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CHICAGO -- Tom Ricketts was walking back to the owners meetings Wednesday when he was stopped by a few people on the street, eager to congratulate him on the Chicago Cubs World Series title. Authentic Custom Celtics Jersey .Such is life for Ricketts these days. It has been two weeks since the franchise won its first championship since 1908, and the party is still going strong.Its great. I mean the teams a member of the family for a lot of folks, Ricketts said, and the fact that we had this kind of success after all these years of not quite getting there is just magical for this whole city.Ricketts will be acknowledged by his fellow owners for the title at some point during the meetings, but otherwise its pretty much business as usual. Asked whether he might be handed a few more bar tabs as a result of the historic championship, a grinning Ricketts responded: Well see tonight.Among the steak dinners, drinks and hallway chatter at The Drake in downtown Chicago, the dominant item on the owners agenda is baseballs collective bargaining agreement, which expires Dec. 1. Negotiators for owners and players have been meeting since spring training.Baseball has not had a work stoppage since 1994-95, and Commissioner Rob Manfred appears confident there will be an agreement by December.I trust the commissioner, trust the commissioners office, New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said. Theyre going to do a great job, and everybodys been working hard. Thats about all I could add.Some of the major issues include the owners desire for a draft of international amateur players, the luxury-tax threshold and whether there will be changes to the draft-pick compensation system for premier free agents.The uncertainty surrounding the CBA could affect free agency and trade talks, but Steinbrenner made it sound as if the Yankees are pretty set about their plans no matter what happens with the labor talks.I dont think its going to impact it much as far as where were going to be, Steinbrenner said. I mean weve got money coming off the payroll for the first time in a few years, and were going to put a decent portion of it back into the club, like we always do. How much remains to be seen, depending on what our needs are and whats available.The Yankees traded slugger Carlos Beltran and relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in a rare pre-deadline sell-off on their way to an 84-78 record and a fourth-place finish in the AL East. Steinbrenner reiterated his desire to get under the luxury-tax threshold, wherever it lands with the new agreement, but he mentioned upgrading the bullpen as a priority.That could lead to a reunion with Chapman, who saved 20 games for the Yankees before helping the Cubs win the World Series.Look, anytime you can get a guy thats already proven he can play in New York ... its a tough place to play and if you can get a guy thats proven he can play there, then thats a plus, Steinbrenner said.Everyone is chasing the Cubs after they won a major league-best 103 games and the franchises third championship. But winter also is the season for stadium renovations, and the Yankees and Cubs are both working on construction projects.Yankee Stadium is getting more social gathering places, and the club also is enhancing its facility in Tampa, Florida. Wrigley Field is getting what Ricketts called a home plate club of premium seats, similar to other stadiums, but nothing as dramatic as when the jumbo videoboards were added to the iconic ballpark for 2015.Now it really is primarily about rebuilding the park and adding bathrooms and adding points of sale and doing all the little things to make it not only the park you would want to watch a game in, but one that serves as then like a modern park, Ricketts said.---Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap Custom Celtics Jersey China . Halifax beat the Saint John Sea Dogs 7-5 on the strength of two goals apiece from Nikolaj Ehlers, Matt Murphy and Brent Andrews. Jonathan Drouin also scored and had three assists while Zachary Fucale made 17 saves for the Mooseheads (16-8-0), who led 6-1 after two periods. Cheap Custom Celtics Jersey . The All-Pro lineman got the leg bent under him while trying to make a tackle during the first half of a 22-20 overtime loss at Miami on Thursday night. The medical staff initially thought hed torn the ligament, and the test a day later in Cincinnati confirmed it. http://www.custompacersjersey.com/custom-paul-george-jersey-large-76x.html . LOUIS -- Alexander Steen scored a power-play goal with 59. Turner Sports reporter Craig Sager received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at The ESPYS on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.Sager, effusive in his thanks and expression of gratitude to his family, friends, colleagues and ESPN, took the stage at the Microsoft Theater after a video narrative and tribute that brought him to tears in the audience.?You try to live a lifetime of moments in three weeks, but then you say, The hell with three weeks! Sager said, referring to the aftermath of his leukemia diagnosis.Vice President Joe Biden presented the award, calling Sager a man of courage and loyalty with a hell of a team behind him.To everybody out there, we are making progress -- incredible progress, Sager said. ... We are going to find a cure for cancer. But we need your help.During a commercial break, TNT colleagues Shaquille ONeal, Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller and Ernie Johnson joined Sager and Biden on stage for a photo.Biden later tweeted:?Sager, 64, has continued to work as he faces a recurrence of the leukemia he has been battling for the paast few years. Custom Celtics Jerseys. I will continue to keep fighting, sucking the marrow out of life as life sucks the marrow out of me, Sager said.Sager missed 11 months while undergoing treatment for leukemia and a bone marrow transplant from his son before returning to his position on the sideline during TNTs NBA coverage in March 2015. But he revealed in an interview with HBO in April that his cancer was no longer in remission.The Jimmy V Award is given to someone in sports who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. It is named for Valvano, the NCAA-winning coach who gave an emotional acceptance speech at the 1993 ESPYS that included his famous words Dont Give Up ... Dont Ever Give Up! He died of cancer later that year.Sager became close with Valvano when they worked together on basketball at the 1991 Pan American Games in Cuba.Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. ' ' ' 
Its no secret that Texas A&M Aggies fans take their football very seriously -- especially former players. Willie Stargell Jersey Large . NFL Hall of Famer and former Aggie Bruce Matthews and his sons Kevin Matthews and Mike Matthews (also former Aggies and NFL players) went all-out in showing their team spirit Thursday leading up to the Aggies matchup with Ole Miss.How all-out are we talking? Try blowing up an Ole Miss helmet with a military tank, kind of all-out. Yes, we said tank.According to Tex Ags, their reasoning for creating the video stems back to the Texas A&M-Ole Miss rivalry.A&M hasnt beaten Ole Miss since 2013, so we brought in the big guns in the form of NFL offensive linemen ... and a tank ... to help us turn an Ole Miss helmet into a crater.And that, they did. The Aggies go head-to-head with the Rebels Saturday at Kyle Field at 7:30 p.m. ET.-- Courtney Schellin Cheap Custom Pirates Jersey .com) - The game was all punts and field goals before Kodi Whitfields catch. Custom Pirates Jersey China . -- Running backs Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings were back at practice for the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday despite being hampered by hamstring injuries. http://www.custompiratesjersey.com/ . It was the second consecutive win for the Pacers (2-5), who lost their first five preseason games. Jeff Teague led the Hawks (1-5) with 17 points and eight assists and Al Horford had 12 points and seven rebounds. Mike Scott scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half. The Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks enter Monday nights matchup running neck-and-neck in the Football Power Index. The Bills have a slight edge, ranking sixth overall, while the Seahawks are eighth. Because they are so close in overall team quality as measured by FPI, the Seahawks home-field advantage looms large and provides the Seahawks with a 62 percent chance to win Monday night.The two teams have achieved their FPI rankings in very different ways. The Bills are consistently better than average in all three areas of the game: offense, defense and special teams. They do not crack the top 10 in any area but are better than 15th in all three. The Seahawks, meanwhile, continue to field a top-10 defense and special teams, but their offense has fallen to 22nd in the league.The cause of the demise of the Seahawks offense -- which ranked second overall in FPI at the end of last season -- is no secret. Russell Wilson has struggled for most of the season, and his struggles have led to an offense that has not been able to deliver. WWilson ranked fourth overall in QBR in 2015, but through seven games this season his performance ranks 27th and he has only had three games where his performance could be classified as above average. Custom Willie Stargell Jersey. .Last season, Wilson was one of only two QBs who were in the top 10 in points added through both passing and running (Ryan Fitzpatrick was the other). While Wilsons passing has fallen a little this season, its his rushing that has gone off a cliff. Last season he created nearly a point per game with his legs, while this season he ranks 31st in the league by giving up nearly half a point per game with his legs.The Seahawks defense and special teams have only overcome one poor performance this season from Wilson to get a win, so for the Seahawks to take advantage of their home-field advantage, Wilson will need to locate the value he was previously able to create with his legs as well as his arm. ' ' ' 
CHICAGO -- Tom Ricketts was walking back to the owners meetings Wednesday when he was stopped by a few people on the street, eager to congratulate him on the Chicago Cubs World Series title. Authentic Custom Celtics Jersey .Such is life for Ricketts these days. It has been two weeks since the franchise won its first championship since 1908, and the party is still going strong.Its great. I mean the teams a member of the family for a lot of folks, Ricketts said, and the fact that we had this kind of success after all these years of not quite getting there is just magical for this whole city.Ricketts will be acknowledged by his fellow owners for the title at some point during the meetings, but otherwise its pretty much business as usual. Asked whether he might be handed a few more bar tabs as a result of the historic championship, a grinning Ricketts responded: Well see tonight.Among the steak dinners, drinks and hallway chatter at The Drake in downtown Chicago, the dominant item on the owners agenda is baseballs collective bargaining agreement, which expires Dec. 1. Negotiators for owners and players have been meeting since spring training.Baseball has not had a work stoppage since 1994-95, and Commissioner Rob Manfred appears confident there will be an agreement by December.I trust the commissioner, trust the commissioners office, New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said. Theyre going to do a great job, and everybodys been working hard. Thats about all I could add.Some of the major issues include the owners desire for a draft of international amateur players, the luxury-tax threshold and whether there will be changes to the draft-pick compensation system for premier free agents.The uncertainty surrounding the CBA could affect free agency and trade talks, but Steinbrenner made it sound as if the Yankees are pretty set about their plans no matter what happens with the labor talks.I dont think its going to impact it much as far as where were going to be, Steinbrenner said. I mean weve got money coming off the payroll for the first time in a few years, and were going to put a decent portion of it back into the club, like we always do. How much remains to be seen, depending on what our needs are and whats available.The Yankees traded slugger Carlos Beltran and relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in a rare pre-deadline sell-off on their way to an 84-78 record and a fourth-place finish in the AL East. Steinbrenner reiterated his desire to get under the luxury-tax threshold, wherever it lands with the new agreement, but he mentioned upgrading the bullpen as a priority.That could lead to a reunion with Chapman, who saved 20 games for the Yankees before helping the Cubs win the World Series.Look, anytime you can get a guy thats already proven he can play in New York ... its a tough place to play and if you can get a guy thats proven he can play there, then thats a plus, Steinbrenner said.Everyone is chasing the Cubs after they won a major league-best 103 games and the franchises third championship. But winter also is the season for stadium renovations, and the Yankees and Cubs are both working on construction projects.Yankee Stadium is getting more social gathering places, and the club also is enhancing its facility in Tampa, Florida. Wrigley Field is getting what Ricketts called a home plate club of premium seats, similar to other stadiums, but nothing as dramatic as when the jumbo videoboards were added to the iconic ballpark for 2015.Now it really is primarily about rebuilding the park and adding bathrooms and adding points of sale and doing all the little things to make it not only the park you would want to watch a game in, but one that serves as then like a modern park, Ricketts said.---Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap Custom Celtics Jersey China . Halifax beat the Saint John Sea Dogs 7-5 on the strength of two goals apiece from Nikolaj Ehlers, Matt Murphy and Brent Andrews. Jonathan Drouin also scored and had three assists while Zachary Fucale made 17 saves for the Mooseheads (16-8-0), who led 6-1 after two periods. Cheap Custom Celtics Jersey . The All-Pro lineman got the leg bent under him while trying to make a tackle during the first half of a 22-20 overtime loss at Miami on Thursday night. The medical staff initially thought hed torn the ligament, and the test a day later in Cincinnati confirmed it. http://www.custompacersjersey.com/custom-paul-george-jersey-large-76x.html . LOUIS -- Alexander Steen scored a power-play goal with 59. Turner Sports reporter Craig Sager received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at The ESPYS on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.Sager, effusive in his thanks and expression of gratitude to his family, friends, colleagues and ESPN, took the stage at the Microsoft Theater after a video narrative and tribute that brought him to tears in the audience.?You try to live a lifetime of moments in three weeks, but then you say, The hell with three weeks! Sager said, referring to the aftermath of his leukemia diagnosis.Vice President Joe Biden presented the award, calling Sager a man of courage and loyalty with a hell of a team behind him.To everybody out there, we are making progress -- incredible progress, Sager said. ... We are going to find a cure for cancer. But we need your help.During a commercial break, TNT colleagues Shaquille ONeal, Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller and Ernie Johnson joined Sager and Biden on stage for a photo.Biden later tweeted:?Sager, 64, has continued to work as he faces a recurrence of the leukemia he has been battling for the paast few years. Custom Celtics Jerseys. I will continue to keep fighting, sucking the marrow out of life as life sucks the marrow out of me, Sager said.Sager missed 11 months while undergoing treatment for leukemia and a bone marrow transplant from his son before returning to his position on the sideline during TNTs NBA coverage in March 2015. But he revealed in an interview with HBO in April that his cancer was no longer in remission.The Jimmy V Award is given to someone in sports who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. It is named for Valvano, the NCAA-winning coach who gave an emotional acceptance speech at the 1993 ESPYS that included his famous words Dont Give Up ... Dont Ever Give Up! He died of cancer later that year.Sager became close with Valvano when they worked together on basketball at the 1991 Pan American Games in Cuba.Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. ' ' ' 
