28 Sterling journalism entries qualify for state contest

On Feb. 19, student journalist from Sterling High School traveled to the campus of Wichita State University to take part in the Kansas Scholastic Press Association Regional Journalism Contest.

Of the 32 entries into the contest, 28 placed, which means they qualified for the KSPA State Journalism Contest. It will take place May 2 in Lawrence on the campus of the University of Kansas.

All nine students on the Sterling Student Publications staff — including both the Cub yearbook and the Cub Reporter newspaper — qualified for the state competition in at least one event by placing in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Honorable Mention.

Sterling students competed against other 1A/2A schools. Each student could enter up to five competitive categories, but each school could only enter twice in each category.

They competed in 19 different categories that fit into one of two types of contests: Digital Submission, in which the students, using prompts, either take a photo or create a design at school and upload the completed entry via the contest’s online portal for judging; and, On-Site, in which the students, using prompts, complete writing, editing or cartooning entries at the contest site on the day of the competition.

For Sterling, those students include the following in the following categories:

On-Site Categories

Sports Writing:

  • 2nd, Riley Richter
  • Honorable Mention, Kayley Clark

Yearbook Copy Writing:

  • Honorable Mention, Thomassyna Prebble

Feature Writing:

  • 1st, Megan Roelfs

News Writing:

  • 1st, Megan Roelfs
  • 3rd, Riley Richter

Cutline Writing:

  • Honorable Mention, Maddie Ayala

Editorial Writing:

  • Honorable Mention, Ashlyn Spangenberg

Yearbook Sports Writing:

  • 3rd, Thomassyna Prebble
  • Honorable Mention, Kayley Clark

Digital Submission Categories

Academics Photography:

  • Honorable Mention, Courtney Ball


  • Honorable Mention, Ashlyn Spangenberg
  • Honorable Mention, Thomassyna Prebble

Headline Writing and Design:

  • Honorable Mention, Riley Richter
  • Honorable Mention, Madison Lackey


  • 3rd, Abby Riffel
  • Honorable Mention, Madison Lackey

News Page Design:

  • Honorable Mention, Madison Lackey
  • Honorable Mention, Kayley Clark

Photo Illustration:

  • 3rd, Ashlyn Spangenberg
  • Honorable Mention, Riley Richter

Sports Photography:

  • Honorable Mention, Megan Roelfs
  • Honorable Mention, Kayley Clark

Student Life Photography:

  • 1st, Thomassyna Prebble

Yearbook Layout:

  • 2nd, Abby Riffel
  • 3rd, Courtney Ball

Yearbook Theme and Graphics:

  • Honorable Mention, Abby Riffel & Kayley Clark
  • Honorable Mention, Courtney Ball

“This is a huge accomplishment to have so many entries qualify,” journalism adviser Todd Vogts said. “In the regional grouping Sterling was in, only one school had more qualify, and that was school was Chase County with 33 qualifying entries. We only had three first-place finishers, while Chase County had nine. However, the placings aren’t weighted at Regionals like they are at State, so our 18 Honorable Mentions are just as good as a first place, punching our ticket for the big contest.”

There were more than 100 entries that qualified for state in this regional. 

For the second year in a row, the regional groupings were handled differently this year than they have been in the past. Previously, schools were assigned a regional location to compete in. However, a change allowed schools to pick locations closer to home to compete at. The aim was to help increase participation by eliminating long-distance travel that could see schools driving past another regional location to get to their assigned location.

The change also meant the KSPA staff created more fair regionals with a more even number of schools in each. KSPA made the regional groupings after schools had signed up. This meant that for every seven schools in a given classification category that signed up, those seven were turned into a regional grouping.

“This way of doing things is nice,” Vogts said. “It allows us to go down to Wichita instead of all the way out to Hays, which is where we normally got placed in the old method. And it doesn’t impact the level of competition we face. If anything, it helps it because KSPA takes all schools and divides them up more equally for each regional division.”

Participating in such contests is important for students because it helps them improve their abilities.

“We consider the Regional Contests to be one of our most important annual events both for students to receive feedback on their work and also for students to compete with one another,” said Eric Thomas, KSPA executive director, in a press release. “Teachers who organize and enter their students into the contest give their students a great opportunity to see how their work compares to the work of others.”

KSPA enlists the help of journalism teachers, professional journalists, university faculty members and other journalism experts to judge the entries.

Every student begins preparations for KSPA contest hoping to win, but ensuring quality entries can be daunting, especially faced with all the other activities the Sterling journalism students are involved in.

“The tricky piece to our competition puzzle is time,” Vogts said. “All of my journalism students are heavily involved in activities offered by the high school, and we had yearbook and newspaper deadlines to tend with. The students were strapped for time. However, they all managed the multiple responsibilities well.”

Going into the coming months, the pressure will be on again as various activities divide students’ time during the spring.

“That same level of time management will be required in the run-up to the state contest,” Vogts said. “I know they can do it, and I’m excited to see how we place on this larger stage.”

In the coming weeks, the students will be receiving information about the State Contest prompts in the categories they qualified in and will be able to get started on their new round of entries.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “I can’t wait to roll into Lawrence and see the students compete against other top student journalists in the state. It’s going to be tough, but I know the students of Sterling High School can hang with anyone.”

In February, Vogts’ position as journalism adviser was eliminated for next year due to budget constraints, so having such success at Regionals this year carries extra weight.

“I’m sad that I’m no longer going to be able to work with these students after this year is over, especially since so many of them are underclassmen,” he said. “However, I try to take solace in the fact that the students aren’t quitting. They are still striving to do their best, despite the fact that no one really seems to know what next year will hold for the journalism program at Sterling. I’m just hoping to end on a good note. Having this many entries in the State Contest is a good start to ending with a powerful statement about the success and importance of the program.”

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About toddvogts 837 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Journalism Education Association (JEA), and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), among others. He earned his Master Journalism Educator (MJE) certification from JEA in 2022. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at twitter.com/toddvogts or via his website at www.toddvogts.com.