Time is as rapid-fire as it is relative.
Life is in a constant state of flux, and it’s always evolving. The constants tend to be taken for granted but nothing lasts forever.
It seems like yesterday that Lake County Leader General Manager Laurie Ramos and the Daily Interlake were strange voices on the other end of the line offering a job as the sports editor for the Lake County Leader.
Not knowing anything about the geographic landscape of Montana or even where Polson was on the map, a risk was taken to try to spark a career in journalism that I initially thought I no longer had a passion for. I was recovering from a bout of pancreatitis that the doctors say nearly killed me in 2016. I was in the hospital for a week, if that puts my illness into perspective before I was able to make a recovery.
My aspiration has always been to cover the NFL for one of the major metropolitan papers or a major web-based publication since I elected to study journalism in college.
I’ve gotten my fair share of “cups off coffee” in the big leagues covering three Major League All-Star Weekends (in Pittsburgh, San Fransisco, and St. Louis), a week of Minnesota Vikings’ training camp, the WNBA Finals, the MLB Wildcard series between the Diamondbacks and Cubs, the Arizona Fall League, and the list goes on. I also covered the Phoenix Suns, the Arizona State University Sun Devils, the Phoenix Mercury and NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes by 2007, seven years after getting into this ever-evolving racket.
When coming to Lake County, I got to cover a healthy high school scene and was amazed at how passionate the state of Montana was about their high school sports preps scene.
Now, that too is coming to an end and after starting the third go-round of the Lake County Sports scene, I’ve accepted a job to be the sports editor at The Livingston Enterprise.
The memories made here with the people in the sports community in Lake County and Sanders seems more like a life than just a couple of years.
From getting my first official stat in the high school record books by getting flagged as a non-participant in a 58-0 Charlo blowout of Arlee to witnessing the Warriors’ historical run at back-to-back MHSA Class C state basketball championships.
Covering the Warriors made it even sweeter when the New York Times did a lengthy feature piece. It was an experience I’ll never forget how I got to see how some of the best journalists in the world chronicled a team and see a completely different perspective and take on MHSA basketball.
I saw the classic battles like the 2016 girls soccer team, who gave a supreme effort to fight off an attempt to beat Billings Central, a team that is used to being on the big stage to a shootout.
Speaking of supreme efforts, watching Charlo’s football team in 2016 is another moment that I will not be forgetting.
As I’ve told Vikings’ Coach Mike Krahn several times, that was the most memorable contest in any sport since I saw the John Wood Community College women’s basketball team defeat the No. 1 ranked Illinois Central College basketball team to upset the Lady Cougs 59-55 after falling to the 75-29 two weeks prior to the Region XXIV Divisionals in 2000.
Yes, that was 18 years ago, time flies…
The thing that is most memorable about Lake County is working with every coach. From covering Matt Detwiler and Mission’s Tyler at the beginning of his career, I got an idea of what Camdenton Coach Bob Shore, who coached five Missouri High School Activities Association state football championships, what he might have been like when he was a young coach. I covered him in 2005 at the Lake Sun Leader, when he captured his fifth and final title as a head coach.
There are numerous other coaches I’ve had the privilege of covering like Polson’s own Bob Hislop, whose tireless and selfless dedication to the kids and the community should not go unrecognized, even though he isn’t the type to seek out recognition.
Polson High School’s softball coach Larry Smith’s track record in softball is only exceeded by one coach I ever covered named Lorene Ramsey, a softball coach at Illinois Central College. She started her career in fast-pitch softball in the 40s, as a pitcher with the Caterpillar Dieselettes.
Other dedicated coaches I’ve gotten to cover at Polson include Bob Owen, whose name is synonomous with wresting in the state of Montana, and his brother golf coach Bill Owen, who has always exhibited a high level of professionalism and enthusiasm for coaching I’ve rarely seen.
Speaking of professionalism as a coach, I also have to mention former Polson coach and principle Scott Wilson, who now will be quite an asset to the Montana High School Activities Association.
Oh… transitioning back to Ronan, athletic director Lucky Larson is another person that, like Hislop, devotes a lot of time to his community and makes countless sacrifices to make Ronan, a town he grew up in, a better place.
Mitchell Wassum, the basketball coach, and assistant football coach at Ronan, is another person that comes to mind that devotes countless energy his student-athletes and kids he teaches.
Steve “Wolly” Woll can’t be left off this column, for his 25-year plus tenure he’s devoted in several different capacities.
Arlee High School basketball coach Zanen Pitts won and he won doing it his way. That is always a tough road to choose. Pitts has chosen to do more than just win, as he and his Warriors’ team continues to spread a message and a movement promoting anti-suicide awareness. They are getting closer to going global every day. Pitts always tries to teach his kids they are bigger than the game.
Jake Bosley, the Mission High School athletic director who is always welcoming, is constantly working on constructing his program. Since 2016, he has made incredible progress with his athletic programs.
I also think about the friendships made, such as photographer and former track coach Bob “Gundy” Gunderson, who continues to showcase his passion for Mission-Valley and Polson through still frame photography and building Polson.
Rob Zolman continues to build his career as a sports writer and a sports photographer after making a career change, and everyone that I had the fortune of working with at the Lake County Leader.
Mike Holien, the infamous Voice Of The Griz, was also there to provide encouragement as I navigated through this difficult career path.
There are a couple of coaches at Charlo High School that I had the privilege of working with including Mike Krahn, who has the intelligence and capacity to be on the NFL sidelines as an assistant coach, same goes for his assistant Jim Peterson, who has a great offensive mind. Vikings basketball coach Reese Cox is another person that is strategical and analytic enough to turn the Charlo basketball program into a powerhouse.
Special thanks to Laurie Ramos, who hired me even after they wanted to hire someone else anyway. It is because of your decision that I have a chance to rebuild a career that I started years ago.