By D. Mark Mitchell

sports columnist

I heard more positive comments about last week’s column than any I have written since the Opelika Observer issued the first  “On The Mark”. This amazed me because it was a true story that obviously attracted the attention of many. Sometimes we all need to be reminded about things that are taken for granted.
As I wrote, Opelika is the best-kept secret in Alabama. All of us that live in Opelika need to tell the positives of this historic city to those we come in contact with during our daily routine. We have so many attractions, activities, and wonderful caring people, we forget some of the things that make Opelika one of the best places to live.
Heck, I omitted that Opelika is the first GIG CITY in Alabama and one of only three in the U.S..  Opelika Power Services is on the cutting edge of technology, thanks in large part to, Mayor Gary Fuller, Council President Eddie Smith and City Council members, David Horton, Derrick Lee, June Owens and the employees of OPS.
Opelika city schools will start the 2015-16 school year in early August. The athletic department, however, continues to operate year-round. The student-athletes work out with weights and do strength and flexibility conditioning. Each sport uses the summer to go over basic fundamentals to insure each sport, as well as each participant, will improve.
Sports such as girls and boys basketball, baseball and softball worked out in June and are finished while others are about to complete their summer schedule. Volleyball started this week with camp while cross country runs every day.
The athletic department looks like it has a revolving door because of the sports working out at different times in the day.
The coaches and players should be commended for the dedication they display during the summer. It is easier to take days off than workout.
Coach Tina Deese hit the ground running after being named head softball coach at the last Board of Education Meeting of the 2015-16 school year. The longtime coach, who started the softball programs at Huntington and Auburn University, has been working with the players while evaluating the team. Deese has not held tryouts, but asked the returning players and any one interested in playing to workout four days a week. The Lady Bulldogs participated in two play dates, in Auburn and Handley of Roanoke.
Coach Deese is looking to promote interest in softball with the younger kids — fourth,fifth, sixth, seventh and eight graders. She understands the youth programs are the “farm system” for the high school team.
CHEERLEADERS     The Opelika junior varsity and varsity cheerleaders participated in the UCF Camp in late June. Head cheer coach Brandy Riddle was thrilled with the way her squads performed.
The varsity cheerleaders received superior ribbons and Spirit Sticks each night of camp. The team placed first in “Game Day Show” and overall camp champions. They placed second in “Game Day Sideline and Extreme Routine”.
As individual winners, Jasmine Bell won a leadership pin while Jasmine Bell, Tamia O’Neal and Payton Powers were named  All-Americans and received UCF staff applications.
Team mascots, “OPE” and “LIKA”, received Superior ribbons and Spirit Sticks each night and were also named All-Americans.
The junior varsity earned Superior ribbons and Spirit Sticks each night. The team placed first in Extreme Routine, Game Day Cheer and overall Camp Champions.
Bailey Carlisle, Rachel Hamilton, Whitley Jones, Jamiya McDougald, Madison Rush and Kalyn Yountz were named All-Americans. Bailey Carlisle won the Jump-Off and Carla Boyd won the Leadership pin.
The Opelika Cheer Program won the most prestigious award at camp, the Leadership Award, which is voted on by all the attending cheerleaders and staff.
Congratulations to Opelika cheerleaders and coaches!
Opelika High football season tickets will go on sell for existing ticket holders August 10-14 from 3:45-6 p.m. in the lobby of the OPAC.
Current Season Ticket Holders can try to improve their seats on August 17, 3:45-5:30 p.m. in the OPAC. New season tickets can be purchased August 18, 3:45-5:30 pm in the OPAC lobby.
Cost is $7 per game times five games or $35.00 per season ticket book.
Opelika Athletics will launch a new website to replace the The new site is The site is not yet up and running, but you can see how the page will look by going to the website.
The new site will allow each team to update results as soon as games are complete which will speed up information to our fans.
I will have more on the new web site in the coming weeks.
Longtime Opelika resident and former Southview teacher, BJ Horn, passed away last week and was laid to rest Monday. BJ, her husband Doug and their daughters loved Opelika and invested many years of service to our city. BJ not only taught school here, she supported everything about Opelika.
I want to personally express my sincere condolences to Doug and their two daughters and remaining family members. Mrs Horn will be missed by all of us.
God bless.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the  A-O Sports Council.