Last week, 10 students from Fremont High School took part in the Nebraska School Activities Association State Journalism Championships.
Fremont High placed ninth out of 29 schools in Class A, while eight students won medals by placing in the top eight in their category at the competition on April 26.
“It’s just always nice for the kids to be rewarded for their hard work, number one,” FHS journalism adviser Jack Denker said. “And number two, it’s just great to see them receive honors and awards to validate their talents and their abilities in the journalism profession or the journalism environment.”
Senior Jessica Holcomb placed first in yearbook layout, making her the state champion. Other medalists include McKenzi Geaghan, Kayla Monaghan, Allison Ramirez, Aubrey Pieper, Liz Cole, Jared Knollenberg and Whitney Walling.
“I really didn’t expect to win in the first place, so even being considered to be in the running for possibly winning I thought was really, really cool,” Holcomb said. “And so when I got first place, I was super excited, and I was really proud of the work that I did on the cover.”
Scribner-Snyder Community Schools participated as well, with Samantha Stadt placing sixth in entertainment review writing, while Cedar Bluffs Public Schools also took part, with both schools in Class C.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Denker said while some of the writing categories took place on-site in Norfolk, others were judged in a preliminary, at-home contest.
“Two years ago almost everything was on site, last year nothing was on site, everything was all prelim,” he said. “And then this year it was a little bit half-and-half, so we’re getting a little bit closer to back to normal.”
Denker said the students’ preparation for the competition is a constant learning process, which includes the school’s journalism classes.
“And then throughout the course of the year, the kids that compete at state, they’re either on our Rustler staff or the yearbook staff,” he said. “And so they’re just practicing their skills while building our school news magazine or our school yearbook.”
Holcomb has been a member of the school’s yearbook team since her sophomore year, the first year she could take part.
“The best part about just the class was the friendships that I got to make, because I became best friends with the whole staff,” she said. “So then we got to work really, really well together because we were all super close.”
For the NSAA competition, Holcomb submitted her design for the cover of the 2020 yearbook’s special report, “The Shock Sets In: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Changed High School Life.”
In designing the cover, Holcomb said Denker sent her a couple of magazine covers to get inspiration from. As school was closed due to the pandemic, she worked on the design from home using her personal laptop.
“So I did the left page first, which was made to look like the magazine cover and found some cool graphics for that,” Holcomb said. “And then for the other page it was a collage, so I went around town and I took pictures of different signs and stuff regarding COVID so that it would be related to Fremont directly.”
Overall, Denker said he was extremely pleased with the students’ performance this year in helping the school place top 10 in Class A.
“That’s quite an accomplishment, because Nebraska is just full of great journalism programs and great young journalists, and so we’re really proud of our kids,” he said. “They’ve been great all year long, and so for them to be able to take what they’ve learned all year and apply it to what they did at the state tournament was very exciting and also very gratifying.”