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What a year for a rookie

When I get the chance look back on my life on this planet, I think 2012 will be a year that stands out in my memory.

It will stand out alongside 2000. That would be the year I graduated from Sterling High School and started at Northern Illinois University. 

In 2004, I graduated from NIU. Later that year, I was hired to my first post high school job at Dixon High School. Oh, and I took a part time position in the Sauk Valley Newspapers sports department. 

In 2008, I married and began a new life as a husband. In 2010, my wife and I built a house. 

Alongside those will be 2012. That was the first full year in my tenure as sports editor at Sauk Valley Media. Like any rookie, I had my highlights and a few days that left some shaking their heads. 

It's been a year that has challenged our staff and changed the landscape of sports in the Sauk Valley. 

If I am going to start with a word like landscape then I might as well mention the new turf at Roscoe Eades Stadium. The Sterling Booster Club raised the dough, and this fall the green at SHS was made of ground down tires. 

I certainly didn't make a ton of friends by wondering in print if fundraising efforts shouldn't concentrate on academics especially after a few teachers were let go by the district because of budget reasons. 

But, the field looks great and both Sterling and Newman had successful seasons playing on it this past fall. 

The turf certainly wasn't the only news to ruffle feathers this year. For most of last winter and early spring, folks over at Rock Falls wanted basketball coach Scott Olson gone. 

They had their reasons, and Olson had his own reputation as a coach as defense. In the end, Olson was relieved of his duties by the school board. A couple months later, local legend Brad Bickett was hired as the new coach. 

Not to be outdone by its neighbors, Dixon made its own news last spring as it applied for inclusion in the Big Northern Conference. Weeks later, they were accepted and suddenly the Dukes and Duchesses were ticketed to leave the NIB-12 including local rivals Sterling in 2014-15. 

Not all the news happened off the courts and fields.

I was honored to be attendance for two tilts between Sterling and Rock Falls in postseason play. The first went to Sterling in boy basketball. The second went to Rock Falls in volleyball. 

The Newman boys basketball team made big noise in March, and the Milledgeville softball team went to state. 

Oh, and something big happened at the state wrestling meet. 

I could spend 100 inches talking about the games. 

Most of all, I'll remember the stories. 

I'll remember Aleena Hammelman toughing it out through injury and heartbreak to help the Golden Warriors to a regional basketball title. 

I'll think about Don Ebersole when I pick up a basketball for a pickup game, and DuWayne Deitz and Forrest Tabor when I walk on Sterling's track and into Rock Falls' gym.

Some of these tales, I didn't even pen. I'll remember the faces from Christopher Heimerman's summer series on concussions. 

As I gather for holiday festivities, Tyler Danilson and cancer-stricken mother Maureen making the most out of a difficult situation will stay in the back of my mind.

The list of stories that left an impact beyond stories was long and each member of our staff got a chance to tell them.

So now all I can do is get ready for my sophomore season. We did well this year, but I know in my gut that we can do even better in 2013.

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