Leah Vann: Goodbye to Steamboat, hello grad school
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A year ago, I was living in an Airbnb and learning how to take photos of rugby players.
Now, I’m packing up boxes at my apartment and leaving the camera battery on the charger for the next sports editor.
I came to Steamboat Springs eager for the story opportunities it had to offer. Its unique Olympic history sparked my curiosity and its Western culture felt like like home in Texas.
Living in a ski town is every regular Texan tourist’s dream, but few of us make time for it. I got lucky. I found a job that let me live in a ski town while continuing to learn the ropes of sports writing.
It didn’t hit me that I was leaving until about a month ago while at the state track meet. I was interviewing Soroco High School’s Chloe Veilleux for the last time after her state title in the 1,600 meters and she said, “Well, I guess I’ll see you never.”
I told her she had my number and to call me anytime. But as I think about all the other high school athletes I’ve covered, the odds are, I won’t see them again. That’s when it hit me.
I think back to state wrestling in February, where I followed Hunter Planansky through the tunnel after his overtime defeat in the finals. He cried when he told me he felt like he disappointed his deceased coach, Chad Jones, by losing. Holding my tears in, I sprinted back to my computer, typing Planansky’s story to send within 10 minutes of deadline.
And then I went to my hotel room and cried. It was the first time I truly felt a loss secondhand.
The second time was during a Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse game, where Kieran Hahn’s father died in the press box. He may not know this, but I know what it’s like to lose a father.
But then there were the victories, like Veilleux’s, or the Steamboat volleyball team defeating rival Battle Mountain on a game-winning kill by Anna Allsberry.
I witnessed history in Annika Malacinski and Tess Arnone, when they took the stage at the first-ever women’s Nordic combined Continental Cup on American soil and when Steamboat’s girls lacrosse team made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.
I saw Kenzie Radway nailing her first back lay off the bottom air in a moguls competition. A month later, she won the NorAm tour.
As a former high school athlete, my heart and soul is prep sports. Covering the summer and winter competitions was out of my comfort zone.
I woke up at the crack of dawn to await the top runners of the Run Rabbit Run 100 ultramarathon, then stood through the frigid cold of the night to talk to Nordic combined skiers. The unknown was an adversity for me, so conquering it was the most rewarding.
But with learning comes challenges, and as someone who has been self-taught for four years, I’m ready for the formal training.
I majored in biology as an undergraduate, afraid to pursue my dream until my junior year, when I joined the school paper, The Daily Texan. I managed one journalism class before landing my first job in Iowa at the Globe Gazette.
Now, after a year in a place I never thought possible, I’m going back to school for my master’s at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
My thanks are to you, Steamboat, for allowing me to tell the stories of your community.
I’ll be back for a powder day next winter, most likely at MusicFest, in true Texan fashion.
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