By Marty Maciaszek
There were so many memories and so many compelling stories.
There were a lot of wonderful people willing to share their hopes, dreams, accomplishments, disappointments, fears and even tears.
All of it was part of an adventure that started almost 20 years ago to the day. Now the time has arrived to say thank you as two fantastic decades of covering high school sports for the Daily Herald draws to a close.
This weekend is my last here on a daily basis as I will be moving on to another exciting professional challenge and adventure outside of the newspaper business. It was an easy move to make for my family, but it's not so easy saying goodbye to so many people who have felt like part of another family.
One of the tenets you are taught as a budding journalist is not to get too close to the people you work with on your beats. But that becomes close to impossible when you talk to many of the same people on a regular basis about their families and what they're doing outside of sports.
Some of us have been in this together for the full 20 years. One of the best parts of this is some of them do become friends and the adversarial relationships are minimal compared to some of those faced by my colleagues on their pro and even college beats.
Is high school sports perfect? Hardly. But at a time when it seems to cost the equivalent of a mortgage payment to see a game between highly paid mercenaries, there is nothing better than watching a bunch of kids chase their dreams in the uniforms of their hometown teams.
Some of them became the best, or nearly the best, in their fields or courts. The best part of teams such as Schaumburg's 2001 boys basketball and 1997 baseball state champions, Prospect's football champions and Hoffman Estates' 1998 boys track state runnerup -- along with many kids who weren't all-staters or future pros -- was the willingness of those involved to share their stories and the ability to tell them because of the resources provided by the Daily Herald.
There is no doubt the greatest resource was and continues to be Bob Frisk, who set the tone for the best high school sports coverage a reader could find anywhere through a half-century of caring and commitment. An understanding that people want to follow the accomplishments of the kids in their community and other communities. Continuing that commitment was a responsibility not taken lightly the last 20 years.
Helping sustain that tone are Marty Stengle and Aaron Gabriel, who have played major roles in the quest to keep providing you with the best prep coverage, even during times that have been filled with numerous challenges for a rapidly changing industry. They are among the people here who will continue to do their best to give you the high level of coverage you deserve and expect.
Through it all, we've tried to share the good and bad times with a mix of humor, compassion, inspiration and so many other emotions. What made it special are all the participants or loyal observers or readers who were willing to let us take part in those times.
I won't be disappearing entirely because after all, from baseball and badminton to wrestling and water polo, it's tough to beat being around high school sports. And that made it tough to beat something that was really a joy and not just a job the last 20 years.