HHS Journalism Team Wins IHSA State Title

Journalism advisers Dennis Brown and Lauren Teeter knew they had a good team going into the IHSA state finals on April 24. On April 16, the team won their tenth sectional championship since 2006, advancing students in 15 of 18 events. 

But they had no idea what lay in store.

On April 29, the team found out that they had won the IHSA state championship, the first for the journalism program and the second IHSA team championship in Huntley High School’s history.

The team scored points in 10 events and totalled more points at the state final than any team in the tournament’s history (36). Stevenson High School finished second (31 points) and Prospect High School finished third (21 points). 

Three HHS contestants won state championships in their competitions: senior Sydney Laput (Photo Storytelling) and juniors Ellie Armstrong (Copy Editing) and Sara Gebka (Editorial Cartooning), bringing the total Huntley individual journalism state champions to 12. 

“I was honestly shocked that I won the state title for the copy editing category because I placed third at sectionals and only hoped to place at state,” Armstrong said. “I was really proud of myself, but I was even more excited when we won state as a team.”

In addition to Laput, Armstrong, and Gebka, HHS team members placed in the following competitions: 

  • Nick Pratt, 2nd place, Yearbook Layout 
  • Maggie Kirwin, 3rd place, Infographics
  • Alex Hartleb, 5th place, Newspaper Design
  • Jake Habel & Paige DeSimone, 5th place, Video News
  • Amelia Pozniak, 5th place, Editorial Writing
  • Natalie VonderHeide, 5th place, Feature Writing
  • Kate Alvarado, 6th place, Broadcast News

Brown was thrilled at the news.

“We’ve come so close over the years (2nd place in 2019, 2013, 2011 & 3rd in 2010, 2007) and to finally get that state championship is a testament to our program’s tradition and all of the hard work that these students did to get there,” Brown said. “I could not be prouder of this team.”

Gebka too was excited when she heard.

“Winning state as a team, now that’s something, especially with Covid and the mess that is school,” Gebka said.  “Everyone did great, and it was amazing to just work as a team to get first in both sectional and state.”

“While winning awards isn’t our main objective, it is surely something to be proud of,” Teeter said. “These students work so hard day in and day out—even into the summer—and it is so great to see their talents recognized.”

For senior Laput, the news comes as graduation is just around the corner. 

“Being a part of this team has been an amazing experience and I’m so proud of everyone on the team for their dedication and hard work in winning state,” Laput said. “I also never thought I’d be a state champion, making it an amazing end to my high school career.” 

Their success at the state finals followed the team championship at the IHSA Sectional held April 10. The team won the sectional with a total of 79 points over Kaneland (61 points) and Galena (42 points).

Individual winners from the sectional included:

  • Kate Alvarado, 1st place, Broadcast News
  • Sara Gebka, 1st place, Editorial Cartooning
  • Amelia Pozniak, 1st place, Editorial Writing
  • Alex Hartleb, 1st place, Newspaper Design
  • Sydney Laput, 1st place, Photo Storytelling
  • Jacob Habel, Paige DeSimone, 1st place, Video News
  • Nick Pratt, 1st place, Yearbook Layout
  • Jacey Sola, 2nd place, Headline Writing
  • Maggie Kirwin, 2nd place, Infographics
  • Nikki Darnall, 3rd place, Advertising
  • Ellie Armstrong, 3rd place, Copy Editing
  • Alyssa Borring, 3rd place, Sports Writing
  • Lauren Courtney, 3rd place, Yearbook Copy Writing
  • Ela Hontanosas, Kylie Phommasack, 3rd place, Yearbook Theme
  • Natalie VonderHeide, 3rd place, Feature Writing
  • Rayne Zilch, 5th place, Review Writing
  • Megan Curry, 6th place, News Writing
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