Valencia County sports folks, others will be missed

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I was running down the sideline of the Belen High School football field, trying to track the yardage of a big play.

Jason W. Brooks

The mud puddle I stepped in along the way at that 2001 game drew laughter from the BHS “chain gang” crew.

There have been many fun and inspiring moments along the way. From those first 2001 football games, when I was a stringer reporter for the Albuquerque Journal, to the exciting basketball and wrestling I watched within the past week, Valencia County has shown me some of the greatest competition I have ever seen.

It’s a good thing no one has to pack memories into a moving truck, because my multitude of experiences here would be tough to ship to Lexington, Neb. That’s where I’m headed this week, to pursue an opportunity with the Lexington Clipper-Herald, where I will see more of America’s toughest young competitors, pursuing their dreams.

It would be really hard to list all the amazing people who have helped me along the way — by teaching me about a sport, giving me insight about their triumphs or struggles or simply laughing at my lame jokes.

From coaches to athletes, parents to administrators, young children and senior citizens, so many Valencia County people have helped make my job easier and enriched my life.

Following teams and individuals, as they grow and mature, was one of the most rewarding parts of being a Valencia County News-Bulletin reporter and sports editor.

Seeing the Belen High School football program struggle through a 1-9 season, then play in a state championship game, or seeing Little Leaguers go deeper into the playoffs as they get older, was inspiring and encouraging.

Since I will always be the sports editor who was on duty when Valencia High’s teams began varsity play, I feel privileged to be a part of their history. The way the students and adults at a brand-new school must go through growing pains, to see some success come from it, warms the heart.

When there were large events, like matanzas or Little League tournaments, track meets or state-championship football games, I ended up seeing folks I’d known for years, and making new friends as well.

The athletes that fight through off-the-field issues, such as asthma, problems at home or struggles in the classroom, just to compete, help restore my faith in the human spirit.

There’s almost no way to narrow it down to a single event, team or season that was the most memorable for me. However, state championship events are easy to recall, especially at what is pretty much the world’s coolest building.

It is with great regret that I will be living not only so far from Valencia County, but also from the Pit.

As I leave the land of green chile and sopapillas behind, it will be sad to miss the upcoming events that involve so many athletes I know. This weekend’s state wrestling championships will be but one of many events that includes dozens of athletes who I have gotten to know personally.

I wish the wrestlers and all of the county’s athletes the best of luck — and we know that sometimes, it’s important to be both talented and lucky.

Some of the toughest competitions to cover where when county athletes were matched up against each other, sometimes with a district or state title on the line.

I wish everyone could win — the alignment of District 6-4A, to include all three county schools, was a tough one for me. Having followed some athletes since they were very young, even the most objective journalist can’t help but root for them.

Some families have had five kids photographed by me during their youth-sports years.

Competitive sports teach us how to use our brain, brawn, heart and soul together to achieve goals in life. I have no doubt the young people of our county will achieve much in life — just as I am certain the positive, capable, balanced adults that I know, must have learned persistence from the sports they played through the years.

I will dearly miss my co-workers, who have put up with my quirks, and desire to get so many hard-working athletes into the paper. It was never an easy task, but I loved every second of it. How many of us get to do what we truly love?

Goodbye, Valencia County. I hope I can come back to visit soon.

(Editor’s note: Jason W. Brooks has covered sports for the Valencia County News-Bulletin for six years. We will truly miss him — his quirks and all. Good luck, Jason. We know you’ll do great in Nebraska.)


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.