DAYTON, Ohio -- Kyle Davis scored a career-high 18 points to lead Dayton over Division II Saint Josephs (Ind. Custom Kings Jersey China .) 91-59 on Tuesday night for its fourth straight win.Charles Cooke added 18 points and Kendall Pollard had 14 points for the Flyers (6-2), who shot 55 percent from the floor. Scoochie Smith chipped in 13 points. Cooke and Smith have scored in double figures in each game this season.Xeyrius Williams had five blocks and four steals -- both career highs -- and added eight points. His five blocks is one off a program record held by five different players.Nic Williams scored 17 points and made three 3-pointers to lead Saint Josephs. Davone Daniels had 14 points for the Pumas.The Flyers had a nine-point lead at halftime and stretched it to 65-45 with about eight minutes left.Dayton leads the series 5-0, but it was the first meeting since Dec. 1973. Cheap Custom Kings Jersey .ca looks back at the stories and moments that made the year memorable. Custom Kings T-shirts . Halifax beat the Saint John Sea Dogs 7-5 on the strength of two goals apiece from Nikolaj Ehlers, Matt Murphy and Brent Andrews. Jonathan Drouin also scored and had three assists while Zachary Fucale made 17 saves for the Mooseheads (16-8-0), who led 6-1 after two periods. http://www.customnhlkingsjersey.com/ . Barcelona also left injured defenders Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba out of its squad for the trip to Glasgow. That means that Marc Bartra will probably start again in the centre of the defence alongside Gerard Pique.PHOENIX - Paul Goldschmidt had a prime view for the series-opening heroics, watching from the on-deck circle as Adam Eaton splashed a walk-off homer into Chase Fields pool. He took centre stage in the encore. Goldschmidt hit the first pitch of the 11th inning for a game-ending home run after leading off the ninth with a tying homer, helping the Arizona Diamondbacks beat Baltimore 4-3 on Tuesday night for their second straight walk-off victory over the Orioles. "I had a good viewing point yesterday to see Eaton, but its fun either way," Goldschmidt said after his third career walk-off homer. Goldschmidt was due up second in the ninth inning of a back-and-forth, 7-6 win over Baltimore in the opener Monday night and was one of the first to congratulate Eaton as he crossed the plate. Goldschmidt one-upped his teammate with two dramatic homers to give Arizona its 25th win in its last at-bat. The first came in the ninth, when he led off with a drive against Jim Johnson, the major leagues saves leader. Goldschmidts next at-bat came in the 11th, and he wasted no time, lifting the first pitch by T.J. McFarland (1-1) just over the wall in right for his 29th homer and second walk-off of the homestand. It was Arizonas ninth walk-off and 34th comeback victory. "Goldy, at the end of a game, its pretty special what he can do," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. "Hes a good guy to have on your side." Heath Bell (3-1) worked a perfect 11th inning, and Gerardo Parra hit his career high-tying eighth homer for Arizona. Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez pitched seven effective innings, and Chris Davis homered for the second straight game to push his major league-leading total to 44. J.J. Hardy also homered for the Orioles, but their bullpen failed for the second straight night. "They (the losses) were tough, but you know, we move on," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. Gonzalez retired the first 11 batters he faced and had the Diamondbacks off-balance by mixing his low-90s fastball and big curveball. Gonzalez blew a 3-0 lead in his last start and got into trouble aggain, this time in the seventh inning. Kings Jerseys China. Aaron Hill got it going with a one-out triple, then scored on Martin Prados groundout. Parra followed with a solo homer — his first since June 22 — to pull the Diamondbacks within 3-2. Gonzalez allowed two runs and five hits. Francisco Rodriguez did his part with a perfect eighth, but Johnson blew his AL-leading eighth save when Goldschmidt lined a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left-centre. It was Goldschmidts fifth homer in the ninth inning, most in the majors. Goldschmidt ended it in dramatic fashion, squeezing a drive just over the wall for his fourth career game-ending hit before being mobbed by teammates at the plate. Goldschmidt hit a walk-off homer against the Mets on Friday. "Looking at what the guys have been putting into the game and the way the game unfolded, it was heartbreaking, but we have to forget about it," Johnson said. Arizona starter Randall Delgado was sharp for the most part, his only problem was giving up the long ball. Davis hit the first one, a two-run shot in the fourth inning. Hardy led off the fifth with his 22nd homer to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and put the Orioles up 3-0. Delgado was good after that, though, allowing three runs and five hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. "Delgado gave up those runs early, we were behind, there was no momentum," Goldschmidt said. "For him to keep putting up zeroes and the bullpen pitching scoreless innings, it gives the offence a chance to come back." And they did behind Goldschmidt, who was greeted with a chant of MVP! before being mobbed after his latest heroics. Notes: Davis leads the majors with 43 extra-base hits on the road. ... Arizona has played 16 extra-inning games this season, tied for second-most (2003) in team history. ... Arizona LHP Patrick Corbin, an NL All-Star, is 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA in his last three starts. He will start Wednesdays series finale. ... RHP Chris Tillman, who will start Wednesday against Arizona, is 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 10 road starts this season. ' ' ' 
DAYTON, Ohio -- Kyle Davis scored a career-high 18 points to lead Dayton over Division II Saint Josephs (Ind. Custom Kings Jersey China .) 91-59 on Tuesday night for its fourth straight win.Charles Cooke added 18 points and Kendall Pollard had 14 points for the Flyers (6-2), who shot 55 percent from the floor. Scoochie Smith chipped in 13 points. Cooke and Smith have scored in double figures in each game this season.Xeyrius Williams had five blocks and four steals -- both career highs -- and added eight points. His five blocks is one off a program record held by five different players.Nic Williams scored 17 points and made three 3-pointers to lead Saint Josephs. Davone Daniels had 14 points for the Pumas.The Flyers had a nine-point lead at halftime and stretched it to 65-45 with about eight minutes left.Dayton leads the series 5-0, but it was the first meeting since Dec. 1973. Cheap Custom Kings Jersey .ca looks back at the stories and moments that made the year memorable. Custom Kings T-shirts . Halifax beat the Saint John Sea Dogs 7-5 on the strength of two goals apiece from Nikolaj Ehlers, Matt Murphy and Brent Andrews. Jonathan Drouin also scored and had three assists while Zachary Fucale made 17 saves for the Mooseheads (16-8-0), who led 6-1 after two periods. http://www.customnhlkingsjersey.com/ . Barcelona also left injured defenders Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba out of its squad for the trip to Glasgow. That means that Marc Bartra will probably start again in the centre of the defence alongside Gerard Pique.PHOENIX - Paul Goldschmidt had a prime view for the series-opening heroics, watching from the on-deck circle as Adam Eaton splashed a walk-off homer into Chase Fields pool. He took centre stage in the encore. Goldschmidt hit the first pitch of the 11th inning for a game-ending home run after leading off the ninth with a tying homer, helping the Arizona Diamondbacks beat Baltimore 4-3 on Tuesday night for their second straight walk-off victory over the Orioles. "I had a good viewing point yesterday to see Eaton, but its fun either way," Goldschmidt said after his third career walk-off homer. Goldschmidt was due up second in the ninth inning of a back-and-forth, 7-6 win over Baltimore in the opener Monday night and was one of the first to congratulate Eaton as he crossed the plate. Goldschmidt one-upped his teammate with two dramatic homers to give Arizona its 25th win in its last at-bat. The first came in the ninth, when he led off with a drive against Jim Johnson, the major leagues saves leader. Goldschmidts next at-bat came in the 11th, and he wasted no time, lifting the first pitch by T.J. McFarland (1-1) just over the wall in right for his 29th homer and second walk-off of the homestand. It was Arizonas ninth walk-off and 34th comeback victory. "Goldy, at the end of a game, its pretty special what he can do," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. "Hes a good guy to have on your side." Heath Bell (3-1) worked a perfect 11th inning, and Gerardo Parra hit his career high-tying eighth homer for Arizona. Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez pitched seven effective innings, and Chris Davis homered for the second straight game to push his major league-leading total to 44. J.J. Hardy also homered for the Orioles, but their bullpen failed for the second straight night. "They (the losses) were tough, but you know, we move on," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. Gonzalez retired the first 11 batters he faced and had the Diamondbacks off-balance by mixing his low-90s fastball and big curveball. Gonzalez blew a 3-0 lead in his last start and got into trouble aggain, this time in the seventh inning. Kings Jerseys China. Aaron Hill got it going with a one-out triple, then scored on Martin Prados groundout. Parra followed with a solo homer — his first since June 22 — to pull the Diamondbacks within 3-2. Gonzalez allowed two runs and five hits. Francisco Rodriguez did his part with a perfect eighth, but Johnson blew his AL-leading eighth save when Goldschmidt lined a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left-centre. It was Goldschmidts fifth homer in the ninth inning, most in the majors. Goldschmidt ended it in dramatic fashion, squeezing a drive just over the wall for his fourth career game-ending hit before being mobbed by teammates at the plate. Goldschmidt hit a walk-off homer against the Mets on Friday. "Looking at what the guys have been putting into the game and the way the game unfolded, it was heartbreaking, but we have to forget about it," Johnson said. Arizona starter Randall Delgado was sharp for the most part, his only problem was giving up the long ball. Davis hit the first one, a two-run shot in the fourth inning. Hardy led off the fifth with his 22nd homer to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and put the Orioles up 3-0. Delgado was good after that, though, allowing three runs and five hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. "Delgado gave up those runs early, we were behind, there was no momentum," Goldschmidt said. "For him to keep putting up zeroes and the bullpen pitching scoreless innings, it gives the offence a chance to come back." And they did behind Goldschmidt, who was greeted with a chant of MVP! before being mobbed after his latest heroics. Notes: Davis leads the majors with 43 extra-base hits on the road. ... Arizona has played 16 extra-inning games this season, tied for second-most (2003) in team history. ... Arizona LHP Patrick Corbin, an NL All-Star, is 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA in his last three starts. He will start Wednesdays series finale. ... RHP Chris Tillman, who will start Wednesday against Arizona, is 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 10 road starts this season. ' ' ' 
Aaron Francis has given Essendon more hope for the future on a day where they showed why there is so little to like about the present. Cheap Sharks Jerseys .Sundays 37-point loss to Brisbane at Etihad Stadium was their 15th in a row - a club record.Essendon had 12 more inside 50s and three more scoring shots, but once again their goal-kicking was woeful and they could manage only 12.19.The Lions also whacked them in the clearances 47-33.For the first time all season, Essendon went into this game as favourites, but Brisbane were better from the start and the Bombers were never quite able to redress the balance.What also became apparent very early in the match is that the hype surrounding Francis is justified.Essendon took Darcy Parish at No.5 in 2015s national draft and Francis one selection later.While Parish has enjoyed an outstanding debut season, injury delayed Francis debut until now.There were no signs of nerves as Francis took several impressive marks in defence.He also looked encouraging when the Bombers played him up forward later in the match.His ability to take a mark is really top-notch already, coach John Worsfold said.Francis is the latest player this season to give Essendon hope that their fortunes might be about to change.Parish, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Orazio Francis have made great debuts.But it is still a makeshift team, missing 12 players through doping suspensions, and it plays that way.Theres a pattern over the last six weeks where weve actually started to create ball winning and ball movement to get it inside 50, Worsfold said.But were not finishing the job off as we should.Were not getting the rewards from that hard work.Worsfold joked that if Essendon were to bring in a goal-kicking coach now, it would be a full-time role.Its not a part-time job for us, where were at, he said.We need to make sure we have a clear plan and an understanding of why our inaccuracy is as it is and what were doing about fixing it.Worsfold also pointed to the inside 50s count as a sign that Essendon were making the effort.The boys are still trying, theyre not up to it at the moment, he said.Key forward Joe Daniher sprayed a couple of shots at goal, but still finished with 4.1 despite having to leave the ground with a mouth injury early in the game.I dont know if he wears a mouthguard - I would be horrified if he doesnt, Worsfold said.Some players elect not to (and) I just cant fathom the risks theyre taking. Sharks Jerseys China .ca looks back at the stories and moments that made the year memorable. Cheap Custom Sharks Jersey . Deulofeu injured a muscle in his right leg in Evertons 4-1 win over Fulham in the English Premier League on Saturday. Barcelona says that its team doctors will "co-ordinate" with Evertons medical staff as Deulofeu recovers. http://www.customsharksjersey.com/ . The Vikings announced Thursday that Priefer will be one of seven holdovers from the previous staff, along with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, wide receivers coach George Stewart and others. Norv Turner will mark his 30th year of coaching in the NFL as the offensive co-ordinator, as widely reported for weeks, and George Edwards will be the defensive co-ordinator. INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers kept everything in front of them Saturday night. The Pacers didnt let the Knicks get away from them on fast breaks, didnt let the Knicks get good 3-point looks and didnt even give New York a chance to challenge late. Instead, Roy Hibbert, Paul George and Indiana showed what it can do when it plays its game. Hibbert finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while George nearly came up with another post-season triple double, leading the Pacers to a crucial 82-71 Game 3 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals. "Thats how we play Pacers basketball," George said. "We just locked in, and it was just helping one another on the defensive end." Sure, Indiana could have been sidetracked by the embarrassing 26-point loss at New York in Game 2. Or it could have gotten caught up in the pregame banter about Amare Stoudemires impending return or J.R Smiths sudden illness. But the Pacers never got distracted. Coach Frank Vogels bunch followed the same game plan it has all season -- locking down defensively, winning the rebounding battle and protecting its home court. Check, check and check. Indiana limited the Knicks to 35.2 per cent shooting from the floor, allowed just three 3-pointers and forced 15 turnovers. And, of course, the leagues No. 1 rebounding team dominated the glass again, finishing with a 53-40 rebounding edge and a 20-10 edge in second-chance points. It was enough to allow the Pacers to overcome a 28 for 80 shooting performance that included a season-high 33 3-point attempts. "They outrebounded us, they won the hustle today, the little things," Carmelo Anthony said. "It all came down to us not scoring the basketball. ... We cant beat anyone scoring 71 points." Its the same formula Indiana won Game 1, and now, if Indiana wins a fifth straight home playoff game Tuesday night, it will head back to Madison Square Garden with a commanding lead over a longtime rival. How did the Pacers do it again? They relied on scoring balance and in-your-face defence. HIbbert kept loose balls alive in his best playoff performance of this post-season. Vogel called it his best playoff game ever. George struggled to score, finishing with 14 points, but he also finished had eight rebounds and eight assists and caused plenty of consternation for Anthony and others on defence. David West got off to a slow start but finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds and George Hill knocked down five 3s and he finished with 17 points. "We didnt change much in terms of our physicality," West said. "I just thought we were a little bit more precise defensively in terms of our communication and we shored some things up. We didnt allow them to get some of tthe things they got in the second game in New York. Wholesale Custom Sharks Shirts. quot; The Knicks had only one player in double figures. Carmelo Anthony