It was a first in school history, a “grand adventure.”
After a flat bus tire left Papillion-La Vista High School students worried they wouldn’t make it to the April 25 state championship, they rolled into Norfolk in the nick of time, taking first in the NSAA State Journalism Championships.
It was the school’s first non-athletic championship title since 2001, and the first time PLV has ever snagged itself a state title in journalism.
“We were runners-up last year for the first time and it wasn’t even close then, so to win it all is pretty exciting,” said journalism adviser Joe Rohacik.
To qualify, students submitted previous work from its Scepter magazine, PLpulse.com and the school yearbook. Once at state, 18 categories were judged as on-the-spot prompts.
“You have to use the little bit of information they give you and create a theme through your writing,” said senior Shane Sedlak. “They judge the stories based on your writing and how well you carry them throughout that. They give you an hour so you’ve kind of got to able to work quickly and improvise.”
While most categories were judged at state, a select few — yearbook theme development, sports action photography and in-depth newspaper coverage — were awarded based on the content students submitted to qualify for state.
“One of the biggest events that happened in our area was the Obama visit,” said senior Ally Sargus. “We did an entire section on his visit in that issue of the magazine. A lot of us won state champion for in-depth news writing for that just based off the preliminary entry.”
Sargus described winning the team competition as “surreal.” PLV had a 110-point lead on the second place finisher, Millard West High School.
“I would have never guessed that those were the points,” Sedlak said. “Two of my other friends that I’m really close with in yearbook, we qualified for the same event: yearbook theme copy writing. They started listing off the names of the six people who qualified. Six, five and four, and none of them were us.
“We thought maybe only one of two of us qualified in the event, but they called it and it was all three of us in first, second and third. That moment was just insane, it didn’t even feel real.”
Rohacik said that was the first time in his six or seven years around the competition he had seen three students from the same school take the top three slots in the same category.
“It was the last event, 21st out of 21,” Rohacik said. “That’s when I knew we were going to win the team event, just because the points of those three, I felt would put us over the top. I was wrong — we were already well over the top.”
For Sargus, the experience reassured her in her decision to major in journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the fall. For Sedlak, it was a chance to reflect on his growth through the last three years with the journalism program.
“The first page I did was a half a page about advisement,” he said. “I went from that, the worst possible assignment, to being editor-in-chief this year.
“It’s kind of like seeing every end of the spectrum as far as a team goes, so it was awesome to go from just a staff member to a design editor and to editor-in-chief, to go from being helped to teaching people new things that I was glad people taught me. It was really fun to see that cycle carry out.”
It also served as a last hurrah for Sargus, Sedlak and other members of the senior class, allowing them to go out on a high note.
“I feel like, from a senior’s perspective, that was our legacy. We left that,” Sargus said. “It’s cool, too, because a lot of the staff are underclassmen, so I can’t wait to see what they do in the future.”
For those underclassmen, it served as something new, and something to work toward in future years.
“I’ve always been interested in writing. That’s always been a subject that I’ve done well in,” said junior Gabby Tingstad. “When I got into Scepter it was kind of new, as I hadn’t really been involved in journalistic type writing. But the more you write it just kind of works for you.
“Qualifying for state, I was really surprised. When I went I was very excited but it was a completely new experience that I hadn’t had before.”
PLV students earned 300 points, a 110-point lead on second place.
Individual winners can be found below:
Emmy Dargy, second in column writing.
Camryn Bowers, fifth in editorial cartooning.
Nicole Ludden, first in news writing, fourth in editorial writing.
Jonathan Greenfield, fourth in entertainment writing.
Trevor Jurjevich, fourth in headline writing, fourth in sports news coverage
Alexa Busby, Brena Groeper, Laura Kramer, Nicole Ludden and Ally Sargus, first in in-depth newspaper coverage.
Raina Dodge, second in news writing.
Gabrielle Tinstad, second in sports action photography, third in newspaper feature writing.
Christina Fisher, sixth in newspaper layout.
Shane Sedlak, first in yearbook theme copy writing, second in photo illustration.
Claire Neal, fourth in sports feature writing.
Jacob Zink, first in sports news coverage.
Dylan Nicholson, third in sports news coverage.
Daniel Rich, second in yearbook theme copy writing.
Madison Goetzinger, third in yearbook theme copy writing.
Some students from Papillion-La Vista South High School also placed in championship competitions.
Caitlyn Bland, first in yearbook feature writing.
Lauren Feden, first in newspaper layout.
Emma Yeager-Chael, second in yearbook sports feature writing.
Elisabeth Jackson, third in column writing.