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FRIEZ COLUMN: A heartfelt goodbye from the press box

Working here has been the greatest professional honor of my life. I’m terribly sad to leave but am excited to begin a new chapter in the same community that I’ve long called home.

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Pioneer file photo
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The day I interviewed to work at the Pioneer, former editor and newspaper veteran Matt Cory walked me back to his office.

“So, you’re from East Grand Forks, huh?” he asked along the way, fully aware I hailed from his hometown.

When I confirmed, he hired me before we reached his office.

Of course, his tongue-in-cheek recruitment wasn’t quite that simple. But that little connection, forged of nothing more than happenstance, afforded me the chance to find my niche in this community through a beloved part-time gig in the sports department.

More than seven years later, it’s now time for me to rediscover my role in Bemidji. Today is my last day at the Pioneer.

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Working here, particularly as the sports editor for the past year and a half, has been the greatest professional honor of my life. I’m terribly sad to leave but am excited to begin a new chapter in the same community that I’ve long called home.

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(BSU photo)

Before I go, however, I need to get some things off my chest. So I have a few confessions to make.

One night, I was late getting back to the office after covering a game because I was playing H-O-R-S-E with the BHS girls basketball team. I’ve also used the same quote twice in one story by mistake.

During one of my earliest college basketball interviews, I accidentally called the league the “NCIS” instead of the “NSIC.” And speaking of crime dramas, I binged all 16 seasons of “Criminal Minds” while working from home during the pandemic.

I also showed up to work one day wearing the exact same outfit as my boss, complete with the $24.99 Kohl’s sweater.

Despite a handful of mishaps and antics, though, I’m darn proud of what we’ve accomplished.

I’ve had five job titles here and now 1,850 stories with my name on them. I survived the Hockey Day Minnesota polar vortex of 2019 and the Chet Anderson Stadium mega-weekend of 2022. Our sports department has won 16 state newspaper awards, including best sports section in 2017, 2021 and 2022.

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Fireworks light up the sky immediately following the Bemidji High School boys hockey game on Jan. 19, 2019, against Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin for Hockey Day Minnesota.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer
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The Beavers pile onto Bemidji State goalkeeper Alyssa Stumbaugh after defeating Emporia State in penalty kicks during the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

I’ve experienced the full scope of “other duties as assigned,” which ranged from covering a presidential visit to hanging out underneath the downtown bridge at 1 a.m.

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But most of all, I’ve witnessed incredible heroism through athletics, like an unstoppable Derek Thompson scoring a program-record 45 points for Bemidji State men’s basketball. I chronicled back-to-back historic seasons from BSU football and women’s soccer, which even played out side-by-side. And I was there for Annah Schussman’s unforgettable “strike from the heavens!” to help BHS girls soccer win a section championship. (Another confession: We jumped the fence to break out of Husky Stadium that night because they locked the outer gates while we were still in the press box.)

I also found a particular passion for preserving Bemidji’s history, drumming up old tales of local lore that had been buried beneath decades of fading memories. I’ve been lucky to write about some of the greatest teams to ever pass through town and legendary athletes who can rival Paul Bunyan in renown.

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The Bemidji Daily Pioneer float in a Fourth of July parade.
Beltrami County Historical Society

Come Monday, I’ll be the communications coordinator for the Bemidji State Alumni & Foundation. It’s a great move for me and my family, and I’m excited to invest in our town through a new lens.

I’m still going to show up at games, but now I get to abandon neutrality and cheer on the Lumberjacks and Beavers for the first time. My resurrected fandom may take some getting used to, but I’ll bet it comes quite naturally.

So many people warrant my sincerest gratitude. Bemidji’s athletes and coaches have always been gracious to me, and I’m proud to have worked alongside many coworkers and colleagues who have become friends. As Pioneer icon Jim Carrington once wrote, “There were some bad times but mostly good times. … And the good times were legend.”

Finally, thank you, readers, for supporting local journalism and affording me the avenue to share the tribulations and triumphs of our neighbors. This role has been a privilege, one I’ve taken quite seriously, and a true passion.

I have loved the Pioneer dearly and I will miss it dearly. What began as a dream job somehow evolved into something so much more.

Luckily Matt hired me that day.

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Micah Friez, right, covered his final game for the Pioneer on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the BHS Gymnasium. His wife, Katie, also came to watch the Bemidji High School girls basketball team play Sauk Rapids-Rice.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
Micah Friez's favorite stories
When Marty Connelly raised the bronze Region 8 championship plaque in 1933, he and his Bemidji High basketball team were the gold standard.
Taryn Frazer's unforgettable career immortalized her place in Cass Lake-Bena lore. She is a generational scorer, a legend of Leech Lake, and the Pioneer's 2022 Sportsperson of the Year.
Forty-two seniors had one more chance to play for Bemidji High School this spring.
Like all great sagas, Saturday’s tale is one of suspense, heroism and -- most importantly to Bemidji State -- a happy ending.
BEMIDJI--Long before his basketball jersey ever said so, Arnie Johnson was destined for royalty. In the Bemidji winters of yesteryear, Johnson pioneered the first Bemidji State Teachers College dynasty. And nine years later, he and the Rochester ...
Derek Thompson has endured the death of his best friend and his father in the past year, but he's leaned on his faith to persevere through trouble -- all while ascending the record books at Bemidji State.
BEMIDJI--Aimee Pelzer was officially credited with 353 points last season, which led the Bemidji State women's basketball team. But ask Tatum Sheley, who scored 352, and there's much more to the story.
BEMIDJI -- The final score was 21-6 Bemidji.
As a sea of blue rushed the court in celebration, Peyton Dibble longed to find his father.
Cliff Morlan delivered the news with a folksy flair and a love for his subjects. His words danced on the page and kept readers enthralled until the last line. In an age when print was king, Morlan reigned behind a blend of authority and humanity.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.