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Hanover HS Sports Writer is VHSL Journalist of the Year

May 8, 2014

Student also wins scholarship


CHARLOTTESVILLE — Daniel Polk, lead writer for The Hawk Eye sports page and a senior at Hanover High School in Mechanicsville, is the Virginia High School League’s 2014 Student Journalist of the Year and Charles Savedge Scholarship recipient.

“This past fall, Danny was also the winner of the VHSL Sports Feature Writing Contest for Football, so when the selection committee chose him, I was already familiar with his work,” said VHSL Director of Activities Lisa Giles.

Thirty-seven schools representing all six VHSL groups nominated students for this annual award.  Group 4A, of which Hanover High School is part, submitted 10 nominations.  Only Group 6A submitted more with 11. 

“This is the highest number of applications we have received since 2001,” Giles said.  “I’m thrilled that there is renewed interest and participation in the League’s student media programs in this way.”    

Polk was the unanimous choice of a three-person selection committee composed of college journalism educators and a professional journalist.  “I genuinely enjoyed reading his work,” said Mike Spear, journalism professor at the University of Richmond.  “Many high school sports writers tend to get locked in clichés or report just data and stats.  Daniel doesn’t do either.”

Tom Mullen, director of public affairs journalism at the University of Richmond noted both passion and skill in Polk’s writing.  “Daniel seems to genuinely enjoy sports writing, and does it in a thoughtful, smooth way.  Some college students don’t write this well.”

Hanover High School AP English 11 and Journalism Teacher Michael Goodrich-Stuart agrees.  “I’ve seen the stories he’s written and the photos he’s taken.  They are definitely up to professional standards.”

Goodrich-Stuart recruited Polk from his AP English 11 class to write for The Hawk Eye.  Polk was quickly promoted from back page columns to front page leads, ultimately becoming the main writer for the sports page.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to explore my creative potential until I was brought on board The Hawk Eye,” said Polk.  “Journalism opened my mind to the possibilities, both as a reporter and in life, that are provided by communicating at a high level.”

In his personal essay that accompanied his portfolio, Polk recounts his personal growth and overcoming timidity through interviewing strangers and learning how to connect with people.  His skill was also noted by the Mechanicsville Local, which hired him to do freelance writing, helping him earn money to put toward his college savings.     

“I’m more than just a sports reporter,” Polk said.  “I’m a journalist.”

Polk maintains a 4.571 grade point average and has been accepted by Mary Washington University, University of the South (Sewanee), Christopher Newport University and Stevens Institute of Technology.  He awaits notification from The College of William and Mary, Washington and Lee University and Ithaca College before making a decision. 

About the Charles Savedge Scholarship / Student Journalist of the Year Award

Named in honor of the celebrated publications adviser who was affectionately known as “Mr. Yearbook,” this award began in 1991 when Jason Roop, editor of Style Weekly magazine in Richmond, was the first recipient.  Each year, VHSL member schools may nominate one candidate for consideration.  Complete applications will consist of a one-page, typed, double-spaced essay written by the student which describes the significance that participation in publications has had in his/her life; a journalism-specific resume to include staff involvement and leadership positions, internships conferences attended, awards received, etc.; two samples of work that best represents the student’s journalistic abilities and contributions to student or community publications; and a letter of recommendation that addresses the student’s contributions to publications and the qualities that best describe the nominee.