LAS CRUCES – Goodbyes are always harder than hellos.
But after a year in Las Cruces, I have to say goodbye to a city that welcomed me with open arms, treated me like one of their own, and showed me how much a community of about 113,000 people can love college basketball.
Some have already heard the news, but Sunday November 20th is my last day with the Las Cruces Sun News after spending 15 months at the newspaper covering New Mexico State and high school sports. NMSU’s game against New Mexico in Albuquerque marks my last event in Las Cruces, and I plan to say goodbye to the city officially this Thanksgiving week.
And of course a proper thank you to the community.
Las Cruces, you took me in as a 22 year old fresh out of college and opened my eyes to how amazing southern New Mexico can be. They taught me that green chili goes with literally everything (chicken alfredo was a favorite; Caliche’s frozen custard sundae was…interesting), that purple is a far better color than maroon, and that the best things come in small packages.
You have trusted me to take you behind the scenes of NMSU’s athletic programs, breaking news and sharing the stories of the athletes and coaches I have covered. They supported me when I traveled from Albuquerque to Phoenix to Las Vegas to Buffalo to mentor a historic Aggie basketball team, and NMSU’s athletic department and athletic programs were kind enough to let me tell their stories.
For that, I want to thank NM State Athletics Director Mario Moccia, as well as coaches Chris Jans, Greg Heiar, Jerry Kill, Mike Kirby, and the dozens of athletes I’ve written stories about at the college level. I also want to thank Mark Lopez, Steve Castille, Aaron Ocampo, Michael Bradley, and the other high school coaches in town for letting me share the stories of their high school athletes. Thanks even more to all the people behind the scenes who have helped me succeed over the past year, although the list is almost too long to write.
Many thanks to Lucas Peerman, our news director, who took a chance on a boy with a decent resume who was desperate for something other than an internship and who (I thought) had a pretty decent interview. Thanks to Jason Groves, my sports editor and colleague for showing me the basics of the city’s sports scene and teaching me to find stories and develop sources, and to my colleagues who never stopped making the office a bright and happy place to work close.
Thank you to the readers and followers who have followed me as I have grown as a person and as an author – who have watched me learn from mistakes and triumph from success. Without you I would never have had the opportunity to live my dream of writing about sport or working for a newspaper and I encourage you to continue supporting local journalism.
I will be announcing the next step in my sports writing career on Twitter (you can follow me @stephanwag22) in the coming days, but I plan to take a few days off for the Thanksgiving holiday to spend with family and friends first. Groves will be your resident Las Cruces sports reporter once I say goodbye to town and formally depart.
Las Cruces, you gave me a year I will never forget and you deserve a special place in my heart.
Thank you for that.