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A Catbacker comes to Iowa to be teller of sports stories

Published: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 10:56 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 10:58 a.m. CDT

"The time has come," the Walrus said,

"To talk of many things:Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--Of cabbages--and kings--And why the sea is boiling hot--And whether pigs have wings." 

— Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll.

Just as the Walrus says, it is time to talk of many things.

After just under a month on the job here at the Newton Daily News, I’m settling in. Even though I’ve been a journalist for 34 years, there’s always something to learn. Moving here from my home state of Kansas, there’s lots to learn about Newton, the surrounding communities and Iowa.

I was welcomed by a full schedule of high school baseball and softball games. You guys don’t let a girl catch her breath. That’s alright. My parents brought their children up to work hard and do the job the best they can right to the end. So, this Kansas farm girl is shy about rolling up her sleeves and getting right to work.

That’s right Kansas. Let’s get this out of the way right now — I’m a huge Kansas State fan. Both my parents graduated from K-State. I graduated from K-State. One of my brothers and my sister graduated from K-State.

I bleed purple. I’m proud of my K-State heritage. My parents — Juanita and Dean Sheets — met in Manhattan as students at K-State. Though my mom left us in 1999, she was a big K-State supporter and stressed to her children the importance of education plus activities. My dad, who turned 86 in April, was a varsity wrestler for KSU in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

My mom had kept a scrapbook of my dad’s wrestling write-ups throughout his years at K-State. There were “funny” photos of Dad from those years. We kids loved to look at the book and laugh. Then about 25 years ago, Dad wrestled in an old-timers tournament then in the Kansas Sunflower State Games. I looked at that scrapbook again and realized he was pretty good in college.

So, you guessed, I grew up as a wrestling mat rat. Wrestling was a part of our busy athletic life as a family, from the early years of Kansas Kids Wrestling with three brothers wrestling, Dad coaching and Mom organizing my hometown wrestling club. Dad was a high school wrestling official for 25 years. He still coaches kids wrestling. He finally retired from wrestling competition when he was 82, earning the gold medal at the Sunflower State Games for the 50-and-over division.

I love wrestling as a sport. I’ve watched three brothers and two nephews wrestle from youth tournaments to high school state. I watched a new program spring up and take deep roots in Iola, Kan., in the past 10 years. Wrestling is part of me.

FOOTBALL — it’s my game. I was a K-State football fan before it was cool to be one. I spent four years in the KSU marching band.

We’d play “touch” football in our front yard with the kids down the road or at a 4-H junior leaders meeting. They called me “killer” and wouldn’t allow my older brother and I to be on the same side. I love the game of football. I understand it. Now, I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of this offense or that defense but I love watching the game played. I would have played football if I could have in high school.

The first push toward my career as a sports journalist came from my older brother, Monte. I was a freshman and he was a junior at Linwood High School. He went in for a football preseason interview for the Kansas City Kansan and the assistant sports editor asked him if he knew of any student who’d be a sports correspondent? “My sister goes to all the games, she will.” That’s where it began.

I’m a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan. Used to walk the sidelines of Arrowhead Stadium, taking photos. I even was run over by Chiefs’ running back Barry Word once. Didn’t make the jumbotron though. I was there in a torrential downpour when the Chiefs played Seattle on a Monday night.

I love the Chiefs, win or lose. Training camps are open and the NFL Hall of Fame game is this weekend.

IT’S BEEN A BIT rough for me since coming to Iowa because I can’t find a radio station with my Kansas City Royals’ games. Again, a die-hard Royals fan, no matter what. Right, now they’re on a roll. My best Kansas City Royals’ memory — Game 7 of the 1985 World Series in Kansas City, I was there covering it. What a night to be in KC.

I grew up listening to first the Kansas City A’s then the Royals on radio. Baseball is not my favorite sport but I love to listen to the Royals’ games on the radio.

AS A SPORTS JOURNALIST, I’ve worked on a weekly and a small daily newspaper. I grew up in a small, small Kansas town. I’ve learned throughout the years that the people — young and older — who participate in sports have great stories to tell. I’m a teller of those stories.

I want children to pull out their parents’ scrapbooks and laugh at the funny photos then realize the accomplishments mom or dad had throughout their youth. I want grown children to admire their parents as the continue to be active in a sport. I want young children to read stories about high school student/athletes who are not just good on the field of competition but in the classroom also.

So, I’ve given you a little of my story. How I came to be who I am today, ever learning and growing as a person and as a journalist. I’ve been able to tell some of the stories of my new communities’ athletes so far. I look forward to telling many more. Please feel free to contact me with a story I might not find along my routine path.

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