On to the next chapter in my life

Over the course of the last eight years, I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to cover high school sports and junior college athletics in North Dakota.

Over this time, I have met tons of people, developed a lot of relationships and created life-long friends.

But as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Friday was my last day at the Minot Daily News, and as you are reading this I am in the midst of beginning a new chapter in my life.

While I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag as to what my future plans are, I will say that circumstances were such that I needed to return home to deal with some family matters head on.

I am appreciative of the athletes, coaches and parents who I have gotten to know over these last eight years, both in Williston and Minot.

I still consider Williston residents Greg McNary, Larry Grondahl, Dennis Healy, Jon Cole and the late Ralph Lockwood to be among the best people I have ever gotten to know. I want to say thank you for welcoming me with open arms when I arrived in North Dakota eight years ago.

Over the course of the last eight years, there have been some experiences that have stood out more than others. Here are just a few:

— The very first game I ever covered in North Dakota was a Class B baseball game, that was decided by the 10-run rule. One of the innings was so long that the centerfielder of the losing team, proceeded to lay down and take a nap as the game was going on.

— In the spring of 2011, a severe winter storm rolled through western North Dakota that knocked out power in Williston for three days, and put several inches of snow on the ground. The paper I was employed with at the time ultimately went to Sidney, Mont., on a Monday morning to produce our weekend edition. It was the same weekend the U.S. had captured and killed Osama Bin Laden.

— In the summer of 2013, Phil Jackson (yes, that Phil Jackson) came to Williston for both his high school class reunion and to speak at the Babe Ruth World Series banquet. In a press conference with media, Jackson referred to Williston at “hyper-active” to this day, I am still trying to figure out how what he meant.

— Prior to coming to Minot, I had heard Our Redeemer’s Christian School had a pretty special volleyball team. And the Knights didn’t disappoint. Getting the opportunity to cover ORCS volleyball the past two seasons was a definite highlight of my time in Minot.

— Class B basketball is pretty special. In the spring of 2016, I witnessed ORCS’s John Reiten hit a half-court shot that gave the Knights their first District 12 tournament title. It was the craziest finish I had witnessed until I saw Hillsboro-Central Valley’s Kyle Henningsgard hit a shot at the buzzer to give the Burros a stunning win over Four Winds-Minnewaukan to claim the Class B state title.

I would like to thank Joe Mellenbruch, John Denega, Garrick Hodge and Alex Eisen – my collegues for the last two years in Minot.

I would also like to thank you the reader. Your complaints were always a motivation for me to do better, and your kind words and complements meant more than you will ever know.

My wife and I welcomed three daughters into our home during our time in North Dakota. So to say North Dakota will always have a place in my heart is an understatement.

Thank you to all for being a part of this chapter of my life.

Now onto the next.

This is the opinion of Mark Jones, follow him on Twitter @MarkJones27_MDN.