Senior Ryan Johnston and Junior David Clark won first place prizes for Editorial Writing and Editorial Cartooning, accordingly, at the Pennsylvania School Press Association Competition on Friday, March 6th.

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Junior David Clark and Senior Ryan Johnston display their press passes and 1st place certificates in front of the Nittany Lion Shrine on a chilly, but sunny Friday.

They arrived at 9 a.m. to a light breakfast, followed by a welcoming from 10-10:30 a.m. from PSPA members and the Dean of the College of Communications for Penn State.

The contest itself started soon after, with students watching a highlight reel of the Nittany Lions football team winning the Pinstripe Bowl. Immediately afterwards, star quarterback Christian Hackenberg and first team wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton both entered the small auditorium for a brief press conference.

Hackenberg and Jackson at the morning press conference
Hackenberg and Hamilton at the morning press conference

Neither student was given any preliminary details about the event. They were expected to take notes and then have a two hour time limit to produce their work. David Clark produced an editorial topic, as well as a cartoon, on the conference, and Ryan Johnston typed a 250 word editorial about it. Both students, prior to their accomplishment on March 6th, competed and won (or in David’s case, tied for 1st) the Western Region in November at Point Park College, allowing them to enter the final competition.

David and Ryan at Penn State before the press conference began.
David and Ryan at Penn State before the press conference began.

Approximately 100 student journalists, all PSPA regional winners, attended the day-long event at Penn State’s Main Campus, making this victory all the more significant. David and Ryan were representing the Western Region against high school students from four other regions across the state. It is certainly impressive that Avonworth took two titles overall, as the avonews staff members won both of their categories against competing staffs from triple and quad-A size schools.

Ryan and Dave, minutes before finding out they won 1st place in their division, catch down time within the College of Communications at Penn State's Main Campus.
Ryan and Dave, minutes before finding out they won 1st place in their division, enjoy a peaceful moment within the College of Communications at Penn State’s Main Campus.

Both David and Ryan had a 4 hour wait to announce the winners of the competition. As the submissions were judged, competitors ate lunch and attended sessions with a Skype call from editors at Oprah Magazine and an in-person talk with the editor-in-chief for the Altoona Ledger newspaper.

“This experience solidified my interest in participating in collegiate journalism. Wherever I go to school I would probably participate in journalism as I have propensity for it. I feel it would be wasted if I don’t continue to sharpen the axe,” said Ryan about participating in PSPA’s first state competition at Penn State. In previous years, PSPA would host state competitions in Harrisburg, with no regional options available to determine qualifiers.

Ryan also wondered about if he had driven for 3 hours and came back with nothing in his hands, except marked by the scent of defeat. Luckily, he spent his Friday evening driving home a state champion at Editorial Writing, a craft he honed throughout this year writing the last word as avonews editor-in-chief, as well as editing the same column for last year’s staff as the associate editor for the paper.

Ryan presented with his 1st place certificate from a PSPA executive staff member.
Ryan presented with his 1st place certificate from a PSPA executive staff member.

David reports that, if given the opportunity to do more editorial cartooning, he would definitely take it. He isn’t sure, though, if he would seek out any further journalism options on his own, however.

He was “very grateful for this opportunity, as I have been drawing cartoons for many years. It feels good to finally receive real recognition.”

David's winning cartoon, created in one sitting and one draft.
David’s winning cartoon, created in one sitting and one draft.

David ended the interview with a smile and commented that he ‘enjoys being better than Jacob’ (writer of article).

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