Keating Feature Writing Competition

In Awards, IDS, Inside on October 27, 2010 at 9:50 am

Congratulations to our Keating Competition finalists: CJ Lotz, Rachel Stark, Caitlin Johnston, Sean Morrison, Biz Carson, Charles Scudder and Avi Zaleon! Here are some of the stories that helped them get to the finals. Happy reading!


She entered the world on a rainy morning in Bloomington and never stopped moving. She learned to ride a bike at age 5, drove a truck with a stick shift and danced in a red dress at prom.

She squeezed in bike trips between hanging out with friends and working at the Student Recreational Sports Center. She rode alone because no one could keep up with her.

On May 31, 2000, she ate a bowl of cereal in her kitchen, strapped on her shoes, hopped on her new bike and never came home.

Details of Jill’s life were batted around in court and discussed on television and in the paper. Her senior portrait smiled at the family everywhere. But the Behrmans aren’t missing a victim. They miss Jill.


Caitlin wrote this story during her summer internship at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Evan Welter wasn’t supposed to be at work at Markle Pool on Thursday. The 16-year-old lifeguard from Roanoke was scheduled to be off but switched shifts with a co-worker. So he put on his red shorts and took his spot on the lifeguard chair near the high jump for his first shift when the pool opened at 11:30.

Welter had been watching the waters on his first shift for 45 minutes when something caught his eye. One of the swimmers coming to shore from a raft about 20 yards away seemed to be having difficulty.

“Are you OK?” Welter called out from the high jump platform.

“Yes,” Lengacher replied.

And then he went under.


The crowd of bodies bumps up and down as the Night Owl A-bus navigates Jordan Avenue at 11:30 p.m.

Guys climb onto the side luggage racks while girls sit on top of each other to make more room. The mass of 100 bodies leaves everyone pressed up against each other with no space to do anything but move their mouths to sing.

The slightly slurred voices drown out The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride.”

The only one left with enough freedom to turn his head, move his arms and press up and down on the pedals is campus bus driver Dan Goldblatt.

He’s not worried about not knowing all of the lyrics or spilling his drink like the crowd around him.

The only thing he’s thinking about in the chaos is safety: Get these kids to their next stop.


Charles wrote this story at the Dallas Morning News.

All Breanne Bullard of Frisco knows about her son is that he is sick.

When Elijah Bullard was born in April 2007, he suffered brain swelling, couldn’t move his arms or legs, and had trouble eating, an assortment of issues that left specialists at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in California running in circles.

“All these people were hovering around him wondering, ‘What … is going on with this kid?'” Bullard said. “The whole thing was that he was having all these problems across the board.”

Doctors at one point believed Elijah had Peters plus syndrome, a rare condition characterized by some of his symptoms. After blood tests proved inconclusive, that diagnosis was revoked.

“It’s frustrating because my kid has brain damage and hearing loss and seizures and how can you possibly tell me you don’t know why?” Bullard said. “I can list his 800 different symptoms, but I can’t tell you what he has.”


The high jumper stands at the top of the lane, motionless for 32 seconds.

He stares toward his nemesis, a bar balanced 2.17 meters above the track – a barrier he is determined to clear. His light blue eyes bore into it as he psyches himself up to run toward his lone obstacle here in Gladstein Fieldhouse, home of the IU track and field team. To him, the rest of the arena has fallen away. All that’s left is him and the bar.

“OK, this isn’t anything,” the young man silently tells himself. “I’m used to it. I’ve seen this height before. I can jump this.”

For the eternity of those 32 seconds, he focuses on one goal. To overcome. To ascend. To defy gravity.

The lane leading to the bar, roughly 15 yards away, is a runway. And Derek Drouin is ready to fly.


It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Somewhere in between eating vanilla cupcakes for his friend’s 12th birthday, playing Wii and roughhousing, Ethan Fleetwood decided to go for it.

“Ethan, you need a new girlfriend,” fellow sixth-grader Cale Snyder told him. Cale had been texting his own girlfriend all night.

Ethan, 12, had been single for two weeks. And after two weeks, it starts getting in your head, he said. That’s when you start wanting a girlfriend again.

So why not ask the girl he’d liked since first grade? She was single. He was single. Perfect.

Ethan, a brown-haired boy with wide eyes, owns a red LG Neon cell phone he keeps in his pocket. Its background is a photo he took of a toy iguana lying on a video game controller.

This night, though, his phone battery was dead. So he borrowed Cale’s, letting his crush know it was Ethan before typing: will u go out with me.

Then he hit send.


Following a promising freshman season, the remainder of Beckwith’s eligibility seemed to be with soccer. But her body would force her to do otherwise.

Pain in Beckwith’s left knee forced her to undergo patella surgery, her fourth surgery in four years — two were surgeries on both of her ACLs.

The work done on her legs would make Beckwith quit soccer forever. Her body would no longer allow her to make crisp cuts on the soccer field without risking permanent damage.

But the life-long athlete wouldn’t allow herself to stay on the sidelines.

Beckwith continued competing, but this time as a walk-on with freshman eligibility on the IU track-and-field team. The non-contact sport was a perfect fit, because her long-term health and welfare was the top priority.

The transition would not be easy

Why do these stories work? What can we learn from them?


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