HAYS — For the second year in a row, journalism students from Western Plains High School traveled to Fort Hays State University to compete in the Kansas Scholastic Press Association Regional Journalism Contest.
This year, the competition took place Feb. 23.
Of the nine Bobcat journalists who entered the competition, seven came away as qualifiers for the KSPA State Journalism Contest, which will be held May 5 in Lawrence.
Those seven students will be competing in 12 total events.
At WPHS, there are 16 students in the journalism program, so almost half of the students are going to state.
Students placing in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Honorable Mention all qualified for the state contest. For WPHS, those students include the following in the following categories:
• Sophomore Maci Hagelgantz, Honorable Mention
• Senior Kate Hagans, 1st place
• Sophomore Andrew Flax, 2nd place
• Hagans, Honorable Mention
• Senior Ashley Stull, Honorable Mention
• Stull, 2nd place
• Junior Katie Showalter, 2nd Place
• Hagans, 3rd place
• Stull, Honorable Mention
Student Life Photography
• Junior Casey Kraus, 1st place
Newspaper Sports Writing
• Junior Katie Bretton, Honorable Mention
• Flax, 2nd place
Journalism adviser Todd Vogts said he was thrilled with how the contest turned out.
“I was hoping to have at least a couple of the students qualify for state again this year, but I am blown away with seven students qualifying for 12 events,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
For Hagans and Stull, this is their second year heading to Lawrence to compete, but for Kraus and Hagelgantz, this will be their first trip.
“It’s awesome,” Hagelgantz said. “I’m so pumped. I’m really looking forward to competing.”
“It’s a great honor,” he said. “I can’t believe I actually did it. I never would have imagined my photo would have won, but I’m grateful it did.”
Hagans said she was happy to be going to state for a second year in a row.
“It’s pretty snazzy,” she said. “We must be doing something right. I wish we could have had this program before so I could have had it all four years of high school. I think it is an attraction. It’s a cool thing. Not every school has a newspaper.”
“For me personally, it is the best feeling in the world,” she said. “Not only do I get to return to the beautiful campus of KU, but I also get to do my school proud by hopefully returning with first place again.”
Vogts said the victories are made more impressive because the students competed against both 1A schools and 2A schools in each event.
“The students really showed that they are for real,” he said. “They proved last year wasn’t just a fluke. They are dedicated to journalism, which is obvious by how well they placed.”
This is only the second year WPHS has offered a journalism program, but several Bobcats went to state last year too. In fact, five WPHS students qualified in 10 events in 2011.
“Compared to last year, which was great, we did event better this year,” Vogts said. “It is a testament to the program developing and maturing. More students are getting involved and excelling, and the community support continues to be a vital component of our success. Also, I think it is pretty incredible that in the first two years of the program the students have done so well. Great things are happening at Western Plains.”
There is one conflict, though.
Flax and Kraus have also qualified for State Championship Forensics, which is also held on May 5 but in Salina.
“For Casey, this isn’t a problem,” Vogts said. “His contest is a carry-in, which means he does it ahead of time. However, Andrew’s contests are on-site, which means he has to be there to compete. I have talked with him about this. Ultimately, the decision is up to him. Since I am the journalism adviser and the forensics coach, I am happy with whatever decision he makes.”
Vogts said WPHS English teacher Mike Jenner has agreed to take the forensics students to their state competition.
As Vogts said, there were two types of contests the students took part in. There were nine contests done on-site at the event, and there were 10 contests done at WPHS ahead of time.
Besides the state-qualifying students competing in these events, others included junior Renee Horton and sophomore Lauren Sargent.
This first victory for the year may not be the last one, though, Vogts said.
“We are also entering two other contests,” he said. “One is the 2012 Kansas Scholastic Press Association All-Kansas Write-Off Contest where we sent in articles and photos we published in the student newspaper, the Cat Tracks, to be judged. This is a state-level competition with the chance to compete at a national level if we win. Those results aren’t in yet. Also, we will be entering the All-Kansas News Publication Contest, in which we sent in three issues of the Cat Tracks to be critiqued and judged.”
Last year Vogts had a few students place in the Write-Off Contest, and WPHS took first place in the All-Kansas News Publication Contest.
Besides having those shoes to fill, this year’s state-qualifying students also will be trying to repeat as the KSPA State 1A Sweeps Champions. In order to do so, they will all need to place well at state, which earns points. If they once again earn the most total points in comparison to the other 1A schools, WPHS will be crowned the winners for a second year in a row.
“With so many students going to be competing at state, I’m confident we will do well,” Vogts said. “Either way, though, I am beyond proud to simply get to go to state for a second year.”
Hagans said she isn’t just confident of doing well. She expects victory.
“We have a good chance of placing,” she said. “We placed last year. We did better at Regional this year than we did last year. We are going to win.”
Being 1A Sweeps Champions means WPHS gets a trophy. Vogts said they finally got that trophy Feb. 23 at the Regional Contest.
“It was really cool to finally get that,” Vogts said. “It looks awesome, and the students were so excited. It makes me feel good to see them succeed.”
The trophy is currently on display in the WPHS trophy case along side a copy of Senate Resolution 1807, which was introduced on the floor of the Kansas Senate by Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, of Gove County, on Jan. 27 in honor of the successes of the WPHS journalism program.
“The journalism program at Western Plains, though still relatively new, is starting to turn heads,” Vogts said. “I am so proud of the students. They are all incredible. They work so hard every day, and all that hard work is truly paying off. Since we are a very small school, it is awesome to see the students experience success like this. I’m just honored to be associated with them.”