Tag Archive | ncaa

Good Work

So I’ve mentioned I want to write a book..

So very many of the stories I’ve covered are inspiring, emotional and powerful… often because they reflect something incredibly positive, born out of something terrible and tragic.

January 5, 2011.  I was 8 months pregnant, sluggish and FOREVER late.  That day I was running behind as usual, hoping to stop at Subway on my way to work.  I was at the stoplight at 144th and Q and one, then two, then three Omaha Police cruisers flew past me with lights and sirens blaring.  I called the KETV assignment desk to let them know something was going on, and my managing editor, Jim Reding, responded, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a shooting at Millard South, we need you here right away.’

I immediately turned my car around and sped to KETV as quickly as I could.  Within minutes, I was on the anchor desk and on air, sharing what we knew with our viewers. A young man had walked into the front office and opened fire, shooting two principals.  One of them was dead, another was critically hurt.  The teenager drove a few miles away, then shot and killed himself.

12400723_10154467066807306_5715701494276042041_n

Millard South student Kyler Erickson heard and saw it all.  He hid in a bathroom, called 911, and waited.  No one should be witness to a nightmare like this; Kyler was as a teenager.  Still, he refused to let that horror take him down, despite the nightmares and grief that followed.  With therapy and sheer inner strength, Kyler healed emotionally and grew physically, attending the University of Nebraska Omaha to play Division 1 Basketball.  He began to share his story, meeting with everyone from veterans suffering from PTSD to other students.  This year, Kyler was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team, recognized at the 2016 Final Four tournament, one of only five student athletes nationwide.  This dude is simply AWESOME.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Kyler’s incredible journey from KETV’s Matt Lothrop.

Kyler’s loved ones are among those most proud of this young man, including his longtime friends from Millard South…

12768382_10154045725544954_1761044331874904110_o

..friends who were there in full force at Kyler’s final game with UNO.  The girl in the beige and black sweater is LaRissa McKean.

“He’s so inspiring,” LaRissa told me recently.  She too was at Millard South that day, in AP Economics class.  And much like her friend Kyler, she’s devoted much of her time and focus on simply trying to make the world a better place.

12711119_10154028535559954_2838773612485285297_o

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“The best compliment I received was from a sorority sister.  She anonymously left me a note saying ‘you make people feel good about themselves,'” said LaRissa.  “That statement is what motivates me daily to make an impact on someone’s life.”

I first met LaRissa last summer at the Miss Nebraska Pageant; she left her mark on most, if not all of the audience and her fellow contestants.  This girl is SHEER JOY.. she lights up a room with her smile and personality, and radiates energy and glee the second she steps on stage. LaRissa was also voted Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants.

12247880_10153828839024954_3407192905820610597_o

That beautiful smile shows LaRissa’s inner spirit… but so does THIS.

Hilarious.  Carefree.  So many women in pageants, business and LIFE are afraid to let their guard down, so afraid of what people will think about them.  LaRissa knows who she is and OWNS it.  You can just tell she LOVES life, and everyone around her smiles and lets THEIR guard down because of it.

LaRissa will compete at Miss Nebraska again this year as Miss Gering 2016.  Her personal platform of service is called ‘Feel The Difference: Empowerment Through Communication.’

“[It’s] based on Maya Angelou’s quote, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’  I will leave a legacy where I make people feel inspired and willing to take the act of listening through conversation to better the lives around them.”

LaRissa has all kinds of opportunities to communicate.. the girl is surrounded by people CONSTANTLY.  A University of Kansas graduate specialized in Accounting and Human Resources, LaRissa currently works three jobs; she’s a Head Instructor of summer high school/college dance camps with Universal Dance Association, she’s a full-time educator with Lululemon, and she’s a substitute paraprofessional in the district where she grew up, Millard Public Schools.  She volunteers every week with local 4th graders, helping them catch up on homework and answering questions.  LaRissa also takes part frequently at charity events, doing what she can to help as Miss Gering.

THEN.. there’s dance, a constant in LaRissa’s life for many years.

“I have judged the State Dance Competition for the last three years along with other local high school competitions and college regional competitions for the NAIA Nationals,” said LaRissa, who learned at and competed with Kitty Lee Dance, a place she still practices and volunteers.  “One of my biggest role models was Miss Kitty.  Not only did she instill my love for dance, she taught me to be stronger and never think you can’t improve.  She raised me in the studio and I can’t thank her enough for whacking my leg with a ruler to get my knees straight.  She was the first one to correct me in every dance class but also the first to congratulate me on a performance well done.  Even with her gone, I know she is watching every class and performance, smiling that her passion lives inside of me.”

11266503_10153467206839954_440277046882975953_n

Talent is LaRissa’s favorite part of the Miss Nebraska Pageant; she plans to combine her love of comedy and dance to present a musical theater piece with ‘an element of surprise’ this year.

