After years of honoring a handful of the top local student-athletes with extra notoriety — via notable recognition — following each of the three high school sports seasons, VillageSoup will no longer continue that tradition.

VillageSoup, through The Herald Gazette and The Republic Journal newspapers, has, for years, selected, with the help of coaches, the top athletes from a sport from a particular season and shone a spotlight on them with a story and photos.

Ultimately, these standout local student-athletes, referred to as notables by VillageSoup and all stars by others, were given additional publicity following their respective seasons.

That staple of local sports journalism will not continue during the 2011-12 school year.

The VillageSoup sports department has decided not to continue naming high school notables after each season, but simply continue to highlight and publicize school athletes during their seasons, as well as with stories on them, when warranted, between seasons.

That coverage will go along with the stories/photos VillageSoup already provides on adult and youth sports, as well as many other community-related athletic events, such as road races and triathlons, for examples.

Having the local newspaper name all stars or notables has been a tradition for decades, something begun by Tom Von Malder, former sports editor of The Courier-Gazette. He and the Courier began naming newspaper high school athletic all stars after the fall, winter and spring seasons starting in the late 1970s and that tradition continued for more than three decades, in some form or another, through the Courier-Gazette and then VillageSoup.

For many years, all stars or notables were named for student-athletes in Knox and part of Lincoln counties after each season for sports in which two or more local schools sponsored that program. In recent years, VillageSoup has included student-athletes in Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln counties among its season-ending notables.

Over the years, notables in the fall were named for cross country, golf, field hockey, soccer and football, but not mountain biking because there has only been one team in the area.

In the winter, notables were named from basketball, wrestling, swimming and indoor track, but not skiing, because only one local school offered that program.

In the spring, notables were named in baseball, softball, tennis and outdoor track and field, but not lacrosse because only one local school offered the sport.

While naming local all stars or notables was a positive way to highlight the area’s top young athletes, it simply was a mechanism to continue putting the spotlight on a select group while taking time and energy away from potentially providing readers with other stories, from non-varsity season wrap stories to features on notable/interesting local youth and adult athletes, for examples.

While VillageSoup, like most media companies, feels tradition and history are important to a community, ultimately, change is inevitable. Thus, the time has come to turn the page and give the sports department more opportunity to focus on writing stories about and taking photos of other worthy sporting issues and people and not simply continue to highlight the same group of standout student-athletes, who receive plenty of recognition during the actual seasons.

Ultimately, with the economic challenges that all businesses continue to face, including media companies, the limited resources available must be used to their most productive and, frankly, the process of collecting information and photos for notables stories in the short span of time between seasons is no longer feasible or productive for a reduced staff.

Thus, the sports department has decided to focus its time and energies in other ways. VillageSoup will continue to provide comprehensive coverage of school teams and athletes, in stories and with photos, on its website and in its newspapers, as well as informing the public when local athletes are honored by their schools, their leagues, their regions or states.

VillageSoup also will continue to name schoolboy and schoolgirl athletes of the year each spring. And, the newspapers will, in the near future, bring back two previously popular elements, namely highlighting a few notables (children and adults) each week and also selecting one interesting photo from the week and asking those in the image: “What were you thinking?” Both of those elements will appear in the newspaper first and online later.

The sports department will continue to preview high school teams before each season and cover their progress through the campaign, write feature stories on athletes of all ages and stories on all aspects of the sporting community, including issue-oriented articles, but VillageSoup will not, at this time, continue with its end-of-season school sports notables.

Village NetMedia Sports Director Ken Waltz can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at kwaltz@villagesoup.com.