COLUMN: Buckley leads, Diehl inspiring

By Laura Hettiger

Favorite story

The Friday before the NFL Draft, I wrote a story on Dave Diehl, one of the offensive linemen for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. It was my first interview – of what I hope will be many to come – with a professional athlete. The main reason I really enjoyed this story is because Diehl, a former Illini offensive lineman, showed you should always be proud of where you’ve come from and where you’ve been.

Best “meet” I covered

Unfortunately for me, many of the women’s gymnastics meets were away this season, including the Big Ten Championships in late March.

The team had struggled all season on the balance beam, and at the conference showdown, junior Julie Crall nailed her beam routine en route to the Fighting Illini securing second place in the Big Ten.

Although I wasn’t there in person, when talking with the coaches and athletes over the days following the competition, it was so rewarding to see the team really coming together.

Most challenging story

Again, covering a sport that routinely has away competitions made it very difficult to fully report on how the gymnastics team performed each week.

Relying on press releases and other people’s memory left several breaks during each recap story.

Play of the year

Aside from Crall’s beam performance at the Big Ten Championships, basically any apparatus Allison Buckley touched turned to gold.

Buckley was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Regional Gymnast of the Year and Second Team All-American. In whatever meet the team was competing in, I knew Buckley would make her presence known.

Best quote

Dave Diehl: “When you’re in (the draft), whether you are a first-rounder or a third-rounder, they don’t care where you’re from. If you practice hard and prepare hard, your chances at making the team are great.”

Even though Diehl was talking about football, I feel this statement holds true in almost any facet of life. As long as you work hard, your chances of success are great.

Best interview

Hands down: Dave Diehl. Even though it was over the phone, Diehl’s energy, excitement and pride in being an Illini was contagious. Not only did he make me laugh several times, he was so genuine to talk to, leaving me with great information and many colorful quotes.

Most telling off-the-field moment

In general, our sports staff is really fun and really close. Most of us have classes together, and outside of work, we are still friends. Because of this, I feel people should know when we are not on the field, court or sideline reporting, we are working hard to bring the most breaking news and updates to all of you.

Story line for ’08-’09

During the fall, I will be covering the football team alongside Alex, Dan and Wes. Already they’ve told me to brush up on my “Anchorman” and “The Office” knowledge to have a successful season. Aside from learning football trivia every day, I’m excited to have more reporting experiences.