It was a rewarding — and awarding — night on Saturday, Oct. 24 as the Courier Publications/VillageSoup sports staff earned 32 honors, including 13 first places, in the annual Maine Press Press Association ceremony, held virtually this year due to the pandemic.

The media sports department, which includes Mark Haskell, Zack Miller, Holly Vanorse Spicer and Ken Waltz, received recognition in all aspects of the business, from writing ad photography, to video and design.

The group won for column, game, profile and sports news writing, video story, print page design and were, as in most years, deemed the best sports section in two newspaper category.

The foursome work for three newspapers, The Courier-Gazette in Rockland, Camden Herald and The Republican Journal in Belfast, along with two websites, knox.villagesoup.com and waldo.viillagesoup.com.

The colleagues earned three firsts, six seconds and two thirds for The Courier-Gazette, four firsts, three seconds and three thirds for The Republican Journal and six firsts and four thirds for the Camden Herald.

The following are the honors received by the Courier Publications/VillageSoup sports department:

The Republican Journal

Zack Miller — First and second for photos.

Ken Waltz — Second for outdoor story, first for profile, third for headline, first for column and third for page design.

Mark Haskell — First for game story and third for sports news story.

Holly Vanorse Spicer — Second for column.

Miller finished first in the sports photo category with his image of a paddler tipping his canoe during a spring river race in Waldo County.

Waltz was first for column writing, for his stories on the pandemic and his memories of watching stock car races as a child at Wiscasset Speedway. Waltz also won first with his profile on two Waldo County brother mushers.

Haskell was first for his game story on the Searsport District High School baseball squad winning another state Class D crown.

Of Haskell's winning game story, the judges wrote: "Very well-written story along with great artwork about the team."

The judges said of Waltz' columns: "Very good at telling the story of the lockdown from the perspective of the one feeling lost from the pandemic."

On Miller's winning canoe-tipping photo, the judges wrote: "Serious kudos to the photographer for being ready to shoot this picture … Sports photography was the most competitive category, and this one is the best of the best."

The Courier-Gazette

Staff — First for section.

Holly Vanorse Spicer — Third for photo, second for outdoors story and second for profile.

Zack Miller — Third for sports video.

Ken Waltz — Second for outdoors story and first for headline.

Mark Haskell — First for sports news story, second for game story and second for sports news story.

Haskell finished first for his pandemic-related story on "Life in Limbo: Uncharted waters for spring coaches, athletes," while Waltz earned first for his headline for the lobster crate races: "Shellshocked: Griffith sinks others in lobster crate gauntlet."

Of Haskell's winning story, the judges wrote: "Very good job. The writing keeps the reader from thinking, 'Oh no, another COVID story.' It keeps them engaged."

Camden Herald

Staff — First for sports section

Mark Haskell — First for game story.

Zack Miller — Third for game story, first for sports news story, first for profile and third for column.

Ken Waltz — Third for game story, first for headline, first for column and third for page design.

Haskell finished first for his story on "yeoman overtime effort" for the Camden Hills soccer team in a playoff game, while Miller finished first for his story on a man who found Midcoast sports treasures and baseball history at the dump, as well as his profile of Zamboni drivers, who proved smooth operators at Midcoast Recreation Center in the story "Icemen cometh."

Waltz won for his columns on his relationship with longtime barber Lowell Jones and his memories of watching stock car racing at Wiscasset Speedway, as well as this headline: "Chute, let's have a party: U.S. National Toboggan Championships celebrate anniversary in style."

The judges said of Haskell's winning game story: "Stories about tough losses are often the hardest to write. Game was well-detailed and strong use of quotes."

Of Miller's winning sports news story, the judges wrote: "History is important and this story tells part of a community's history through baseball. It is interesting what you find in unexpected places."

For Miller's winning profile, the judges wrote: "Who doesn't want to drive a Zamboni? Fun, interesting story of people who love what they do."

Of Waltz' winning columns, judges wrote: "These are great columns that bring a sense of nostalgia."

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com or by phone at 594-4401.