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Madras Sports Editor Will Denner says goodbye after working for the Madras Pioneer for a year and a half.

HOLLY M. GILL - Will DennerIt is time to say goodbye.

For the past year and a half, I've been proud to work in Jefferson County as the Madras Pioneer's sports editor. I came out here for an interview in October 2016, not really sure what to expect. But after chatting with Tony Ahern, the Pioneer's publisher, I knew this job would be a great fit for me.

From the onset of taking this job, however, I knew in my heart it would likely be temporary. That isn't a knock on Madras and the surrounding communities, but a simple fact that a guy from a big city can only stay in a small town for so long before he misses what he's accustomed to.

So I figured I would work here for a year and re-evaluate. With that milestone fast approaching at the end of fall sports last November, when the Culver volleyball team put together another remarkable run at the 2A state tournament in Redmond, I couldn't bring myself to leave quite yet.

My first week on the job here in 2016 was spent going around to Madras and Culver winter practices (basketball, wrestling, swimming) and introducing myself to coaches and athletes shortly before their seasons began. Perhaps nostalgic or sentimental feelings kicked in, but I knew I wanted to stick around for another run.

I wanted to see the Madras girls basketball team chase their postseason dreams with seniors Lynden Harry and Kaliyah Iverson. I wanted to see Culver's wrestling team retool for another championship, following a year in which they graduated an elite group of seniors. I wanted to see the Madras boys basketball team pile up points at astounding rates, and bring energy to the Buffalo Dome. I wanted to see Harrison Manu pursue a state wrestling title, and see who among his Madras teammates would develop further. I wanted to see what the Culver girls basketball team could do with an experienced bunch led by Irma Retano and Mia Gamboa.

I saw all those things transpire, and I'm so glad I did, because those three months were one of my favorite stretches on the job.

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. This April 11 edition will mark my final words in the paper. I'm moving back to Portland, my hometown, to pursue a new opportunity in sports media.

There are many people I want to thank and recognize, first and foremost, the loyal readers who support local journalism and engage with us. I always appreciate when someone approaches me at a ball game or community event to compliment a story I wrote, or our sports coverage in general. I also appreciate the people who have called and emailed me with complaints. Both instances illustrate the passion community members have for their teams and athletes.

Hopefully my coverage adequately captured the important moments in photos and words. I got into this profession because I love to write and tell stories. Each week, my goal was to venture beyond the box scores and play by play. I aimed to bring you stories that uncovered moments behind the scenes, examined the bigger picture, and most importantly, gave White Buffalos and Bulldogs a proper spotlight for their achievements.

Along with the readers, I'd like to thank my co-workers at the Pioneer for giving me this opportunity. While staff cuts and consolidated resources continue to shrink newspapers nationwide, the Pioneer has remained committed to serving the community with thorough sports coverage. You won't find more than a few newspapers around the state that employ a full-time sportswriter to cover just two high schools and community sports year -round, often with four or five pages in the newspaper allocated for that space.

I'd like to thank area coaches for being courteous and welcoming throughout my time here, and making this job fun while I covered your teams and the bright young athletes who lead them. I also have to give a shout out to athletic directors Evan Brown and Shea Little, both of whom were great to work with from the get go, and were always valuable sources of information. And, many thanks to Bud Beamer, Jamie Hurd, Gregg Markwardt and Joe McHaney for all your hard work in organizing community sports and events.

While I'm sad to be leaving after a relatively short stint here, I'm certain readers will be in good hands with my successor, Steele Haugen, who grew up in Madras and graduated in 2013.

Although Haugen doesn't have a traditional journalism/writing background, he is passionate about sports, and that will carry him far.

Wherever I end up in my career, I will always look back fondly on my first full-time job out of college and the lessons I learned from it. Hopefully, I left a mark on the local sports scene, and delivered a section each week that readers were satisfied with.

For one last time, thanks for reading.

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