“Not only does [talent] set our system apart from others, it is truly beautiful to see all the contestants show their art to the world,” said LaRissa.  “I love watching the contestants light up the floor with their interests and show a piece of themselves to everyone.  The emotion that can be portrayed in 90 seconds gives me goosebumps and really shows the uniqueness of every competitor.”

12096031_10153771687579954_7798997698585801305_n

That’s one of the things LaRissa hopes to share with pageant naysayers.. to learn more about the women who take part before forming an opinion.

“I remember going to pageants as a young girl and telling my mom I couldn’t wait to be as pretty or as talented as the women that compete for Miss Nebraska,” said LaRissa.  “The majority of people who compete are varsity athletes in their schools, Honor Roll recipients, and leaders in their community.  They are some of the most respected people and receive more credit for being mentors to people all across the nation.”

12235069_1003674453031830_1580178002627350191_n

LaRissa adds that every woman she knows who’s taken part in this system has made a difference in someone’s life.. and that she became a leader because of it.  She describes the title of Miss Nebraska as a job she’s applying for that could give her a year of memories she can only imagine.  BUT.. in the swirl of glamour and costumes and performances, LaRissa hasn’t lost focus of her values and priorities; her family, including grandparents Pampy and Nana who she spends several hours with every week.  Education, through both mentoring students and planning ahead to obtain a Masters Degree.  Love, and her love of people.. simply spending time with those who matter most, friends like Kyler Erickson.

No one would have faulted Kyler for never talking about that day again, for withdrawing from everything to process what happened, for moving thousands of miles away from Omaha to escape everything and start fresh.  Instead, this guy confronted his demons, defeated them, then stayed and shared his journey to help others still battling.  LaRissa McKean’s story doesn’t stem from tragedy and horror but is inspiring nonetheless.. a young woman using her gifts and positive attitude to simply do good work in our world.

Loren winkler

Photo courtesy  Loren C Winkler Images

“At the end of the day, I look in the mirror, washing off my makeup and think it would be amazing to be Miss Nebraska 2016, but I would rather be known as LaRissa who became Miss Nebraska because of the person I am,” said LaRissa.  “I’m an honest person, who gives my opinion respectively.  I won’t change my values or morals because of a title, I will continue to grow and live a life I treasure.  At the end of the day, I will still be LaRissa McKean forever.”

I think they call this perspective.  Maybe it’s what she saw Kyler go through.  Maybe it’s been the lesser challenges she, like the rest of us, go through.  No matter where the drive comes from.. imagine what life could be like if we all strived to do good work to help each other, and in turn, found peace and joy within ourselves.

Kyler Erickson is available to speak at events; CLICK HERE for details and to learn more about his story.

***

Click on each link below to follow Miss Gering 2016 LaRissa McKean

on FACEBOOK and on INSTAGRAM.  You an also email LaRissa for appearances and events at larissamckean@gmail.com.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT LaRISSA?

2015 * Sleepless Beauty

For more information about the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Heather Hayes by phone at 307-340-0601, or by email at Heather.Hayes@chartercom.com.

***

The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashlynn Haun!

NEXT.. Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Shaniah Freeseman!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Just Keep Swimming

There’s something special about swimmers..

These athletes are just wired differently than n0rmal human beings.  They’re up at 4am to put in hours at the pool.  They are SHEER musle and strength.  They don’t know failure, because when they’re not focused on the swimmer in the next lane, they are constantly racing their OWN clocks to top their personal bests.  All of these traits; dedication, health, perfection, also seem to translate to swimmers’ lives outside the pool.

Want proof? Meet Team KETV.

Before Melissa Fry was our 5pm anchor and one of our best reporters, she was the 2001 state champion in the 100m butterfly at Millard South High School (Melissa and her dad are the first father/daughter state champions in swimming!)  Melissa is still in the Patriot record books for several strokes, and went on to swim at Illinois State before transferring to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Before Alex Hoffman was our First News anchor, she was nothing short of a legendary swimmer in her home state of South Dakota.  In high school alone, she won four individual state titles.  At South Dakota State, Alex’s list of school records and career wins is TWO FULL PAGES LONG.  I’M NOT KIDDING.  She broke 9 school records her first season, was team captain her senior year and chosen as an NCAA Woman of the Year nominee.  Alex was also Miss South Dakota 2008 and a Top 10 finalist at the 2009 Miss America pageant.

Before Alexandra Stone became our First News Weekend anchor (and one of our star reporters!) she was swimming year-round for both school and club events, starting when she was a toddler.  Alexandra made the varsity swim team as a freshman, excelling in the 100M backstroke.

And finally..

