Column: Line Drives — Record career almost didn’t happen

[This is my column in the Nov. 3 issue of The Commercial Review.]

He wasn’t going to play football as a freshman.

A three-sport athlete, he much prefers a baseball diamond to the gridiron.

More than four years later, Cole Stigleman is thankful he chose to play football.

“I’m so glad I didn’t (step away),” said Stigleman, a Jay County High School senior. “Football is an awesome sport.”

But after leaving West Jay Middle School after eighth grade, he thought about calling it quits.

“It is just crazy that I thought of even stopping playing,” he said.

This isn’t just about him making a life-changing decision to play. This is about how he became the most prolific runner in school history.

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Column: Line Drives — Four years hold special memories

[This is my column in the June 30 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Four years.

Saturday marks four years as sports editor of The Commercial Review.

I didn’t expect to be here this long.

No, that’s not to say I don’t want to still be here — I do — nor am I on my way out the door.

If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to stay for a while longer.

I just never thought I’d hit four years.

I thought I’d put in a year or two and move on. It’s the epitome of small-town, community journalism — get a foot in the door, gain experience, go elsewhere.

But I don’t want to.

And I’m glad I haven’t.

It’d be hard for me to imagine not being around to see the culmination of the high school athletic careers of four local athletes.

Four years ago I came to Portland not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Four years later, the class of 2017 is the first group of student-athletes I’ve gotten to cover all the way through high school.

There are four in particular whose careers have stuck out the most.

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Column: Line Drives — Wrestling ability got taken down

[This is my column in the Feb. 24 issue of The Commercial Review.]

One of the first ways we learn as infants is by watching our parents.

The same can be true with learning to play sports. We watch others throw a football, swing a bat or shoot a basketball.

Our eyes are the first way we learn new tasks or new skills; by seeing someone else do it.

Many times, the thought “Hey, I can do that!” springs up in our minds, leading us to try something new.

Even as we age, that thought still pops up now and again.

It’s how I recently took up running.

It’s also what took me to the wrestling room at Jay County High School on Wednesday afternoon.

Saturday completed my fourth season covering high school wrestling, and after watching hundreds of matches during that time, the thought “Hey, I can do that!” popped into my head.

Well, I can’t.

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Column: Line Drives — Being in right spot is half the battle

[This is my column in the Dec. 29 issue of The Commercial Review.]

“Awesome picture.”

“Great photo.”

“Perfect shot.”

Those are just a few of the comments I’ve gotten in the last couple years on photos I’ve taken.

But I’ll admit: Getting those pictures has more to do with Lady Luck than it does my abilities as a photographer.

Half the battle behind a good sports photo is being in the right place at the right time.

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Column: Line Drives — Question from a fan was a surprise

[This is my column in the Nov. 19 issue of The Commercial Review.]

It was a question that caught me off guard.

Saturday in Monroeville, the Jay County High School girls basketball team had just finished beating the host Heritage Patriots.

It was the second win in as many games — also the second game I covered this winter sports season — and the eighth consecutive regular season Allen County Athletic Conference victory for Jay County.

Usually I’m the one asking the questions following a game. Sometimes, I even catch the athletes off guard with one of my inquiries.

The table was turned Saturday.

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Column: Line Drives — Jay not a team for others to overlook

[This is my column in the Oct. 23 issue of The Commercial Review.]

This was supposed to be the year.

It was going to be the season the Jay County High School volleyball team finally broke through and won the program’s first sectional in more than a decade.

All the pieces were in place.

It returned its top five players from last year in seniors Abby Wendel, Kylie Osborne and Ava Kunkler, and juniors Lizzy Schoenlein and Abby Barcus.

A fourth senior, Emilie Walter, and a host of other players — juniors Britlyn Dues, Alli Campbell, Katie Lyons, as well as sophomores Chloe Trissel and Kaelyn Weaver — were hoping to build off the most wins (24) in the two decades Fred Medler has coached the Patriots.

After a devasting loss to Homestead in the sectional semifinal last season, Jay County had its sights set on returning to the sectional championship match for the second time in three years.

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Column: Line Drives — Talking after defeat is difficult

[This is my column in the Oct. 15 issue of The Commercial Review.]

“This is the hard one.”

That’s what I said to Jay County High School girls soccer coach Giles Laux moments after his Patriot squad lost to Yorktown in the sectional championship Saturday afternoon.

He had no words.

Hours later, again at Yorktown Sports Park, I stood between seniors Nathan Heitkamp and Colton Compton to speak with them about their heartbreaking defeat in penalty kicks to the Tigers in their sectional final.

“What’s going through your head right now?” I asked.

They had no words.

All three of them had to fight back emotion. Laux, whose team had won back-to-back sectional championships — Abby Champ coached it to the 2013 title — was able to hide behind his sunglasses. The others were not.

They just looked away.

Laux and I had to continue the interview a few minutes later.

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