T-R column: Gone, but never forgotten

Thorn Compton

As I walked away from Drake Stadium on Saturday after the final day of the Iowa Co-Ed State Track and Field Championships, I was filled with my usual feelings of both mental and physical exhaustion due to working back-to-back-to-back 12-plus hour days and a sense of excitement to tell the stories of the area athletes who had accomplished greatness.

But there was something else lining the typical post-state euphoria, a dark cloud, a sadness that isn’t a typical feeling for me.

I realized, as I turned back and saw the “Drake University Bulldogs” sign that sprawls across the press box shrinking in the distance, that my sadness was because this was the last big event I’d cover as the Assistant Sports Editor for the Marshalltown Times-Republican. Of course I had known that was going to be the case, given I had turned my two-weeks notice in the week prior, but with all the hustle and bustle of state track I had never really let my mind dwell on the finality of this event for me.

When I first applied for this job, I had no clue where Marshalltown, Iowa, was. I really was clueless about State Center, Le Grand, Garwin, Gladbrook, Reinbeck, Conrad, Grundy Center, Ackley, Eldora, Colo, Traer and Tama.

Before coming here to central Iowa, I was just a kid who liked to watch sports and write stories. I didn’t have the understanding of what this job would take, especially given the situation of me taking over a position that used to be filled by two people. That forced me to either adapt and become the reporter who could do it all, give all 13 of you high schools and Marshalltown Community College the coverage you deserve, or to fail under the pressure and fall by the wayside. I believe I’ve done the former, and the only people I have to thank for that is you.

You imprinted yourself onto me, Times-Republican coverage area. I will forever be changed by the way this area has molded me, even given the short amount of time I’ve been here. I have interacted with you daily, told your stories and increased my skills in doing so, and those are skills that will serve me for the rest of my days as a journalist. I also have the great tutelage and mentorship of Ross Thede to thank for that.

Now, two years later, I have traveled this entire area many, many times, and I’ve experienced your culture. I’ve seen the hard work the athletes put in to succeed, I’ve seen the fans who pack the stands and cheer on their schools, family and friends.

From talking with Anne Vance on the sidelines of Marshalltown High School events to chatting with coaches before and after events, to having parents for every team come talk with me about what’s going on or about something I’ve written, you have always made me feel welcome in a way that I, being an outsider to this state, never could have imagined.

Most importantly I’ve seen the entire spectrum, I’ve been there for your highest moments and I’ve witnessed the utter devastation of your defeats.

And I’ve cherished every second.

I’m grateful for the amazing success stories I’ve been able to tell, but I’ve cherished the low moments as well. Sports is so much more than winning or losing, it’s how we deal with adversity and how we come out the other side better for it.

Every game-winning shot, every touchdown, every home run has been just as important of a story as every miss, every loss, every heartbreaking final score.

So as I walked away from the final state meet I’ll cover in this wonderful state, at least for the foreseeable future, all of those moments flooded back to me and it genuinely brought a tear to my eye, and not for the last time.

I will miss you, every single one of you, but know that I will take all of these experiences with me wherever I go. You, Times-Republican readers and the coaches, teams and athletes I have given so much time to the last few years, will stay with me forever.