scored 21, but the NBA scoring champion went j6 of 16 from the field, managed only two points and no baskets in the fourth quarter and finished well below his playoff scoring average of 29.3. He was hardly alone. Smith gave it a go although his shooting woes continued. He went 4 of 12, scored nine points and walked directly to locker room when he was replaced midway through the fourth quarter. A few minutes later, he came back into the game and is now just 11 of 42 from the field in the series. Stoudemire looked rusty in his return, making just 3 of 8 eight shots -- one a dunk, another on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter -- and finished with seven points and two rebounds. The Knicks led once in the game, for just 76 seconds, and barely escaped the ignominy of setting a franchise playoff record for fewest points in a game. The all-time low is 67. New York didnt hit 68 until Kenyon Martins dunk with 1:39 to play. "Offensively, we just didnt have anything," coach Mike Woodson said. "I thought defensively, we hung in there and did what we had had to do, but we just didnt have any offensive pop and we have to figure that out." And fast or the second-seeded Knicks will spend the rest of this series playing catch-up. New York had a chance midway through the third quarter when it closed the deficit to 44-41. But instead of faltering, as the Pacers did in Game 2, they thrived on New Yorks miscues. When Tyson Chandler was called for his third foul, he lost his cool and was whistled for a technical foul. That allowed the Pacers to score three points on the possession. West followed that with a 19-foot jumper and after Chandler went 1-of-2 from the free throw line, Indiana seized control with a 9-0 run that made it 58-44. Stoudemires buzzer-beater to end the quarter got the Knicks within 62-51 and New York eventually got as close as 65-57 with 9:10 left. But Indiana answered with seven straight points and never let the Knicks challenge again. "Our guys usually do what you emphasize," Vogel said. "We dont want to do it at the expense of giving up things up at the rim. But we were able to guard the paint and the 3-point line, and thats the goal." Notes: The Pacers are 4-0 at home with an average victory margin of 16.5 points. ... New York is now 0-3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season. ... Saturdays loss marked the first time New York lost in this years playoffs while holding a team to fewer than 90 points. The Knicks are now 5-1. ... Movie director Spike Lee showed up inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Game 3 in a Knicks jersey and orange hat. ' ' ' 
LAS VEGAS -- Midway through the first half, a frustrated North Carolina fan stood and screamed at Malik Monk. Custom Falcons Jerseys .You can miss! she yelled, before pausing and changing tactics. Please? she added.Monk rarely complied, setting a Kentucky freshman record with 47 points and hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16.7 seconds left to lead the sixth-ranked Wildcats past No. 7 North Carolina 103-100 on Saturday.If you watched that game, if you never liked basketball, youre going to start liking basketball, Kentucky coach John Calipari said. Like, wow.North Carolinas Justin Jackson nearly outshined Monk with 34 points, and his basket with 45 seconds left put the Tar Heels (10-2) ahead after trailing much of the second half.Monk responded with a right-wing 3 in transition to put Kentucky up 101-100 -- going against Caliparis wishes.Coach told me to drive, but I was hot and I shot it, Monk said.Good choice.After Isaiah Hicks only hit the backboard at the other end, Kentuckys DeAaron Fox hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds left.North Carolina got the ball in the front court with less than a second left. But Kenny Williams desperation 3 at the buzzer got lodged between the rim and backboard.Heck of a college basketball game if you dont care who won, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. But I do care who wins. . Malik was off the charts.Monk hit 18 of 28 shots, including 8 of 12 3-point attempts, scoring in various ways in an electric performance that was the most points in Division I this season. Only Dukes Dick Groat (48 points) in 1952 has scored more against the Tar Heels.And Kentucky needed Monks huge effort to offset Jacksons four 3s and 10 free throws in a game played at a furious pace.Those are games you live for, Fox said.Fox added 24 points for Kentucky (10-1), which shot 54 percent from the field. North Carolina shot 53 percent. They combined for 37 assists and just 19 turnovers.The Tar Heels fell to 52-2 when they score 100 points under Williams and 180-4 when they shoot better than 50 percent.Joel Berry II returned from injury to score 23 points for the Tar Heels, but was slowed by foul trouble in the second half.The enthusiastic crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena just off the Las Vegas Strip made it feel like an Elite Eight game. The quality of play in the CBS Sports Classic matchup gave it more of a Final Four feel.With two of the highest-scoring and fastest teams squaring off, Calipari joked earlier in the week he and Williams would be constantly yelling, Get back! on defense.In the 38th meeting between the schools, Monk dominated early and Kentucky raced to a 12-point lead. Jackson and Berry, who returned from a two-game absence due to a sprained left ankle, kept scoring off the dribble as North Carolina closed to 56-51 at halftime.There was hardly time to catch a breath. Kentucky took a 10-point lead in the second half. The Tar Heels rallied to tie it on Tony Bradleys two free throws with 2:51 left and went ahead on Jacksons 3 with 1:33 remaining.BIG PICTUREKentucky: Monk couldnt have put on a better display in a bigger setting, solidifying his star status and putting fear into Southeastern Conference opponents.North Carolina: The Tar Heels never slowed the pace and was happy playing up-tempo for 40 minutes. But foul trouble and the inability to contain Monk and others off the dribble cost them a chance at a big pre-conference victory.RECORD GREATJamal Murray (last season) and Terrence Jones (2011) held the previous Kentucky record for points in a game by a freshman with 35.TECHNICALLY UPSETLivid with the third foul called on Hicks while the forward was sprawled on the floor midway through the first half, Williams took off his jacket and fired it into the bench, earning a technical foul from referee Roger Ayers.He gets some of the worst breaks of any player Ive ever seen, Williams said of Hicks.UP NEXTIt gets no easier for Kentucky, which travels to rival No. 11 Louisville on Wednesday.North Carolina hosts Northern Iowa on Wednesday and Monmouth on Dec. 28 before its ACC opener Dec. 31 at Georgia Tech.---More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25. Chris Lindstrom Jersey Large .Y. -- Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo had little trouble picking up his first shutout of the season against a Buffalo Sabres team thats having trouble scoring goals. Falcons Jerseys China . -- Stanfords Kevin Danser knelt on one knee and hardly moved on the sideline as Michigan State celebrated its Rose Bowl victory and his Cardinal teammates made their way to the locker room. http://www.customfalconsjersey.com/ . In Europe, top teams seem to be largely happy with their squads after spending nearly $1 billion in the off-season. And although English league clubs are unlikely to splash cash in January, Arsenal and Chelsea could be tempted to strengthen their squads with new strikers. They were about 4,000 feet high, standing in a rockslide roughly three-quarters of the way up Mount Katahdin, the tallest peak in Maine, when they said goodbye. It was 4 p.m., with just a few hours of daylight left, and Stacey Kozel and her friend, Patsy Remington, decided to go in opposite directions.Kozel would go up and spend the night on the dark and foreboding mountain.Remington would go down and sleep.Kozel planned to find a place to hide from the elements among the giant boulders that were just above her -- a dangerous proposition on any night, and especially so on this October evening, with howling winds, plummeting temperatures and an angry rainstorm.Adding to the danger is the fact Kozel is paralyzed and walks with braces. But she was willing to risk a night alone on Katahdin because getting to Katahdins summit -- another mile and a half or so over extremely rugged terrain -- would allow her to complete the entire 2,189.1 mile Appalachian Trail, an impressive accomplishment for an able-bodied person and an unbelievable one for Kozel, a T9 quadriplegic. (She has regained enough use of her arms that she says shes functionally paraplegic, but her diagnosis remains quadriplegic.)If she finished, she would be the first person with her condition known to hike the entire the trail. If she didnt complete it, she would view it as a failure because she would be letting down thousands of people she so desperately wanted to inspire.Kozel had already climbed some 2,700 feet that day. She didnt want to go down and have to re-do that. Plus, she had already tried and failed three times to summit Mount Katahdin in the past year. As dangerous as it was, this was her last, best chance.Kozel didnt want Remington to stay up there with her, as it was far outside of Remingtons comfort zone, but Remington didnt want to leave her friend alone up there, either. But she knew better than to argue. You cant say to Stacey, No, stop, come down, Remington says.The plan was for Remington to hike down to Kozels Jeep (license plate UNSTPBL), sleep in there, and in the morning climb back up. She would find Kozel, and they would finish the climb together.After Remington left, the weather turned from pleasant to nasty, and Kozel changed her mind about that plan. She didnt want to wait that long. The cold, wind and rain made hypothermia a real threat, but if she kept moving, she would keep warm, or at least warmer. What if the rain didnt stop for hours? What if her legs swelled again, as they often had since she started the trail in March? What if she cramped up?What if this, what if that, what if the other?All those questions had made Kozel want to quit 1,000 times.Two years ago, as she lay completely paralyzed in a hospital bed, unable to even lift her head, she had looked out the window and longed to be outside and active. As bad as it was on Katahdin -- and it was really, really bad -- it was nothing compared to being unable to move. She had beaten total paralysis. She was determined to beat this mountain, too.So she pressed onward and upward, looking for the trails tell-tale white blazes, the spray-painted rectangles that direct hikers where to go. She got to the boulders. The metal braces on her legs kept them locked straight, which made climbing the boulders arduous.The sky turned black, the temperature dropped, and rain started pouring down. Her fingers were so cold she couldnt grip her poles. If I stay out here any longer, I might lose a few fingers, she thought to herself. Im hiking out here without legs, whats a couple fingers?Kozel climbed on. Could she make it? She didnt know. But she knew she couldnt stop.I remember holding her as an infant, says Mary Kozel, Staceys mom. I was sitting on the couch. I told her, Im going to raise you to be tough and independent. Now that I look back I think, Oh my gosh, I might have gone too far. I didnt realize what I was creating.Stacey calls her mom her hero and best friend. Theres other parents who would not be as cool as she is about my adventures, says Stacey, who has jumped out of perfectly good airplanes six times. She always tells me what she thinks, but she never holds me back.Stacey played any sport with a ball as a girl, and Mary could barely stand to watch. Particularly in soccer, Stacey played with a disregard for her own well-being. She would sacrifice her body, Mary says. As a parent, I would cringe. You need your body. The balls not that important.It was to Stacey. In softball, even if she played well, she still asked her mom to pitch to her in the backyard after games. She aspired to play sports in college, but her athletic career ended when she was 19 and diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, which results in the body attacking healthy tissue. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates 1.5 million Americans have lupus, and it affects each of them differently. For Kozel, the disease has ravaged her spinal cord, among other things.Shes had several flare-ups since her diagnosis and each time, Kozel, now 41, spent extended time in the hospital. Each time, she fought for months to recover. Each time, she lost a little bit more mobility. The most recent flare-up, in March of 2014, was sparked by a car accident, and it was, by far, the worst. For a while she couldnt even lift her head.Stuck in bed, with nothing to do but think, Kozel recalled her time as a nurse working with dementia patients. That was the best job she ever had because she received as much care from those patients as she gave them. She remembered the regrets those patients described to her -- of broken relationships that were never mended, of long-desired vacations never taken, of living as if theres an endless sea of tomorrows.If lupus taught Kozel anything, its that theres no guarantee of tomorrow. She promised herself that if she recovered, she would live her life in such a way as to die with no regrets. It was nine months before she could stand and more than a year before she could walk with confidence again, and even then she needed braces. She attacked her recovery with the same passion she attacked sports, sometimes leaving exhausting physical therapy and going home to work more to make herself better.Kozels ferocious fight against lupus helps explain how a paralyzed woman could even think about hiking the Appalachian Trail, let alone try it. To strangers, the idea is shocking. To her loved ones, its decidedly less so. They all knew better than to try to talk her out of it, though some asked if she was sure it was a good idea.She just smiled and relished the challenge before her.Appalachian Trail by the numbersThe Appalachian Trail starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia and slices 2,189.1 miles through 14 states before ending atop Mount Katahdin in Maine. To hike the entire trail is at least as much of a mental challenge as a physical one. Being alone in the woods, shut off from all of lifes demands, is mesmerizingly cleansing ... until it gets massively boring and not showering becomes OK.Day after day, Kozel walked until it was almost dark, took off her braces, crawled on the ground to set up her tent, slept, woke up and did it again. Because lupus has also struck her digestive system, she subsisted largely on peanut butter crackers, water and Gatorade. Lupus also has diminished her lung capacity, so she lost her breath frequently. She calls herself a freeze baby, and to fight the cold (and try to put down more miles every day), she walked through the night at least 10 times.When the hike was difficult, which was often, she reminded herself of how far she had come already. I had to have that conversation with myself: Youre not in the hospital bed. Its a good day, she says. The worst day on the trail is still better than the best day in the hospital.She was by herself for her walk in the woods, but she was never really alone. