JACKSONVILLE — Ryan Wood of The Opelika-Auburn News received the Alabama Sports Writers Association's highest writing award at the association's 42nd annual convention Sunday in Jacksonville. The award was Wood's first, and The Opelika-Auburn News’ second overall Herby Kirby Award and first since 1975.
Wood, who garnered two awards at this year's convention, won the Herby Kirby Award for his story on "James Owens: The Definition of Courage." The story also won Best Football Feature Without a Deadline.
The Herby Kirby Award is given in memory of longtime Birmingham Post-Herald sports writer Herby Kirby, who died in the press box after covering Notre Dame's 24-23 national football championship win over Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl.
Three papers took home a convention-high four awards including The Opelika-Auburn News, The Tuscaloosa News and The Gadsden Times. The Cherokee County Herald won two awards while The Birmingham News and BamaOnline.com won one each.
Nick Johnston of The Gadsden Times won three first-place awards including the Best Sports Story (Pro or College), Best Story or Series Writing-Internet-Best Game Story and Four Headlines with first six paragraphs of Story Submitted.
Wood, Andrew Carroll, Aaron Suttles and Shannon Fagan each won two first-place awards while nine won one award each in Opelika-Auburn News prep writer Jason Galloway, Jon Solomon, O-A News sports editor Mike Szvetitz, Chase Goodbread, Cecil Hurt, Tommy Deas, Alex Scarborough, Christopher Walsh and Kim Craft.
The Tuscaloosa News staff won Best Sports Layout and The Gadsden Times staff won Best Supplement or Special Edition.
The four first-place awards for The Opelika-Auburn News in addition to Wood's two include Szvetitz's Best General Sports Feature and Galloway's Best Sports Story, Prep or Amateur.
2012 Winners and Runners-Up
Alabama Sports Writers Association Writing Contest
Best Sports Story, Writing On A Deadline, Professional Or College Event
Runner-Up, Tommy Deas, The Tuscaloosa News — Alabama softball, from the dugout
Runner-Up, Ryan Wood, Opelika-Auburn News — Chizik becomes first coach to be fired two years after winning a national title
Nick Johnston, The Gadsden Times — Time's Ticking: Murray, Richt come up short on big stage
Best Sports Story, Writing On A Deadline, Prep Or Other Amateur
Runner Up, Mike Szvetitz, Opelika-Auburn News — Female coach wanted to lead Beauregard softball team
Winner, Jason Galloway, Opelika-Auburn News — Auburn High's Foster meets with AHSAA, not NCAA
Best Column, 3 Columns Written In A Seven Consecutive Issue Period and Two From A Seven Day Period, Two At Large
Runner Up, Mike Herndon, Mobile Press-Register — Auburn's fans make a statement-with their absence; How about putting the student first in collegiate athletics? Calipari to Wildcats: 'Maybe I'll have your attention now'; Conference titles shouldn't affect BCS berth
Winner, Jon Solomon, The Birmingham News — Nick Fairley, Rolando McClain and Mike Dyer: Grow up already!; Bobby Bowden statue in Birmingham? It's possible, but shouldn't happen; Penn State scandal could happen at your school; How powerful is Nick Saban? Media members couldn't use the bathroom while he went
Best Football Feature Without A Deadline
Runner Up, Mike Herndon, Mobile Press-Register — Ray Perkins remembers the play as if it happened yesterday
Winner, Ryan Wood, Opelika-Auburn News — James Owens: The Definition of Courage
Best Basketball Feature Without A Deadline
Runner Up, Ryan Wood, Opelika-Auburn News — Through Hell and Back: Kenny Gabriel ducks missiles in Israel chasing a dream he's still tracking
Winner, Andrew Carroll, The Tuscaloosa News — Allison Gabriel, player with Down Syndrome
Best Baseball Feature Without A Deadline
Runner Up, Stacy Long, Montgomery Advertiser — Minor league outfielder carries memories of best friend's death
Winner, Aaron Suttles, The Tuscaloosa News — Major leaguer Josh Rutledge
Best General Sports Feature Without A Deadline
Runner Up, Tommy Deas, The Tuscaloosa News — Late boxer Edgar "Mad Dog" Ross
Winner, Mike Szvetitz, Opelika-Auburn News — 'An Incredible Dream': Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail celebrates 20 years
Best Enterprise Story
Runner-Up, Gregg DeWalt, Times Daily — Catalyst for change
Winner, Aaron Suttles, Chase Goodbread, Cecil Hurt, Tommy Deas, Alex Scarborough and Andrew Carroll, The Tuscaloosa News — Looking back 20 years at the University of Alabama's 1992 football national championship
Best Story or Series Writing, Non Daily; Best Column and/or Feature
Runner Up, Shannon Fagan, Cherokee County Herald — Coty Blanchard playing baseball in Cape Cod Baseball League
Winner, Shannon Fagan, Cherokee County Herald — Eight-year-old C.J. Gresham qualifies for Junior Olympics
Best Story or Series Writing — Non Daily; Best Game Story
Runner Up, Shannon Fagan, Cherokee County Herald — Piedmont-Cherokee County football game
Winner, Shannon Fagan, Cherokee County Herald — Cedar Bluff-Pickens County Football playoff game
Best story or series writing — Internet; Best Column and/or Feature
Runner Up, Nick Johnston, The Gadsden Times — Albertville High School should be ashamed
Winner, Christopher Walsh, BamaOnline.com — Barrett Jones a one-of-a-kind player
Best story or series writing — Internet; Best Game Story
Runner Up, Christopher Walsh, BamaOnline — Crimson Tide wins national championship for tornado-ravaged state
Winner, Nick Johnston, The Gadsden Times — Alabama routs LSU in rematch
Headlines — Four Headlines with First Six Paragraphs Of Story Submitted
Runner Up, News Staff, The Tuscaloosa News — Make It A Double; Crimson and Clover; Life After Death; Weather The Storm
Winner, Kim Craft and Nick Johnston, The Gadsden Times — Titanic Upset; Tomahawk Flop; Serena slams way into semifinals; Golden Goodbye
Best Sports Layout (Submitted In Triplicate)
Runner-Up, The Gadsden Times
Winner, The Tuscaloosa News
Best Supplement or Special Edition (Four Originals Should Be Submitted)
Runner Up, The Tuscaloosa News
Winner, The Gadsden Times
Sweepstakes Award (Herby Kirby Memorial Award), Best Story From All Categories Above
Ryan Wood, The Opelika-Auburn News — James Owens: The Definition of Courage