A long journey ended last Friday.

A journey that lasted 40-plus years and one that made five stops along the way.

Friday was my last day at the Bismarck Tribune, and my last as a sportswriter.

It was a journey that began in the fall of 1977 at the Emmons County Record, a weekly newspaper in Linton, and Friday marked the end of a near 15-year run with the Tribune (I started in August, 2004). In between, there were stints with the Williston Herald, Minot Daily News and Jamestown Sun.

The decision to walk away from the newspaper world had its beginnings in the fall of 2017, when I was hired as an instructional aide at Rita Murphy Elementary School. My intention was to leave the Tribune at that time, but I decided to stay on part-time, and continued to do so until the end of the 2018-19 school year. Trust me, it wasn’t an easy decision to walk away. It was just time, I guess.

Will I miss it? Of course I will. It was a big part of my life for 40-plus years. It was loads of fun and I met so many great people. I did the best I could, and I hope readers enjoyed and appreciated what I put into print.

What made it really enjoyable was the quality of athletes and teams that I got to cover. Area Class B and local Class A regular-season competitions, all of the postseason basketball, wrestling, golf, baseball and softball tournaments, track and cross country regional and state meets, football playoff games, and the college and non-school (rodeo, racing, Bismarck Bobcats, etc.) competitions – it was an absolute blast.

Awhile back someone suggested that I put together a “best” list as part of a farewell column. You know, the best football player, the best basketball player, the best wrestler, the best games, etc., that I covered while I was at the Tribune. My response was, “You can’t be serious.” There were so many outstanding athletes and teams in our coverage area. I wouldn’t know where to start.

However, since Class B athletics was my beat, I will mention the area Class B schools and co-ops that produced state championship teams during my time in Bismarck -- Beach, girls basketball in 2010; Beulah, boys basketball in 2012; baseball in 2012, and Class AA football in 2015; Bowman/Bowman County, girls cross country in 2004 and 2005, and girls track in 2008; Grant County, girls basketball in 2018; Hazen, Class A football in 2012 and 2013, boys golf in 2008 and 2009, girls golf in 2006, 2008 and 2009; boys track in 2007 and 2008, and girls track in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018; Hettinger-Scranton, wrestling in 2017 (dual); Linton, boys basketball in 2009; Mott-Regent, 9-man football in 2007; Napoleon/Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter, 9-man football in 2006 and 2011, wrestling in 2005 (dual and individual), 2006 (dual and individual) and 2007 (dual and individual), and girls golf in 2011 and 2015; Shiloh Christian, girls basketball in 2016; South Border, wrestling in 2011 (dual), 2012 (dual), 2013 (dual and individual), 2014 (dual and individual), and 2018 (dual), and girls golf in 2016; Steele-Dawson/Kidder County, baseball in 2006, and girls basketball in 2009, and Watford City, Class AA football in 2006 and 2008, girls cross country in 2009, girls golf in 2007, and baseball in 2014. That’s quite a list.

I also covered St. Mary’s football when it entered the Class AA ranks in 2009. The Saints won state championships in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Add to that the individual state champions in wrestling, track, cross country and golf that are too numerous to mention. Overall, my 40-year run was stocked full of outstanding athletes, teams, games and performances. Thanks to all of you.

And thanks to the all of the coaches and administrators I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years, and to the sportscasters and my fellow sportswriters.

Oh, and thank you readers. It was a pleasure working for you.

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Michael Weber is a Bismarck Tribune sportswriter