The Courier Publications/VillageSoup sports staff was recognized by the Maine Principals’ Association for writing, photography, design and video at the organization’s annual awards ceremony, held virtually for the second straight year, on Saturday, Nov. 13.

The media company’s sports department, which includes Holly Vanorse Spicer, Mark Haskell, Zack Miller and Ken Waltz, earned 26 awards for work for The Courier-Gazette, Camden Herald and Republican Journal, along with stage.cg.10upmanaged.com and stage-villagesoup.cg.10upmanaged.com websites.

Oceanside and Medomak Valley play flag football. This image won first place. Photo by Ken Waltz

The individual and group awards came from game and issue stories, columns, print sections, print pages, photos and videos created and presented April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021.

“We diligently work daily to serve readers with stories, photos and videos that reflect the Midcoast’s incredible athletic diversity,” said Waltz, sports director. “The people of Knox, Waldo and Lincoln counties deserve the most professional and comprehensive coverage we can provide. These honors reflect the fact other media professionals — namely, judges from other states — appreciate the quality of our work.”

The time frame from this year’s award entries, of course, include a large portion of the full-fledged pandemic, so the sports staff had to adapt, be flexible and think outside the box.

Ultimately, the staff received nine awards for The Courier-Gazette, nine for Camden Herald and eight for Republican Journal. Overall, the group garnered 10 firsts, 10 seconds and six thirds.

One of the highlights was the fact the group earned top honors for its sports section in three newspapers.

The newspaper divisions are based on circulation, with The Courier-Gazette in Division II and Camden Herald and Republican Journal in Division I.

Camden Hills plays a team scrimmage. This image earned a third-place honor. Photo by Ken Waltz

The following is a summary of awards for the individuals and group for each newspaper:

The Courier-Gazette

Haskell, game story, second, Oceanside girls basketball’s perfect season; and sports news story, first, “ADs eager for normalcy.”

Vanorse Spicer, sports columnist, second, hooked on fishing and New England Revs.

Staff, sports section, first.

Waltz, sports photo, first and third; sports profile, second, golf connection for Ricky Jones and Dustin Johnson; sports profile, third, adult female athlete deals with COVID; and sports headline, second, “No fishing for this answer: Benner catches on as best athlete.”

Of Waltz’s first-place football photo, the judge wrote: “Players not being in pads be-cause of COVID-19 created a great opportunity for the photographer to capture what is much more difficult on a normal football night: facial expressions. They are expertly shown in this photo and the action fills the entire frame without being busy. In addition, the legs form a mirror of one another. Great composition!”

Of Haskell’s first-place story on athletic directors coping with pandemic, the judge wrote: “The top entry by far. Some of the best writing I’ve come across in a while. The author did a tremendous job with this profoundly impactful piece from start to finish. Well done.”

Of the winning sports section, the judge wrote: “Head and shoulders above the rest … well done.”

Chris Hart makes a running catch in an adult softball game. This image earned a third-place honor. Photo by Ken Waltz

Camden Herald

Miller, outdoor story, first, Megunticook Rowing pulls in same direction.

Haskell and Vanorse Spicer, sports columns, tied third. These included Mark’s piece on how the pandemic disrupted his family’s daily schedule.

Staff, sports section, first.

Waltz, sports photo, third, Camden Hills football scrimmage; sports columnist, first; page design, first; and headline, second, “Looking in mirror can be reflective experience.”

Haskell and Waltz, sports game story, second, Cole Anderson wins back-to-back Maine Amateur golf titles.

On Waltz’s first-place column, the judge wrote: “Really liked the “appreciation for athletes’ loss” column in which writer used athletic memories from his youth to explain potential impact of COVID on boys and girls who have been put on the sidelines by the virus.”

Of the first-place sports section, the judge wrote: “Lots of outstanding articles, graphics and photos. Read- er-friendly layout.”

Republican Journal

Miller, sports video, first (playing footgolf with colleagues); and sports column, second.

Holly Vanorse Spicer, sports profile, second, Keach earns first; and outdoor story, third, through exploration, education.

Haskell, sports profile, first, Iowa farmer Battani.

Staff, sports section, second.

Waltz, sports photo, second; and sports headline, first, “Iowa farmer Battani ready to plant, nurture success for Lion athletes.”

Of Haskell’s first-place sports profile piece, the judge wrote: “A nicely-written article with an interesting and captivating lede and great quotes throughout. The background information provided was presented quite well. Held my interest from start to finish. Very good work.”

Of Waltz’s headline for Haskell’s story on new Belfast athletic director, the judge wrote: “Nice use of AD’s background to project his philosophy on new job.”

Courier Publications/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com.