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Nashville seniors ink letters with SAU

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Caleb Cook, Emalea Bailey and Jett Stephenson signed with Southern Arkansas Nov. 16

By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

Three Nashville High School seniors signed letters with Southern Arkansas University Thursday morning, Nov. 16, in the NHS cafeteria.

They include Emalea Bailey, softball; Caleb Cook, band; and Jett Stephenson, golf.

“This is a special day,” Athletic Director James “Bunch” Nichols told the family members and teammates who attended the ceremony. “It’s one of the best times we have. There’s a lot of gold and blue in here. They’re all signing with SAU.”

Southern Arkansas “just got better. They can’t ask for three bet-

ter people. They made us better,” Nichols said.

Nichols gave each signee a pen set with “Once a Scrapper” inscribed on the case and “Always a Scrapper” on the pen.

“We’re proud of these three young adults. It’s a great day to be a Scrapper,” Nichols said.

Band Director Cody Ford said it’s a “joy to see students go on and use the skills they obtained and developed with you.” 

Cook has been a member of the marching band and concert band. He earned All-Region honors and was an All-State qualifier. “He’s the first band signee with SAU,” according to Ford.

Cook will receive a $16,000 financial award to SAU, Ford said.

Cook said he chose SAU because he wants to become a marine biologist and it’s the state’s “only college with a marine biology major. Everybody is really nice, and the band is really great. It’s the second or third largest in Arkansas.”

 Golf Coach Aaron Worthen remembered when “Jett showed up for practice as a little seventh grader. He was showing signs of being good even then.”

Stephenson was an All-Conference selection all four years and received All-State honors three years. He played in the Arkansas overall tournament and was named to the Arkansas All-Preps team by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“He’s probably the best I’ve coached on the boys side,” Worthen said. “His stroke average is the best  in my time. SAU is getting a good one.”

Stephenson plans to major in political science and attend law school.

He said SAU is “an up and coming program. I like the coach. I love the people there and the location.”

Coach Brian “Boomer” Brown, himself a graduate of SAU, said Bailey is “one heck of a player. I love her work ethic. She’s the first one on the field and the last one off. Her faith never wavers. She’s as strong a Christian as she is person. One of the biggest compliments I can give her is that I hope my little one grows up like Emalea.”

For her career, Bailey has a .382 batting average and 99 percent fielding percentage. The Scrapperette catcher was All-District and All-State her sophomore and junior years. 

SAU is “a family tradition,” Bailey said. “It feels like home, and it’s close to home. The coaches are great, and there’s a good atmosphere.”

Bailey plans to major in sports medicine and become a physical therapist.

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