Colorado Community Media

Colorado Community Media controls the hometown newspapers around Douglas County. My personal paper is the Highlands Ranch Herald, which I started writing for in October of 2015.

I got my start for the Herald after I incidentally took the front-page photo they ran during Pink Week at my school.

This photo that ran in the Herald was originally posted on Vista Now as part of a story regarding the pink week softball game. The story may be found here or in the “Writing > Web” section of this portfolio. Also notable, this photo lacks a proper byline because it was originally misprinted. A correction was ran in the next issue to fix the attribution and the caption.

My First Full Story

Soon after publishing one softball-related photo in the Herald, I covered Valor Christian High School’s win at the 4A Softball State Championship for them. This marked my true beginning as an intern for the paper.

The full story on Valor’s team on the Herald’s website can be found by clicking either on the photo or here. The text of the main story is also featured below.

Dirt, eye black and bruises usually aren’t in style for homecoming season, but for the 13 girls on Valor Christian High School’s varsity softball team, there wasn’t much of a choice.

In between two days of tenacious softball play that ended with a second 4A championship trophy, the girls took time to clean up and head to the homecoming dance at their school in Highlands Ranch.

“Getting to celebrate at homecoming after winning the first two games was a great way to reconnect with my team,” said Alexandra Kinder, the team’s third baseman and only senior. “I think we all knew from the beginning we would come out strong.”

That belief in — and connection to — each other fueled their bond, the girls say, helping make the consecutive title a reality.

“We see each other every day — when we do devotions, when we eat lunch and even when we do things like going to football games,” said Kinder, the team captain. “We really are a family, and whether we’re winning or losing, we’re always there for each other.”

Coach Dave Atencio agreed, but noted talent played a large role, too.

“I think the team’s biggest strength this year was a combination of the team’s chemistry and our offensive line up,” Atencio said. “We knew we had a powerful (team). There wasn’t just any individual person that could hit the ball — we had one through nine.”

And no single player was placed above another.

“Coach Atencio has impacted us all so much,” Kinder said. “He’s showed all of us the importance of work ethic and what it takes to win. We all work hard and we’re all equal on the field.”

Junior Lauren Foster echoed Kinder and added that faith also plays a significant unifying role.

“We all share a special connection because of how we put God first in our lives and represent Christ,” Foster said about her team.

For Kinder, who has played on the varsity team since freshman year, last weekend’s victory was the perfect way to wrap up her high school softball career — one that included personal physical challenges as well.

She’s played through various sports-related injuries over the years. Six months ago, she was diagnosed with Raynaud’s Disease, which causes areas of the body, including fingers and toes, to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress due to limited blood circulation.

“I didn’t really worry because it isn’t curable, but it can’t kill you,” Kinder said. “I’m now seeing that it is an everyday struggle.”

While Kinder’s friends wear sandals and dresses, she’s forced to wear jeans and boots to stay warm. And although it hasn’t affected her play on the field much, there are moments when the disease interferes.

“There’s times when I don’t know when to release a ball if I’m throwing to first,” Kinder said. “I can’t feel my hands and I’ll end up chucking the ball over the first baseman’s head or drilling it into the ground.”

But all worked out well for Kinder and the team, now celebrating a year to be remembered.

“Having all of the support we received from friends and family was amazing all season long,” Kinder said. “The mean 13 decided to make history this year once again.”

Gaining Recognition

The first piece I realized a lot of people I was surrounded by actually cared about was a sports report on the Vista Nation cross country team.

Because I’m used to writing features for the Herald, I originally sent the story in as one. After quick editing, it turned out to be more of a news story that praised the team for their 12th place finish throughout the entire nation.

Since I wasn’t able to fly to Portland with the team, I wasn’t able to get any action shots of the race. The only photos we had at the time came from the coach, Jonathan Dalby.

The full text to the story on the Highlands Ranch Herald’s website can be found by clicking on the photo above or here. It’s also typed out below.

Mountain Vista High School’s boys cross-country team took 12th place among 22 schools at the Nike Cross Nationals last weekend in Portland, Oregon.

Senior Paxton Smith, with a time of 16:01:3, placed first among his teammates and 71 overall of the 195 runners at the 5,000-meter course at Glendoveer Golf Course.

“If I could do everything again, I would’ve gone out faster due to the amount of people,” said Smith, who was the 2015 Continental League champion and ran fifth in the Class 5A Colorado state championships“I feel like that would’ve helped my place. Our 12-place finish, though, is incredible. I couldn’t be more happy about that and I love my teammates. It’s great to see six months of hard work pay off.”

Mountain Vista’s boys cross-country team, which has won four straight Colorado Class 5A cross-country championships, competed in the Nike Southwestern Cross-County Championships on Nov. 21 in Casa Grande, Arizona.

Since it was not a Colorado High School Activities Association-sanctioned meet, the team ran under the tag of Vista Nation XC Club and became the only Colorado team to ever win the meet. The victory won the runners a berth at the Nike Cross Nationals.

“We had a pretty good day overall, considering we didn’t even have a top 20 national ranking during the season,” said Vista Nation coach Jonathan Dalby, referring to the national championship in Portland. “There were 18 state team champions and 59 individual state champions from across the country in this one race.”

Joining Smith at the national tourney were seniors Alex Fu and Ryan Currie, juniors Weston Hart, Shayan Zarrin and Joshua Romine and sophomore Parker Mackay.

The 12-place team finish put the season to rest on a high note, but also left room for improvement.

“We can learn from this year,” said Romine, who finished 93 individually, “and hopefully go back next year and improve.”

Mackay, who placed 97th, agreed.

“Now that we have seen the competition in nationals and understand it more, we want to go in next year with a chance to win,” Mackay said.

Smith, his teammates and coach Dalby credited hard work, determination and a supportive team chemistry as reasons for the successful season.

The team strategy was simple, said Smith: “Just go out and compete.”

The juniors and sophomores on the team are already looking forward to a strong season next year.

“Winning leagues in all the divisions is always an important goal for the whole team,” Romine said. “But we also want to win state again, get another W at Cross regionals. And I know everyone wants to go back to Portland for nationals again to see what we can do …”