In some ways, I can hardly believe it's been just more than six months since I began my current job as sports editor at the West Linn Tidings and Prep Sports Editor for Pamplin Media Group.
I feel that I've really settled into the job, gotten to know my bosses and co-workers at the Tidings, established good working relationships with the varsity coaches at West Linn High School, and finally know most of the best places to find parking at the high school depending on which sport I'm there to cover.
I'm getting to know the athletes at this great school, getting to know their names, their faces, their strengths and their abilities. And even better, the athletes are getting to know me, to know that I'll be there to watch them play, that I'll be there to take photos of them when they make great plays, and to know that I'll be there to interview them for the paper and treat them fairly when I do.
On all those fronts, covering high school sports in West Linn feels very, very right and very, very comfortable.
That said, I still have yet to cover a full third of the varsity high school sports teams at West Linn — those that play in the fall season — and to be honest, the summer season has presented a number of challenges, too. I'm learning — slowly, and week by week — which events must be covered during the summer, what other stories are out there and how to plan ahead.
While the final stories of the summer and fall sports seasons have yet to be written, there have already been some great successes in my 6+ months on the job. Working backward from the end of the school year, I'm proud that we launched the first iteration of the West Linn Tidings' Athlete of the Year award (this time honoring football/baseball great Tim Tawa).
I was also honored to cover the West Linn baseball team as it battled all the way to a state championship-game appearance.
Beyond that, I learned a lot in the spring season — literally the wettest spring I've had to deal with in my 28 years of high school sports coverage — about how to balance coverage between sports and genders, especially when coverage days were cut by at least a third due to the lousy weather. Should I face another spring as wet as 2017, I'll be better.
Looking back to winter season, my first full season on the job in West Linn, this is how much I knew when I started — I knew how to find the high school and I knew how to find the softball field over at Rosemont Ridge Middle School. But at WLHS, where to find the gym, the stadium field, the tennis courts etc. — those were all mysteries to me until I needed to find them for the first time.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg of what I didn't know when I started — I didn't know the athletic director, I knew almost none of the head coaches at the school (I had worked with both baseball coach Joe Monahan and boys tennis coach Chuck Eidenschink in Beaverton), I didn't know which days the Three Rivers League scheduled contests for basketball, wrestling or swimming, and I didn't know that West Linn swims at the LOSD pool.
Thankfully, the good folks at West Linn High School kept answering my many phone calls and emails, especially athletic director Mark Horak and athletic secretary Laurie Winkler.
By season's end, I'd gotten to know (and photograph and interview) many of the players on the Lions' boys and girls basketball teams, wrestling team and swimming teams.
And before that, when I was still working as managing editor at the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, covering Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, I got a little preview taste of what lay ahead, covering the West Linn football team's key regular-season win over Tigard, its state semifinal victory over Clackamas, and then helping photograph and cover the Lions' state championship win over Central Catholic.
It's been a great ride, and one that's just begun.