12494664_10207183025951613_8886429661591768084_n

This INCREDIBLE young lady, Jojo Randby!  Jojo’s mom is Emmy-Award winning journalist Julie Cornell, and her dad is our Chief Meteorologist Bill Randby.  Jojo is making a name for herself.. representing Nebraska in the midwest regional 5-state All Star meet, where she won the 50m and 100m breast, clocking personal record times in both!

NONE of this is easy.  ALL of these ladies say they swim or swam 6+ days a week, often twice a day.  This all comes in addition to school, volunteering and other activities.

Want more proof?  Meet Hannah Miller.

HMiller_color

Photo courtesy Blinq Studio

“I’ve had a crazy swim season that just concluded with the state meet,” Hannah told me last month, after qualifying for two events at state as a sophomore.  (CLICK HERE to watch Hannah set a new personal record in the 100m butterfly in January!)  Hannah’s also a dancer.  And she works part time.  And she’s a student at Elkhorn High School.  And she’s Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen.

10303443_10208526546788247_633932608910382686_n

Hannah spends almost three hours EVERY DAY swimming, in addition to everything else she’s got going on in her life.  How, and WHY add a crown and sash to the mix, and commit to competing for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in June?

“I got involved in the MNOT program because I love the values that it promotes: service, scholarship, style and success,” said Hannah.  “I have such respect for the titleholders who are volunteering in their communities and are role models for everyone around them.”

Hannah has also held the titles of Miss Nebraska Pre-Teen 2012 (ANTSO), America’s US Miss Nebraska Teen 2014, and as Miss Nebraska Junior Teen 2014 (ANTSO) she was named National Junior Teen 1st Runner-Up and National Spokesmodel winner for 2015.  Complete disclosure.. I know very little about the America’s National Teenager Scholarship Organization, but it seems Hannah knows what to prioritize as a new contestant in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen club.

For starters, her volunteer work ties right back to where she’s most at home.. in the pool.

12729051_745199188948839_6922489419426779630_n

“My platform is ‘Safe Splashes’, combining my love for the water with my passion for working with young children,” said Hannah.  “Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children between the ages of 1 and 4.  According to the CDC, in 10% of those drownings, the adult will actually be watching the child with no idea it is happening!  While complete ‘drown-proofing’ does not exist, parental water safety education and early childhood swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning.”

Hannah is hoping to make a difference both with with her words and action; she works part-time as a swim instructor, teaching kids and parents exactly what she promotes as Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen.  She’s also volunteered to read for local students, to ring bells for the Salvation Army, she’s been part of the Bid Buddy/Little Buddy mentoring program and helped as a math tutor.

Hannah has also lettered in Varsity Cheer, and she’ll dance at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

12552602_735181706617254_8020979725724580063_n

“I combine my two favorite dance styles (jazz and tap) into a fun, upbeat routine that I absolutely love to perform,” said Hannah.  Hannah also loves her family (just below, she’s emceeing part of Nebraska’s Miss Amazing pageant with her dad, Jim!) and friends, and says those relationships along with school are most important to her in her life.

11227609_10207946020837360_5863979914500331738_n

“From an early age, giving back to the community and volunteering have been important to me, so I look for role models who are reaching out and making a difference in real ways each and every day,” said Hannah.

Now, this 16-year old hopes to become a role model for someone else, and notes that her pageant-background has propelled her forward.

“I tell people about the community service I have become involved in through pageantry and the self confidence it takes to walk and talk on stage,” said Hannah.  “When I applied to be a swim instructor at the age of 15 I was interviewing with candidates that were as much as 6 years older than me.  I got the job because of the confidence and poise I had in the interview.  My ability to speak honestly and confidently to parents about their child’s progress earns me respect as an instructor.  The skills of communication and confidence are directly related to my involvement in pageantry and I am proud of that.”

And now, Hannah Miller wants to take her journey one step further as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  After all, she’s a self-described well-rounded over-achiever.  If you ask Melissa, Alex, or Alexandra… I’m pretty sure that’s synonymous with SWIMMER.

12294862_712455152223243_2011549582827033256_n

Photo courtesy Blinq Studio

“I have been preparing to represent our great state for some time now and I know I am ready to step up and be the best possible representative nationally for Nebraska,” said Hannah.  “I am a genuine person who connect with people easily and I have the ability to help make a difference.”

***

To follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Hannah Miller on FACEBOOK CLICK HERE.  To contact Hannah about appearances and events, email her at hl_miller@icloud.com or email Jim Miller at  jr_miller@cox.net.

For more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE or THEIR WEBSITE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Kelsey Ellis by email at omahadouglascountyOT@gmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

***

The 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Alliance 2016 Kate Lynne Duncan!

NEXT.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival 2016 Kara Kriha!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Time For Kickoff

We are now just DAYS AWAY from a new Husker Football season.

