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Go west, young man to the blue Pacific

Lahontan Valley News sports editor Steve Puterski's final day in Fallon was Thursday.

Like any business the news industry sees it share of employees come and go.

The Lahontan Valley News and similar community newspapers all face similar situations when it comes to their employees. Some stay for only a few years, using the smaller newspaper as a stepping-stone to something bigger in a larger community. Others wind up staying for much longer than that, thus making an indelible mark on the community in which they live and report on.

Thursday was my sports editor’s final day at the LVN. Not only was Steve Puterski an excellent editor and reporter, but he also embraced Fallon and its people. Steve arrived in Fallon in September 2009 after serving as a reporter and sport reporter at Windsor Now, a small community newspaper near Greeley, Colo. At the time, budget cuts trimmed the staff, so Steve began searching for another job in Swift Communications. The LVN had a reporter’s opening, which he accepted, and not too long after, he moved up to sports editor. In addition to covering a wide range of sports, Steve also inherited the water and court beats, two new subjects for him.

Steve was a fast learner as he learned about Churchill County and community athletics and of the storied traditions of many Greenwave teams. He saw the ups and downs of teams and people, yet he remained positive in his coverage. With the passing seasons, he developed a good rapport with both coaches and players and became adroit in the way he wrote his stories.

Being a one-person “band” — so to speak — was difficult when covering all the high-school athletic programs, but Steve seemed to thrive with pressure. He often mentioned that covering Fallon teams playing for state championships was a highlight for him, and his previews were well written and received by readers. He, too, beamed with pride when Fallon teams captured state titles, but he also felt the disappointment when the teams fell short. He had come of age in becoming a great Greenwave supporter.

As with many Greenwave fans, Steve felt confident the Fallon football team, which last won a Nevada championship in the late 1970s, would win a state title in 2013. He produced a preview with team profiles, recaps and more leading into the game with Faith Lutheran.

On many occasions, Greenwave athletic director Brad Daum told me how much he appreciated Steve’s reporting. I couldn’t agree with him more.

Likewise, he also became a follower of Wolf Pack athletics and enjoyed covering the football games as the second reporter, meaning he wrote columns and sidebars or additional stories to complement the main article written by beat reporter Joe Santoro. Nevada’s success in Colin Kaepernick’s senior year gave Steve an opportunity to shine with his stories, and as a result of his hard work, he reported on the Wolf Pack’s win against Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Steve thrived when reporting for our newspaper group: “Kaepernick, though, regained his composure and led the Pack on a 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive to knot the score at 7. The 6-foot-6 senior gunslinger hit Rishard Matthews for 27-yard TD pass after escaping the Eagles defense. Kaepernick rolled to his left, stepped over a would-be tackler, Matthews spun around his defender and Kaepernick hit the junior for the score.”

The bowl game, though, did not compare to Nevada’s upset win over Boise State in November 2010. Steve said it best in a column he wrote after the Pack’s biggest game that was played on a frigid Friday night in Reno before a national television audience.

“Apparently, the ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ can play football. And beat the best of them in thrilling fashion.

“In a game where I thought Boise State was more physical, athletic and mentally stronger, I was wrong. Good thing they play the game … a lesson the BCS still hasn’t learned yet.

“Nevada pulled out an improbable, exciting, unbelievable 34-31 victory on Friday at Mackay Stadium … Nevada coach Chris Ault said it was the biggest win in program history (not that he had to tell anyone), but showed his respect for Boise by calling the second best team in the country.”

Other highlights were covering pro football games with Fallon’s own Harvey Dahl and Josh Mauga, interviewing comedian Chris Rock at Octane Fest, meeting former NFL running back Herschel Walker and serving on a roundtable to interview President Barack Obama when he came to Reno in 2012.

Steve brought a great talent of looking at the game as both a reporter and fan. Even his peers recognized his talent when the former sports editor of the Reno Gazette Journals arranged for Steve to be a judge for the Associated Press Sports Editors’ annual writing contest in Indianapolis. Along the way, Steve also won state and national writing awards, the most recent coming from the National Newspaper Association.

In his six years here, Steve became a very proficient writer in covering water issues. When Steve walked into district court for the first time, he did not have a background on reporting arraignments and sentencing. Now, as a seasoned reporter, he can cover court with the ease of a veteran crime reporter.

Now … for the goodbye. Steve told me in July that he wanted to try something else … a change was needed, so on Saturday he will drive to San Diego where he has some family and start another chapter in his life, but his memories of Fallon and the people he covered will not fade. Since he is only a few years older than my son Thomas, who writes part time for the LVN, I feel as though my “older son” is leaving home. We may have had a few disagreements over the years, but he will be sorely missed both as a reporter, a friend and that “older” son.

It was a heck of a great ride.

Steve Ranson is the editor of the LVN.