Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2nd Quarter Clip Favorites

The second quarter of the year has come to an end. I can't believe this year is flying by so fast. Basically, this quarter was dominated by wildfires in the beginning and sports at the end and a few other randoms like the I AM photo columns. I'm going to re-post the clips from the Wildcat Fire mainly because I feel that was my best work of the quarter. I was lucky to have had the access I did and a big thanks goes out to the guys of the Eldorado VFD for letting me ride with them on the fire truck.

Since the end of the school year falls during the second quarter, I spent a lot of time shooting spring sports and finishing up in Austin for the state competitions. The next collection of clips is a series of Got Game photo pages published in the Sports section that have some state track and tennis photos, middle school track photos and even a few photos from my annual trip to the Indy 500.

The last clips are of the two I Am West Texas photo columns I published. We have been holding off on publishing these columns mostly because we have had no time to gather content for them. For some reason we have been extremely busy this summer. I don't know if it's because we are short staffed or if there is just an increase of activity in the area that caused us to be running and gunning for what seems to be non-stop. Anyway, these are the two photo columns that I published along with their respective photo pages.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

San Angelo Soul Sisters vs. Abilene Derby Dames Slideshow

I decided to post a slideshow of the San Angelo Soul Sisters and Abilene Derby Dames bout from this last Saturday. I usually have several people ask if I have more photos than the ones I include on the blog posts so I just decided that there is no use having these photos sit in storage, so here you go. I probably could have edited out a few more, but wanted to keep it under 40. Enjoy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Scarlet Shredder's First Run

Well, this last Saturday was the big day. It was Brooke's first roller derby bout with the the San Angelo Soul Sisters in Abilene. The entire week leading up to Saturday Brooke was a nervous wreck, especially on Friday. She spent a few hours with friends on Friday night to help calm herself and then off to bed early so she could get an early start to Abilene to help set up the rink. But sleep was difficult to come by, tossing and turning, worried about performing well for the team and not letting anyone down. We even had family and friends coming in from Lubbock, DFW and Austin to watch which I'm sure added a little more pressure.
The alarm clock went off at 8:00am and I could tell that Brooke didn't get any sleep. She was sick to her stomach and looked as if she had only gotten an hour of rest. But, she was determined and pushed on, meeting up with teammates and heading up the Abilene. I had to stay in town for the morning to shoot a few photos of a local golf tournament at San Angelo Country Club, put photos into the system for publication and pick up friends to head to Abilene. I was incredibly thankful I was able to go. A change in my schedule earlier in the week allowed me to attend the bout. Originally, I was supposed to shoot the drag boat races at Lake Nasworthy, an assignment usually known for long days in the burning heat and lack of shade. I was thankful to be indoors.

We met up with the family and headed into the Abilene Civic Center for the bout. Most of my family were surprised that Brooke would even be involved in something like roller derby. Brooke is also a member of the Junior League of San Angelo, which is kind of an odd combination of groups to be a part of. Everyone was expressing concern for Brooke's safety. And as the start of the bout neared, nerves ran high.
The first whistle blew. The bout had begun. The sound of wheels rolling across the cement combined with the clap of safety pads and helmets on the hard surface were second only to the cheers of the crowd. I was keeping a close eye on Brooke to see when she would be given the call to go in. I was technically working for the Standard-Times so I was trying to shoot as much of the action as I could, but I didn't want to miss Brooke heading into the game. Finally, with about 15 minutes left in the first half, Brooke was called up to act as a blocker in the pack. I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous. Brooke isn't that big and some of the Abilene players were delivering some pretty big hits. But as it turned out, this particular jam only lasted about a minute, and Brooke was called to the bench.

Okay, first live jam under her belt, no problem.

