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Scott Mehaffey

(Provided photos)

Homewood-Flossmoor High School journalism students turned in a near-record performance at last week’s Illinois High School Association state finals, outdistancing other teams by a wide margin to take first place.

H-F won the journalism championship for the second time in the last five years. Team members tallied 30 points to take first place at the state finals at Eastern Illinois University. Stevenson High School came in second with 18 points and Naperville Central High School took third with 17 points.

Journalism teacher Glen Leyden, advisor to the Voyager student newspaper, said the team’s winning point total is the second highest in tournament history.

“These kids work incredibly hard to create some of the best high school journalism in the state.” Leyden said. “It’s challenging, demanding work that often comes with little to no recognition. Winning the competition was a reminder to them that their hard work was worth it.”

Fine arts teacher Candi Helsel-Wilk, advisor of the Odin yearbook, said she was proud of the students. They represented H-F “in the best possible way, with good sportsmanship, responsibility and positive attitudes,” she said. 

“H-F has a long standing tradition of providing a wide variety of curricular and activity based opportunities to cultivate and nurture the diverse interests, talents and abilities of its students,” Helsel-Wilk said. “This win is a direct reflection of those opportunities.” 

Leyden said a number of the students competed in the 2015 finals. However, no students placed in the top three of any events last year.

“It was humbling but set the groundwork for our success this year,” he said. 

Thirteen H-F students went to the competition. Students competed in 17 events, ranging from news writing to feature writing to photojournalism to newspaper design to broadcast to yearbook. Each event has 21 contestants.

“It’s intense and stressful,” Leyden said. “For example, during the review writing portion our editor-in-chief, Thomas Planera, listened to a live, three-song set from a local band then had 60 minutes to write and edit a 350-word review.”

Planera took first place in Review Writing.

Other students who placed in the top three of their events are:

  • Shannon Dunne – third place in Advertising
  • Shannon Dunne – third place in Editorial Cartooning
  • Tia Baldwin – second place in Headline Writing
  • Langston McHenry – second place in Sports Writing
  • Kennedi Sidberry – second place in Yearbook Copy Writing

Other team members are Nina Williams, Alex Myrick, Mia Luckett, Jaida Macklin, Afia Jones, Grace Lipscomb, Frankie Blanco, Mackenzie Lyseng and Sarah Coghlan.

To qualify for the state tournament, each student needed to finish in the top three during the sectional event the week before. H-F also won the sectional event.

More than 60 high schools from across the state competed in the tournament. Judges are local journalists, university journalism instructors and graduate students.

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