Sara Welch: Driven to share stories about your communities through unique vantage point

By Sara Welch | Staff Writer

Published:

My relationship with newspaper coverage of Ohio sports dates back a quarter century. Desperately hoping for a boy and expecting a girl, my dad would read the sports page to me everyday over the months leading up to my birth.

Naturally, I was born a Cleveland Browns fan in the midst of a heartbreaking 1988 season. In many ways I'm thankful for the multitude of quarterback injuries and the build-up that led to a one-point loss to the Houston Oilers in a Wild Card game a week after I was born. That season prepared me for every season that followed and enabled a fondness for sports and competition to take root, despite being faced with a lack of God-given ability at times.

An early desire to compete and a drive to win pushed me to pursue athletics beginning in elementary school and lasting through my senior year of high school.

Basketball was my favorite sport from the time I started playing in sixth grade to the last time I stepped onto the hardwood -- my senior year in the Division III district championship game at Rootstown High School. I can't remember who we played; I just remember that we won, then ultimately ended our season with a loss in the regional semifinal.

During my last two years of high school I was fortunate enough to play for a successful Waterloo team. The 2007 class of girls never lost a league title from seventh grade until graduation, from the Portage County League to the Portage Trail Conference County Division.

Suffice to say, I wasn't the reason for our success, but I enjoyed playing and winning all the same.

My best sport was probably track, but I also ran cross country and played volleyball. I wouldn't classify myself as a standout athlete in anything. I gave my best effort and always played to win. I just loved the competition, and it still drives me.

I wasn't sure how I would leave it all behind after high school. Incidentally, I developed a talent for writing and chased my career all the way back to the Record-Courier.

Before graduating from Waterloo I decided to continue my education at Kent State University in pursuit of a magazine journalism degree. There were times I wasn't sure if this was the right career path for me, but after taking a semester-long break from journalism at the beginning of my junior year of college, I found myself missing the competition it provided.

As my time in college wound down, I received my first professional opportunity as a sports intern for the Record-Courier. During my internship I wrote about everything from gym renovations -- there were three in need of repair that summer -- to in depth profiles about athletes, coaches and athletic directors. Somehow, from an outside point-of-view, my interest for athletics increased. Winning and losing began to take a backseat to the people involved and their stories.

After my internship ended I chose to take on a freelance role for the sports department, unable to imagine cutting the opportunity short. The truth was I had grown to love sports on an even more local level, and I didn't want to give up this entirely new dream. So I worked long hours and multiple jobs for nearly three years leading up to the full-time opportunity I received just over two weeks ago.

Some readers may be familiar with my work, while others may not. Some have seen me keeping statistics in the stands of gymnasiums, stadiums and tracks throughout Portage and Summit County and sometimes even further out.

It's a labor of love. Suffering through the first snow at a football game, waiting through a rain delay at a baseball game and driving through a blizzard to get to a basketball game isn't what I expected when I decided I wanted to be a sports reporter. However, witnessing a record-breaking night for a high school competitor, being present for a professional athlete making their return home or witnessing a Senior Night victory that features a team an injured team captain finally stepping onto the field are irreplaceable bonuses.

I've been driven through life by my passion for competition. I was never built with the skills to be a great competitor athletically, but I think it worked out that way for the best. I wouldn't trade my spot on the sidelines. I was given a skill-set that works well from my vantage point, and I'm excited to finally put it to use in a full-time capacity.

Now my dad will regularly read articles I've authored in his favorite section of the newspaper. Turns out he's pretty proud of me even though I wasn't the first-born son he wanted.

Email: swelch@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9447

Twitter: @rcsportsnow

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