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Journalism student wins national sports writing award

Thursday, August 13, 2015

LAWRENCE — Amie Just, a University of Kansas journalism junior from Funk, Nebraska, has been named a winner of the prestigious 2015 Jim Murray Memorial Foundation scholarship, a national award for excellence in sports writing at the college level.

Entrants were required to write a column telling the story of an event, incident or person who figures prominently in the sports history of his or her university or town. After discussions with Associate Dean Scott Reinardy, Just chose to write about 1965 KU graduate Cliff Cushman, who in 1960 won an NCAA title and a silver medal in the Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles. Four years later, Cushman was expected to win at the Olympics, but he fell during the trials. He retired from track and field and continued his service in the Air Force.

About two years later, Cushman received notice that he was going to Vietnam. Worried that he would not make it home, he tried to purchase a life insurance policy from his best friend, but he couldn’t. Less than two months after arriving in Vietnam, Cushman was shot down by enemy fire. He was listed as Missing in Action for nine years before being declared dead. His body was never recovered.

As much as winning the award means to Just, she says being able to share Cushman’s story means more. “Before writing this I didn’t know a thing about him. As a Jayhawk, that’s not right. In his honor, I’m dedicating this award to Cliff Cushman. He made the ultimate sacrifice,” Just said.

Just is a news and information major in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, and she also plans to minor in English and human sexuality.

“Since I’ve been a college student, there have been several different national stories that involve human sexuality. Michael Sam coming out as an openly gay athlete, Jameis Winston being accused of sexual assault, Caitlyn Jenner completing her transition… the list continues. Being formally educated on these issues and those like them will help me be a better journalist in the field,” Just said.

While at KU, Just has covered professional and collegiate football, professional and collegiate basketball (including an NAIA national championship game), professional hockey, international soccer, and collegiate volleyball, baseball, swimming and diving, softball and track and field. She won the University Daily Kansan’s Don Pierce Sports Writing Award for sports writer of the year in 2015.

Just was one of six recipients selected from across the country. The award competition is currently open to 32 journalism schools, which are each selected by the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation to participate and submit a single nominee for consideration.

The award, along with a $5,000 scholarship, honors Murray’s long and distinguished journalism career of more than 50 years, 37 of which were spent as a renowned sports writer for The Los Angeles Times. Murray’s many honors included 14 Sports Writer of the Year awards from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, a Pulitzer Prize and the Red Smith Award, which is America’s most prestigious sports writing honor.

Just is the third KU journalism student to be named a Jim Murray Memorial Scholar. Mike Vernon won the award in 2013, and Alyssa Rainbolt won in 2009.