Andrew KreugerFrom the Sidelines
And so, after 943 issues, a long experiment in journalism is drawing to a close.
Saturday marks my last shift at the Juneau Empire sports desk, nearly three years to the day after I delved into a world of Crimson Bears, Klondikes, Kluanes, Gold Medals and all manner of other now-familiar names.
At the time, it was an improbable turn in my brief reporting career. I arrived at the Empire as an education reported in September 2001. When I filled the sports vacancy in late April 2002, I could count the number of sports stories I had written on one hand.
One of my initial motivations to jump beats was not to cover sports, but rather to hone my skills at editing and designing pages. And designing the sports section has been a major part of what I've done for the past 943 issues - including the one you're reading today. I've enjoyed creating pages after high school teams win state titles, or thinking up a perfect headline; "The Bear-lin Wall" soccer story still makes me smile.
But as time went on, another of my motivations for joining the sports desk took precedence - the desire to learn, to tackle new challenges as I reported on events and athletes.
Sport by sport, I educated myself about the activity at hand, then did my best to present it to you, the readers. In addition to the basic stats, I tried to bring you stories beyond the scores - history articles, athlete profiles, and so on. I hope I've left the Empire sports section in better shape than when I arrived.
In any case, I've accumulated a lot of knowledge over the last three years. For example, I've honed my skills at keeping game and meet scores. I've gained experience at sports photography. I've learned the Crimson Bear fight song. I've learned how to get a decent nap in a Saturn sedan while covering the all-night Klondike relay run.
Some of those bits of wisdom may prove more useful than others down the road.
As I enter my final two days at the Juneau Empire, I find it fitting that my time here mirrors the time required to get a college degree. I arrived here in the fall, did the equivalent of switching majors after my first "school year," and learned new things every day since.
Now, as I wrap up my "senior year," I'm looking forward to traveling and exploring Southeast and the state in the short term, and then tackling a new, to-be-determined challenge in journalism.
The Empire sports desk now belongs to Tim Nichols, whose stories you've been reading the past two weeks. I encourage those in the local sports community to contact him in the coming weeks so that event coverage can continue.
In closing, I offer my thanks:
Thanks to the athletes, coaches and their families who have been generous with their time and allowed me to share their stories with the community.
Thanks to event organizers for putting on some of the most memorable, enjoyable games, meets and races I've ever encountered.
Thanks to the Juneau girls basketball team for providing a state title for me to cover in my final weeks.
Thanks to Brian Wallace and Michael Penn for providing amazing sports photos to accompany (and usually outshine) the stories I've written.
Thanks to the Empire newsroom for making long hours at 3100 Channel Drive seem not so long.
Thanks to the Empire press crew for putting up with the ever-present, occasionally unsuccessful battle to make deadlines.
Thanks to fellow sports reporters and photographers across the state for their willingness to share stories, stats and photos.
Thanks to Charles Bingham for his encyclopedic knowledge of all things athletic in Alaska.
And thanks to you, the readers, for opening the sports section each day to read and view my stories and pages, for providing feedback and news tips, and for allowing me the chance to work at a job I love. Covering sports at the Empire the last three years has been an honor, a challenge, a learning experience and, most of all, a whole lot of fun.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.