[This is my column in the June 19 issue of The Commercial Review.]
Every athlete remembers his or her first.
First touchdown, first hit, first goal, first home run, first buzzer beater or first championship.
No matter the first, an athlete will never forget.
The same for me is true. I will never forget my first year at The Commercial Review.
The best part about this job isn’t the fact that I get paid to do what I love.
It’s not even the accomplishments I’ve had the pleasure of covering the last 12 months — and there are plenty, which I will get to later.
The best part has been the people I’ve gotten to meet and work with along the way.
And they begin with the athletes I get to write about and shoot photos of on a daily basis, even if it means hearing them nag for me to take their picture or to put them on the front page.
My response to the latter is always the same — we’re trying to sell newspapers.
It’s the friendly, teasing banter back and forth with them that has made the last year the most fun.
One running joke started during basketball season, when on a road game one of the students from the opposing school made a joke about my pink shirt. From then on, whenever I wore the shirt or either my pink or purple tie, some of the Jay County basketball players and I shared a laugh.
Another is a series of shots taken back and forth between myself and a mother and her daughter. Whether we run into each other at the grocery store or they spot me walking down the street to the office, our encounter does not go without at least one snide remark from each party.
There is a group of guys across the state line that gave me the moniker “Megatron,” which is definitely one of the strangest nicknames I’ve been called in my life.
Unfortunately, I do not feel I am worthy of the handle I’ve garnered in Ohio, as it belongs to Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Aside from the personalities of the athletes away from their sports, the achievements in the spirit of competition have been a pleasure to cover also.
What sticks out the most is the record breaking season the Jay County softball team had, rattling off 16-straight wins en route to a 23-2 record — a mark which may not be matched for quite some time.
Then there’s the girls soccer team winning the first sectional title in program history and the gymnastics squad earning a state berth for the first time. Both were surprising feats, as the soccer team had to overcome a pesky Yorktown squad and the gymnasts were in the sectional and regional meets against the defending state champion.
South Adams saw its boys cross country team reach the state finals for the first time in program history also.
Some of the feats this year, though, were more or less a commonplace for local teams.
Jay County’s girls cross country team won its eighth straight sectional crown, and the girls track team won sectional for the fifth year in a row.
The Patriot boys basketball team overcame key injuries and a tough road schedule down the stretch to finish above .500 for the 13th straight season.
There were also a number of individual accomplishments to highlight the 2013-14 sports year.
Eric Hemmelgarn of Jay County became the first three-time state medalist in school history, and boys hoops coach Craig Teagle won his 300th career game.
J.D. Mangas amassed 1,865 rushing yards to finish with a career total of 3,066, which is more than any other player in recent memory.
At Fort Recovery, Mitch Stammen set the new single-season mark for stolen bases, a record that stood for more than six decades. On the hardwood, Elijah Kahlig climbed from 19th to third on the school’s all-time scoring list.
In the fall, Sydney Willis of South Adams became the first golfer in Starfire history to reach the state meet. Although she wasn’t able to earn a medal, she’ll have two more chances to showcase her talents on the links at the state’s highest level.
A number of great people and moments made my first year in Jay County and at The CR an unforgettable one. I can only hope the subsequent years are just as memorable.