For nearly two months, Vanderveen and photojournalist Anne Herbst followed the members of the Merino High School wrestling team, a team that not only came to represent the spirit of a small Colorado town but the heart of the town as well. Kyle Kasper was just 16 years old when he died traveling on an icy road in northeast Colorado on December 23, 2009.
9NEWS President and General Manager Mark Cornetta said "Chris and Anne are outstanding journalists and I am very pleased to see them recognized for their exceptional storytelling on this very moving piece. This story is a reflection of what they bring to work every day and it is a reminder of why 9NEWS is a very special place to work."
Merino High wrestling Coach John Barber spent a good portion of his Christmas Eve that year telling his athletes that their friend was gone. "I was crushed," he told 9NEWS early on. Should he continue? Should the team continue? When Coach Barber asked Kasper's teammates what they thought about it, they all reluctantly agreed to carry on. For Kyle.
Vanderveen and Herbst traveled to small Colorado towns like Merino and Ordway to capture Coach Barber's journey as he and the rest of his team struggled to find meaning in tragedy. Vanderveen and Herbst spent another three days at the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in 2010 recording hours and hours of video.
"Anne and I often wondered if we were getting too close to the team. We worried about becoming a distraction, but every time we thought about pulling back, Coach Barber and the rest of the team welcomed us back in. We can't thank them enough," said Vanderveen.
The story has already received the Mark Twain Associated Press Television and Radio Association Award for Best Sports Reporting and is currently nominated for a Best Sports Feature Emmy award from the Heartland Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
"I can't credit Anne enough. She's a tremendous photographer who put so much into this," said Vanderveen. "We're not afraid to say that we shed more than a few tears shooting this story. We just hope that we made Coach Barber, Kyle's parents, and the rest of the town of Merino proud for letting us document something so sensitive."
This is the first National Edward R. Murrow Award for both Vanderveen and Herbst.
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