Thomas Caputo

Fredericktown senior Thomas Caputo celebrates after winning the Div. III state cross country championship on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. In doing so, he became Knox County's first cross country state champion.

See this photo? I'll let you in on a little secret: I wasn't exactly where I was *supposed to be* when I took it.

It was the first race of the day on Saturday, at the OHSAA cross country championship meet. And because it was the first race at the OHSAA's new championship site – Fortress Obetz in Obetz, Ohio – one could speculate as to whether course officials knew exactly where they could tell media to go (or not to go) to take pictures.

I certainly wasn't sure. Directives were clear on the main part of the course – don't cross the rope, mainly – but the finish line was different. Some reporters lined up on the periphery, some along the final stretch. Knowing who I was covering – and where they might finish, and what that might mean to the school and county they represented – I decided to take a chance.

I slinked past a barrier and positioned myself in the chute, directly ahead of the finish line, roughly 40 yards away. I had a point-blank shot at whoever the winner might be. No one told me 'no,' so I stayed.

Sure enough, around two minutes later, a red blur came into view. The crowd began to roar. "Here comes your winner," the PA announcer bellowed, and I cocked my camera into position. Thomas Caputo, the Fredericktown senior seeking to become Knox County's first cross country state champion, was tearing down the home stretch, ready to make history.

I began firing as soon as he came into view. When he crossed, he closed his eyes and hoisted his arms into the air, a visceral exhalation after years of hard work and dedication. "Oh my gosh," he kept saying. I was thinking the same thing.

I was lucky enough to snap the picture above. I'm not the best photographer in the world, and I might not have the fanciest camera, but I'm willing to put in the work to get good visuals for our readers. I believe this moment demanded it.

After snapping the picture and interviewing Thomas and his coach, I ran (literally) back to the media workroom and uploaded the image. I posted it on social media roughly 20 minutes after Thomas crossed the finish line, and as expected, it took off.

Thousands of community members saw the image – a historic moment, frozen in time – and the comments began rolling in. It was shared far and wide across Knox County that day. Thomas Caputo, a kid from Fredericktown, had made his hometown proud.

In the hours to come, I'd upload our video interview with Thomas, and I'd write a detailed account of how he won and what it meant. The story also highlighted how Knox County's other 17 runners fared in Saturday's meet, along with pictures and quotes documenting the experience. It was truly a landmark day for local runners, and every one had a place in the story.

I say all of this with a purpose: not to brag, but to explain how the things you see on our website, and our Facebook page, end up there.

It takes work. It takes preparation (understanding who our local athletes are, and what they're competing for), and a little bit of risk (I was later told not to take pictures from the chute – oops!). It takes passion, which produces the quality journalism I believe our community deserves.

More than anything, though, it takes community support. Our reporters can have all the passion in the world, but if we aren't funded, we cannot go to Obetz. We can't be there to document history, to capture a moment that will make Knox County proud for decades – maybe even centuries – to come.

We are dedicated to capturing local history, the good and the bad. We're dedicating to being Knox County's go-to news source. But we need your support to make that happen.

If you believe our reporting is important to Knox County, join our team today. For as little as $4.99 a month (two cups of coffee!), you can send me to Obetz. You can send our team to polling locations and council chambers and graveyards, sometimes all in the same week. Click here to get started.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our work so far, and will continue to support it in the future. You make moments like this happen.

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Staff Reporter

Grant is a 2018 graduate of Ohio Northern University, where he studied journalism and played basketball. He likes coffee, books and minor league baseball. He loves telling stories and has a passion for local news.