New prep writer features the personal stories

Friday , May 09, 2014 - 6:24 PM

Standard-Examiner columnist

Hunter Woodhall finished fourth in the 400 meters at the Region 1 high school track and field championships Thursday. It was enough for the Syracuse High runner to qualify for next weekend’s state championships at Brigham Young University. Not bad for a freshman. But that wasn’t why new prep sports reporter Ryan Comer focused on him in his coverage of the meet in Friday’s paper.

You see, Hunter has a story to tell.

Did I mention Hunter is also a double-amputee? That’s right, Hunter had both his legs amputated when he was just 1 year old because of a condition called fibular hemimelia. His perseverance and dedication to get where he is today is the kind of story worth telling in sports, at any level. And that has been a focal point of Ryan’s writing since joining our staff this fall.

Rather than just game and meet results, Ryan has been telling the stories behind the young athletes who compete in high school sports in the Top of Utah. His stories have been complemented with brief video interviews with the athletes and coaches, thus personalizing our coverage in ways that have touched and impressed readers.

It is unfortunate that Oscar Pistorius -- another double-amputee track star who became known as “The Blade Runner” during the 2012 Summer Olympics -- is on trial in South Africa for murdering his girlfriend. Because the comparisons on the track between Hunter and Pistorius are obvious. Making such correlations in a news story now would seem inappropriate. But comparing an upcoming high school athlete to a proven adult athlete is just a writing tool. Ryan doesn’t need that when he tells a story. He can let the athletes speak for themselves -- on camera and in print. On Monday, Ryan will have a more in-depth look at Hunter and his progression.

Ryan is part of a new approach we are taking in our high school coverage. Under the guidance of Sports and Features Editor Brady Bingham, we have made tremendous gains already. Combining sports and features has brought a new energy and focus to both our sports reporters and feature reporters, especially in the areas of multimedia.

As for high school coverage, the feature stories are just part of our overall effort to recognize the achievements of many of the diverse young men and women who compete in high school athletics in our area. We want to carve out a niche for recognition of the individual, as well as the team.

For the last six years or so, the Standard-Examiner has been recognizing a prep athlete of the week. We call the top boy and girl we highlight our Standard Stars. We’ve decided this year to take that recognition one step further, and recognize all the Standard Stars for the school year with a night to remember. Through the efforts of our Marketing Department and Sports, all the Standard Stars, their families and friends are invited to the first SE All-Stars Student Athlete Awards an Thursday. You can read more about the event in Ryan’s advance story Sunday and in a special section to run May 18.

Ryan, who lives in Layton with his wife, grew up in Washington state and graduated with a journalism degree from Brigham Young University. He also speaks fluent Chinese Mandarin, so if we ever have an exchange student athlete from China, he will surely get the interview.

CHANNEL MISGUIDE: Oops. We messed up. In our new TV Preview, which premiered last Sunday, we left out listings for KBYU. We got plenty of calls about that. Some saw a conspiracy behind the omission, but I assure you this wasn’t intentional. It was just an oversight. The listings should return with Sunday’s guide. We are sorry for the flub.

Andy Howell is executive editor. You can contact him at 801-625-4210 or

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