Journalism program brings home IHSA State medalists, earns IJEA recognition


Avani Rai, Kellie Chen, Abby Ruebush and Dylan Wehmeyer pose on stage at the IHSA State Journalism competition. The four were joined by Marielsie Iglesias in the annual State Final at Heartland Community College.

Three students medaled at the IHSA Journalism State tournament on April 21 at Heartland Community College. The three individual top-six finishers matches the journalism program’s best State performance.

At the competition, high schoolers showcase various real-world journalistic skills — writing, editing, designing, drawing, photographing — in a 90-minute or three-hour time frame.

Avani Rai (’23) took home third place in Radio News, Dylan Wehmeyer (’23) earned fourth in Sports Writing and Kellie Chen (’24) finished sixth in Advertising.

Joining the three at State were Marielsie Iglesias (’24), after winning Sectionals for her Yearbook Layout Double-Page Spread, and Abby Ruebush (’24), competing in Copy Editing for the second straight year.

In 2022, Ruebush medaled in the event, boasting a third-place finish in Copy Editing.

This year was Wehmeyer’s first run at State, despite being a three-year Inkspot staff member.

A lack of confidence in his chances of success during the 2022 State Series, Wehmeyer said, kept him from competing as a junior.

This year, the senior, the Inkspot’s Sports Editor, “felt like [his] abilities were in a good spot” to take on Sports Writing at Sectionals.

Sports writing, Wehmeyer said, “is something that I’ve always been interested in.”

Wehmeyer hadn’t expected to medal at State, making his fourth place “very exciting” for the senior, considering he was reporting on a sport he knew little about: lacrosse.

“I had to look up all of the positions,” Wehmeyer said, “but luckily, it ended up working out for me.”

Wehmeyer’s success was also recognized outside of IHSA.

The Illinois Journalism Education Association recognized Wehmeyer’s work in its annual Newspaper & Digital News Media Contest, awarding his profile on Coach David Witzig’s Hall of Fame induction a first-place prize for sports feature writing.

Like Wehmeyer, Rai’s speaking ability was recognized by the IJEA, her broadcast skills earned her second and third-place awards for audio journalism for her Inkspill podcast interviews, a collaborative project with Ruebush.

Rai said the Inkspill episodes helped her prepare for her State competition, where she created a short radio news story after attending a live press conference.

Rai said her ability to organize and edit audio clips and record voiceovers quickly “was definitely aided by the podcasts that [she’d] done.”

Rai attributes this year’s achievements–three State finalists and 32 top-five finishes in IJEA contests ranging from Best Humorous Commentary to Best Review, to the “high standards” the Inkspot’s reporters have been held to.

Through decreased numbers post-pandemic and a Sectional competition that coincided with Community’s spring break, Rai and Wehmeyer see their historic run as a source of pride for the Inkspot.

“The fact that we finaled regardless of [those conflicts] just means that there are many more good things to come,” Rai said.