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Journal staff win 20-plus awards in Top of Rockies

Albuquerque Journal writers and designers landed numerous awards in the 2014 Top of the Rockies journalism competition sponsored by the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The annual competition is open to journalists and news organizations in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and included entries produced during 2013.

Journal sports staff took first-place awards in all of the sports writing categories.

Ken Sickenger won for Sports General Reporting, and Rick Wright won for Columns, while Mark Smith, Geoff Grammer, Ed Johnson and Wright won the top Sports Enterprise award for their series on University of New Mexico Lobos coaches.

“Great team effort about the school and its coaches. Well told,” the judge wrote.

Investigative reporter Colleen Heild won two first-place awards, for Education Enterprise and Health Enterprise.

“Colleen Heild has written a fascinating and well-reported story on an issue that has both local and national implications,” the judge wrote in praising Heild’s stories on the late-term abortion debate in Albuquerque, where one of the nation’s few late-terms abortion clinics is located.

Columnist Leslie Linthicum took top honors for News Columns. “Leslie Linthicum’s columns are punchy, pithy and perceptive,” the judge said. “She tackles visceral issues with a clear voice of reason.”

Digital product manager Jolie McCullough placed first in the Mobile Applications category with an app she wrote for coverage of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

“Clever use of app to inform and engage readers,” the judge commented. “I’d love to see this catch on with other media outlets. Lots of potential there.”

Sickenger’s first-place award in sports writing was for his story on “honorary Isotope” 6-year-old Isaac Lill. And Wright’s first-place award was for sports columns ranging from Lobo basketball Coach Steve Alford’s exit to a look at one of the Lobos’ most painful losses, this one in ’78.

Garnering second-place awards were: James Monteleone for Politics Enterprise; Cathryn Cunningham for Infographic; Sharon Hendrix for Editorials; Mike Gallagher for Investigative Enterprise Reporting; Joline Gutierrez Krueger for News Columns; and Olivier Uyttebrouck and John Fleck for Environmental Enterprise.

Third-place awards went to George Gibson for Feature Page Design; Kevin Robinson-Avila for Business Reporting; D’Val Westphal for Editorials; Olivier Uyttebrouck for Education Reporting; Leslie Linthicum for Columns-Personal/Humor; and science writer John Fleck for his online blog. The Journal’s special section on the “Breaking Bad” television series placed third for Special Sections, and the stories took third place in the Arts and Entertainment Enterprise category.

Best of the West contest

In addition, Linthicum won third place for General Interest Column in the Best of the West journalism competition, which rewards journalistic excellence and promotes freedom of information.

The competition, which covers 14 Western states, is administered by the Arizona-based First Amendment Fund.

Linthicum won for a collection of her UpFront columns, including pieces on horse slaughter, sex abuse in a Zen Buddhist community and the gun control debate.