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates 3 million people hike part of the trail every year, and 3,064 hikers registered to thru hike this year, an increase of 1,137 from the previous year. Kozel cant recall spending a single day literally alone.Normal rules of society do not apply on the trail. People could walk shoulder-to-shoulder in a group in New York City for three blocks and never say a word to one another. On the trail, theyd be friends within minutes. Kozel says the best part of the hike was the people she met. Its an amazing community out here, Kozel says. Everybody helps each other out.News of the kindness exhibited in the close-knit community comforted Kozels mom in the long months that she was gone. Mary Kozel was as OK with her daughter hiking the Appalachian Trail as a mom can be. After a lifetime of seeing her daughter overcome challenges, Mary was prepared for an adventure as audacious as this one. Still, the thought of her paralyzed daughter alone in the endless wilderness scared her. It didnt help that all the stories people told Mary about the Appalachian Trail had bears in them. They thought it was funny, she says. I didnt.Kozels first bear scare came just a few days into her hike. As she lay in her tent, her braces standing in the corner, she thought about all the warnings about bears, and how she hadnt seen any, and how the hype hadnt amounted to anything. Suddenly, she heard a rustle, her heart leapt into her throat and she thought a bear was about to rip her to shreds.Her scream echoed through the woods.Then she realized the rustle was just the noise of her braces falling over, and she was worried her scream of terror had ruined other hikers peaceful evenings.I was like, SORRY! ... Sorry ... sorry ... sorry .... she says.Weeks later, as Kozel hiked with her trail family in Virginia, she turned a corner to see a mama bear and two cubs. Hiker code says not to run, but to make yourself as big as possible and make a loud noise to scare the bears away. Her companions turned around and ran. Kozels paralysis makes it impossible for her to turn around quickly, never mind run, so she crossed her poles across her chest and made a noise that she intended to be a yell but that came out sounding like a squeak. It should not, she says, have scared a bear. The mama bear and her cubs backed off.When Larry Schulte (trail name, Windy, because he talks so much) saw Kozel and her braces on the trail one day, he thought of his own ACL surgery. He asked if she was recovering from a similar operation. When she said she was paralyzed, he blurted out, Thats awesome!What he meant to say was that it was awesome that she had the courage to hike the trail. He found her inspiring and became her evangelist on the trail. News about Kozel flowed north and south, blown in each direction by conversations at campsites and shelters where hikers stopped for the night. She became trail famous. Kozels trail name, Iron Will, only hints at the esteem with which her fellow hikers view her.Part of what makes the trail fun is complaining about how miserable it is. Kozels name came up often in that context. We were done and tired, bitching about that stupid boulder field, or somebody needs to turn down the heat, says Gabe Burkhardt. Somebody would arrive in the middle of one of our bitch-fests and say, I just saw Iron Will, and she was huffing through this same boulder-field stretch, and she was doing it. That usually made our bitch sessions a little bit shorter. Not much. But a little bit.The more Burkhardt, a vascular and trauma surgeon who retired as a major from the Air Force in 2013 after more than 20 years, heard about Kozel, the more he hoped to catch up to her and meet her. He had spent years researching soldiers use of prosthetics and ambulatory assist devices -- the fancy way of saying braces.He was curious to see how Kozel used her braces and how well they worked (or didnt). He finally caught up to her in New York state, just after the summit of Bear Mountain. He watched her walk with a clinical eye. He saw that the braces made her gait stiff and uncomfortable, but he also saw that they werent doing any harm to the rest of her body -- a critical piece of analysis when measuring the value of any such device.Think of walking as a controlled fall. You lean forward, and just when youre about to tumble onto your face, you swing your leg out and catch yourself. Kozels hip muscles allow her to swing her legs forward. But she has no control over muscles any lower than that. She cant bend her knee or foot, and her leg muscles dont work.She has two sets of braces. Both stabilize her knees, feet and ankles. Neither walks for her at all. One is made of metal and allows her to walk stiff-legged. The other is battery-powered and has computer sensors that tell the braces what angle her knee and foot should be based on her stride.The stress on her upper body means she expends roughly twice as much energy as an able-bodied person in covering the same distance, says Joey Pollak, the prosthetist and orthotist who outfitted Kozel with the braces.In everyday life, the battery-powered braces, which have to be recharged every two days, allow nearly norrmal walking. Cheap Custom Falcons Jersey. . But there is no normal walking on the trail, and the high-tech braces malfunctioned frequently. When the batteries ran out, the braces worked like the simpler ones, except they were so heavy that Kozel felt like she had cement bags strapped to her legs. Still, Kozel hopes her long hike with those braces proves to insurance companies reluctant to pay for them that they are valuable.That was all impressive to Burkhardt from a medical perspective. But its not what impressed him most about Kozel. After about five seconds of talking to her, shes got this big, beaming smile on her face, he says. Seeing how happy she was, and how fulfilling this was for her, and how much of a challenge it still was, it was incredibly inspiring for me.Burkhardt and Kozel only spoke for a few minutes, and they followed each other in the coming weeks via social media. When Burkhardt (trail name: Sketch) complained on Facebook, Kozel always chimed in with support. He marveled at that -- hes just some guy walking the trail, and here she is, encouraging him to keep after it. That, by itself, I thought was phenomenal, he says. Im looking forward to trying to emulate her example.Up and down the trail, Kozel left inspiration in her wake. Burkhardt said other hikers were jealous that he got to meet her, and another thru-hiker said he heard so much about her he was bummed he never ran into her. Kozel blushes at all of this, saying, Im just another hiker stumbling through the woods.Sharing the story of her hike became a big part of why she wanted so desperately to complete it. For years after she was diagnosed with lupus, she rarely told people about it, instead making up other excuses when she was ill. As her attempt to complete the trail became publicized -- shes appeared on the CBS Evening News and in The Washington Post and numerous local TV and newspaper stories -- she saw how it inspired people.Her Catholic faith is an important part of her life, and she wondered during her lupus flare-ups what God wanted to teach her through her struggles. She concluded that using the hike to encourage people would give her suffering the meaning it had lacked before.There are three ways to complete the trail. One is to section hike, which is to return year after year until done. Another is to thru hike -- start at one end and walk straight through to the other. A third is called flip flopping, which is thru hiking, only not in linear order.In late August, Kozel decided to flip from Vermont to Katahdin, then flop back to Vermont. It sounded like a great plan. But it didnt work.The hike up Katahdin is widely considered the most difficult stretch of the entire trail, and she wanted to complete that before it got too cold. Elevation at the summit is nearly a mile high, and getting to the top is difficult, even on a good day. She simply didnt have one. Her attempt to climb Mount Katahdin was beset by problems with her braces, swelling in her legs and feet, and boulders so big that scaling just one of them took her an hour. She hadnt felt well for some time, and she was worried another lupus flare-up was starting.In the midst of those struggles, a ranger at Baxter State Park, which contains Katahdin, offered to charge Kozels braces if she would use the power to walk down the mountain instead of up. The ranger told Kozel that if she had to be rescued, she would have to pay for it. Kozel found that both discouraging and insulting.If I thought I was going to endanger rescue crews, I wouldnt do that, Kozel says. Thats why that kind of upset me. Just because Im disabled and have lupus doesnt mean I cant do this. I want to help people. I dont want to injure people. I want to change the view of people like her who think because Im disabled I cant hike this mountain.Another ranger gave her a written warning about camping on the trail. She wasnt camping, but she was going so slowly while hiking through the night that it seemed like she was.(A few words in defense of the rangers who sound so cold -- its not necessarily fair to say the rangers singled Kozel out for discouragement. In the name of safety, they discourage everybody. Research Katahdin, or talk to rangers there, and youll find so many dire warnings of its dangers that climbing it sounds like the dumbest idea anybody has ever had.)After four days and 60 hours of hiking, Kozel decided to abort the attempt. As she made the slow walk down -- retracing steps that hadnt advanced her goal, spending time she didnt have and expending energy she couldnt afford to waste -- she thought she had proved the rangers right instead of wrong. I want people to not give up, whatever theyre going through, she says. And I was giving up.She tried again a few days later and got to an area known as Thoreau Spring -- a mile from the summit -- but had to turn around again, this time because of lightning. That made three failed attempts at Katahdin (she had hiked there in October 2015 before she was sure she was going to attempt a thru-hike.) Pressed but not crushed, she returned to Vermont, determined to regain her momentum and take one more shot at scaling Katahdin. There was no way I was quitting, she says. Forget that.Katahdin haunted her steps from Vermont, through New Hampshire and into Maine. There is a delicate balance here, between drive and obsession. Nobody whose opinion is worth listening to would think 2,189.1 miles was great but 2,188.1 was unworthy. Kozel acknowledged this ... sort of. But she sees it as binary, pass or fail, with no in-between. Yes, walking 2,188.1 miles alone in the wilderness while paralyzed was a great accomplishment. But she had set out to walk 2,189.1. She is not the type of person to set a goal and be content to come close to it. She yearned to pass every blaze, to prove right the people who believed in her. She wanted to show people facing struggles that they could accomplish whatever they wanted. If she left that last mile un-walked, she could not rightly say that about herself.An internal fire drove her, too. Lupus, she said, had robbed her of the ability to play sports. It had disrupted her career and education multiple times, and her flare-ups always seemed to come just as she was about to finish something important. She was about to finish something again, something big and incredible and inspiring, and she refused to let lupus stop her.So much of Kozels story is about attempting the impossible instead of settling for the simple. It would have been easy for Kozel to disappear into her home after she was paralyzed. Thats what her mom said she would have done. But Stacey would rather try something hard. We spend so much time worshipping comfort that somebody who doesnt bow at that altar sounds heretical. We have turned discomfort into something to be avoided rather than endured and conquered.Not Kozel. If she got cold, she could warm up. If she got exhausted, shed recover. But if she quit, shed regret it for the rest of her life. She used the long, arduous stretch from Vermont to Maine to prepare herself, mentally and physically, for Katahdin.In her book Wild, Cheryl Strayed describes ascending and descending mountains on the Pacific Crest Trail as like knitting and unraveling a sweater, over and over again. That description fits the Appalachian Trail, too, except Mount Katahdin is like knitting a closet full of sweaters.If only she could have made her seventh skydiving trip and landed at the top, Kozel joked, everything would have been so much easier. Among several possible ascension routes, Kozel chose the Abol Trail for her final attempt because it offered a relatively short trip (3.4 miles) to Thoreau Spring, where her most recent attempt had ended. From there, she would pick up the trail for that final mile. It would not be easy. The Abol Trail features a climb of more than 3,900 feet, a leg-scorching, core-ripping, back-destroying ascent made tougher by an endless hopscotch of rocks, roots and boulders.When Kozel and Remington stepped onto the Abol Trail that beautiful Saturday morning, the canopy of mid-October leaves made the sky glow electric yellow. It was T-shirt weather. A beautiful day for a hike, Kozel says. Abol starts off as an old road and ascends continuously, but not terribly steeply. About a mile in, a dark brown wooden sign announces in white type:YOU ARE ENTERING MAINES LARGEST WILDERNESS YOUR SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY SET A TURNOUND TIME AND STICK TO IT YOUR DESTINATION IS YOUR SAFE RETURN TO THE TRAILHEAD RESCUERS CAN BE MANY HOURS IN ARRIVINGThe road becomes a trail and continues until it turns into essentially a rockslide, like God himself worried about getting lost and left a trail of rocks instead of bread crumbs. The grade increases, and the climb is relentless. Trails with severe elevation change often feature switchbacks to lessen the strain. Not Abol -- like a good kick returner, it goes only north and south.Eventually the rocks turn into boulders, and the hike becomes a scramble. Thats where Remington left. When she got to the bottom, she couldnt sleep. Rain pelted the windows, and she couldnt stop thinking about her friend alone on the mountain. Shes gone through so much in her life. But always if you ask her how shes doing, she says, Im fine. How are you? Remington says. I dont know anybody else as strong as her. Im so glad shes in my life. Shes changed me -- made me look at struggles in life as just part of life.When Remington left, Kozels confidence was soaring; it had been a great day. Soon it turned nasty. Rain whipped at her from all directions and felt like tiny icy knives slicing at her face. She was already physically exhausted from the steep and unending climb to that point. She said the wind blew her over several times, and her hands were so cold she couldnt hold her poles.She kept on, hour after hour.She had vowed, jokingly, that she would finish Katahdin if she had to crawl to the end. And she says thats what she did, until finally, the iconic Katahdin sign -- the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail -- came into view in front of her. It was, she guesses, 1 a.m. She had been alone on the mountain for eight hours already. The world around her was a black, howling panorama full of breathtaking beauty she couldnt see.Other thru-hikers she had met on the trail had gotten to this same spot, eyes wide with joy, bodies bent by exhaustion, and climbed onto the sign to have their pictures taken. Kozel couldnt climb the sign and had nobody to take a picture for her even if she could. Her hands were too cold to pull out her phone for a selfie, and it was raining and dark anyway.She says she crawled to the sign and put her arms around it. She had expected to have a moment up there at the pinnacle of Maine, atop the slain Katahdin. She couldnt summon the energy to shed even a single tear. She took her hands off the sign and started the slow descent, which would be nearly as difficult as the climb. It was like, Are there any helicopters to get me down from here? she says.As the sun rose to Kozels left, Remington pulled herself out of the Jeep and headed back up the trail to find her friend. Remington hiked almost all the way back to where she had turned around the night before -- when suddenly a battered, bruised and dirty Kozel appeared in front of her. She looked like she was frozen stiff, she says. She didnt even recognize me. Remington -- who until that moment still thought she was meeting Kozel to continue their climb -- could tell by looking at Kozel that she had not hidden in the boulders, but had summited instead. I was so excited for her. I was jumping up and down.Kozel was too spent to join the celebration. All she could do was slowly place one foot in front of the other, a task made more difficult because so many of those brilliant yellow leaves she had walked under on the way up had been blown off during the storm and now hid the rocks and roots, and sometimes even the trail itself, from her view. Her teeth chattered as other hikers ascended past her in T-shirts. By the time they returned to her Jeep, it was late morning. She had been hiking for more than 27 hours.They drove two-and-a-half miles down a skinny dirt road under a brilliant yellow tunnel of leaves to the Katahdin Stream Campground. Kozel had been too cold and wet to take a photo with the iconic sign at the top, so she took one with a sign at the bottom instead. She leaned back, her hoodie pulled snug over her ears and her arms crossed in a pose that screamed, I got this.She texted her mom and told her the good news. Her mom wrote back that she was proud of her. And that made Kozel cry. Matt CrossmanCrossman has written more than 40 cover stories at national magazines. His work has been cited five times in the notable section of Best American Sports Writing and once in Best American Essay Writing. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and daughters. ' ' ' 