A few minutes later Brooke was called back into the line up as the jammer, the member of the team who scores all the points during a jam, and the one who has all the opposing team members gunning for her. This was going to be more of a test of Brooke's determination than anything. The whistle blew to start the jam and Brooke was second to come off the line behind the Abilene jammer. On her own admission, Brooke has said she needs to work on her starts more and getting off the line faster. To tell you the truth Brooke's jam was a blur. I knew she was taking some hard hits and falls, but most of them came on the opposite side of the rink from where I was sitting. But, during one of those falls she smacked her head pretty hard and in the process of getting back up she lost her vision for a few seconds and when it came back it was as if her eyes where crossed. Her vision righted itself and she continued with the jam not wanting to disappoint her team. The jam was finally called off and Brooke skated back to her bench, handed the jammer cap off to someone else and tried to get her head straight.

The first half came to an end and the teams headed upstairs to the dressing rooms overlooking the rink. I was watching to see if Brooke was among the group, but I didn't see her until about five minutes later. I was worried, but she was upright and skating on her own. The halftime lasts about 20 minutes and I was keeping an eye on the SASS dressing room door to see if Brooke was going to come out early. I thought perhaps I would ask her how she felt just to gauge her mental status. I saw a few of the other girls come out and start looking over the crowd in a hurried manner which caught my attention. I stood up, took about three steps and was confronted by one of Brooke's teammates saying she was asking for me. This couldn't be good.
I believe there is a rule in roller derby that if you have to get checked out by medical staff, your night is over. Apparently Brooke's blow to the head was severe enough that she was being checked out by four paramedics. They were looking for signs of a concussion, but ultimately found none. The Scarlet Shredder's night was over.
I walked into the dressing room to find Brooke sitting in a chair surrounded by teammates, hands shaking enough that she needed help removing her skates. The second half was about to start and the rest of the team headed back down to the rink leaving Brooke and I alone in the room. Brooke is a pretty emotional person, and most of the time those emotions come out as tears. Yes she was in pain, yes she was disappointed with her performance, but most of all I think the tears flowed because she thought she was letting her team down. Brooke's release from all the stress of working and going to school full-time has been her meetings with this group of women three times a week for roller derby practice. She has made new friendships and forged new bonds with women of the community. Her love for these women is as passionate as I've ever seen and I'm eternally grateful for the support, respect and friendship given back to Brooke by these amazing women.

Thanks, y'all.

In the end, The San Angelo Souls Sisters came up short when time ran out. But every bout is a learning experience. I know the team was hoping for a better outcome on the scoreboard, but holding true to their winning spirit they thanked the Abilene team for the opportunity to play, wished them luck in the future and said their goodbyes. It was a fun night and an eye-opening experience for Brooke. And determined to stick with it, Brooke hopes to have another opportunity to make another roster. Though I'm sure that none of my parents will be able to watch another bout anytime soon if Brooke is going to be wearing the jammer cap.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It Rained! It Rained!

While I was at the gym this evening, the skies over San Angelo darkened and the sun was hidden from view by storm clouds on the horizon. The wind started to pick up and the smell of rain was on the air. Finally, the good Lord saw fit that we should receive a reprieve from the oppressive heat and the dry and dusty conditions. It was awesome. I drove home and sat out side looking skyward as lightning rolled across the clouds. It was only after a majority of the storm had passed did I think to myself, "I should be taking photos!" Unfortunately, I'm not the best nature and landscape photographer out there. As a matter of fact, I'm down right pitiful. I just happen to get lucky every once in a while. I took this photo out at Lake Nasworthy. Hopefully, we'll have another chance for rain tomorrow.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Father's Mission

