Starting my journalism career in my hometown was a great opportunity for me.
Now, three years later, the time is now for me to say goodbye again to the town I’ve lived in for 22 of the 27 years of my life.
On Monday, I will begin my next chapter at the Salina Journal as one of its two sports reporters. All I know is that it will be a great challenge ahead. Friday will be my last day at The Emporia Gazette.
This was not an easy decision. The Gazette is going through some changes, so it was time for me to find a new home. Also, my radio talk show on KHDL 99.5 FM will end this week.
There have been many memories that I’ll remember from my time back in Emporia.
One just happened a few weeks ago when the Emporia Post 5 AAA Legion baseball team won its first AAA State Championship since 2011 and advanced to the Mid-South Regional. Even though it was an 0-2 trip in the regional, those guys finished with a 34-4 record. Not to mention, a majority of that team won a Class A State Championship in 2017. Did I mention that both happened in Hays? That place is special.
In the high school ranks, I was able to see Olpe’s Kyler True win multiple state championships in cross country and track during his final season as an Eagle. Now, he’s repping the crimson and blue (Rock Chalk!)
Emporia High’s Haylee Weiss was able to win three state championships in two different sports in my three years, while even claiming two national championships this summer in Gymnastics. Emporia High’s Reed Slayden also won a state title in diving this past winter and could be a contender to repeat in 2020.
The Olpe football team gave me a ride in the postseason the past two years and eventually got me to cover my first state championship football game. It all started in the freezing tundra of Centralia where Olpe won 20-18 and advanced to play Colgan, where it eliminated the Panthers to advance to state for the first time since 2014.
Let’s not forget the Hartford boys and girls basketball teams who finished second in Class 1A-DII in 2017 and 2018. Also, the Spartan volleyball team placing fourth in Class 5A in 2016.
The Emporia High softball team had a 14-year streak of not qualifying for state ending this past spring, with talent across the board. Let’s just say, this will be the team to watch next spring with only losing Brynn Riley to graduation.
Also, Olpe girls basketball coach Jesse Nelson won his 900th career game that sent the Eagles to the 1A State Tournament in March. The Eagles continued their dominance on the hardwood but were bounced by 1A runner-up Axtell in the quarterfinals. Let’s not forget a fourth-place finish for the Eagle volleyball team with a veteran group.
As football season begins, expect Madison, Lebo and Olpe to be the teams to watch out for. All three squads return valuable pieces that’ll lead them further in the playoffs.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with EHS Athletics this fall. The Spartans will have two new head coaches at the helm. Ashley Nehls will have her second stint as the volleyball coach after spending the last two years at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. I know she’ll do good things after nearly guiding the Spartans to the state tournament in 2009.
Saul Trujillo will now lead the Spartan girls tennis team after serving as an assistant under Matt Irby. I know he’ll do great things as well, not to mention he graduated from EHS the same time I did.
As for all the remaining sports through the rest of the year, I can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish. Could there be some state appearances or some deep playoff runs? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
I want to thank Zach Hacker for bringing on a hometown kid that’s passionate and enjoys what he likes to do. To Chris and Ashley Walker, thanks for letting me be a part of a historic newspaper and I hope the changes you’ve made help readers go to the new platform you’re creating. To Stephen Coleman, thanks for putting up with a kid who wanted to do the best he could for the paper, while helping me improve and giving me advice on shooting photos. To all other Gazette staff members, past or present, it’s been great working with everyone and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for everyone else.
To Don Weast, your knowledge of Emporia State is incredible. You do a speculator job of helping us get the information we need to cover the Hornets. Thanks to all the Hornet coaches for letting us tell stories on your athletes.
Thanks to Curtis Simons, Dathan Fischer, Britton Hart and all the rest of the administration staff at EHS for putting up with a former Spartan and giving me a hard time when needed. Thanks to all the Spartan coaches, both former and present, for letting me tell the stories of your athletes.
Another special thanks to all the Area Athletic Directors and coaches, I couldn’t do anything without your assistance, whether if it was a phone call about a game or letting you know that I was going to be attending a game.
Thanks to Lydia Cope and Phil McComb for giving me an opportunity to get back into radio while still working at the Gazette.
Lastly, I want to thank the fans, parents and athletes. I could not do what I do without the support that’s behind the athletes. I’ve got to cover some very special athletes over the last three years and I’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone. Even if was a simple, ‘Hello.’ or ‘Nice article, Dylan,’ that’s the feedback I want. It shows that people are paying attention and reading.
As I begin my next chapter in Salina, you can follow me on Twitter to see what I’m up to. Who knows, maybe in the near future I’ll be covering a team from here against a team from the Salina Area.
As I learned from Grammy-Nominated artist Mike Posner last month when he walked through Emporia, “Your life is now. If you close your eyes, take a deep breath and open them back up, this is it.”
Thanks for the support and Rock Chalk!