday in Rockingham.

The spending spree, however, was only the second most popular story about the Ellerbe family. In November, Ellerbe and his wife, along with then 6-month-old son Nevan, contributed funding for 85 meals for Richmond County senior residents and helped to distribute them at the Richmond County Aging Services building on Lawrence Street.

Ellerbe likely had better things to do — it was a week before his 29th birthday, after all, and he’s still rehabbing from an injured hip that’s taken him out this NFL season. But when asked, Ellerbe figured this was the best way to spend his time.

The Thanksgiving story attracted 5,696 readers and the exclusive report about Ellerbe’s planning Christmas event generated another 5,574 reads — which technically qualifies it for No. 4 on this list. Because of the obvious overlap, however, it’s been decided to lump these stories — along with Ellerbe’s free youth football clinic in July at Richmond Senior High School — into a single element.

While the Post has not yet offered full-time sports coverage, these sports-related stories — and the others on this list — indicate a thirst for timely reporting and, of course, the Post‘s online photo galleries.

No. 4 — Fighting Scots cut Raiders perfect season short

Based on the number of readers alone, this story slides into the fourth most-read sports and outdoor story since April 28. But it’s probably No. 1 on the minds of many who want to forget.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Scotland controlled the ball and the tempo for much of the time in the Fighting Scots' 34-13 win inside Raider Stadium on Nov. 7 in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Scotland controlled the ball and the tempo for much of the time in the Fighting Scots’ 34-13 win inside Raider Stadium on Nov. 7 in Rockingham.

From the outset, Scotland’s players looked to be more highly motivated and better prepared and, on the field, ready to execute. The Raiders, who entered the game with a 10-0 record, never could get on track. If Dec. 7, 1941 will be a day that will live in infamy, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said at the time, then Nov. 7, 2014 won’t, at the very least, be erased from the memories of Richmond Raider fans anytime soon.

Though a high school football game and the beginning of World War II in the Pacific theater is hardly an apples-to-apples comparison, both events will leave a mark on the psyche. It’s a simple truth: People around here take high school football seriously, and as Scotland had a state title-caliber team this year, the game was seen as a gauge of how both teams might fare in their respective playoff runs.

The story was read 5,337 times — far fewer times than the number of fans inside the stadium. Then again, the Post is not yet known as the go-to place for Richmond County variety sports coverage. That will likely change in 2015.

 No. 5 — Our Turn: Jaylend’s is a local story

This is the only opinion-based piece to make it onto any of the Super 7 lists published on PeeDeePost.com between Dec. 24 and Dec. 30. The column focused on how the Post was wrong to initially omit providing coverage of Jaylend Ratliffe’s ATV accident.

The early thinking was that Ratliffe was a Scotland High School student-athlete, and that the story remained there — within the confines of Scotland County’s borders. The outpouring of emotion and support from throughout not only all of the Sandhills region but the state of North Carolina for the young man, who is by all accounts a class act on and off the field, shows us quite quickly how wrong we were.

The lives of those who live in Richmond and Scotland counties are separately sometimes by a lot less than a 25-mile commute.

The column was read 4,819 times.

No. 6 — County votes no on sales tax referendum

For Richmond County, the sales tax referendum on the Nov. 4 general election ballot was perhaps the most important item, regardless of which political party one has affiliated. But just as important as the potential impact of a vote “yes” was the overwhelming vote “no.”

Richmond County voters soundly rejected the proposed quarter-cent sales tax, funds from which officials from the city of Rockingham and Richmond County planned to use to construct a destination sports complex along Old Aberdeen Road. Whether it was an issue of a confusing ballot — the referendum language failed to mention anything about a sports complex — or a lack of connection for voters between the “Vote Yes” campaign signs posted throughout the county and the sales tax referendum is unknown. But nearly three out of every four county voters — 8,661, or 70.4 percent for to 3,638 against — said no thanks.

The story was read 4,067 times.

No. 7 — Liles, Johnson lead R’ham past Fuquay-Varina

In a preview of things to hopefully come in 2015, the game report of Ragan Liles and Jadyn Johnson leading Rockingham past Fuquay Varina 4-3 in the North Carolina Dixie Softball Ponytails state tournament on July 14 at Hillcrest Park was precedent-setting.

Jadyn Johnson slides safely into second – then third and home – to score Rockingham’s first run of the game. Johnson scored two of her squad’s four runs in a 4-3 victory Monday over Fuquay Varina.

Jadyn Johnson slides safely into second – then third and home – to score Rockingham’s first run of the game. Johnson scored two of her squad’s four runs in a 4-3 victory Monday over Fuquay Varina.

The report had a photo gallery (more than 1,200 snapshots), a video interview with Liles, hyperlinks to previous tournament coverage and, of course, the game was on the road — and the Post was there.

The report was read by 3,897 people — far more than the dozens of Richmond County residents who traveled to the Carthage sports complex to watch the tournament in person. And that’s sort of the point — through the Post, readers can keep up with what’s going on even if they can’t be there.

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Honorable Mention:

* Ask the Goat: 6 days at Silverton part 3/3 (3,014)
* Butler, Meacham, Inman pace Farmers 5K (2,561)
* Raiders drop ball, 28-27 ballgame to Wildcats (2,549)

Filed in: Announcements, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Sports

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