LAS VEGAS -- Midway through the first half, a frustrated North Carolina fan stood and screamed at Malik Monk. Custom Falcons Jerseys .You can miss! she yelled, before pausing and changing tactics. Please? she added.Monk rarely complied, setting a Kentucky freshman record with 47 points and hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16.7 seconds left to lead the sixth-ranked Wildcats past No. 7 North Carolina 103-100 on Saturday.If you watched that game, if you never liked basketball, youre going to start liking basketball, Kentucky coach John Calipari said. Like, wow.North Carolinas Justin Jackson nearly outshined Monk with 34 points, and his basket with 45 seconds left put the Tar Heels (10-2) ahead after trailing much of the second half.Monk responded with a right-wing 3 in transition to put Kentucky up 101-100 -- going against Caliparis wishes.Coach told me to drive, but I was hot and I shot it, Monk said.Good choice.After Isaiah Hicks only hit the backboard at the other end, Kentuckys DeAaron Fox hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds left.North Carolina got the ball in the front court with less than a second left. But Kenny Williams desperation 3 at the buzzer got lodged between the rim and backboard.Heck of a college basketball game if you dont care who won, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. But I do care who wins. . Malik was off the charts.Monk hit 18 of 28 shots, including 8 of 12 3-point attempts, scoring in various ways in an electric performance that was the most points in Division I this season. Only Dukes Dick Groat (48 points) in 1952 has scored more against the Tar Heels.And Kentucky needed Monks huge effort to offset Jacksons four 3s and 10 free throws in a game played at a furious pace.Those are games you live for, Fox said.Fox added 24 points for Kentucky (10-1), which shot 54 percent from the field. North Carolina shot 53 percent. They combined for 37 assists and just 19 turnovers.The Tar Heels fell to 52-2 when they score 100 points under Williams and 180-4 when they shoot better than 50 percent.Joel Berry II returned from injury to score 23 points for the Tar Heels, but was slowed by foul trouble in the second half.The enthusiastic crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena just off the Las Vegas Strip made it feel like an Elite Eight game. The quality of play in the CBS Sports Classic matchup gave it more of a Final Four feel.With two of the highest-scoring and fastest teams squaring off, Calipari joked earlier in the week he and Williams would be constantly yelling, Get back! on defense.In the 38th meeting between the schools, Monk dominated early and Kentucky raced to a 12-point lead. Jackson and Berry, who returned from a two-game absence due to a sprained left ankle, kept scoring off the dribble as North Carolina closed to 56-51 at halftime.There was hardly time to catch a breath. Kentucky took a 10-point lead in the second half. The Tar Heels rallied to tie it on Tony Bradleys two free throws with 2:51 left and went ahead on Jacksons 3 with 1:33 remaining.BIG PICTUREKentucky: Monk couldnt have put on a better display in a bigger setting, solidifying his star status and putting fear into Southeastern Conference opponents.North Carolina: The Tar Heels never slowed the pace and was happy playing up-tempo for 40 minutes. But foul trouble and the inability to contain Monk and others off the dribble cost them a chance at a big pre-conference victory.RECORD GREATJamal Murray (last season) and Terrence Jones (2011) held the previous Kentucky record for points in a game by a freshman with 35.TECHNICALLY UPSETLivid with the third foul called on Hicks while the forward was sprawled on the floor midway through the first half, Williams took off his jacket and fired it into the bench, earning a technical foul from referee Roger Ayers.He gets some of the worst breaks of any player Ive ever seen, Williams said of Hicks.UP NEXTIt gets no easier for Kentucky, which travels to rival No. 11 Louisville on Wednesday.North Carolina hosts Northern Iowa on Wednesday and Monmouth on Dec. 28 before its ACC opener Dec. 31 at Georgia Tech.---More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25. Chris Lindstrom Jersey Large .Y. -- Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo had little trouble picking up his first shutout of the season against a Buffalo Sabres team thats having trouble scoring goals. Falcons Jerseys China . -- Stanfords Kevin Danser knelt on one knee and hardly moved on the sideline as Michigan State celebrated its Rose Bowl victory and his Cardinal teammates made their way to the locker room. http://www.customfalconsjersey.com/ . In Europe, top teams seem to be largely happy with their squads after spending nearly $1 billion in the off-season. And although English league clubs are unlikely to splash cash in January, Arsenal and Chelsea could be tempted to strengthen their squads with new strikers. They were about 4,000 feet high, standing in a rockslide roughly three-quarters of the way up Mount Katahdin, the tallest peak in Maine, when they said goodbye. It was 4 p.m., with just a few hours of daylight left, and Stacey Kozel and her friend, Patsy Remington, decided to go in opposite directions.Kozel would go up and spend the night on the dark and foreboding mountain.Remington would go down and sleep.Kozel planned to find a place to hide from the elements among the giant boulders that were just above her -- a dangerous proposition on any night, and especially so on this October evening, with howling winds, plummeting temperatures and an angry rainstorm.Adding to the danger is the fact Kozel is paralyzed and walks with braces. But she was willing to risk a night alone on Katahdin because getting to Katahdins summit -- another mile and a half or so over extremely rugged terrain -- would allow her to complete the entire 2,189.1 mile Appalachian Trail, an impressive accomplishment for an able-bodied person and an unbelievable one for Kozel, a T9 quadriplegic. (She has regained enough use of her arms that she says shes functionally paraplegic, but her diagnosis remains quadriplegic.)If she finished, she would be the first person with her condition known to hike the entire the trail. If she didnt complete it, she would view it as a failure because she would be letting down thousands of people she so desperately wanted to inspire.Kozel had already climbed some 2,700 feet that day. She didnt want to go down and have to re-do that. Plus, she had already tried and failed three times to summit Mount Katahdin in the past year. As dangerous as it was, this was her last, best chance.Kozel didnt want Remington to stay up there with her, as it was far outside of Remingtons comfort zone, but Remington didnt want to leave her friend alone up there, either. But she knew better than to argue. You cant say to Stacey, No, stop, come down, Remington says.The plan was for Remington to hike down to Kozels Jeep (license plate UNSTPBL), sleep in there, and in the morning climb back up. She would find Kozel, and they would finish the climb together.After Remington left, the weather turned from pleasant to nasty, and Kozel changed her mind about that plan. She didnt want to wait that long. The cold, wind and rain made hypothermia a real threat, but if she kept moving, she would keep warm, or at least warmer. What if the rain didnt stop for hours? What if her legs swelled again, as they often had since she started the trail in March? What if she cramped up?What if this, what if that, what if the other?All those questions had made Kozel want to quit 1,000 times.Two years ago, as she lay completely paralyzed in a hospital bed, unable to even lift her head, she had looked out the window and longed to be outside and active. As bad as it was on Katahdin -- and it was really, really bad -- it was nothing compared to being unable to move. She had beaten total paralysis. She was determined to beat this mountain, too.So she pressed onward and upward, looking for the trails tell-tale white blazes, the spray-painted rectangles that direct hikers where to go. She got to the boulders. The metal braces on her legs kept them locked straight, which made climbing the boulders arduous.The sky turned black, the temperature dropped, and rain started pouring down. Her fingers were so cold she couldnt grip her poles. If I stay out here any longer, I might lose a few fingers, she thought to herself. Im hiking out here without legs, whats a couple fingers?Kozel climbed on. Could she make it? She didnt know. But she knew she couldnt stop.I remember holding her as an infant, says Mary Kozel, Staceys mom. I was sitting on the couch. I told her, Im going to raise you to be tough and independent. Now that I look back I think, Oh my gosh, I might have gone too far. I didnt realize what I was creating.Stacey calls her mom her hero and best friend. Theres other parents who would not be as cool as she is about my adventures, says Stacey, who has jumped out of perfectly good airplanes six times. She always tells me what she thinks, but she never holds me back.Stacey played any sport with a ball as a girl, and Mary could barely stand to watch. Particularly in soccer, Stacey played with a disregard for her own well-being. She would sacrifice her body, Mary says. As a parent, I would cringe. You need your body. The balls not that important.It was to Stacey. In softball, even if she played well, she still asked her mom to pitch to her in the backyard after games. She aspired to play sports in college, but her athletic career ended when she was 19 and diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, which results in the body attacking healthy tissue. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates 1.5 million Americans have lupus, and it affects each of them differently. For Kozel, the disease has ravaged her spinal cord, among other things.Shes had several flare-ups since her diagnosis and each time, Kozel, now 41, spent extended time in the hospital. Each time, she fought for months to recover. Each time, she lost a little bit more mobility. The most recent flare-up, in March of 2014, was sparked by a car accident, and it was, by far, the worst. For a while she couldnt even lift her head.Stuck in bed, with nothing to do but think, Kozel recalled her time as a nurse working with dementia patients. That was the best job she ever had because she received as much care from those patients as she gave them. She remembered the regrets those patients described to her -- of broken relationships that were never mended, of long-desired vacations never taken, of living as if theres an endless sea of tomorrows.If lupus taught Kozel anything, its that theres no guarantee of tomorrow. She promised herself that if she recovered, she would live her life in such a way as to die with no regrets. It was nine months before she could stand and more than a year before she could walk with confidence again, and even then she needed braces. She attacked her recovery with the same passion she attacked sports, sometimes leaving exhausting physical therapy and going home to work more to make herself better.Kozels ferocious fight against lupus helps explain how a paralyzed woman could even think about hiking the Appalachian Trail, let alone try it. To strangers, the idea is shocking. To her loved ones, its decidedly less so. They all knew better than to try to talk her out of it, though some asked if she was sure it was a good idea.She just smiled and relished the challenge before her.Appalachian Trail by the numbersThe Appalachian Trail starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia and slices 2,189.1 miles through 14 states before ending atop Mount Katahdin in Maine. To hike the entire trail is at least as much of a mental challenge as a physical one. Being alone in the woods, shut off from all of lifes demands, is mesmerizingly cleansing ... until it gets massively boring and not showering becomes OK.Day after day, Kozel walked until it was almost dark, took off her braces, crawled on the ground to set up her tent, slept, woke up and did it again. Because lupus has also struck her digestive system, she subsisted largely on peanut butter crackers, water and Gatorade. Lupus also has diminished her lung capacity, so she lost her breath frequently. She calls herself a freeze baby, and to fight the cold (and try to put down more miles every day), she walked through the night at least 10 times.When the hike was difficult, which was often, she reminded herself of how far she had come already. I had to have that conversation with myself: Youre not in the hospital bed. Its a good day, she says. The worst day on the trail is still better than the best day in the hospital.She was by herself for her walk in the woods, but she was never really alone. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates 3 million people hike part of the trail every year, and 3,064 hikers registered to thru hike this year, an increase of 1,137 from the previous year. Kozel cant recall spending a single day literally alone.Normal rules of society do not apply on the trail. People could walk shoulder-to-shoulder in a group in New York City for three blocks and never say a word to one another. On the trail, theyd be friends within minutes. Kozel says the best part of the hike was the people she met. Its an amazing community out here, Kozel says. Everybody helps each other out.News of the kindness exhibited in the close-knit community comforted Kozels mom in the long months that she was gone. Mary Kozel was as OK with her daughter hiking the Appalachian Trail as a mom can be. After a lifetime of seeing her daughter overcome challenges, Mary was prepared for an adventure as audacious as this one. Still, the thought of her paralyzed daughter alone in the endless wilderness scared her. It didnt help that all the stories people told Mary about the Appalachian Trail had bears in them. They thought it was funny, she says. I didnt.Kozels first bear scare came just a few days into her hike. As she lay in her tent, her braces standing in the corner, she thought about all the warnings about bears, and how she hadnt seen any, and how the hype hadnt amounted to anything. Suddenly, she heard a rustle, her heart leapt into her throat and she thought a bear was about to rip her to shreds.Her scream echoed through the woods.Then she realized the rustle was just the noise of her braces falling over, and she was worried her scream of terror had ruined other hikers peaceful evenings.I was like, SORRY! ... Sorry ... sorry ... sorry .... she says.Weeks later, as Kozel hiked with her trail family in Virginia, she turned a corner to see a mama bear and two cubs. Hiker code says not to run, but to make yourself as big as possible and make a loud noise to scare the bears away. Her companions turned around and ran. Kozels paralysis makes it impossible for her to turn around quickly, never mind run, so she crossed her poles across her chest and made a noise that she intended to be a yell but that came out sounding like a squeak. It should not, she says, have scared a bear. The mama bear and her cubs backed off.When Larry Schulte (trail name, Windy, because he talks so much) saw Kozel and her braces on the trail one day, he thought of his own ACL surgery. He asked if she was recovering from a similar operation. When she said she was paralyzed, he blurted out, Thats awesome!What he meant to say was that it was awesome that she had the courage to hike the trail. He found her inspiring and became her evangelist on the trail. News about Kozel flowed north and south, blown in each direction by conversations at campsites and shelters where hikers stopped for the night. She became trail famous. Kozels trail name, Iron Will, only hints at the esteem with which her fellow hikers view her.Part of what makes the trail fun is complaining about how miserable it is. Kozels name came up often in that context. We were done and tired, bitching about that stupid boulder field, or somebody needs to turn down the heat, says Gabe Burkhardt. Somebody would arrive in the middle of one of our bitch-fests and say, I just saw Iron Will, and she was huffing through this same boulder-field stretch, and she was doing it. That usually made our bitch sessions a little bit shorter. Not much. But a little bit.The more Burkhardt, a vascular and trauma surgeon who retired as a major from the Air Force in 2013 after more than 20 years, heard about Kozel, the more he hoped to catch up to her and meet her. He had spent years researching soldiers use of prosthetics and ambulatory assist devices -- the fancy way of saying braces.He was curious to see how Kozel used her braces and how well they worked (or didnt). He finally caught up to her in New York state, just after the summit of Bear Mountain. He watched her walk with a clinical eye. He saw that the braces made her gait stiff and uncomfortable, but he also saw that they werent doing any harm to the rest of her body -- a critical piece of analysis when measuring the value of any such device.Think of walking as a controlled fall. You lean forward, and just when youre about to tumble onto your face, you swing your leg out and catch yourself. Kozels hip muscles allow her to swing her legs forward. But she has no control over muscles any lower than that. She cant bend her knee or foot, and her leg muscles dont work.She has two sets of braces. Both stabilize her knees, feet and ankles. Neither walks for her at all. One is made of metal and allows her to walk stiff-legged. The other is battery-powered and has computer sensors that tell the braces what angle her knee and foot should be based on her stride.The stress on her upper body means she expends roughly twice as much energy as an able-bodied person in covering the same distance, says Joey Pollak, the prosthetist and orthotist who outfitted Kozel with the braces.In everyday life, the battery-powered braces, which have to be recharged every two days, allow nearly norrmal walking. Cheap Custom Falcons Jersey. . But there is no normal walking on the trail, and the high-tech braces malfunctioned frequently. When the batteries ran out, the braces worked like the simpler ones, except they were so heavy that Kozel felt