For our Father's Day front page on Sunday we ran a story about Ernie Cantu and his daughter, Susan. Great people, the both of them, and I was very happy to be able to spend time with them while working on this story. Just like our Mother's Day story, this was one of personal trial and heartache. Susan, now 18-years-old, was born four months early with a myriad of health problems. She suffered from a hole in her heart, two arteries that were clogged, a lung that wasn't fully developed and only one working kidney, of which functioned at 20 percent. The doctors gave her 12 hours to live. Miraculously, Susan survived, but a kidney transplant was needed to keep her alive. Ernie had himself tested and proved to be a perfect match. Susan's medical condition improved, though having to take a box full of anti-rejection medications to keep her donated kidney functioning.
The kidney Susan's father donated to her lasted for for about 12 years, the expected lifespan of a living donor organ, but gave no warning when it finally did fail. Susan went into a violent seizure and stopped breathing. Ernie had to perform CPR on his daughter before an ambulance arrived to take over. After doctors told them her donated kidney failed, the duo began making the 400-mile round trip from San Angelo to Austin for dialysis treatments twice a week. Susan was unable to do her treatment in San Angelo because she was under the age of 16, and no local centers would take her. Ernie and Susan made these trips for a full year.

Then a member of their church offered to be tested to see if he would be a match. He was, the transplant was a success and Susan had a new lease on life. Due to the severity of Susan's condition, Ernie decided to move his shoe shine business to his home so that he could keep a close eye on his daughter. The years past and Susan went on living life as normally as she could. Then a letter from the Social Security office arrived on Susan's 18th birthday notifying her that she had been taken off Medicaid because she had not gone through the reapplication process upon turning 18. The family had no idea they needed to do this and received no warning prior to receiving the letter in the mail. Medicaid was the only means the family had of getting the life-sustaining medication Susan needed to keep her body from rejecting her kidney. Ernie frantically searched for a way to get his daughter the medication she needed, but two days before Christmas last year, Susan's second donated kidney failed. Susan has once again resumed dialysis treatments. And to add to the stress of the situation, she is being rejected by hospitals as a possible transplant patient because they are afraid she is not taking care of herself and will waste another kidney. Ernie is now in contact with a hospital in Temple who has agreed to meet with Susan to see if she can be placed on a living donor list. Susan must first undergo a psychological exam before being considered for placement on the list. So for now, Ernie and Susan can't do anything except continue to hope and pray that a hospital will take their case. But one thing is for sure: Ernie will be by Susan's side every step of the way. If you would like to read Justin Zamudio's story about Ernie and Susan, you can find it HERE.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This is the Song that Never Ends...

Another month goes by and another pretrial for FLDS leader Warren Jeffs concludes. But, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Jeffs' actual trial has finally been set for July 25 here in San Angelo. I had the pleasure of standing out in the in the 100+ degree for over four hours just so I could get 20 seconds worth of frames before the State Police loaded him up in a vehicle and sped away. This time I was the only media representative standing outside of the courthouse waiting to get a glimpse of this guy. Maybe it's because this story has been going on since April 2008 and interest has waned. HERE is the most recent story if you're still interested.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Under the Lights at Texas Motor Speedway

I wasn't quite ready to come down off my high from the Indy 500 so I decided to grab a few buddies and my brother-in-law and head out to Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone Twin 275s this Saturday. Having never been to another track other than Indianapolis Motor Speedway I wasn't sure what to expect, but I have been told by several people that TMS can offer great racing. We got there a little early and the gates didn't open for another hour so we put out lawn chairs, enjoyed a few adult beverages and tried to keep as cool as possible in the rising heat.
Even before we entered the track we all agreed that coming back for the race every year was a real possibility, kind of like our own mini-Indy trip, but it only lasts for one day instead of an entire week. We started to make a plan for next year as well as a list of additional items we would need to make our trip better. The plan for next year is to get to the track earlier and just spend the entire day grilling, eating, drinking and hanging out with friends. But one thing that is an absolute must while parked in the grass lots at TMS is shade, and lots of it. Texas Motor Speedway has more parking than Disneyland, but only five trees that offer relief from the summer sun. Packing in some man-made shade is numero uno on the list for next year.

