Edwardsville High School Journalism team ties for IHSA state runner up

For the first time in two years the Edwardsville High School Journalism team was able to return to an in-person IHSA Journalism State competition at Heartland Community College.

Caspar Dowdy, Mason Kane, Veda Kommineni, Grace McGinness, Simon McKean and Logan Roever competed in 16 categories and tied for state runner-up with Fremd High School.

“It’s nice to see things slowly getting back to normal,” said team advisor Amanda Thrun. “For me, I think this state could be the window into getting fully back to normal, at least as far as this program is concerned.”


The competition is divided into 18 different categories and students who qualify at sectionals are able to compete in up to two categories in the state competition. The students who placed at state were Caspar Dowdy with third place in editorial writing and third place in newspaper design, Veda Kommineni with first place in infographics and Logan Roever with first place in copy editing and second place in headline writing.

This is not the first time the EHS Journalism team has placed high in the IHSA competition. The team tied for state champion in 2017, won state runner-up in 2018 and won state championships in 2019. The 2020 state series was canceled due to COVID-19.

“Our first big win I guess you would say was in 2017,” Thrun said. “We tied for first place. I think prior to that year the highest we had gotten was probably fourth place in state, which is still totally respectable, but the tie for champion was a pretty big deal for the kids.”

There is a sectional competition that takes place before state and, starting in 2013, EHS won five straight sectional titles. In 2018, they lost to another school by a couple of points, according to Thrun.

“The kids were really bummed and I just said look, it’s not a big deal because we’re going to go to state, we’re going to do as well as we possibly can and then we ended up being state runner up,” she said.

This year’s sectionals were virtually held due to the fact that several northern schools could not find a place to host the competitions, according to Thrun.

“I don’t know about the other kids at other schools but my kids were bummed when we couldn’t do the in-person one,” she said. “They wanted to go because I’ve been talking up for all these years about how fun it is, it’s exciting to be able to go and do that, and to see what everybody else is doing.”

EHS placed second in sectionals this year and the six students qualified for state competition.

“We were taking fewer kids to state than we had in over 10 years I would imagine,” she said. “Usually we take at least 10 kids up to the state competition, roughly. So placing in the top was, not that it was impossible, but I didn’t think it was probable.”

Thrun said it is difficult to predict how state competition will go. She said while the categories remain the same, students graduate or move categories, making it difficult to predict the school’s roster.

Additionally, the number of participants that other schools bring to state can affect the way the points are distributed for the championship title.

At the competition students earn points for their team by placing sixth through first in their categories. Those points are compiled to decide the champions. Therefore schools that bring several students to compete are more likely to place higher in the team sweepstakes than schools that bring one or two students, even if they place high in their categories.

“For as big of a school we are, we still have a pretty small program,” Thrun said. She said she had around nine students in her Advanced Journalistic Composition class, who publish the school publication quarterly, and that the team often asks students in the extracurricular yearbook committee to join the team to fill the roster.

She compared EHS numbers to schools like Huntley High School, which won state this year and have somewhere around 80 students between their school yearbook and newspaper.

“So I don’t feel like we’re doing too badly by winning state runner up with a combined 20 kids really when you look at what other schools have,” she said. “So I’m really pleased with how successful we’ve been.”

Thrun said earning the title of the second-best journalism team in the state is a win for more than just EHS.

“The thing is it’s not just about our school,” she said. “I know that a lot of the advisors in southern Illinois feel the same way that it’s kind of a victory for them, too, when schools in southern Illinois do well because it doesn’t happen all that often.

“If you look at the state series in journalism, inevitably those top places are going to be occupied by northern schools. So we’re absolutely thrilled to be as well placed as we have been and were this year.”

Due to their high score of three students, the EHS team was placed higher than others in this year’s competition. In 2019 when EHS won the IHSA state championship, Thrun said 11 of the 28 points the team earned were won by a single student.

EHS saw a similar trend this year with three students earning 25 points altogether.

“At state you feel like you’ve done pretty well if you even get sixth place,” Thrun said. “That you’re the sixth best in a category from kids all across the state of Illinois. Which of course is going to include Chicago schools. They probably have bigger programs than we do, and so they’re going to be tough to compete against in some cases.”

Thrun said she and fellow advisors Lauren Mudge and Ashley Valenzuela were keeping a mental tally during the awards ceremony. When they realized they had 25 points and the fifth place overall winner was announced at 18 points, they knew they would be placing.

Thrun said her team is made up of good people who work “tremendously hard.”

“This is a huge achievement to be a state runner up, especially coming off a second place finish at sectionals. I’m really proud of what we’re doing,” she said.

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