As I write the last few stories of my career as a journalist and reflect on some of the special moments, I’d like to say thanks.
Thanks for showing up.
For packing the stands for basketball games at Lone Tree and Hillcrest Union. For filling the bleachers for Huskie softball and Friday night games at Sattler Field.
The kids and coaches put in the practice time. The miles, the matches, open gyms and weight sessions.
They earned every win, every banner, every trophy.
But you made it special.
The atmosphere on a diamond during a state tournament celebration? There’s nothing like it in the world. Especially if you haven’t been there in a while.
In small Iowa communities, most of the kids have been playing together since their elementary days.
In the crowd, there are coaches from the past — from tee ball through junior high. There are friends, relatives and teachers. A mom and dad who drove them to practice and games and spent a small fortune on athletic equipment.
At their best, sports are about working hard, learning to listen and being aware. Earning the rewards of dedication, sacrifice and perseverance. Giving encouragement, support and leadership.
Athletes like that deserve fans like you.
I’ve been showing up at games and meets with a camera and notebook since 2014. I’m leaving with memories from the past eight years that still give me chills.
Like Kelsey Hora throwing out the tying run at home from center field to send the Huskies to state. Or Anna Hostetler running the homestretch of a 2A state-meet record 1500 meter race — her third individual title of the weekend. Floyd Evans making a comeback from heartbreak in the 3200 at districts as a junior to claim state gold as a senior.
There was Cael Garvey’s last-second reversal to win a thrilling first-round match at state. Carter Harmsen’s and-one dunk that put an exclamation point on Mid-Prairie's substate victory in Muscatine.
And so many more.
I’ll remember those moments for the rest of my life. You better believe those kids will remember too. And they’ll remember how you made them feel.
So keep showing up. At matches, meets, performances, recitals, concerts and games.
It means more than you know.
Thanks for reading.
Jeff, his wife Rhonda, and their sons Vince and Charlie are moving to Crystal Lake, Illinois — where Jeff will be joining the communications team at Community High School District 155.