SE: Three Great Years with K-State

I’m going to try to keep this story, my final K-State Sports Extra, from getting too sappy, but as I look back at the past three years, my heart is filled with emotion.

During this past month I’ve said to myself, ‘Where has the time gone?’ time and time again, but in reality I know exactly where the time has gone – it’s been filled with sharing 800-plus stories, interviewing thousands of passionate K-Staters and attending countless Wildcat events.

Before taking over the role as the K-State Sports Extra scribe, I had already spent two years covering the Cats. I spent my junior year at K-State as the Sports Editor for the K-State Collegian and my senior year writing with The Manhattan Mercury’s sports staff. So when the opportunity to cover K-State full-time arose, I thought it was too good to be true. When I received a phone call from Associate Athletics Director for Communications Kenny Lannou, letting me know I got the job, things felt pretty darn perfect.

I was one of those lucky graduates who got to stay at my alma mater and kick off my career as a writer in the town I loved.  

When I started writing K-State Sports Extra in 2013, K-State Athletics was booming – football, basketball and baseball had all just won Big 12 Championships, Erik Kynard had just won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics, the paint was still drying on the walls of the Basketball Training Facility (now Ice Family Basketball Center) and construction crews were putting the final touches on the West Stadium Center.

I knew it was going to be a fun time to cover K-State Athletics, and I was certainly right.

In my first year on the job, I covered the ribbon cutting of the West Stadium Center and was among the first people to try the food at the Ahearn Fund Student-Athlete Performance Table. I was there for the ribbon cuttings for the Mike Goss Tennis Stadium and Intercollegiate Rowing Center. I watched student-athletes faces light up as they toured their new facilities.

Fast forward a few years and I watched the new video board in Bramlage Coliseum raised into the rafters and was there when the doors opened to the state-of-the-art Vanier Family Football Complex.

I watched K-State defeat Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and K-State basketball knock off the No. 1 team in the country on its home court. I sat in awe watching Akela Jones crush the competition at the NCAA Championship and felt for K-State tennis all-time great Petra Niedermayerova as she gave a tearful farewell after competing in her final match as a Wildcat.

I spent three days in New York City with Bill Snyder and his family watching the coach be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. That was incredible. He is incredible.

Along with the big moments, I’ve been inspired by the people I write about every single day.

I spent a day with former Wildcat football player and current Seattle Seahawk Tyler Lockett just before he was drafted in 2015. In the hours I spent following him around that day, I learned he was a better person than he was a football player – and I’ve come to realize that’s the case for most K-State student-athletes.

When I first began covering K-State, it took track and field thrower Sara Savatovic and me a half an hour to get through a quick interview because she barley spoke any English. But since then, the Serbian – a six-time Big 12 title winner – has begun writing (in English!) a blog about her team. Not only is she a fierce competitor, but she’s a brilliant individual who inspires me in my own writing.

Lockett and Savatovic are just two of many who stand out at the moment, but from Thomas Gipson to David Klaudt to Chris Campbell to B.J. Finney to Katie Brand to Brittany Chambers to D.J. Johnson to so, so many others, K-State has some absolutely wonderful student-athletes.

I knew it would have to take an incredible opportunity for me to part with my job with K-State Athletics, and earlier this year, I was blessed with just that. This fall, I’ll be attending graduate school in New York City where I will pursue my MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in non-fiction.

My husband, who is currently putting his K-State engineering degree to good use with a big city company, and I moved out to the East Coast earlier this month. I can’t wait to continue growing as a writer in the Big Apple.
While my thank yous to the K-State Athletics coaches and staff for their open doors whenever I had questions and constant help with story ideas could extend to the moon and back (you all know who you are), I’d especially like to thank K-State Athletics Director John Currie for taking a chance on me, a young writer at the time, to represent K-State Athletics. He has been a simply incredible boss.

I also want to thank Assistant Director of Athletics Communications Ryan Lackey, K-State Sports Extra’s main editor and, perhaps, the only person who has read every single one of my 800 K-State Sports Extra stories over the past three years. Without him this publication wouldn’t be possible.  

Finally, to all of the K-State Athletics Communications staff – Kenny, Ryan, Tom Gilbert, Randy Peterson, Chris Kutz, Mary Gorman, Scott Weaver, Josh Brunner and Anthony Meier – thank you for always putting up with my sometimes crazy ideas and helping me put together these stories. You’ve been a wonderful group to work with.

Oh yeah, and to my husband, Mark, who has had to eat dinner on his own many, many times during our first year of marriage because I was out covering K-State games – you’re awesome.

In my three years writing K-State Sports Extra, I’ve had many people tell me, ‘You have my dream job.’

In all reality it’s been just that – a dream job. I spent my days writing, talking and watching K-State Sports.

And that’s pretty cool.

My time with K-State Sports Extra has been time well spent, and I will miss everything about it from the student-athletes and coaches I’ve grown so fond of, to the readers like you who have sent me daily encouragement, to the people – the friends – I have been fortunate enough to work with on a daily basis.

With that, I’m turning the pen over to a good friend of mine, Corbin McGuire, to take over as your new K-State Sports Extra reporter.

Thanks for three really, really fun years.

Go Cats!

Kelly McHugh-Stewart