Before starting, I just want to point out that I’m terrible with goodbyes.

My friends and family can (likely frustratingly) vouch for this fact; I’ve avoided them at every turn. The bigger the goodbye, the less I want to be a part of it. But this one is too big to avoid; I owe too much to too many people.

Today is my last day as the Sports Editor for the Waunakee Tribune. I’m grateful for how much the community has accepted me these past two and a half years. The opportunity to become re-acquainted with the village that raised me has been an experience I won’t forget: one that has left me with an abundance of memories. As a community, you helped turn a wide-eyed kid with little experience into the award-winning reporter I am today, and I can’t thank you enough.

I recall the very first event I worked: a football state semifinal contest. Fresh out of Hawaii, I wasn’t even close to being acclimated to the Wisconsin weather and was ill-equipped (putting it mildly) to handle a freezing night in Menasha where the Warriors turned in a blowout performance over Green Bay Southwest. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to be doing on the sidelines, and what felt like borderline hypothermia didn’t make things any easier.

While I gradually became better and better equipped to handle both working in the weather all of us know and love in our part of the Midwest and know what I was doing on the sidelines, Waunakee’s athletes made the job easy from day one.

To my editors: thank you for taking a chance on me. I wouldn’t be here today if you didn’t see potential in me and work with me every day to realize that potential.

To the coaches: your patience with me has made the job as smooth as it could possibly be. I know I can ask a lot, and every coach has gone beyond to make sure the I have the access needed to properly give their athletes the attention they deserve.

To all the readers: your support has never gone unnoticed. There’s rarely a week that went by when I didn’t hear feedback: what wowed you, what was deserving, what opened your eyes… For me, it was not easy to transition into a job where the work is publicly scrutinized, but your critiques have proved invaluable in making me better at every step.

And finally, to the athletes I’ve had the privilege of covering, I say this: you’ve made it easy to publish intriguing articles and photos because you’ve constantly created compelling stories. You’ve made wild playoff runs, won titles, set records and have – at every turn – showed what it means to represent Waunakee. You were never perfect, but that’s the nature of sports; you were defined by how you responded to adversity, and that response was always worth capturing. I owe all my successes here to you.

Going forward, I wish you all nothing but the best. Moving forward as a reporter for West Hawaii Today in Kona, I’ll make sure to keep an eye on Waunakee’s athletes. Even from an ocean away, you’ll always have a supporter in me.

Tom Linder

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