The Herald years. When we picked up stakes and headed to Chippewa Falls, I was fortunate to be able to cover some great athletes and teams. So, here’s a look at my portfolio of pages, and some memories:
- The softball was awesome. Each and every spring I went to Madison, covering either Chippewa Falls or McDonell in state softball. In those six trips, one state champion was crowned, but the fun of seeing these kids give it their all was tremendous. I had the most fun in the last trip, this past spring, when both schools made it. And the photo we shot of both teams standing together, was very memorable.
- Several teams reached the third round of the football playoffs, from Bloomer to Stanley-Boyd to Chippewa Falls. But the state runner-up McDonell football team was one that can’t be forgotten.
- I have to back up, and look again at spring sports, which definitely was the best I’ve witnessed. There were state baseball treks, too. McDonell’s teams were a ton of fun to watch. Great pitching, great hitting and some good defense, too.
- Mikayla Hogan is by far the best female athlete I’ve covered in 10 years. She was an electric hitter, called a great game behind the plate as the team’s catcher, but she showed great grace and skill for the girls hockey team. She did well during the tennis seasons when she played for the Cardinals, too.
- The athletes were tremendous. Mitch Olson, Mikayla Hogan, Jess Freagon, Brooke Malnory, Andy Davis, Megan Schnobrich, Mike Darley, Ryan Baier and there’s so many more athletes were wonderful to get to know. They’ve been wonderful to watch play and great to speak with away from their respective fields of play.
- Along with those trips to Madison, two weeks prior, each and every year, I covered state track in La Crosse. It was always two days of grueling work. And each day presented its own challenges. There was blistering heat and cool rain. There were downpours and sunny skies. The two-day affair, driving down early in the morning on a Friday, getting into the hotel around 9 or 10 that night and turning around for a 14-hour day, including a drive back to Chippewa Falls. You earned your stripes on those two days.
- The basketball was definitely influenced by Bo Ryan, and the tempo could be a crawl. That is except for McDonell’s boys basketball team. They played fairly well defensively, the half-court offense was exactly what I like to see – take it to the rim and earn some freebies at the line. But there’s no denying the great play of some of Chi-Hi’s players like Josh Prince, Tyson Kalien and Dustin Kalien.
- And there’s one gymnasium that continues to stick out: the parquet flooring at Cadott. No other high school gym I’ve been to – and there’s a ton I’ve been to – had parquet flooring. I absolutely love it.
I think what will stick out most, though, was the great working relationship I had with Chi-Hi coach Chuck Raykovich. Rayko, as everyone calls him, was someone I respected and I was glad to tell his story and that of the kids he coached. I think we captured the importance of the Cardinals first-ever victory at Williams Stadium against Menomonie. We worked well for me to get the stories I sought and he got the his team covered in ways he was seeking. We debated at times, but they were healthy. There was a respect there. Standing on the sidelines of Chi-Hi Cardinal football games will do that.
It was by far the hardest to say good-bye to Chi-Hi football and the people I worked with at the Herald.
And professionally, I got the challenge I needed out of the Herald. I was pushed and encouraged to be better every day. When there were disagreements, we discussed the differences. It was at the Herald that my depth of understanding of things Internet-related began to flourish again (more on my web history at a later date). It was because of the journalism-related topics that bore discussion, the lack of an office politics, and the movement to the web is what really drew me to the Herald. There were some things that pulled me away, and that’s my family – specifically my parents.
We got along with each other fairly well at the Herald. It was great to be a part of such a quality group of journalists.