like she had cement bags strapped to her legs. Still, Kozel hopes her long hike with those braces proves to insurance companies reluctant to pay for them that they are valuable.That was all impressive to Burkhardt from a medical perspective. But its not what impressed him most about Kozel. After about five seconds of talking to her, shes got this big, beaming smile on her face, he says. Seeing how happy she was, and how fulfilling this was for her, and how much of a challenge it still was, it was incredibly inspiring for me.Burkhardt and Kozel only spoke for a few minutes, and they followed each other in the coming weeks via social media. When Burkhardt (trail name: Sketch) complained on Facebook, Kozel always chimed in with support. He marveled at that -- hes just some guy walking the trail, and here she is, encouraging him to keep after it. That, by itself, I thought was phenomenal, he says. Im looking forward to trying to emulate her example.Up and down the trail, Kozel left inspiration in her wake. Burkhardt said other hikers were jealous that he got to meet her, and another thru-hiker said he heard so much about her he was bummed he never ran into her. Kozel blushes at all of this, saying, Im just another hiker stumbling through the woods.Sharing the story of her hike became a big part of why she wanted so desperately to complete it. For years after she was diagnosed with lupus, she rarely told people about it, instead making up other excuses when she was ill. As her attempt to complete the trail became publicized -- shes appeared on the CBS Evening News and in The Washington Post and numerous local TV and newspaper stories -- she saw how it inspired people.Her Catholic faith is an important part of her life, and she wondered during her lupus flare-ups what God wanted to teach her through her struggles. She concluded that using the hike to encourage people would give her suffering the meaning it had lacked before.There are three ways to complete the trail. One is to section hike, which is to return year after year until done. Another is to thru hike -- start at one end and walk straight through to the other. A third is called flip flopping, which is thru hiking, only not in linear order.In late August, Kozel decided to flip from Vermont to Katahdin, then flop back to Vermont. It sounded like a great plan. But it didnt work.The hike up Katahdin is widely considered the most difficult stretch of the entire trail, and she wanted to complete that before it got too cold. Elevation at the summit is nearly a mile high, and getting to the top is difficult, even on a good day. She simply didnt have one. Her attempt to climb Mount Katahdin was beset by problems with her braces, swelling in her legs and feet, and boulders so big that scaling just one of them took her an hour. She hadnt felt well for some time, and she was worried another lupus flare-up was starting.In the midst of those struggles, a ranger at Baxter State Park, which contains Katahdin, offered to charge Kozels braces if she would use the power to walk down the mountain instead of up. The ranger told Kozel that if she had to be rescued, she would have to pay for it. Kozel found that both discouraging and insulting.If I thought I was going to endanger rescue crews, I wouldnt do that, Kozel says. Thats why that kind of upset me. Just because Im disabled and have lupus doesnt mean I cant do this. I want to help people. I dont want to injure people. I want to change the view of people like her who think because Im disabled I cant hike this mountain.Another ranger gave her a written warning about camping on the trail. She wasnt camping, but she was going so slowly while hiking through the night that it seemed like she was.(A few words in defense of the rangers who sound so cold -- its not necessarily fair to say the rangers singled Kozel out for discouragement. In the name of safety, they discourage everybody. Research Katahdin, or talk to rangers there, and youll find so many dire warnings of its dangers that climbing it sounds like the dumbest idea anybody has ever had.)After four days and 60 hours of hiking, Kozel decided to abort the attempt. As she made the slow walk down -- retracing steps that hadnt advanced her goal, spending time she didnt have and expending energy she couldnt afford to waste -- she thought she had proved the rangers right instead of wrong. I want people to not give up, whatever theyre going through, she says. And I was giving up.She tried again a few days later and got to an area known as Thoreau Spring -- a mile from the summit -- but had to turn around again, this time because of lightning. That made three failed attempts at Katahdin (she had hiked there in October 2015 before she was sure she was going to attempt a thru-hike.) Pressed but not crushed, she returned to Vermont, determined to regain her momentum and take one more shot at scaling Katahdin. There was no way I was quitting, she says. Forget that.Katahdin haunted her steps from Vermont, through New Hampshire and into Maine. There is a delicate balance here, between drive and obsession. Nobody whose opinion is worth listening to would think 2,189.1 miles was great but 2,188.1 was unworthy. Kozel acknowledged this ... sort of. But she sees it as binary, pass or fail, with no in-between. Yes, walking 2,188.1 miles alone in the wilderness while paralyzed was a great accomplishment. But she had set out to walk 2,189.1. She is not the type of person to set a goal and be content to come close to it. She yearned to pass every blaze, to prove right the people who believed in her. She wanted to show people facing struggles that they could accomplish whatever they wanted. If she left that last mile un-walked, she could not rightly say that about herself.An internal fire drove her, too. Lupus, she said, had robbed her of the ability to play sports. It had disrupted her career and education multiple times, and her flare-ups always seemed to come just as she was about to finish something important. She was about to finish something again, something big and incredible and inspiring, and she refused to let lupus stop her.So much of Kozels story is about attempting the impossible instead of settling for the simple. It would have been easy for Kozel to disappear into her home after she was paralyzed. Thats what her mom said she would have done. But Stacey would rather try something hard. We spend so much time worshipping comfort that somebody who doesnt bow at that altar sounds heretical. We have turned discomfort into something to be avoided rather than endured and conquered.Not Kozel. If she got cold, she could warm up. If she got exhausted, shed recover. But if she quit, shed regret it for the rest of her life. She used the long, arduous stretch from Vermont to Maine to prepare herself, mentally and physically, for Katahdin.In her book Wild, Cheryl Strayed describes ascending and descending mountains on the Pacific Crest Trail as like knitting and unraveling a sweater, over and over again. That description fits the Appalachian Trail, too, except Mount Katahdin is like knitting a closet full of sweaters.If only she could have made her seventh skydiving trip and landed at the top, Kozel joked, everything would have been so much easier. Among several possible ascension routes, Kozel chose the Abol Trail for her final attempt because it offered a relatively short trip (3.4 miles) to Thoreau Spring, where her most recent attempt had ended. From there, she would pick up the trail for that final mile. It would not be easy. The Abol Trail features a climb of more than 3,900 feet, a leg-scorching, core-ripping, back-destroying ascent made tougher by an endless hopscotch of rocks, roots and boulders.When Kozel and Remington stepped onto the Abol Trail that beautiful Saturday morning, the canopy of mid-October leaves made the sky glow electric yellow. It was T-shirt weather. A beautiful day for a hike, Kozel says. Abol starts off as an old road and ascends continuously, but not terribly steeply. About a mile in, a dark brown wooden sign announces in white type:YOU ARE ENTERING MAINES LARGEST WILDERNESS YOUR SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY SET A TURNOUND TIME AND STICK TO IT YOUR DESTINATION IS YOUR SAFE RETURN TO THE TRAILHEAD RESCUERS CAN BE MANY HOURS IN ARRIVINGThe road becomes a trail and continues until it turns into essentially a rockslide, like God himself worried about getting lost and left a trail of rocks instead of bread crumbs. The grade increases, and the climb is relentless. Trails with severe elevation change often feature switchbacks to lessen the strain. Not Abol -- like a good kick returner, it goes only north and south.Eventually the rocks turn into boulders, and the hike becomes a scramble. Thats where Remington left. When she got to the bottom, she couldnt sleep. Rain pelted the windows, and she couldnt stop thinking about her friend alone on the mountain. Shes gone through so much in her life. But always if you ask her how shes doing, she says, Im fine. How are you? Remington says. I dont know anybody else as strong as her. Im so glad shes in my life. Shes changed me -- made me look at struggles in life as just part of life.When Remington left, Kozels confidence was soaring; it had been a great day. Soon it turned nasty. Rain whipped at her from all directions and felt like tiny icy knives slicing at her face. She was already physically exhausted from the steep and unending climb to that point. She said the wind blew her over several times, and her hands were so cold she couldnt hold her poles.She kept on, hour after hour.She had vowed, jokingly, that she would finish Katahdin if she had to crawl to the end. And she says thats what she did, until finally, the iconic Katahdin sign -- the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail -- came into view in front of her. It was, she guesses, 1 a.m. She had been alone on the mountain for eight hours already. The world around her was a black, howling panorama full of breathtaking beauty she couldnt see.Other thru-hikers she had met on the trail had gotten to this same spot, eyes wide with joy, bodies bent by exhaustion, and climbed onto the sign to have their pictures taken. Kozel couldnt climb the sign and had nobody to take a picture for her even if she could. Her hands were too cold to pull out her phone for a selfie, and it was raining and dark anyway.She says she crawled to the sign and put her arms around it. She had expected to have a moment up there at the pinnacle of Maine, atop the slain Katahdin. She couldnt summon the energy to shed even a single tear. She took her hands off the sign and started the slow descent, which would be nearly as difficult as the climb. It was like, Are there any helicopters to get me down from here? she says.As the sun rose to Kozels left, Remington pulled herself out of the Jeep and headed back up the trail to find her friend. Remington hiked almost all the way back to where she had turned around the night before -- when suddenly a battered, bruised and dirty Kozel appeared in front of her. She looked like she was frozen stiff, she says. She didnt even recognize me. Remington -- who until that moment still thought she was meeting Kozel to continue their climb -- could tell by looking at Kozel that she had not hidden in the boulders, but had summited instead. I was so excited for her. I was jumping up and down.Kozel was too spent to join the celebration. All she could do was slowly place one foot in front of the other, a task made more difficult because so many of those brilliant yellow leaves she had walked under on the way up had been blown off during the storm and now hid the rocks and roots, and sometimes even the trail itself, from her view. Her teeth chattered as other hikers ascended past her in T-shirts. By the time they returned to her Jeep, it was late morning. She had been hiking for more than 27 hours.They drove two-and-a-half miles down a skinny dirt road under a brilliant yellow tunnel of leaves to the Katahdin Stream Campground. Kozel had been too cold and wet to take a photo with the iconic sign at the top, so she took one with a sign at the bottom instead. She leaned back, her hoodie pulled snug over her ears and her arms crossed in a pose that screamed, I got this.She texted her mom and told her the good news. Her mom wrote back that she was proud of her. And that made Kozel cry. Matt CrossmanCrossman has written more than 40 cover stories at national magazines. His work has been cited five times in the notable section of Best American Sports Writing and once in Best American Essay Writing. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and daughters. ' ' ' 
SALT LAKE CITY -- A judge on Monday ordered a suspended?USC Trojans?football player to stand trial on rape charges after a 19-year-old woman said marijuana and alcohol left her nearly unable to move during an attack following a summertime party in Utah. Cheap Nike Sb Dunk .She testified that the sexual assault left her scared, helpless and injured, and Utah prosecutors laid out evidence against Osa Masina, 19, at the same hearing.The Utah native also has been investigated on similar allegations involving the same woman in California, but criminal charges have not been filed in that case. Masinas lawyer, Rebecca Skordas, said Masina told police that the sex was consensual.The woman said that before the assault, she considered Masina, whom she had known from high school in suburban Salt Lake City, a friend. She said she was on a couch in a friends basement and felt scared, like I needed to get out of there as soon as I could.She was treated by a sexual-assault nurse shortly after she made her way home, according to charging documents.The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault.Masina watched the testimony impassively, sometimes closing his eyes. He declined to testify or comment after the hearing. He is charged with one count of rape and two counts of forcible sodomy.Skordas said the burden of proof is low for a case to head to trial, and the judge doesnt get to decide credibility. Masina is expected to enter a plea Friday.Prosecutors said Masina raped the woman after she drank alcohol and ate part of a marijuana cookie with him at a July 25 party in the city of Cottonwood Heights.He and his teammate Don Hill also were investigated after the woman said she was sexually assaulted two weeks earlier when she visited Masina in California, court documents say.She said the pair assaulted her at Hills off-campus apartment after giving her marijuana, alcohol and the anti-anxiety prescription drug Xanax. Masina took video and sent it to the victims ex-boyfriend, authorities said.The woman said she remembered parts of what happened in California but tried to deny them before she reported the Utah assault.I just hated the thought that someone I thought was a friend could take advantage of me like that, she said.Masina is appealing the decision to suspend him from USC. Hill also was suspended. Nike Sb Clearance Sale . -- Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson asked his players a simple question during Fridays morning shootaround: How many of them had ever been on a team 14 games over . Nike Air Presto Cheap Online .1 million pounds ($61.2 million) on Saturday, giving the beleaguered English Premier League champions a major lift. http://www.cheapwholesalenikesb.com/nike-dunk-low-outlet-sale.html . As he recorded his 23rd and 24th points of the evening, a segment of the sellout Air Canada Centre crowd expressed their appreciation for the Raptors point guard with a smattering of MVP chants. GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The smallest Power Five conference is not getting any larger. The Big 12 is staying at 10 schools.After three months of analyzing, vetting and interviewing possible new members, Big 12 leaders on Monday took expansion off their agenda.This was not a decision to not expand, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. This was an endorsement and reinvestment in the 10 that we had.Oklahoma President David Boren said the decision was unanimous and no specific schools were discussed or voted on during five hours or so of expansion talk while Big 12 presidents and chancellors met Sunday night and Monday.Boren, the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors and the only president who has been in the league since its inception in 1996, insisted he has never seen such a unified sense of purpose on the board.Texas President Greg Fenves said 10 is the right number for the league.It promotes a competitive balance and allows for a round-robin schedule in the different sports, which is best for our student-athletes, Fenves said. This is the right way to ensure a strong conference moving forward.Conference officials held interviews in September with Air Force and Colorado State from the Mountain West; Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, South Florida, SMU and Tulane from the American Athletic Conference; Rice from Conference USA; and BYU, which is a football independent with its other sports in the West Coast Conference.Moving into a Power Five conference for those schools would mean tens of millions of dollars more revenue per year, along with greater exposure and prestige.Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek said the Big 12s decision is not just about the University of Houston and the Big 12 Conference, its about the evolving landscape of collegiate athletics. It does not, and will not, deter our mission of building champions for life.UConn President Susan Herbst said going through the process was a positive experience and it gave her a better understanding of where UConn stands and what it has to offer.Most of the schools they were talking to were in our conference, she said. I think that shows, without question, that our conference plays at their level and are athletically and academically appropriate to be a Power Five.Boren once called the Big 12 psychologically disadvantaged as the smallest Power Five league and the only one without a football championship game.The circumstances have radically changed, Boren explained Monday when asked about the comment he first made in June 2015.Boren said his interest in expansion was tied to his desire for the Big 12 tto start a television network like the ones the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference and Pac-12 have and the one the Atlantic Coast Conference is on target to start with ESPN in 2019. Nike Sb Clearance Sale. Once it was determined that the market was not there for a network, his interest in expansion cooled.And the Big 12 announced earlier this year it was bringing back its football championship game in 2017, no matter its composition.Knowing now there will be 10 teams, Big 12 athletic directors can move forward with the process of determining if the league will split into divisions and how to determine which teams will play in the championship game.Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, part of a subcommittee addressing those issues, said that decision could be made by November. As for the site of the title game, he said the league got bids from four potential hosts.While never committing to expansion, the Big 12 has been tossing around the idea for almost two years as it tries to find ways to increase revenue and improve the conferences chances to make the College Football Playoff. The Big 12 was left out of the first playoff in 2014, but conference champion Oklahoma made it last season.Boren and Bowlsby both said that expansion could be re-addressed in the future, but said it no longer is an active agenda item.In June, the conference announced record payouts to members of $30 million each, and expansion talk seemed to fade.A month later, at their last board meeting, school presidents were briefed by consultants who explained how the conference could bolster its playoff chances by adding schools and boost revenue.Two new members would have meant an extra $50 million in TV revenue per year for the Big 12 on contracts with ESPN and Fox that run through 2025.The networks have not been keen on the idea of paying the Big 12 to add schools. When asked if the league would be getting more money from ESPN and FOX for not expanding, Bowlsby wouldnt get into specifics about negotiations.We have a new piece of inventory with our championship game, so were in the process of discussions with both FOX and ESPN on that, Bowlsby said. There are components of the contract that we also talk about in the context of those changes, and were going to continue to talk about those.---AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in New York and AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.---Online:APs college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org ' ' ' 
LAS VEGAS -- Midway through the first half, a frustrated North Carolina fan stood and screamed at Malik Monk. Custom Falcons Jerseys .You can miss! she yelled, before pausing and changing tactics. Please? she added.Monk rarely complied, setting a Kentucky freshman record with 47 points and hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16.7 seconds left to lead the sixth-ranked Wildcats past No. 7 North Carolina 103-100 on Saturday.If you watched that game, if you never liked basketball, youre going to start liking basketball, Kentucky coach John Calipari said. Like, wow.North Carolinas Justin Jackson nearly outshined Monk with 34 points, and his basket with 45 seconds left put the Tar Heels (10-2) ahead after trailing much of the second half.Monk responded with a right-wing 3 in transition to put Kentucky up 101-100 -- going against Caliparis wishes.Coach told me to drive, but I was hot and I shot it, Monk said.Good choice.After Isaiah Hicks only hit the backboard at the other end, Kentuckys DeAaron Fox hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds left.North Carolina got the ball in the front court with less than a second left. But Kenny Williams desperation 3 at the buzzer got lodged between the rim and backboard.Heck of a college basketball game if you dont care who won, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. But I do care who wins. . Malik was off the charts.Monk hit 18 of 28 shots, including 8 of 12 3-point attempts, scoring in various ways in an electric performance that was the most points in Division I this season. Only Dukes Dick Groat (48 points) in 1952 has scored more against the Tar Heels.And Kentucky needed Monks huge effort to offset Jacksons four 3s and 10 free throws in a game played at a furious pace.Those are games you live for, Fox said.Fox added 24 points for Kentucky (10-1), which shot 54 percent from the field. North Carolina shot 53 percent. They combined for 37 assists and just 19 turnovers.The Tar Heels fell to 52-2 when they score 100 points under Williams and 180-4 when they shoot better than 50 percent.Joel Berry II returned from injury to score 23 points for the Tar Heels, but was slowed by foul trouble in the second half.The enthusiastic crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena just off the Las Vegas Strip made it feel like an Elite Eight game. The quality of play in the CBS Sports Classic matchup gave it more of a Final Four feel.With two of the highest-scoring and fastest teams squaring off, Calipari joked earlier in the week he and Williams would be constantly yelling, Get back! on defense.In the 38th meeting between the schools, Monk dominated early and Kentucky raced to a 12-point lead. Jackson and Berry, who returned from a two-game absence due to a sprained left ankle, kept scoring off the dribble as North Carolina closed to 56-51 at halftime.There was hardly time to catch a breath. Kentucky took a 10-point lead in the second half. The Tar Heels rallied to tie it on Tony Bradleys two free throws with 2:51 left and went ahead on Jacksons 3 with 1:33 remaining.BIG PICTUREKentucky: Monk couldnt have put on a better display in a bigger setting, solidifying his star status and putting fear into Southeastern Conference opponents.North Carolina: The Tar Heels never slowed the pace and was happy playing up-tempo for 40 minutes. But foul trouble and the inability to contain Monk and others off the dribble cost them a chance at a big pre-conference victory.RECORD GREATJamal Murray (last season) and Terrence Jones (2011) held the previous Kentucky record for points in a game by a freshman with 35.TECHNICALLY UPSETLivid with the third foul called on Hicks while the forward was sprawled on the floor midway through the first half, Williams took off his jacket and fired it into the bench, earning a technical foul from referee Roger Ayers.He gets some of the worst breaks of any player Ive ever seen, Williams said of Hicks.UP NEXTIt gets no easier for Kentucky, which travels to rival No. 11 Louisville on Wednesday.North Carolina hosts Northern Iowa on Wednesday and Monmouth on Dec. 28 before its ACC opener Dec. 31 at Georgia Tech.---More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25. Chris Lindstrom Jersey Large .Y. -- Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo had little trouble picking up his first shutout of the season against a Buffalo Sabres team thats having trouble scoring goals. Falcons Jerseys China . -- Stanfords Kevin Danser knelt on one knee and hardly moved on the sideline as Michigan State celebrated its Rose Bowl victory and his Cardinal teammates made their way to the locker room. http://www.customfalconsjersey.com/ . In Europe, top teams seem to be largely happy with their squads after spending nearly $1 billion in the off-season. And although English league clubs are unlikely to splash cash in January, Arsenal and Chelsea could be tempted to strengthen their squads with new strikers. They were about 4,000 feet high, standing in a rockslide roughly three-quarters of the way up Mount Katahdin, the tallest peak in Maine, when they said goodbye. It was 4 p.m., with just a few hours of daylight left, and Stacey Kozel and her friend, Patsy Remington, decided to go in opposite directions.Kozel would go up and spend the night on the dark and foreboding mountain.Remington would go down and sleep.Kozel planned to find a place to hide from the elements among the giant boulders that were just above her -- a dangerous proposition on any night, and especially so on this October evening, with howling winds, plummeting temperatures and an angry rainstorm.Adding to the danger is the fact Kozel is paralyzed and walks with braces. But she was willing to risk a night alone on Katahdin because getting to Katahdins summit -- another mile and a half or so over extremely rugged terrain -- would allow her to complete the entire 2,189.1 mile Appalachian Trail, an impressive accomplishment for an able-bodied person and an unbelievable one for Kozel, a T9 quadriplegic. (She has regained enough use of her arms that she says shes functionally paraplegic, but her diagnosis remains quadriplegic.)If she finished, she would be the first person with her condition known to hike the entire the trail. If she didnt complete it, she would view it as a failure because she would be letting down thousands of people she so desperately wanted to inspire.Kozel had already climbed some 2,700 feet that day. She didnt want to go down and have to re-do that. Plus, she had already tried and failed three times to summit Mount Katahdin in the past year. As dangerous as it was, this was her last, best chance.Kozel didnt want Remington to stay up there with her, as it was far outside of Remingtons comfort zone, but Remington didnt want to leave her friend alone up there, either. But she knew better than to argue. You cant say to Stacey, No, stop, come down, Remington says.The plan was for Remington to hike down to Kozels Jeep (license plate UNSTPBL), sleep in there, and in the morning climb back up. She would find Kozel, and they would finish the climb together.After Remington left, the weather turned from pleasant to nasty, and Kozel changed her mind about that plan. She didnt want to wait that long. The cold, wind and rain made hypothermia a real threat, but if she kept moving, she would keep warm, or at least warmer. What if the rain didnt stop for hours? What if her legs swelled again, as they often had since she started the trail in March? What if she cramped up?What if this, what if that, what if the other?All those questions had made Kozel want to quit 1,000 times.Two years ago, as she lay completely paralyzed in a hospital bed, unable to even lift her head, she had looked out the window and longed to be outside and active. As bad as it was on Katahdin -- and it was really, really bad -- it was nothing compared to being unable to move. She had beaten total paralysis. She was determined to beat this mountain, too.So she pressed onward and upward, looking for the trails tell-tale white blazes, the spray-painted rectangles that direct hikers where to go. She got to the boulders. The metal braces on her legs kept them locked straight, which made climbing the boulders arduous.The sky turned black, the temperature dropped, and rain started pouring down. Her fingers were so cold she couldnt grip her poles. If I stay out here any longer, I might lose a few fingers, she thought to herself. Im hiking out here without legs, whats a couple fingers?Kozel climbed on. Could she make it? She didnt know. But she knew she couldnt stop.I remember holding her as an infant, says Mary Kozel, Staceys mom. I was sitting on the couch. I told her, Im going to raise you to be tough and independent. Now that I look back I think, Oh my gosh, I might have gone too far. I didnt realize what I was creating.Stacey calls her mom her hero and best friend. Theres other parents who would not be as cool as she is about my adventures, says Stacey, who has jumped out of perfectly good airplanes six times. She always tells me what she thinks, but she never holds me back.Stacey played any sport with a ball as a girl, and Mary could barely stand to watch. Particularly in soccer, Stacey played with a disregard for her own well-being. She would sacrifice her body, Mary says. As a parent, I would cringe. You need your body. The balls not that important.It was to Stacey. In softball, even if she played well, she still asked her mom to pitch to her in the backyard after games. She aspired to play sports in college, but her athletic career ended when she was 19 and diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, which results in the body attacking healthy tissue. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates 1.5 million Americans have lupus, and it affects each of them differently. For Kozel, the disease has ravaged her spinal cord, among other things.Shes had several flare-ups since her diagnosis and each time, Kozel, now 41, spent extended time in the hospital. Each time, she fought for months to recover. Each time, she lost a little bit more mobility. The most recent flare-up, in March of 2014, was sparked by a car accident, and it was, by far, the worst. For a while she couldnt even lift her head.Stuck in bed, with nothing to do but think, Kozel recalled her time as a nurse working with dementia patients. That was the best job she ever had because she received as much care from those patients as she gave them. She remembered the regrets those patients described to her -- of broken relationships that were never mended, of long-desired vacations never taken, of living as if theres an endless sea of tomorrows.If lupus taught Kozel anything, its that theres no guarantee of tomorrow. She promised herself that if she recovered, she would live her life in such a way as to die with no regrets. It was nine months before she could stand and more than a year before she could walk with confidence again, and even then she needed braces. She attacked her recovery with the same passion she attacked sports, sometimes leaving exhausting physical therapy and going home to work more to make herself better.Kozels ferocious fight against lupus helps explain how a paralyzed woman could even think about hiking the Appalachian Trail, let alone try it. To strangers, the idea is shocking. To her loved ones, its decidedly less so. They all knew better than to try to talk her out of it, though some asked if she was sure it was a good idea.She just smiled and relished the challenge before her.Appalachian Trail by the numbersThe Appalachian Trail starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia and slices 2,189.1 miles through 14 states before ending atop Mount Katahdin in Maine. To hike the entire trail is at least as much of a mental challenge as a physical one. Being alone in the woods, shut off from all of lifes demands, is mesmerizingly cleansing ... until it gets massively boring and not showering becomes OK.Day after day, Kozel walked until it was almost dark, took off her braces, crawled on the ground to set up her tent, slept, woke up and did it again. Because lupus has also struck her digestive system, she subsisted largely on peanut butter crackers, water and Gatorade. Lupus also has diminished her lung capacity, so she lost her breath frequently. She calls herself a freeze baby, and to fight the cold (and try to put down more miles every day), she walked through the night at least 10 times.When the hike was difficult, which was often, she reminded herself of how far she had come already. I had to have that conversation with myself: Youre not in the hospital bed. Its a good day, she says. The worst day on the trail is still better than the best day in the hospital.She was by herself for her walk in the woods, but she was never really alone. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates 3 million people hike part of the trail every year, and 3,064 hikers registered to thru hike this year, an increase of 1,137 from the previous year. Kozel cant recall spending a single day literally alone.Normal rules of society do not apply on the trail. People could walk shoulder-to-shoulder in a group in New York City for three blocks and never say a word to one another. On the trail, theyd be friends within minutes. Kozel says the best part of the hike was the people she met. Its an amazing community out here, Kozel says. Everybody helps each other out.News of the kindness exhibited in the close-knit community comforted Kozels mom in the long months that she was gone. Mary Kozel was as OK with her daughter hiking the Appalachian Trail as a mom can be. After a lifetime of seeing her daughter overcome challenges, Mary was prepared for an adventure as audacious as this one. Still, the thought of her paralyzed daughter alone in the endless wilderness scared her. It didnt help that all the stories people told Mary about the Appalachian Trail had bears in them. They thought it was funny, she says. I didnt.Kozels first bear scare came just a few days into her hike. As she lay in her tent, her braces standing in the corner, she thought about all the warnings about bears, and how she hadnt seen any, and how the hype hadnt amounted to anything. Suddenly, she heard a rustle, her heart leapt into her throat and she thought a bear was about to rip her to shreds.Her scream echoed through the woods.Then she realized the rustle was just the noise of her braces falling over, and she was worried her scream of terror had ruined other hikers peaceful evenings.I was like, SORRY! ... Sorry ... sorry ... sorry .... she says.Weeks later, as Kozel hiked with her trail family in Virginia, she turned a corner to see a mama bear and two cubs. Hiker code says not to run, but to make yourself as big as possible and make a loud noise to scare the bears away. Her companions turned around and ran. Kozels paralysis makes it impossible for her to turn around quickly, never mind run, so she crossed her poles across her chest and made a noise that she intended to be a yell but that came out sounding like a squeak. It should not, she says, have scared a bear. The mama bear and her cubs backed off.When Larry Schulte (trail name, Windy, because he talks so much) saw Kozel and her braces on the trail one day, he thought of his own ACL surgery. He asked if she was recovering from a similar operation. When she said she was paralyzed, he blurted out, Thats awesome!What he meant to say was that it was awesome that she had the courage to hike the trail. He found her inspiring and became her evangelist on the trail. News about Kozel flowed north and south, blown in each direction by conversations at campsites and shelters where hikers stopped for the night. She became trail famous. Kozels trail name, Iron Will, only hints at the esteem with which her fellow hikers view her.Part of what makes the trail fun is complaining about how miserable it is. Kozels name came up often in that context. We were done and tired, bitching about that stupid boulder field, or somebody needs to turn down the heat, says Gabe Burkhardt. Somebody would arrive in the middle of one of our bitch-fests and say, I just saw Iron Will, and she was huffing through this same boulder-field stretch, and she was doing it. That usually made our bitch sessions a little bit shorter. Not much. But a little bit.The more Burkhardt, a vascular and trauma surgeon who retired as a major from the Air Force in 2013 after more than 20 years, heard about Kozel, the more he hoped to catch up to her and meet her. He had spent years researching soldiers use of prosthetics and ambulatory assist devices -- the fancy way of saying braces.He was curious to see how Kozel used her braces and how well they worked (or didnt). He finally caught up to her in New York state, just after the summit of Bear Mountain. He watched her walk with a clinical eye. He saw that the braces made her gait stiff and uncomfortable, but he also saw that they werent doing any harm to the rest of her body -- a critical piece of analysis when measuring the value of any such device.Think of walking as a controlled fall. You lean forward, and just when youre about to tumble onto your face, you swing your leg out and catch yourself. Kozels hip muscles allow her to swing her legs forward. But she has no control over muscles any lower than that. She cant bend her knee or foot, and her leg muscles dont work.She has two sets of braces. Both stabilize her knees, feet and ankles. Neither walks for her at all. One is made of metal and allows her to walk stiff-legged. The other is battery-powered and has computer sensors that tell the braces what angle her knee and foot should be based on her stride.The stress on her upper body means she expends roughly twice as much energy as an able-bodied person in covering the same distance, says Joey Pollak, the prosthetist and orthotist who outfitted Kozel with the braces.In everyday life, the battery-powered braces, which have to be recharged every two days, allow nearly norrmal walking. Cheap Custom Falcons Jersey. . But there is no normal walking on the trail, and the high-tech braces malfunctioned frequently. When the batteries ran out, the braces worked like the simpler ones, except they were so heavy that Kozel felt like she had cement bags strapped to her legs. Still, Kozel hopes her long hike with those braces proves to insurance companies reluctant to pay for them that they are valuable.That was all impressive to Burkhardt from a medical perspective. But its not what impressed him most about Kozel. After about five seconds of talking to her, shes got this big, beaming smile on her face, he says. Seeing how happy she was, and how fulfilling this was for her, and how much of a challenge it still was, it was incredibly inspiring for me.Burkhardt and Kozel only spoke for a few minutes, and they followed each other in the coming weeks via social media. When Burkhardt (trail name: Sketch) complained on Facebook, Kozel always chimed in with support. He marveled at that -- hes just some guy walking the trail, and here she is, encouraging him to keep after it. That, by itself, I thought was phenomenal, he says. Im looking forward to trying to emulate her example.Up and down the trail, Kozel left inspiration in her wake. Burkhardt said other hikers were jealous that he got to meet her, and another thru-hiker said he heard so much about her he was bummed he never ran into her. Kozel blushes at all of this, saying, Im just another hiker stumbling through the woods.Sharing the story of her hike became a big part of why she wanted so desperately to complete it. For years after she was diagnosed with lupus, she rarely told people about it, instead making up other excuses when she was ill. As her attempt to complete the trail became publicized -- shes appeared on the CBS Evening News and in The Washington Post and numerous local TV and newspaper stories -- she saw how it inspired people.Her Catholic faith is an important part of her life, and she wondered during her lupus flare-ups what God wanted to teach her through her struggles. She concluded that using the hike to encourage people would give her suffering the meaning it had lacked before.There are three ways to complete the trail. One is to section hike, which is to return year after year until done. Another is to thru hike -- start at one end and walk straight through to the other. A third is called flip flopping, which is thru hiking, only not in linear order.In late August, Kozel decided to flip from Vermont to Katahdin, then flop back to Vermont. It sounded like a great plan. But it didnt work.The hike up Katahdin is widely considered the most difficult stretch of the entire trail, and she wanted to complete that before it got too cold. Elevation at the summit is nearly a mile high, and getting to the top is difficult, even on a good day. She simply didnt have one. Her attempt to climb Mount Katahdin was beset by problems with her braces, swelling in her legs and feet, and boulders so big that scaling just one of them took her an hour. She hadnt felt well for some time, and she was worried another lupus flare-up was starting.In the midst of those struggles, a ranger at Baxter State Park, which contains Katahdin, offered to charge Kozels braces if she would use the power to walk down the mountain instead of up. The ranger told Kozel that if she had to be rescued, she would have to pay for it. Kozel found that both discouraging and insulting.If I thought I was going to endanger rescue crews, I wouldnt do that, Kozel says. Thats why that kind of upset me. Just because Im disabled and have lupus doesnt mean I cant do this. I want to help people. I dont want to injure people. I want to change the view of people like her who think because Im disabled I cant hike this mountain.Another ranger gave her a written warning about camping on the trail. She wasnt camping, but she was going so slowly while hiking through the night that it seemed like she was.(A few words in defense of the rangers who sound so cold -- its not necessarily fair to say the rangers singled Kozel out for discouragement. In the name of safety, they discourage everybody. Research Katahdin, or talk to rangers there, and youll find so many dire warnings of its dangers that climbing it sounds like the dumbest idea anybody has ever had.)After four days and 60 hours of hiking, Kozel decided to abort the attempt. As she made the slow walk down -- retracing steps that hadnt advanced her goal, spending time she didnt have and expending energy she couldnt afford to waste -- she thought she had proved the rangers right instead of wrong. I want people to not give up, whatever theyre going through, she says. And I was giving up.She tried again a few days later and got to an area known as Thoreau Spring -- a mile from the summit -- but had to turn around again, this time because of lightning. That made three failed attempts at Katahdin (she had hiked there in October 2015 before she was sure she was going to attempt a thru-hike.) Pressed but not crushed, she returned to Vermont, determined to regain her momentum and take one more shot at scaling Katahdin. There was no way I was quitting, she says. Forget that.Katahdin haunted her steps from Vermont, through New Hampshire and into Maine. There is a delicate balance here, between drive and obsession. Nobody whose opinion is worth listening to would think 2,189.1 miles was great but 2,188.1 was unworthy. Kozel acknowledged this ... sort of. But she sees it as binary, pass or fail, with no in-between. Yes, walking 2,188.1 miles alone in the wilderness while paralyzed was a great accomplishment. But she had set out to walk 2,189.1. She is not the type of person to set a goal and be content to come close to it. She yearned to pass every blaze, to prove right the people who believed in her. She wanted to show people facing struggles that they could accomplish whatever they wanted. If she left that last mile un-walked, she could not rightly say that about herself.An internal fire drove her, too. Lupus, she said, had robbed her of the ability to play sports. It had disrupted her career and education multiple times, and her flare-ups always seemed to come just as she was about to finish something important. She was about to finish something again, something big and incredible and inspiring, and she refused to let lupus stop her.So much of Kozels story is about attempting the impossible instead of settling for the simple. It would have been easy for Kozel to disappear into her home after she was paralyzed. Thats what her mom said she would have done. But Stacey would rather try something hard. We spend so much time worshipping comfort that somebody who doesnt bow at that altar sounds heretical. We have turned discomfort into something to be avoided rather than endured and conquered.Not Kozel. If she got cold, she could warm up. If she got exhausted, shed recover. But if she quit, shed regret it for the rest of her life. She used the long, arduous stretch from Vermont to Maine to prepare herself, mentally and physically, for Katahdin.In her book Wild, Cheryl Strayed describes ascending and descending mountains on the Pacific Crest Trail as like knitting and unraveling a sweater, over and over again. That description fits the Appalachian Trail, too, except Mount Katahdin is like knitting a closet full of sweaters.If only she could have made her seventh skydiving trip and landed at the top, Kozel joked, everything would have been so much easier. Among several possible ascension routes, Kozel chose the Abol Trail for her final attempt because it offered a relatively short trip (3.4 miles) to Thoreau Spring, where her most recent attempt had ended. From there, she would pick up the trail for that final mile. It would not be easy. The Abol Trail features a climb of more than 3,900 feet, a leg-scorching, core-ripping, back-destroying ascent made tougher by an endless hopscotch of rocks, roots and boulders.When Kozel and Remington stepped onto the Abol Trail that beautiful Saturday morning, the canopy of mid-October leaves made the sky glow electric yellow. It was T-shirt weather. A beautiful day for a hike, Kozel says. Abol starts off as an old road and ascends continuously, but not terribly steeply. About a mile in, a dark brown wooden sign announces in white type:YOU ARE ENTERING MAINES LARGEST WILDERNESS YOUR SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY SET A TURNOUND TIME AND STICK TO IT YOUR DESTINATION IS YOUR SAFE RETURN TO THE TRAILHEAD RESCUERS CAN BE MANY HOURS IN ARRIVINGThe road becomes a trail and continues until it turns into essentially a rockslide, like God himself worried about getting lost and left a trail of rocks instead of bread crumbs. The grade increases, and the climb is relentless. Trails with severe elevation change often feature switchbacks to lessen the strain. Not Abol -- like a good kick returner, it goes only north and south.Eventually the rocks turn into boulders, and the hike becomes a scramble. Thats where Remington left. When she got to the bottom, she couldnt sleep. Rain pelted the windows, and she couldnt stop thinking about her friend alone on the mountain. Shes gone through so much in her life. But always if you ask her how shes doing, she says, Im fine. How are you? Remington says. I dont know anybody else as strong as her. Im so glad shes in my life. Shes changed me -- made me look at struggles in life as just part of life.When Remington left, Kozels confidence was soaring; it had been a great day. Soon it turned nasty. Rain whipped at her from all directions and felt like tiny icy knives slicing at her face. She was already physically exhausted from the steep and unending climb to that point. She said the wind blew her over several times, and her hands were so cold she couldnt hold her poles.She kept on, hour after hour.She had vowed, jokingly, that she would finish Katahdin if she had to crawl to the end. And she says thats what she did, until finally, the iconic Katahdin sign -- the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail -- came into view in front of her. It was, she guesses, 1 a.m. She had been alone on the mountain for eight hours already. The world around her was a black, howling panorama full of breathtaking beauty she couldnt see.Other thru-hikers she had met on the trail had gotten to this same spot, eyes wide with joy, bodies bent by exhaustion, and climbed onto the sign to have their pictures taken. Kozel couldnt climb the sign and had nobody to take a picture for her even if she could. Her hands were too cold to pull out her phone for a selfie, and it was raining and dark anyway.She says she crawled to the sign and put her arms around it. She had expected to have a moment up there at the pinnacle of Maine, atop the slain Katahdin. She couldnt summon the energy to shed even a single tear. She took her hands off the sign and started the slow descent, which would be nearly as difficult as the climb. It was like, Are there any helicopters to get me down from here? she says.As the sun rose to Kozels left, Remington pulled herself out of the Jeep and headed back up the trail to find her friend. Remington hiked almost all the way back to where she had turned around the night before -- when suddenly a battered, bruised and dirty Kozel appeared in front of her. She looked like she was frozen stiff, she says. She didnt even recognize me. Remington -- who until that moment still thought she was meeting Kozel to continue their climb -- could tell by looking at Kozel that she had not hidden in the boulders, but had summited instead. I was so excited for her. I was jumping up and down.Kozel was too spent to join the celebration. All she could do was slowly place one foot in front of the other, a task made more difficult because so many of those brilliant yellow leaves she had walked under on the way up had been blown off during the storm and now hid the rocks and roots, and sometimes even the trail itself, from her view. Her teeth chattered as other hikers ascended past her in T-shirts. By the time they returned to her Jeep, it was late morning. She had been hiking for more than 27 hours.They drove two-and-a-half miles down a skinny dirt road under a brilliant yellow tunnel of leaves to the Katahdin Stream Campground. Kozel had been too cold and wet to take a photo with the iconic sign at the top, so she took one with a sign at the bottom instead. She leaned back, her hoodie pulled snug over her ears and her arms crossed in a pose that screamed, I got this.She texted her mom and told her the good news. Her mom wrote back that she was proud of her. And that made Kozel cry. Matt CrossmanCrossman has written more than 40 cover stories at national magazines. His work has been cited five times in the notable section of Best American Sports Writing and once in Best American Essay Writing. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and daughters. ' ' ' 
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