Bennett from the Bleachers: Some parting words from a sentimental columnist

Bennett Durando
Sports Columnist

“Perhaps Bennett Durando will grow up to become a sportswriter. Or maybe he’ll be lucky and go into a career where he can actually make some money.”

This is the first time my name appeared in a newspaper: in the hand of then Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz, on June 19, 1999, when I was a two-day-old newborn child of two of Miklasz’s sports writing colleagues.

Now I’m 6,533 days old, and my name has appeared in a newspaper a few more times, thanks to the ECHO.

The ECHO is pretty great. Nothing compares to the experiences of putting together a paper every month and informing your school and community. I’ve met some pretty great friends through the ECHO and it’s been an extraordinary launching point for my journalistic career.

I also got to write about Statesmen sports for four years as sports columnist (and editor for the last two). That’s been the most fun thing of all.  During my time here, Webster won State championships not once, not twice, but yes, thrice. We lost Turkey Day Games not once, twice or even thrice, but … frice. (I still love you, football team. Give our next sports editor some Turkey Day wins to write about.)

I’ve covered some historic victories for our school as well as some crushing defeats. I remember being a wide-eyed, afroed boy enthusiastically taking on my first sports story, one on the men’s basketball District championship my freshman year. As it turns out, one of my last sports stories would be about the same team capturing an elusive State title. A fitting way to go out.

I’ve loved my time on the ECHO so much that I would like other students to experience the same joy. If you know me, you know I’ve said this before: join the ECHO. Do it. Don’t ask questions. Just do it.

I’d like to extend that invitation to one group of people in particular: the WGHS band. The ECHO has a long, illustrious history of being populated by band kids. Think about it: from Kate Grumke to Alex Ring to Kevin and Jack Killeen to the great Willie Zempel, the ECHO and the band have been inevitably intertwined. They’re like sisters; the coolest people in school are friends with both.

Speaking of sisters, there’s one other person who is especially meant to join the ECHO: Riley Durando. Riley is currently not cool. After she joins the ECHO, she will be cool. Last year, Jack Killeen wrote a similar plea to his freshman sister. She didn’t join the ECHO. Don’t let history repeat itself, Riley.

As I prepare to take my next step in a career in journalism at the University of Missouri, there are lots of important people in the WGHS community who I won’t forget.

It will be undoubtedly strange not walking into Mr. Donald Johnson’s classroom every day and hearing him say “hi, hi.” I’ll miss his constant support and wise leadership more than anything. He has mentored me through many intense ethical dilemmas, and I can’t imagine where I’d be without his teaching. He’s been a crucial and special part of my journalistic and high school experience.

I’m also thankful for the numerous coaches and teachers I’ve gotten to know well over the years through my reporting. I’ve developed a close relationship with our athletics community thanks to the support of Jerry Collins and many others.

I’ve never been more honored to cover anything as much as I was when Dr. Jon Clark, still recovering from a surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor, took to the court as an honorary Statesmen basketball coach and won his 100th career game. Dr. Clark’s extraordinary resilience and dedication to his students and community amazes me and countless others, and his support of student journalism has always been appreciated. We’re lucky to have such a principal.

Lastly, I’ve got a pal named Andy Kimball. Fortunately, I don’t have to say goodbye to him, because he’ll be joining me at the Mizzou Journalism School. I’ve been doing journalism with Andy for six years, from starting a Hixson sports webshow to working our way up through the ECHO to tag-teaming in our Webster sports coverage. If we were athletic, he’d be the Jordan to my Pippen.

Well, as usual, I’ve gone over my word limit. It wouldn’t really be a goodbye column if I didn’t do that one more time. I never thought this would happen, but I think I’m out of things to say anyways. So thanks for the ride, Webster. It’s been fun being Bennett from the Bleachers.

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Categories: Column, Senior Issue

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