CEDAR FALLS - It’s the highest honor a sports journalist or broadcaster can receive in the state of Iowa.
The coveted Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) Media Award, and 2001 Anamosa High School graduate Jon Swisher was honored as one of the best in his business Thursday, Nov. 21, at halftime of the class 3A state championship game inside the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls.
Swisher, a self-confessed sports-junkie, stood at mid-field inside the UNI Dome and accepted the award from the IHSAA for his phenomenal radio coverage of Iowa high school sports that has spanned almost two decades.
“I can’t believe it’s been that long already,” said Swisher, who is the sports director for the KMCH radio station in Manchester and covers numerous eastern Iowa schools, including Anamosa.
“It seems like just yesterday I was a high school intern at the Anamosa Journal-Eureka covering sports and having fun. The fun hasn’t stopped almost 20 years later. I’m honored and proud to receive an award like this from the state. It’s not something I ever really thought about much. I grew up watching Jack Marlowe, John Campbell, Bob Brooks, Leighton Hepker, Ken Boesenberg, Ron Gonder and Daryl Schepanski, just to name a few who have received this award before me. They all helped fuel the sports passion in me and I hope that passion come across over the air, because I really love what I do.”
Not only does Swisher have a passion for following and covering sports, which he started doing with WMT radio in Cedar Rapids back in 2003, but he’s also incredibly talented at it as his often radio co-host Kevin Barnes knows all too well.
“His preparation is amazing,” said Barnes, the longtime Raider boys basketball coach. “He does his homework and finds the human-interest connection to the community and school he is doing the game for. Sometimes, even though I am supposed to be talking on the headsets with him, I find myself just listening to him and the great job he’s doing.
“What people don’t understand is that he’s paid very little to do all this. The simple fact is, that does not pay the bills. So, when Jon is not announcing he has to figure out a way to supplement his income. Refereeing, working part time at different job. He has, on more than one occasion, broadcast a baseball or softball game then worked the graveyard shift as a county sheriff’s office dispatcher. He then would get off work from doing that and go right to an umpiring gig in the morning, take a nap for an hour or two and then right back to the radio that night.”
Added to his long list of duties every fall is his coverage of University of Iowa football, working with play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin and color commentator Ed Podolak. Swisher started with the Hawkeyes and Learfield Sports/IMG College back in 2010, just a year after beginning his job as sports director with KMCH (in April of 2009) and is currently the assistant engineer and assistant producer for the Hawkeye Football Radio Network as well as handling scoreboard update anchor and spotter duties.
“In all the years of doing this, I have never had a kid care about Anamosa as much as Jon did,” said Barnes, as Swisher was a boys basketball team manager for Barnes’ Blue Raider hoop teams back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“He just bleeds Raider blue since the time I started to get to know him when he was in middle school. He became a part of our program as soon as he got into this building and immediately showed an amazing ability, in his own way, to be unbelievably informed about everything we did. From practice planning to travel plans and so on. He was better at a lot of stuff at 14 than I currently am today, and I am not kidding.”
Swisher has no plans on slowing down anytime soon, either.
“When you’re doing something you love, it never feels like work,” he said. “Sure, I’ve got some aspirations to move up in this business. I’d like to get more college broadcasting experience, but what I’ve just enjoyed the most over the years about this job is the relationships you make with the coaches, players, parents and officials. That’s what it’s really all about. I’ve been lucky enough to be the voice for a lot of people delivering sports over the radio. I love providing that service and hopefully it’s something I can keep doing for a long time.”
The IHSAA Media Award is presented annually by the Board of Control to honor members of the media who have contributed significantly to the success of the Iowa High School interscholastic programs.