Around 5:30pm we headed into the track in search of your typical souvenir of the race: shirt, hat, lapel pin, patch, program. Once that mission was accomplished we were off in search of our seats in Turn 1. These were great seats. They were on the upper level coming out of the dog-leg and into Turn 1. Because of the high bank of TMS and the fact that it's only 1.5-miles around, from our seats you could see the action on the entire track. Typically the race at TMS is 550k, but this year it was broken up into two separate races, each 275k or 114 laps. Apparently this hasn't been done for an IndyCar race since 1981, I think. Drivers would have to qualify for their start position for the first race and then there would be a blind draw for position on the starting grid for the second race.
The blind draw was creating a bit of controversy with the drivers, most agreeing that instead of a blind draw for position for the second race of the night that the Race 1 finishing field should just be flipped so that the winner of Race 1 starts in the back and the last place finisher starts first. That way all of the top drivers can continue to race one another.
It was exciting to be there and it was great to hang out with friends, but I think IndyCar has to make a few tweaks to following races at TMS if they are to continue this doubleheader race. I would like to see the races get longer. Just 114 laps on a a 1.5-mile oval at 200 mph doesn't take much time and doesn't leave enough time for things to happen like pit strategy, fuel strategy or crashes. The only yellow flag laps of the night came late in the first race. The second race went green the entire way. Going back next year is definitely in the cards and I thing I'll have to see a few more twin-bill races before I pass final judgment on the overall race format. But, we had a great time and I look forward to future races.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

GED Inspiration

On Monday of this week I was given the assignment to cover the GED graduation at the Johnson Street Church of Christ. Typically, graduation ceremonies are not the most thrilling thing to photograph. Almost everyone is sitting down for a majority of the ceremony and you have to listen to speakers drone on about being productive citizens and hope for the future. Boring. But it was during that speech that I noticed a middle-aged women on the isle trying to fight back tears. There had to be a story there.
As Kim Hanson, 51, was listening to the keynote speaker, her thoughts moved to a promise that she had made to her grandmother on her deathbed, a promise now realized. "It was the last promise I made to her before she died," Hanson said, "that I would earn my GED." Hanson dropped out of high school her senior year and traveled the country with a truck driver, a decision she would later come to regret. But after getting married, having a few kids and witnessing her husband earning his associates degree, she decided it was time to get back into school. It was a two-year journey that ended on Monday. "I only wish my grandmother was still around to see this," Hanson said.

I have only shot the GED graduation one time before and I had forgotten how different it is from other ceremonies. It has more of a party vibe and that's due to the friends and family there to support the graduates. As the graduates moved across the stage to receive their certificates, the audience cheered and clapped, setting off a barrage camera flashes and screaming babies. It was fun and, to tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to next year's ceremony.


Friday, June 3, 2011

In one Door, Out the Other

I had just finished unpacking and washing clothes from my trip to Indianapolis when I was told that I was headed back out to Austin for the state softball tournament to cover the Wall Lady Hawks's semifinal game against Nacogdoches Central Heights. If it were up to me I'd be on an out-of-town assignment at least once a week. I love covering events out side of San Angelo. I gives me a chance to be out of the office, find little eateries that a friend's step-brother's uncle knows about and enjoy the open roads of Texas. Call me weird, but I like staying in hotels. Especially ones that have little unique features like cracked wall plaster that exposes red brick, or ones that are attached to a 24-hour cafe that always serves breakfast.
The Lady Hawks had been tearing up the competition all season and their run to the state tournament, all be it a little more difficult, was much the same. They have a junior pitcher who has already committed to Texas Tech and they have a few speed demons as well. The brackets were set up as if Wall was the number two seed. They were facing a team that didn't even win their own district. Everything was looking as if Wall was going to be playing for their first state title on Saturday.... And then the third inning started.
The Central Heights bats woke up. Batter after batter started landing pop flies exactly were Wall fielders were not. Central Heights scored four runs in the third inning and five runs in the fourth inning and eight runs in the fifth to end the game early on a run-rule. Wall was left reeling, wondering how in the world they could have been so dominant during the season and suffer a 17-3 loss to a team that didn't even win their own district.
It was a sad end to the Lady Hawks' season and a quick ending to what would have been three days in Austin for me. I was looking forward to an entire day off on Friday and going on an indulgent eating tour through the city. Oh well, maybe next time.