It all started over a month ago at Las Vegas’ Alexis Park Hotel in late February when 70 sports editors from around the

Garry D. Howard

country showed up during the most harsh economic times to work dutifully on the 2008 APSE Writing Contest.

The work of the judges during those four days helped us pull off this year’s contest and without their obvious focus, it would not have worked at all this year.

In the end, the New York Daily News stood tall with two first place awards in two very difficult categories. The final writing results were released Wednesday.

Michael O’Keeffe, Christian Red, Teri Thompson and Nathaniel Vinton teamed up on a year-long investigation into Roger Clemens and the steroid scandal, and their collective work was deemed the top entry in the highly competitive Investigative category, which is open to newspapers of all sizes.

In addition, Wayne Coffey’s retrospective, six-part series on Yankee Stadium as it celebrated the final year of its illustrious history was named No. 1 in the Projects category for newspapers with circulations over 250,000.

It all left New York Daily News Sports Editor Leon Carter, who is known for his dynamic oratory skills, struggling for something to say.

"Now I’m speechless," he said Wednesday morning in a phone interview from his office. "This is great news in a time when you hear so many bad things about this industry. And I think it can be attributed to a hard-working and talented staff that involves everyone, from the writers to the designers and the editors, including my assistant, who pasted up the entries.

"It is the newspaper’s award," he ended.

The San Diego Union-Tribune earned four Top-5 prizes in the over-250,000 category, winning first place in Explanatory (Mark Zeigler); second place in Game Stories (Zeigler); second place in Projects (Brent Schrotenboer); and a tie for fifth place in Explanatory (Schrotenboer).

John Canzano of The Oregonian won the overall column writing award in the over-250,000 category, besting some top competition; Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal won it in the 100-250,000 category; David Teel of Newport News Daily Press in the 40,000-100,000 category; and Patrick Obley (you’ll hear more about him later) of the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun took home the top column writing prize in the under 40,000 category.

Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer was one of more than a few Top-5 double winners, taking home a third place in column writing and a fifth place with three other colleagues (Bob Brookover, Ray Parrillo and Ashley Fox) in the over-250,000 Projects category.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also earned two top-5 finishes in the 100-250,000 category, with a second place award in Breaking News and a third place in Projects.

In the 40,000-100,000 category, the Columbia (S.C.) State earned four top-5 awards, with a second place in Features (Patrick Obley); a fifth place in Projects (Ron Morris) and Breaking News (Obley); and a fifth place in Columns (Morris). With these two awards, Obley is now the proud owner of three top-5 prizes this year.

The Glens Falls Post-Star was one of several multi-winners in the under-40,000 category, landing a third place in Projects (Tim McManus) and a first place in Explanatory (Pete Tobey).

In that same category, the Altoona (Pa.) Mirror took home two top-5 awards, with a fourth place in Projects (Buck Frank) and a third place in Explanatory (Cory Geiger); the Island Packet earned first place in Projects (Justin Jarrett) and a third place in Features (Jarrett); the Tucson Citizen earned third place in Breaking News (Steve Rivera) and a fourth place in Columns (Anthony Gimino); the Albany Herald won first place in Projects (Paul Dehner) and second place in Game Stories (Scott Chancey); and the Santa Barbara News-Press won third place in Columns (Mark Patton) and a fifth place in Features (Alex Pavlovic).

Now, if I can for a moment, I want to personally thank all of you for participating this year in the APSE Contest. Next year’s chairman, the very capable Tim Wheatley of The Baltimore Sun, was instrumental in helping with this year’s contest and now has a great idea on how to improve next year’s version.

Congratulations to all of the winners and remember, if you’re a Sports Editor, keep your chin strap buckled …

We’ll make it through these storms. … The fantastic work we produced this year is living proof.

Complete list of final writing winners