2015 is no ordinary year.. we have a new head coach, a new mentality, a new style.  We lost powerhouse players like Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell, but will see new faces like true freshman Dedrick Young, awarded his blackshirt just this week.

A new chapter will be written in the storied history that is Nebraska Football.  Every Thursday, I get to flip back a few pages (or more) and check in with the ‘legends’ of seasons past.

IT’S TIME FOR THROWBACK THURSDAY.

Like last year, I’m hoping to dabble in as many eras of Husker football as possible.  We’ll talk to guys hoping to continue playing in the NFL, guys who pursued other talents after graduation, and guys who built the foundation for decades of moments to come at Memorial Stadium.  This has been one of my FAVORITE series to put together in my career here at KETV, and I can’t wait for another season!  (To see who we featured in the 2014 season, CLICK HERE, or click the Throwback Thursday index tab at the top of the page!)

Who better to kick off 2015 then arguably THE BEST kicker in NCAA history?!?!

FAKLJCRNFIXUGDF.20101026180330

#90 ALEX HENERY

Photo courtesy Huskers.com

Alex Henery, Nebraska’s place kicker/punter who played for the team from 2006-2010, set records not only at Nebraska, but in the college football history books.  He only missed EIGHT FIELD GOALS HIS ENTIRE CAREER.

Think about that for a second… HIS ENTIRE CAREER.

The Omaha Burke grad with the golden foot finished college with an accuracy rate of 89.5%, topping the previous NCAA record of 87.8%.  One kick in particular is STILL in Nebraska record books for longest field goal, a moment that set the college football world on FIRE.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S HUSKER THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON ALEX HENERY!

Nebraska was playing rival Colorado to close out the 2008 regular season.  The Buffaloes had just scored a touchdown, putting them up 31-30.  With less than 2 minutes on the clock and a looming 4th down, Coach Bo Pelini called in Henery.

My husband was on the sidelines shooting the game, so I was watching alone at home.  I remember I was putting away laundry, and heard the announcer say Henery was coming in… that his field goal attempt would be from 57 yards out.

WHAT?!?! 57 YARDS?!?!

I put down the laundry basket, and clung to our dog, Mack, watching to see what would happen.

“The big thing I remember is standing out on mid-field,” Henery told me recently.  “There was a commercial break, Jake Wesch looked at me and said, ‘you’re gonna be famous after this.’ I said, ‘right..'”

Do you remember?!? Click here to watch it all over again, thanks to HuskerAddict!

#37 knew what he was talking about.  The kick went in.  The announcers, 85,000 fans at Memorial Stadium and football fans all over the COUNTRY were in awe.  Nebraska won the game.

alex_henery_2008_11_28

Photo courtesy Spokeo.com

“Everyone I talk to, that’s the main thing they talk about,” said Henery.  “They know where they were, who they were high-fiving, and it’s fun to hear people’s stories.”

That one moment was a preview of the consistency and reliability Alex Henery provided for Nebraska. Husker fans reached a point that we knew if Henery was in, the Huskers would put up another 3 points, no questions asked.

That is part of what fuels Henery’s message to this year’s kickers and special teams players at Nebraska.

“Come through in the clutch; that’s all that matters,” said Henery.  “I think the coaches coming in, sounds like they’re great and the guys are buying in.”

He’ll be watching from his hometown of Omaha this season… maybe. After three years playing for the Eagles and Lions, Henery is now an NFL free agent, meaning his phone could ring (and has) at anytime, sending him to tryouts across the country.  In fact, Henery and I had to reschedule our initial interview because he was in Pittsburgh trying out with the Steelers.  Henery was at a charity golf tournament in Omaha when he got the call.

“Had to stop golfing and catch a flight out of town to make the tryouts,” Henery said.  Unfortunately this time around, Henery didn’t get the job.  We talked a little about the differences between college and the pros.. Henery credits great holders and snappers at Nebraska, and notes the business culture of professional football versus the fan adoration and fun many players have in college.

11944956_10102084706233963_2136067800_n 11948206_10102084706258913_1340345698_n

His biggest fans are always waiting for him back in Omaha, his beautiful wife, Johna, and sweet little Landen, who just turned one year old.  How cool will it be for that kid to try on the jerseys hanging in the closet (the Burke High jersey right next to Nebraska and Philadelphia), to look at all of his dad’s plaques and awards from his years as a Husker, and to read all of the cards and newspaper clippings his dad kept as keepsakes?

“College was good to me and I have many good moments to look back on,” said Henery.

#90 Alex Henery courtesy Huskers.com and Nebraska Athletics

Photo courtesy Huskers.com

For more on #90 Alex Henery, CLICK HERE to read his official bio from Nebraska Athletics.

**

NEXT WEEK… CLASS OF 2008 JOE GANZ!