HIGH SCHOOL ALL-SPORTS RANKINGS Buzz blueprint builds Conway

Conway remained on top, meaning Buzz Bolding went out on top.

For the second consecutive year, and a record fourth time overall, Conway is ranked the state’s best high school athletic program by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Using a scoring table that awards points for performance in 25 state championship events (21 recognized by the Arkansas Activities Association), Class 7A Conway finished with 990.5 points for the 2009-2010 school year.

The result was the perfect sendoff for Bolding, who turned 64 Friday. He retired June 30 after 26 years as Conway’s athletic director.

“I’m sure I’m going tohave some days that I’ll miss it,” said Bolding, who also coached Conway’s football team in 1984-1990. “But it was time for a change. It was time to let somebody with new ideas come in. It was a great run. People were really super to help us with the program, and they will continue to help with the program.

“Conway Public Schools and the Conway athletic department is big. People want to see their athletics and their athletes do well.”

Lake Hamilton, which won its fourth consecutive all-sports title in Class 6A, finished second overall with 932 points.

Bentonville and MountainHome tied for third with 927 points.

Greenwood scored 738 points to end Pulaski Academy’s three-year reign as the Class 5A all-sports champion.

Little Rock Christian finished second with 627.5 points. Pulaski Academy wasfifth with 552 points.

In Class 4A, Valley View scored 665 points to win its first all-sports title. Defending champion Shiloh Christian finished second with 605 points.

Harding Academy scored 477 points to capture the Class 3A all-sports title, its third overall.

Jessieville finished second with 440.5 points. Defending champion Mansfield was third with 440.

Conway St. Joseph topped Class 2A/1A schools for the second consecutive year by scoring 478.5 points. Magazine was second with 430.5.

But the top spot - overall - again belonged to Conway.

Conway, which competes in the 7A-Central, won a state championship in boys basketball, finished state runner-up in girls golf and was third in boys and girls swimming and diving, boys outdoor track and field, weightlifting and boys bowling.

The Wampus Cats only failed to score in girls indoor track and field, boys tennis and gymnastics, in which the school doesn’t field a competitive team.

Conway also claimed overall all-sports crowns in 2003-2004, 2004-2005 and 2008-2009.

“I think the success we’ve had is due to the fact that we as a staff - I’m talking about coaches and support staff and everybody involved in athletics and our school board and our community - know how important athletics is,” Bolding said. “Every decision we made, we tried to make it based on what was best for the most kids. Not one or two or five, or one sport or twosports. We try to treat everybody the same.”

Under Bolding’s watch, Conway had a broad statechampionship net (baseball, boys basketball, girls basketball, volleyball, boys swimming and diving, girls swimming and diving, boys outdoor track and field, girls outdoor track and field, boys golf and boys soccer), built some of the state’s best facilities and stood toe-to-toe with Northwest Arkansas athletic juggernauts Fayetteville and Bentonville, which have a combined five overall all-sports titles since the Democrat-Gazette began compiling rankings in 2001.

Little Rock School District Athletic Director Johnny Johnson equated Bolding’s vision and impact to Frank Broyles, Arkansas’ football coach in 1958-1976 and the school’s athletic director in 1974-2007.

“Buzz was a football guy like Frank was a football guy,” said Johnson, who has known Bolding for more than 30 years. “Once he got out of coaching, Buzz had such love of Conway and Conway High School. Football is still his No. 1 love, but he wanted all of his programs to be good. I think there’s a lot of similarities there in that he upgraded their basketball program and their track program, baseball and softball. They added wrestling.

“They’re like a mini-Arkansas. He always upgraded their facilities as well.”

Conway was among the state’s first high schools with an indoor workout area when Wampus Cat Fieldhouse, a $300,000 structure funded entirely by private donations,was built in 1996.

Last year, the school spent $500,000 to install Matrix field turf, a synthetic playing surface, at John McConnell Stadium.

But the centerpiece of Conway’s facilities is one of the largest high school arenas in the state.

Seating approximately 3,000, it has already hosted basketball and volleyball state tournaments since its 2007 opening.

During the school’s final home basketball games this season, Conway honored its outgoing athletic director by renaming Wampus Cat Arena.

It is now Buzz Bolding Arena.

“That was something that was very unexpected,” Bolding said. “I had no idea they were going to do that. It still hasn’t sunk in very good. I really, really appreciated them doing that. That was very nice.”

And appropriate, according to Steve Daniels, who officially replaced Bolding on July 1.

“One of the things that everybody told me when I got this job was the big shoes that I had to fill,” Daniels said. “Obviously, I do have big shoes to fill. Buzz did an outstanding job here with this program.”

Sports, Pages 23 on 07/18/2010

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