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Herald sports staff wins 17 GSWA awards

Albany Herald sports editor Danny Aller, left, along with high school beat writer Mike Phillips, center, and college beat writer John Millikan combined to win 17 Georgia Sports Writer Association Awards over the weekend during the annual awards banquet in Lawrenceville.

Albany Herald sports editor Danny Aller, left, along with high school beat writer Mike Phillips, center, and college beat writer John Millikan combined to win 17 Georgia Sports Writer Association Awards over the weekend during the annual awards banquet in Lawrenceville.

LAWRENCEVILLE — Albany Herald sports editor Danny Aller, along with staff sportswriters Mike Phillips and John Millikan, garnered one of the biggest hauls of Georgia Sports Writers Association awards in the history of the department Sunday during the GSWA’s annual banquet, taking home a combined 17 first-, second- and third-place honors.

The 17 awards was the most of any newspaper in Division II, which includes daily publications with circulations under 40,000.

Phillips, who has been with The Herald for two and a half years covering primarily the high school beat, earned six individual writing awards — including three first place — while Aller, who has been in charge of sports operations since February 2007, and Millikan, who joined the staff last April and primarily covers the local college beat, won five writing awards apiece.

The Herald’s sports staff also won second place in the “Best Section Layout” category, rounding out the awards.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There may just be three of us full-time covering a large area in Southwest Georgia that includes 25 high schools and five colleges, but I feel we have one of the most talented, hard-working sports staffs in the state and the country for a newspaper our size,” Aller said. “I’m extremely proud of our efforts once again, and I can’t thank Mike and John enough for their dedication day-in and day-out. Together, we continue to make The Albany Herald’s sports section one of the best in the business today.”

Phillips earned first-place honors for his Masters third-round article in the “Best Event Story on Deadline — Pro Sports” category following his coverage of the 2011 PGA Tour major, which was won by Charl Schwartzel. Phillips also won first place in the “Best Sports News Story on Deadline — College Sports” category after being the first reporter from any publication in the nation to talk to legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden about fellow legend and coaching rival Joe Paterno being fired following the breaking news of the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal.

Phillips’ final top honor came in the “Best Feature or Series, Non-Deadline — High School Sports” category for his Dynamite Dozen profile of Deerfield running back Quentin Heard. Phillips tied for first place in that category with Marietta Daily Journal sports writer Greg Oshust.

Phillips also earned two second-place nods, including one in the “Best Event Story on Deadline — High School Sports” category for his game story on the Terrell County boys basketball team reaching the GHSA Class A State Championship game last year. Phillips tied for second place in that category with Will Hammock of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Phillips’ other second-place award came in the “Best Feature or Series, Non-Deadline — Pro Sports” category for his article written about former Negro League baseball star Roosevelt Jackson, 93, who gave a moving speech in Plains last year with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in attendance.

Phillips’ lone third-place award was given in the “Best Event Story on Deadline — High School Sports” category for his story on the Monroe girls track & field team winning its third straight GHSA Class AAA state title in the spring of 2011. Phillips tied with Gwinnett’s Christine Troyke in that category.

Aller, meanwhile, earned three first-place honors, one second and one third.

Aller won first place in the “Best Sports News Story on Deadline — Pro Sports” category for his article on former Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Bill Stanfill — an Albany resident — as he reacted to the Green Bay Packers falling in their bid to become the first NFL team since Stanfill’s 1972 Dolphins squad to go unbeaten. The Packers carried a perfect 13-0 record into Week 15 before being stunned by the Kansas City Chiefs, 19-14.

Aller also won top honors in the “Best Sports News Story on Deadline — High School Sports” category for his story on former legendary Randolph-Clay boys basketball coach Joe Williams — one of Georgia’s all-time winningest coaches — suddenly dying late last year.

Aller’s final first-place award was in the “Outdoors Writing” category for his story on Lee County math teacher Josh Fix turning heads in running circles around the nation last year at the Northface Endurance Challenge in Atlanta, where he finished second in the 50-mile ultra-marathon race during his first-ever attempt at that distance.

Aller’s second-place honor also came in the “Best Sports News Story on Deadline — Pro Sports” category for his article regarding the injury status of San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, a Leesburg native who was lost for the season last May following a home-plate collision. When there was little known about Posey’s condition shortly after it happened, Aller spoke to several people close to Posey — such as his father, Demp — who were able to provide details on the seriousness of the injury, as well as Buster’s probability of returning.

And finally, Aller’s third-place award came in the “Best Feature or Series, Non-Deadline — Pro Sports” category for his in-depth follow-up article months later on Posey, who spoke with The Herald about life away from baseball during his rehab, his projected return date and his lost sophomore season that was cut short less than halfway through following his breakout NL Rookie of the Year campaign in 2010.

Millikan picked up a pair of second-place awards and three third-place honors.

He was given a second-place nod in the “Best Event Story on Deadline — Pro Sports” category for his Albany Panthers gamer following their win at the Columbus Lions in the semifinals of the SIFL playoffs, which avenged a loss in the regular season. Millikan’s other second-place honor came in the “Best Feature or Series, Non-Deadline — College Sports” category for his feature on Albany State’s punter Luke Jones, a rugby-style kicker from Australia.

Millikan earned a third-place nod in the “Best Event Story on Deadline — College Sports” category for his game story on ASU’s stunning conference title game loss to Miles College in Atlanta. He also won third place in the “Best Sports News Story on Deadline — Pro Sports” category after breaking the news that professional wrestler Ric Flair — who stopped in Albany for an appearance — was making a comeback to the ring.

Millikan’s final third-place honor was also in the “Best Feature or Series, Non-Deadline — College Sports” category for his profile of ASU’s diverse, talented trio of running backs — Daryl Carey, Nathan Hoyte and Luther Edwards — who all brought something different to the table.

Herald editor Jim Hendricks said Monday that he was happy to learn of his sports staff’s success in the GSWA contest yet again — but he wasn’t the least bit surprised.

“Our sports team, once again in 2011, did an outstanding job, as evidenced by the 17 awards they earned in the Georgia Sports Writers Association contest,” Hendricks said. “Danny Aller, our sports editor, our sports writers Mike Phillips and John Millikan, work hard every day to get local sports information to our readers and Web viewers, and it’s nice to see their dedication and hustling earn this recognition from the judges.”