Sterling High School takes 2nd in 2020 2A State Journalism

On May 2 Sterling High School took second place in the 2A classification as they competed in the Kansas Scholastic Press Association State Contest, which rewards the best student journalism from around the state.

Sterling scored 40 points. Chase County Jr.-Sr. High School won the 2A division with 86 points.

“I’m really proud of how we finished,” journalism adviser Todd Vogts said. “According to the records I could find dating back to 2012, this is the second time we’ve taken second at state in the 2A division, and this year we scored the most points we ever have in the state competition. This is a nice cap to the year.”

Since 2015, Sterling has taken second place five times, with the majority being in the 3A division.

Classification placings are based on the combined scores of the students from each school, KSPA names a Sweepstakes Champion for each school enrollment size.

To earn points, students competed against other 1A and 2A schools. A total of 16 schools earned points in this combined division. Participants had to place in the top six in the 23 contest categories to score. First place earned six points. Second place earned five points. Third place earned four points. Fourth place earned three points. Fifth place earned two points. Sixth place earned one point.

The points earned were then separated out between the 1A and 2A schools to determine the divisional winners.

Individually, there were two 1A/2A state champions.

Sophomore Megan Roelfs won the news writing contest, and senior Courtney Ball won in yearbook layout.

Roelfs also took fourth in sports photography and fifth in the state-only contest of online photo gallery.

“I’m so proud of Megan,” Vogts said. “She has shown such incredible passion for journalism. To come away as a state champion in a writing division is incredible, and then to follow that by placing in two other contests is fantastic. I hope she continues to do journalism throughout high school and into her future. She has a special talent for it.”

Roelfs and Ball weren’t the only Sterling students scoring points, though.

Senior Abby Riffel took second in yearbook layout and fifth in infographics. Junior Kayley Clark checked in with a fifth-place finish in yearbook sports writing, as well as taking sixth in sports photography. Sophomore Riley Richter placed third in news writing and sixth in photo illustration. Fellow sophomore Ashlyn Spangenberg earned fourth in advertising and sixth in editorial writing. Rounding out the winners was freshman Madison Lackey, who placed third in headline writing and design.

“Having so many students place at state is a testament to how hard they have worked this year and in their previous years in the program,” Vogts said. “They are passionate about journalism, and it shows with this type of recognition. They deserve all the praise.”

Seeing Riffel place was also a bright spot in the results, according to Vogts.

“Abby is such a strong leader for our program,” he said. “She’s won several awards this year, so to end her time in high school with a couple more victories is wonderful. I’m so happy for her and thankful I had the opportunity to work with her.”

The students placing at state were not the only Sterling journalists who competed in the contest, however, because to earn the chance to compete in the State Contest, students qualified through the Regional Contests in February at Wichita State University in Wichita. This year, every member of Sterling’s journalism program qualified in at least one event.

Other students competing but not placing at the State Contest include junior Thomassyna Prebble and freshman Maddie Ayala.

“Obviously, I would have loved to see everyone place, but I’m still proud of everyone for competing,” Vogts said. “This time of the year is hectic for our journalism staff under normal circumstances. We have several yearbook and newspaper deadlines we are up against, so even getting the entries in by the deadline is usually a big deal. Add all that to the fact that we are all social distancing and staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is a small miracle we were able to compete.”

Categories are divided between on-site and digital submission contests. The on-site offerings generally include the writing and editing contests, while the digital submission offerings concern the photography and design contests. 

This year, though, the contest was administered differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On-site contests were offered online where students could log into the contest system and produce their entries from their homes. For the digital contests, entries placing in the Regional Contest were rolled over and scored by new judges to account for the possible lack of technology students might have faced at home.

Regardless of how they are done, participating in such contests is important for students because it helps them improve their abilities.

“Teaching students the bedrock skills of writing, editing, designing and photography is what our contest is all about,” KSPA executive director Eric Thomas said. “The judges for the contest look for solid grasp of the fundamentals first and then seek entries that go above and beyond with creativity. This year’s winners showcased both creative excellence and solid skills.”

Awards were revealed Saturday via Twitter.

During the announcement of the State Contest awards, Riffel also received recognition for winning the 1A/2A Journalist of the Year designation, and the Cub Reporter staff received recognition for winning the Courage in Journalism Award.

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

A full list of results can be found on the KSPA website’s state results page.

KSPA is a non-profit association of more than 100 high school and middle school journalism programs. Its mission is to promote excellence in high school journalism publications and education. To learn more, visit

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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 or via his website at