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Randolph Journalist Uncovers Controversial Story at Washington D.C. High School

By Emma Stark, 06/07/22, 12:15PM EDT


Randolph journalist Shane Connuck, a junior at the University of Maryland (UMD), uncovered the story of a coed private Catholic high school in Washington D.C. that refused to allow a girl on their wrestling team. Connuck published the story in The Washington Post, where he is reporting on high school wrestling this year. Since attending UMD, Connuck has gained exposure to countless opportunities. However, his journalistic career dates back to his time at Randolph high school (RHS). 

As a sophomore, the idea of becoming a sports broadcaster sparked Connuck's passion for journalism, as he always loved writing, talking, and sports. He attended a summer camp with the Brooklyn Nets radio announcers Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw in July 2017 and announced a half-inning of a baseball game on the radio. “It was the first time I had ever announced a game before,” he explained. In January 2018, he began interning at Morris Sussex Sports and became a large part of its growth. At the time, Morris Sussex only broadcasted games twice a week, “so it was a big deal to be a part of that,” Connuck mentioned. Outside of Morris Sussex, he announced Randolph football games over footage from Hudl, a video company providing coaches and athletes with game footage to review and improve team play. In his senior year, Connuck took on the sports editor position for the RHS student newspaper The Ram Page while writing for TAPinto Randolph, the local news publication of Randolph Township. Connuck also participated in morning announcements and was a member of the RHS student government. He conducted most of his reporting on the @ramsrhs Instagram page, which Shane created and had run by the student government. 

When beginning his college search, Connuck knew that he wanted to go to a big school to further his career and his acceptance to UMD accomplished just this. As a freshman, he began announcing games here and there to break into the new environment, yet the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything for journalists like Connuck. He left UMD in March 2020 and described the situation as “the most unpredictable thing you can imagine.” The temporary shutdown of sporting events led Connuck to film news reports in his front yard, dubbing them “The Shane Show.” He interviewed individuals through Zoom, including a CNN political analyst and editor, just before the 2020 presidential election. 

Connuck returned to UMD in spring 2021 and realized that he wanted to expand his experiences with journalism outside of play-by-play. He became a beat writer for The Diamondback, the UMD student newspaper, and covered the UMD field hockey team until fall 2021. Currently, Shane actively contributes as a broadcast reporter, anchor, and senior producer on The Left Bench, UMD’s student TV show, and commentates for all sports on B1G+, the Big Ten Network's subscription video streaming service. This summer, Connuck will be one of four interns working for the Northwoods League in Minnesota, the largest collegiate baseball summer league. His job consists of running all of the league’s TV content, from anchoring and producing the pre-game TV show to creating packages and eventually solo-hosting a show. 

Connuck’s journalistic involvement at UMD has significantly increased inside and outside the classroom, most notably through his work with The Washington Post. In February, Connuck reached out to different wrestling coaches in the Washington D.C. area and happened to be on the phone with St. John’s College High School coach Michael Sprague, as he was writing a story about the team that week. At the end of the interview, when he asked Coach Sprague if he had anything else to add, Connuck said that Coach Sprague wanted to “show awareness” regarding a situation with the school administration and a female student who wanted to join the all-boys team. He was “particularly adamant about telling me…this,” Connuck commented. After the girl attended a month of team workouts, the school president Jeffrey Mancabelli and athletic director Dennie Hart reached out to Coach Sprague, refusing to allow the girl on the team. “As a journalist, my question is why,” Shane added. He needed to hear both sides of the story to tell it fairly, without subjectivity. 

Although the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) allows girls to compete and has plenty of schools in it with girls competing, private schools do not have to abide by this principle and can make decisions as they see fit. President Mancabelli directed Shane to speak with Athletic Director Hart. He declined to comment on the story and emailed Connuck a series of off-the-record comments defending the school. They did not give Connuck much information, but Hart eventually sent him a statement on behalf of the school, claiming that coed participation would bring on potential issues with other sports. As a result, the female student did not take the mat for the entire season and the school had to forfeit matches because they did not have another male wrestler to compete in what would have been the girl’s 106-pound weight class.  

Even though Connuck had never written a story like this one before, he said it taught him how to report a “hard news story that impacted people.” He worked closely with his editor who helped him throughout the process of successfully uncovering the story professionally. With the conclusion of his junior year rapidly approaching, Shane Connuck demonstrated his ambition to take any opportunity that comes his way after graduation and will surely achieve great things in the coming years.