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Teams get hot. Athletes get hot. Sportswriters get hot, too.

I spent the second half of last week crowing in the newsroom and in our meetings about the work coming from our sports beat writers, reporters and columnists so far this month. It's an incredible writing staff, among the best, if not the best, in the nation.

My intra-department hype about our hot streak led to this idea: I want to tell you about our writing staff, all two dozen of them, and mix in a few shoutouts for their recent work. October is our busiest month, edging out March Madness for full-throttle sports journalism at the Star Tribune. Our sportswriters matched the madness of this month with excellence. Come for a lap around the Star Tribune Sports department with me ...

The month could not have gotten off to a busier start. A tick after 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1, Bob Timmons called me. I had my keys in my hand, ready for a pre-dawn drive downtown to run the Twin Cities 10 Mile. "They just canceled it. The whole thing," Timmons said, referring to the 10 Mile, Twin Cities Marathon, the entire day. Bob worked all day on that story, and then guided, in his role as Interim Outdoors Editor, our follow-up coverage that week. Bob also writes stories each week; this gem about a recent BWCA trip was published this month, too.

Bob's partner in Outdoors news coverage is Tony Kennedy. "Keep your ear to the ground" is an old cliché (and a funny visual) of news reporting, but it's why Tony knew about Trae Waynes becoming a player in the hunting and hunting-land games. I love how wide-ranging and well-reported that story is. It's our Sunday Sports cover display this morning.

Sarah McLellan and Chris Hine are in the early days of their new seasons covering the Wild and Wolves, respectively. Those two are in their prime, and with a handful of years now on their beats, it's showing so often. We aim to showcase more often this winter how good these two are at reporting, writing and analyzing these teams. Sarah wrote with authority in the season's first week about the team's trajectory, and Chris went back-to-back this week with a smart story about the team's big spending and took on the trite fan debate of "Whose team is this?"

You probably read Phil Miller and Bobby Nightengale every day for two-plus weeks before, during and after the Twins playoff run earlier this month. Columnist La Velle E. Neal III was in postseason mode, too, sometimes writing two or three times a day. Team Strib, taking up several chairs in the Target Field press box for those games, hit its baseball stride at just the right time. Watch for more to come soon from Phil and Bobby, too.

La Velle is one of five sports columnists. The others:

Jim Souhan spends most of his time during the fall writing on the Vikings. There's at least one must-read Vikings column from Jim each week. Check out today's — a Vikings-Packers angle I hadn't considered.

Patrick Reusse enjoys throwing curveballs. Example: writing about Jim Pete instead of forecasting the loooong NBA season. Some of you don't miss a Dennis Anderson column; definitely make time if the topic is dogs or ducks. And Chip Scoggins pumps out interesting Football Across Minnesota columns every week while juggling other topics and preparing for his next in-depth story (pssst: his next one comes in two weeks). You can't get what our columnists write anywhere else. Exclusivity is important. Excellence is important. You get both with our columnist team.

Part of the Star Tribune’s coverage team at a recent Twins playoff game took their seats in the press box’s front row.
Part of the Star Tribune’s coverage team at a recent Twins playoff game took their seats in the press box’s front row.

You might have missed in the blur of early October that both the men's and women's Big Ten basketball media days were in town. Kent Youngblood and Marcus Fuller swarmed Target Center, pumping out coverage all day, both days. Favorites: Kent on "Dawny P" and Marcus on the future of Gophers basketball, men and women, in the expanding Big Ten.

Staying on college sports:

Randy Johnson keeps cranking out great copy on the Gophers football beat. His work down in Iowa was excellent (as was Chip's): terrific game story, follow-up stories like this one that painted a picture of what that victory was like, team analysis and more. RJ's reporting last week also led him to a local angle for his Insider on the national story of Michigan's sign-stealing controversy. I hadn't been following that story very closely, and Randy's clear, explanatory writing made it easy for me to catch up. And you'll find RJ's coverage of another U of M win yesterday here. Gophers are on a winning streak, and so is RJ.

We want to find ways to cover Gophers hockey, men and women, and Gophers volleyball more often — in part because readers show up strong for this coverage (our analytics tell us this). One big reason why this coverage is appealing is the two writers leading the way: Rachel Blount and Jeff Day. Two of the best wordsmiths we have (do people use that word outside of newsrooms?). The hockey games are interesting right now, and Rachel even made a story on the shrinking of a hockey rink highly interesting earlier this month. Jeff is committed to covering the volleyball team, and it pays off with stories like this "What's wrong?" analysis and this exclusive on star player/transfer Carter Booth. What's working here with these two? Commitment, making use of access, credibility, terrific interviewing skills and hustle.

Regular readers of this note know that I'm proud of our high school sports coverage. David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen lead the way, with Ron Haggstrom and Joel Rippel reporting and grinding dang near every day during the school year. Very strong sense of duty with this crew, meaning we're very lucky to have them.

"Where's Rand? You know I love Daily Delivery." I hear that occasionally from a friend when Michael Rand takes one of his rare days off. (You know you have a good thing going when people miss it when it's not there, right?) If you don't listen every day, give our daily podcast a try a few times in the weeks ahead and let us know what you think. You can read Rand every weekday online, too.

How 'bout this from Jerry Zgoda as the Minnesota United season came to a close: analyzing the Loons' playoff scenarios, then setting up the final game, covering the final game (loss), his "What now?" story, and finally a player-by-player Loons roster analysis. Difficult beat, moving parts and pieces, structures that are unique to soccer — and Jerry hit the right notes at the end of another long season.

Closing this out with a shoutout to our Vikings beat-writer team: Ben Goessling, Andrew Krammer and Mark Craig. Here's what I'll say about these three (and team leader/senior assistant sports editor Naila-Jean Meyers): the Star Tribune's coverage of the Vikings, one of the most important beats in the newsroom due to its popularity across the state, has been crushing for the last 21 months. It's always been strong. And it's not just Ben, Andrew, Mark and Naila (Rand, Souhan, Chip, and other writers jumping in). I write with confidence, though, that this beat team put distance between their work and the work that comes from the large pack that covers this team in January 2022 and has not let up. I know I'm biased, but I see a large gap there now. It's a gap I was hoping to see in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and we were close then, and then the humans and plans and ambition and collaboration all clicked 21 months ago, in that newsy moment of franchise change. They impress me so often now with their ideas, execution, hustle and teamwork. Super-competitive beat, with talented writers and journalists all around it. I see what we do every day — look at the variety of stories right now on our Vikings page — and I often think this: I can't imagine trying to follow this team, much less be a fan of this team, without a Star Tribune subscription.

You're still reading this, and that means a lot to me. These two dozen pros are very good, very good to work with, and — I love this last part — they're very good to each other. Thank you for making time to read this.

Last thing — to our subscribers: we wouldn't have 24 sportswriters if it wasn't for your commitment to us and your support of the Star Tribune. Thank you.