LORAIN — Thursday was a long night for the Lorain High School Titans girls basketball teams and student sportscaster Hiatt Hernon.
On the court, the freshman, junior varsity and varsity squads were throttled by the Shaw Cardinals. At a table above the court, Hiatt didn’t have to deal with the Cardinals’ smothering defense, dominant offensive rebounding and stampeding fast break, but he did face challenges.
Early on, Hiatt, broadcasting the games (tape delayed) for Lorain Schools’ WCLS TV 20, experienced a broadcaster’s nightmare: The roster for Shaw’s freshman team wasn’t available for the first half of the game, forcing Hiatt to call the game using the Cardinals’ numbers rather than names.
“I give you credit,” Tim Alcorn, Hiatt’s partner, told the audience during the varsity game. “You hung in there.”
Hiatt, a 17-year-old senior, is TV 20’s first student broadcaster. Joseph Bock, Lorain Schools multimedia and technology coordinator, said the station has high standards and usually relies on professional broadcasters like Alcorn of WEOL 930 AM. WEOL is owned by LCPP Inc., the same company that owns The Chronicle-Telegram.
Preparation is key for sportscasters. But unlike network sportscasters, Hiatt doesn’t have plenty of statistics, time and video on visiting teams to do research before games.
If he’s lucky, he’ll receive a printed roster shortly before a game. He often asks coaches for names and numbers and writes them down himself. “That’s high school sports for you,” Hiatt said during a game break.
However, Bock and Terry Traut, a multimedia and technology teacher who has taught Hiatt for four years, were impressed with Hiatt’s poise and professionalism doing production of broadcasts. He helped film games and did sound work before receiving a chance behind the microphone in fall 2012.
Since his debut, Hiatt has broadcast about 25 times, including one radio broadcast. “He has that special talent to be able to put the eyes, ears, mind and mouth together,” Bock said.
Hiatt is one of at least two high school sportscasters in Lorain County. Jacob Hromada, an Elyria Catholic High School senior, does live Internet broadcasts of basketball, football and soccer games, according to Elyria Catholic Athletic Director Bob Thayer. Jacob, who has been broadcasting since he was a sophomore, also is the volleyball public address announcer.
“He’s just a tremendous influence,” said Thayer, who said Jacob may train another student to succeed him as a sportscaster.
Hiatt is a lifelong sports fan who became interested in broadcasting when his eighth-grade class did a multimedia course in news production, and he was chosen as the news broadcaster. “It just kind of fell into my lap, and I enjoyed doing it,” he said.
Hiatt — whose favorite sportscasters are NBC’s NHL broadcaster Mike Emrick, Pittsburgh Steelers radio play-by-play man Bill Hillgrove and NBC’s NFL broadcaster Al Michaels — has a low-key and serious style. Alcorn said he urged Hiatt to loosen up and have more fun, and Hiatt has “really opened up” in recent broadcasts.
Hiatt said he searches for a balance between being descriptive without talking too much and the ability to be analytical without being redundant or using cliches or jargon. “I’m still working out the kinks,” he said.
Hiatt has received training from professionals. He attended a five-day broadcasting camp in June 2012 at Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania that featured announcers from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pirates and Steelers. That was heaven for Hiatt, a fan of all Pittsburgh teams, because his father, Kurt Hernon, grew up in Warren.
Hiatt said he tries to promote Lorain players in broadcasts. “It’s good for the community that their family can watch them on TV,” he said.
On Thursday, there wasn’t a lot to promote as the varsity Titans were crushed, 52-29.
“Nieto trying to keep it in and she does,” Hiatt said when guard Melina Nieto tracked down a loose ball in the first half. “Good hustle.”
Alcorn and Hiatt credited Shaw for their dominant play, but also emphasized that the Titans didn’t quit late in the game despite the deficit. The two, who alternated play-by-play and color, have developed chemistry after calling eight or nine games together.
Hiatt said he’s close to deciding on whether to attend Northwestern or Ohio University. He is leaning toward the latter, which may offer a partial academic scholarship.
While Hiatt would love to become a broadcaster someday, he said he realizes it is a highly competitive field. Hiatt plans to sharpen his production skills in college, which he hopes might land him a behind-the-scenes job in broadcasting.
“Being well-rounded is what’s going to give me a future in this field,” he said.