For those unaware or not privy to such information yet, I’m bringing my chapter in Iowa to a close.
Thursday is my last day as the sports editor of the Creston News Advertiser, Fontanelle Observer, Adair County Free Press and Osceola Sentinel-Tribune after nearly 28 months covering athletics in Southwest Iowa.
After having visited Creston a week after graduating from Ohio University, I drove once more into Creston, this time on the evening of May 23, 2016 and immediately drove to Panther Field for Creston softball against Southwest Valley.
That day, I began forming the first of many wonderful memories that transpired on the diamond, on the court, on the mat, gridiron, track; whatever the playing surface was, I encountered pleasant people who helped shape my experience in so many great ways in Creston and the surrounding area.
In my time here I’ve taken away so much. At the top of the list is Larry Peterson, who has shown me how to be thorough, resolute in seeking information, and always trying to provide important context in my stories. The drive he has is absolutely nuts. His assistance and friendship has been incredible to possess, even if I didn’t always properly communicate as much to him. I’m trying to be better about that with folks.
Scott Vicker gave me a chance, showed faith in me by promoting me to my position and helped put me in a position to succeed.
When he and Larry Peterson made their pitch to me in coming here, I had no doubt that if I accepted, I would be stepping into a place that cared an immeasurable amount about their relationships with the people that made up local athletic programs. For my first year on the job, I did that alongside one of the more kind-hearted souls my path has crossed with in Ryan Kronberg.
I’ve gotten to work with one of my best friends in the world, Carter Eckl, who will be taking over my duties. Readers can be assured the sports section is in good hands (unless you thought it has been terrible, in which case, carry on).
I have no doubt that once someone new comes to work for the paper to relieve Larry Peterson of emergency bullpen duties once more, that the area’s athletes, teams and competitors will receive the utmost care and consideration from our publications. Receiving the help from people in media across the state has been essential. Using the help of Steve Thompson and Dan Dickinson in Greenfield was a must, and Caleb Nelson has done an incredible job inserting himself right into the heart of the community.
I’ve made a lifelong friend in the Omaha World-Herald/Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil’s Blake Baxter.
I’ve got friends in places all over the state, and know I could call on Mike Oeffner (Harlan), Troy Hyde (Newton), Kevin White (Council Bluffs), Todd Danner (Denison), Corey Lindsey (Leon), Ross Thede and Thorn Compton (Marshalltown), Colin Peters and Kyle Ocker (Centerville) and more if I need a favor somewhere down the line.
I’ve had so many opportunities to do great work and have been tasked with a ton of responsibilities, of that, there’s no doubt.
Between all of our area schools, I’ve got memories from every place that will resonate me. Not all moments are as big as watching Nodaway Valley winning consecutive cross country state championships for example. Not all schools can sustain the success that the likes of Creston can in golf and wrestling, like Central Decatur can in girls basketball, or other sport programs of notoriety. Not everyone gets to be a Chase Shiltz, a Bre Klein, a Paige McElfish, a Brycen Wallace, a Carter Boothe just to name a few of the standouts that blew my mind in my time here. Not every coach can have an insightful comment on a moment’s whim like Bret Ruggles. Not many can take an extensive record book like Delwyn Showalter can (it’s better than many college program’s media guides).
But every school and pretty much every team in every sport had kids, fans and coaches that made me smile. There are no schools that I dreaded attending events at. Sure some places were more exciting or more welcoming, but every town and school in our coverage area has its own unique charm.
But I’ll remember hour-long conversations into the night with coaches. I’ll recall passionately discussing the potential of some of our area athletes. I’ll remember lighting up and then seeing the appreciation on the faces of area coaches when they realize that yes, I did notice how much better one of their athletes has become the last few years.
Few schools could possibly be as helpful and friendly as Murray’s are and few could be as helpful to us as journalists as Southwest Valley’s coaches are.
Programs like Diagonal are far from common. The resumes some of these kids put up in the smallest school in the state are remarkable.
Lenox coaches are psyched you’re in attendance and quick with a friendly exchange.
Orient-Macksburg and East Union fans and players are quick to share how much your coverage means to them.
Clarke coaches remain patient with our paper even in knowing that we won’t get to all of their events due to our intensive schedules. I’ve made true friends interacting with the Clarke folks.
Interstate 35 is an example of a program that more should read about, as they put out a good on-field product and hearty group of souls in so many sports. I’m glad to see the football program has made it on television several times this fall.
Along the way, plenty of folks have helped me in ways that had nothing to do with athletics.
The people at events and out in Creston and the surrounding communities have always been approachable and helpful. When people ask me what I like about the area, or the community, I always come back to the fact that I genuinely really love people here.
The Creston Panther coaches in almost every instance let you know they appreciate the coverage from the papers. Several times I’ve heard from Panther football coach Brian Morrison how lucky the town is to have the coverage of the paper. Other Creston coaches have been just as appreciative and helpful.
So many parents and fans made their appreciation plenty evident. For any complaint about how we did our jobs, there was many times over more praise and appreciation that I sometimes grappled with whether I deserved or not.
Friends with gold hearts
I always felt at ease walking back into our advertising department shooting the breeze with the wonderful people back there. You had to sling your share of friendly jagged barbs with those folks and I love them for that.
Every morning that I spent in Adams Street Espresso, Rick and Tara Hanson took an interest in my life and engaged with me when there were many times I stepped into their place of business, tired, feeling ragged and lonely.
Kevin White took time out of a Friday night when my car battery died and I was stranded in an unfamiliar part of Council Bluffs last fall. He offered up his home on a moment’s notice, and though I didn’t take him up on the offer, I will always be grateful. I was once able to call on Murray’s own Danny Jensen to assist me and he did so unflinchingly. The Murray folks are beyond a joy to be around.
A friend and former co-worker by the name of Kelsey Haugen brought me soup and Nyquil when I was holed up in my apartment, feeling as sick as I had in years. Bailey Poolman stays a steady and reliable friend, the likes of I feel lucky to have even after departing here.
I’ve had people stop and help me at a moment’s notice. Plenty come to mind.
Bryant McCabe became a true friend who helped me to lure Carter Eckl (one of my best friends in the world), to Creston and now he’ll take over for me.
Anne and Randy Vicker treated me like a member of their family,
and I can say the same of others in the community too.
There are without a doubt, hundreds of people in Iowa and the surrounding area who have made a lasting impact upon me, and I could take this column beypnd 5,000 words if I felt it needed to be done (I’ll spare you).
It will be quite the adjustment not running into you all as I frequently have these last 28 months.
I’ve got my own challenge ahead. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time: cover Division I athletics for a living. I’ll be working for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, Illinois. I’ll continue covering prep athletics, something I’ve developed a great love for, much greater than when I covered high school sports in college.
I’m prepared for it, thanks largely to what I’ve picked up in Southwest Iowa. I’ll take my experience, the wisdom I’ve accumulated and try to apply it elsewhere. I’ll also take my cat, Wibble. You’ve probably seen him since I barage people with pictures and videos of him.
I’ll take him about four hours closer to my family back in Southwest Ohio.
Southwest Iowa has carved a spot within a chamber of my heart. Something tells me it will always sit there. And I’m quite alright with that.