Wildcats take State Journalism

Millard West wins third place at NSAA competition


Photo by Mark Hilburn

Millard West journalism staff poses for a photo with their medals at NSAA State Journalism. The staff took third place overall. “It was good to have awards in person,” adviser Mark Hilburn said. “I think the students deserve to be recognized in person for their work and not in a video a few days later.”

Morgan Weir, Editor-in-Chief

Millard West Journalism headed to Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Neb. on Tuesday, April 26, to spend the day competing at NSAA State Journalism. After competing on-site, they gathered in the school’s auditorium to receive medals. 

Across 25 Class A categories, which each had eight contenders (either individuals or teams), they received a total of 21 preliminary placements for work done this year. During the awards ceremony, they found out where they ranked in their category. Millard West came out in third place overall and walked away with 28 medals. 

Junior Anna Burton earned a gold medal in Yearbook Feature Writing, making her a two-time State Champion after her first place win last year in Sports Action Photography. Senior Samantha Vojslavek won a silver medal in Yearbook Feature Writing and senior Brenna Batchelder won silver in Editorial Writing. Senior Kaitlin Reynolds won third place in Info-Graphic, and senior Morgan Weir and Batchelder placed third as a team in Broadcast PSA. There were four fourth-place wins in Broadcast PSA, Broadcast Feature Story, Sports/Action Photography and Sports News Writing and two third-place wins in Broadcast PSA and Info-Graphic. Senior Evan Vaslow placed fifth in Sports News Writing, and senior Miguel Paredes Reyes placed fifth in Advertising. There were six sixth-place wins across Illustration, In-Depth Newspaper Coverage, Sports News Writing, Editorial Cartooning, Newspaper Column Writing, Broadcast PSA and Advertising. The staff earned two eighth-place wins in broadcasting categories and one seventh-place win in News/Feature Photography. 

“I was very disappointed at first because I didn’t qualify for photography, which is usually the main thing I enjoy,” Burton said. “I don’t enjoy writing as much, but I’m excited I qualified for something because I’ve never been [to State] before. I didn’t feel overly confident when I was actually competing, so I was surprised to be State Champion again. It feels good.”

At the start of the awards ceremony, Reynolds, the 2022 Nebraska Student Journalist of the Year, was honored with a trophy and a check. She was recognized for her work as Editor-in-Chief of the Prowler Yearbook, News Director of the Catalyst Newspaper and an anchor for the MWHS Wildcat News. 

“It was really nice to be honored because I spent the last three years dedicating the majority of my free time to journalism at Millard West,” Reynolds said. “To be recognized at the state level was confirmation that the work I did meant something and the hours I put in in the journalism room were worth it and helped me to succeed.

After Reynolds was honored, competitors found out where they placed and received medals. While some of the categories were judged based on the preliminary entries alone, others required students to compete on-site earlier that day in Norfolk. With an hour and 15 minute time limit, competitors received a sheet of information and, for some categories, quotes to base their work on. Batchelder, who won six medals, competed in Editorial Writing, where she argued against a fictitious phone policy in a high school.

“It was validating,” Batchelder said. “We put so much work into all our publications, and it was nice to be recognized for my work and see all my peers be recognized for their work. The thought of competing on-site was daunting — to be with a group of journalists from all around Nebraska. Overall, I felt strongly about the work I did, and I felt it represented my collective experience in journalism with just overall storytelling. Even though this was just a prompt for a competition, I’m still proud of it, and I’m glad the judges got to see my work.”

This was the first typical State Journalism experience for this year’s seniors. While a competition was held last year, only those who qualified in categories that required them to compete on-site were allowed to attend due to COVID-19, and the awards ceremony was held virtually. Their third-place finish was a welcome return to normalcy for the staff.

“I’m proud of how we did,” adviser Mark Hilburn said. “I feel like going into it you never know what to expect. You don’t know your competition and you don’t know the prompts. Class A is really competitive in journalism, and to break the top three is great.”

The competition was a chance for the staff to be recognized together, in person for the work they’ve done this year. As they return to finish out the year, the MWHS Wildcat News will be putting out their final few broadcasts of the year while the Catalyst will be publishing their final newspaper issue this month.