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Finding a new zone PDF E-mail

For as long as I can remember, my personal priorities have centered around faith and family before work.

It was the example my parents set. They never let their farming operation get in the way of being a part of our lives as kids. They just always made it a point to go to all of our games, help us with our 4-H and school projects and all of those kinds of things.

I always figured that my parents never said, “We’ve got too much work to do to pay attention to you,” so there was no excuse for me to be the same way.

Sports was, and probably always will be, a huge part of our family. It always has been.

For me, sports and family have intertwined in my life so much that I can’t begin to imagine my life without sports, whether it was the annual Father’s Day family softball game, gathering to watch the Huskers on TV or seeing my younger siblings in competition.

Armed with nothing but a love of sports and writing, I walked into the office of my hometown newspaper as a wide-eyed 18-year-old, still with a year of high school left, hoping they would take a leap of faith on me.

Ten years later, it’s safe to say the leap of faith worked.

Many of those who have seen me cover games, no matter the season, have recognized that me coming out to cover a ball game is more than just a solo act of me with a camera and notebook.

I’ve been in Aurora and Hamilton County for nearly 5-1/2 years. In the time I’ve been working here at the newspaper, my wife and I got engaged, married, and started our family.

That woman is amazing. Who else would hold the camera bag and wait patiently while her husband’s off just trying to do his job? And more recently, try to contain a little 2-year-old boy while Daddy’s working?

It tears me apart every time I’ve got to leave that family for late-night board meetings and school concerts and early-morning hours of trying to meet deadlines.

In the end, it’s just not fair to Jessica and Aden that their husband and father is not around. Too many times, work has gotten in the way of family time.

My family has driven many things in my life. At some point, you have to set your priorities straight.

My wife’s parents are almost three hours away from here. That means, anytime we want to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, it usually means a weekend excursion.

It hasn’t been uncommon to work a couple early mornings, and several late nights a week, in addition to the regular 8-to-5, plus facing the time commitments of being a husband and father. As almost any working parent knows, it can get demanding.

Maybe that’s why it isn’t hard for me to bid farewell to Hamilton County.

However, this area of Nebraska will always hold a special place to me, not only because of those personal milestones, but because of the people.

I have been able to tell some breathtaking stories -- ones I always dreamed about telling when I was that wide-eyed kid.
I never got to win a game at Memorial Stadium or the Bob Devaney Sports Center, but I got to tell how teams from Giltner were able to do just that.

I’ve never had cancer, but I got to tell the amazing story of a basketball coach whose two most important victories are against that disease.

I could try to make a list of people to thank, but knowing me, I’d forget somebody.

I cannot thank my family enough. My family, along with our extended families, mean everything to me. Their unending support has truly been a godsend.

Laurie Pfeifer was probably the best mentor I could have ever asked for. If you want to know how and why I am the journalist I am today, it’s because of her.

The coaches, parents and young men and women who I’ve been privileged to work with over the last 5-1/2 years have been nothing short of outstanding. Those relationships will always hold a special place in my heart, and maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to say goodbye for the last time.

I’ve accepted a full-time sports writing position at the Norfolk Daily News, starting the day after Christmas.

I hate to say goodbye. I really do. But I’ve got to set my priorities straight. I can’t ignore my priorities any longer.
I could hand out a bunch of Christmas presents on my way out the door, but that’s Dave Bradley’s specialty. He’ll handle that Santa Claus role again just fine.

So instead, I’ll leave you with my predictions for 2014.

Cameron Hudson has a machine in this year’s High Plains boys basketball team. They have everything in place to have their most successful season in school history. If you have a free night, they’re worth the price of admission.

Can the Aurora Legion Seniors make it four straight years that they qualify for state? They’ve got their work cut out, but I wouldn’t bet against coach Gary Bandy and his bunch.

The Hampton volleyball team, coming off a season in which it started three freshmen, just might make the state tournament. Diane Torson’s group may be young, but there’s a reason they were rated at the end of this season.

I wouldn’t want to face Giltner football. They were eight points away from being an undefeated team in the semifinals, and most of the team return. Give Jeff Ashby another year, and who knows how far those Hornets will fly.

Merry Christmas.
Thank you for the memories.

NICK BENES can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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