Sometimes a writer can make a difference in the world of sports.
Navasota Examiner Publisher Scott McDonald has received a coveted state award for doing just that. Navasota High School Athletic Director Lee Fedora nominated McDonald for the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA) State Sports Writer of the Year Award for going above and beyond in the field — and he won it.
After winning the Region V nomination, McDonald triumphed over seven other THSCA region winners.
McDonald found out about winning the Region V award on Feb. 1, and said that was an honor in itself.
“It was on a Saturday, and it wasn’t football season, so when Fedora called, I thought something was wrong. When he told me I was thrilled…I was honored because there are a lot of newspapers and a lot of really good writers in the greater Houston (Region V) area, so just to be nominated was an honor. And winning state was even bigger,” McDonald said.
McDonald said the THSCA has informed him that he will be recognized at the state all-star football game and then at a Hall of Honor luncheon on July 22-23 at the THSCA Coaching School and Convention in San Antonio.
The Putt Powell State Sports Writer of the Year Award is named for legendary sports writer Putt Powell, who wrote for the Amarillo papers until his death on Christmas Eve 1992 at age 80.
New of winning the statewide award was bittersweet, as McDonald also discovered earlier that day his former high school football coach Don Shows had passed away that morning.
McDonald, a former Louisiana high school quarterback for the West Monroe Rebels 1989-91, said, “When I played on his team in high school, we weren’t that good. I played on his first three teams, and we were 5-and-5 and then 8-and-3, and made the playoffs. We were only the third team at this school, in 40 years, to make the playoffs.”
That same coach led the next year’s football team back to the playoffs, and the next team won the school’s first-ever district and state championships. The legendary coach won eight more state championships and five runner-up awards.
“He became one of the winningest coaches of all time in Louisiana, and I was the quarterback in his first win, and his first playoff. It was ironic that I found out about his death the same day I found out about this award,” McDonald said.
Ironically, after a four-year Navy career, McDonald was initially interested in becoming a broadcast journalist, but changed his mind after getting involved in newspapers. And he has left his imprint since.
McDonald has covered high school sports since 1998, when he began his career as a freelance writer for The Dallas Morning News, while attending Richland College in Dallas and working for the Richland Chronicle. Later, as a University of Texas student in Austin, McDonald said he covered men’s and women’s swimming and diving at the university’s Daily Texan. He also served as a freelance writer for the Round Rock Leader from 2000-02, mainly covering Westwood, McNeil and Round Rock high schools.
In the fall of 2002, McDonald landed an internship at The Dallas Morning News and worked in its Arlington and Richardson bureau offices. He continued at The Morning News until 2006, and was the lead volleyball writer in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
During that time, McDonald wrote a story that turned the heads of UIL leaders, and made a difference in the life of a high school athlete.
McDonald explained that in 2004, Richardson Pearce’s fastest 3,200-meter runner in Class 4A, Logan Sherman, wasn’t going to be allowed to compete at state that year for no fault of his own. The long-distance runner missed a regional meet after he and his coach were informed that the race was rescheduled because of inclement weather. However, the race was then reset to its original time, but Sherman and his coach remained unaware. Since he missed the race, Sherman was ineligible to compete at state because of UIL rules.
A series of investigative stories by McDonald led to the allowance of an unprecedented ninth runner in the state meet. And Sherman made his presence count by breaking the 4A state and meet record in 9 minutes, 8.14 seconds.
“His state record stood for six years. The eventual Texas A&M runner also won the 1,600 at that same meet,” McDonald said.
Since that turn of events, the UIL has added a ninth spot in its races at state. The top two finishers from each region qualify and the next-fastest time gets the ninth spot.
McDonald’s love for sports has continued to grow ever since. He became managing editor of the Hill Country News in 2006, and still continued covering sports in Leander ISD for Cedar Park, Vista Ridge and Leander. In late 2009, he became publisher of The Examiner and continues to oversee and cover sports reporting.
Fedora said McDonald’s willingness to cover sports from the junior high level all the way to varsity is just one of the reasons he nominated the seasoned writer.
“I believe he is one of the best sports writers around the state of Texas,” Fedora said. “The amount of work, time and true care he has for all of our student athletes here at Navasota from the junior high to the high school level for both girls and boys, shows why he should be selected for this award.”
McDonald has even covered away Rattler football games while ill because he didn’t want to jinx the team’s record and he couldn’t bear to stay away.
And the publisher made the 2012 Navasota Rattler football state championship run even more special by creating a special edition that was distributed to the players, coaches and fans for the on-field celebration right after the game. McDonald said Katy was the only other high school that created a similar edition that year.
After the state championship, McDonald designed a unique, state championship keepsake poster — with no advertising — that was sold to the public. Proceeds from the sales were used to help purchase state championship rings for players, as most of them could not afford one.
Under McDonald’s direction, The Examiner also created spring and fall sports calendar posters for Navasota ISD and Anderson-Shiro CISD, and an Iola ISD fall sports poster. Because of these efforts, The Examiner is able to donate more than $10,000, collectively, back to the schools’ athletic departments annually.
Amongst other achievements, McDonald has also won numerous Texas Press Association and Texas Gulf Coast Press Association awards for sports writing and photography, feature photography and editorial writing.
Despite his accomplishments, McDonald said, “To win the state (THSCA sports writer) award, it kind of blew me away.”
McDonald added that the newspaper and covering high school sports isn’t just a job for him. It’s his life. And it shows.