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Area All-Stars hold their own in Fayetteville

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The best high school athletes Arkansas has to offer assembled at the University of Arkansas on the week of June 17, for the Arkansas High School Coaches Association all-star games.

Viola graduates Michaela Thompson and Leslie Shrable competed in girls basketball and softball, respectively. Izard County star athlete Preston Harmon was selected to play in the baseball game, but decided to join the basketball team when an unexpected opening occurred.

According to Viola High School Athletic Director Bruce Adams, two athletes from each conference are nominated for each sport. Then each of the seven classes chooses two of those nominated by the conferences. Those 14, plus a "wild card" chosen from any class, make up the 15 athlete teams.

"We were very fortunate to have Michaela and Leslie representing Viola at the all star games," Adams said.

Thompson said playing at Bud Walton Arena, home of the Razorbacks, was an environment she was definitely not used to.

"It was a lot of fun, but very different. I'm used to playing in our small gym in Viola, so it was weird to have a big stadium full of people," Thompson said.

Shrable shared Michaela's sentiment.

"It was unbelievable. I've been able to play at Bogle Park (softball field) three times now, twice for the state finals and the all-star game. Every time, it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Shrable said. "It was different to play with different teammates. It was also weird to play in their big stadium, when I'm used to playing at a little park with a couple of bleachers. So that was completely different."

Thompson played both basketball and softball in high school.

A-D Adams, who also coaches softball, served as the girls basketball coach until the 2012-2013 season. The current boys basketball coach saw a lot of Thompson and Schrable in recent years.

During the 2011-2012 school year, Viola's girls basketball team went 35-6. The softball team had success also, posting a record of 31-3 and making the state finals.

Adams said the two girls are both a big part of the teams' success.

"You can use all the same adjectives to describe both girls. [Michaela] averaged over 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. She has great character and is just a dream to coach," Adams said. "[Leslie] is a super young lady. She's a great leader. She played shortstop, which is a key position, and batted second in the order. She's just an outstanding softball player."

Thompson was named to the all-conference and all-district teams all four years of high school, and was named all-state the last two years. She will play basketball at Williams Baptist College this fall.

Thompson said she feels honored and thankful when she is given titles like all-state.

"Its just a reflection of our community and our varsity teams. They're the ones who support us. Its not one thing that I did, that got me these titles. Its everyone in the community supporting me," Thompson said.

But where would any athlete be without a good team mom?

"We had a joke in the locker room that Leslie was our team mom, because she takes care of everyone on the team. She always made sure we were in the right spot on the field. She is a great person and a good leader. She's also a great friend. I've known her as long as I can remember," Thompson said.

Shrable admitted she was occasionally called the team mom because she is very neat and orderly, and helped keep the team in line.

"I've known Michaela since elementary school and we played pee-wee together. We've had a lot of great times together and we had great careers in high school. She is one of my best friends, and we always had a good time on the field," Shrable said.

Three sports star Preston Harmon had the unusual opportunity to choose which of the all-star games to play in. Each athlete is only allowed to play in one of the games, and Harmon, who was selected to the baseball team, wound up playing in the basketball game. Just days before All Star Week, Harmon was invited to replace Garrett Wooldridge in the basketball game because the Mammoth Spring forward wasn't able to be in Fayetteville the day of the game.

Harmon said he chose to play in the basketball game because he felt more comfortable playing his natural position of point guard, than if he had to play outfield in baseball. The Izard County star pitcher was also an all-state golfer, and will be playing golf for Central Baptist College.

Preston said he played better than he expected in the basketball game.

"I exceeded my personal expectations. I was playing against guys that were all 6'4" or 6'5", so I feel like I did well," Harmon said.

He added that he enjoyed the game itself.

"It was awesome playing in an arena like that. Playing where college athletes play was just awesome," Harmon said.

Harmon also has another claim to fame - he was recognized by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as a member of the 2012 All Arkansas Baseball Team.

Harmon won 10 games for the Cougars and also earned one save in relief, striking out 192, while allowing only 52 walks, with an ERA of 2.16 in 100 2/3 innings.

Harmon recorded double digit strike outs in 11 of the 17 games in which he appeared and had a season high of 18 against Sloan-Hendrix back in early April.

At the plate, Harmon had a .373 batting average and only struck out six times on the year.

Harmon, Thompson and Shrable all said they didn't know their teammates in the all-star games. But Thompson said the girls basketball team made the most of the opportunity to play together.

"I got to know a lot of great girls and had a blast. We worked hard and I think we played well. It was our last high school go-round and we did well. It was hard to play with different people -- people you don't really know -- but it was a good experience," Thompson said.

Thompson said she wants to thank all the varsity athletes she played with and against during her high school career, and all of the small schools and communities in the area who do such a good job supporting the athletes.

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