It was 15 years ago this spring that I began my tenure here at the Bitterroot Star. The paper was advertising for a sports reporter and one of my jobs was ending so I thought I’d see what the job entailed. I knew then-editor Carlotta Grandstaff from my years of working at the Sheriff’s Office and so when I ran into her in the middle of State Street in Hamilton, I asked about the job. She told me to write something up and the rest, as they say, is history. I still remember that first story; it was about the Victor baseball park.
One of the reasons I had for looking at this job was a chance to follow my son’s high school sporting career. Little did I know then, that I would be gaining an entire group of youngsters to follow every year. From their first gawky, big-eyed ventures onto the high school playing turf as freshmen, there are those who stand out to me. They may not be the most athletic. They most certainly are not very polished but there are those young athletes whose heart and try certainly gets my attention. It is because of these kids that I love my job.
Through the years, there have been ‘shining moments’ for me. One of the first was when Victor’s boys’ basketball season looked like it was about to end in 1998.With 2.2 seconds remaining on the clock, and behind by one point, Victor had to get the ball inbounds and score to move on. I don’t remember his name but a fellow reporter was sitting just below me on the bleachers and he turned around and said, ‘it’s done, they are finished.’ After the buzzer sounded and pandemonium broke lose in the gym, especially among the Victor fans, I realized I was beating him with my clipboard, yelling right along with the fans. I stopped using a clipboard after that didn’t want to endanger anyone else in a close game.
Another moment that comes to mind was that same year when Hamilton made its run for the state championship in football. Excitement was building throughout the season with more and more fans flocking to the field every Friday night. Once the playoffs began, Hamilton had home field advantage. I still remember those blankets on the bleachers saving spots from week to week. I had never been a part of a championship season so this was all new to me. I admit that more times than not, I was a fan first and a reporter second.
This job has exposed me to sports that I know I would never attend otherwise. Wrestling has taught me about individual determination and self-discipline as has cross-country. I am in awe of those kids who run that course – not only the winners but also those who are minutes, not seconds behind, and still persevere and cross the finish line. Soccer is another sport that I have developed an appreciation for. The stamina needed, both mentally and physically, for these athletes to compete is amazing. I admit I still struggle with the rules and reasoning of the game but have come to enjoy the match and certainly enjoy photographing them.
And speaking of photography, that has been a journey as well these past 15 years. When I first started, I had no experience whatsoever. I could barely get a focused shot of a tree, let alone a moving object. They started me off with an old 35, Nikon I believe. I had no idea who, what or how to get those fabulous photos seen in other papers. But I kept trying, and trying, and trying. As the years passed, I upgraded my camera again and again and with each upgrade, the pictures improved little by little. However, I still am thrilled when I get ‘that one’ shot that stands above the rest.
The last 15 years have been a blast. I didn’t know how much I would love this job and how many friends I have made through the years. I appreciate you, the reader, taking time to read my stories every week. And, I thank the Star for the opportunity. May the next 15 be just as exciting and rewarding as the last 15 have been.