Wynston Wilcox, Memphis Commercial Appeal high school reporter, won first place in the APSE 2022 contest in Division C breaking news category.
Wilcox — who was part of SJI’s class of 2015 — said winning the award is still hard to put into words.
“I always wanted to tell fun, humanizing stories,” Wilcox said. “[Getting] a chance to tell really fun stories and immerse myself in whatever community I’m living in.”
Wilcox’s piece headlined the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association fining Memphis East $15k for recruiting violations between Memphis University Men’s Basketball head coach Penny Hardaway and Detroit Pistons center James Wiseman. The article gained 52 points and three first-place votes, according to the APSE website.
Wilcox said while this was a breaking news story, he had the time to review critical documents, such as the letter to Memphis East from the TSSAA, to dissect which information was needed.
“[Memphis Commercial Appeal] had exclusive access before I had to break the news,” Wilcox said. “I had time to really walk through the entire writing process of going through the information and writing the story.”
Wilcox said the most challenging part of high school prep sports reporting is searching for information.
For the most part, Wilcox said writers would have access to stats on college and professional athletes, but when it comes to high school sports, writers only have MaxPreps to rely on.
“[Covering high school sports] teaches you the importance of having to build relationships because to get information, you have to — for the most part — reach out to somebody to get that information,” Wilcox said.
It was an impressive year for SJI alums in this year's contest. Richard Silva (Class of 22) earned first place with a team of reporters at the Montgomery Advertiser in the Division D Event Coverage category.
Alums also placing in the Top 10 honors in the contest are Candace Buckner of the Washington Post, Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times, Alex Prewitt of SI.com, Marcus Thompson of The Athletic, Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald, and Landon Bost of the Naples Daily News.
Wilcox said the most important lesson he learned at SJI was the art of storytelling.
“The biggest piece of growth that I've had [with SJI] was writing on deadline, writing in a time crunch, and learning what information is key information when you're in a pinch,” Wilcox said.
Because Wilcox had a lot of experience with game day stories while at SJI, Wilcox said he’s thankful because, under deadline pressure, the constant pressure from Greg Lee, Leon Carter, and Sandy Rosenbush helps keep writers on their toes.
“Having those three constantly on you, pushing you and telling you, ‘your time's up, you got two minutes left. You got five minutes left,’ that helped me learn how to work under pressure even more,” Wilcox said.