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Chasing down her dream up north

Golden Valley High School graduate launches her sports reporting career in Alaska

Posted: March 17, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 17, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Golden Valley High graduate Beth O'Donnell reports on the 2014 Iditarod, a famous dogsledding race, in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo courtesy of KTUU-TV.

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It was not a case of love at first sight, but it’s no doubt a love story.

Golden Valley High graduate Beth O’Donnell was swept off her feet early in life, and she never looked back.

Her love affair was with sports — watching them, covering them and doing anything she could to be around them.

In late December, O’Donnell, 22, landed her first full-time sports broadcasting job at KTUU-TV, a local network based in Anchorage, Alaska.

For a hockey fanatic like O’Donnell, it’s everything she could’ve imagined as a young teenager, when she first decided her path in life was going to lead to covering sports on camera.

“I got set in my ways at 13 and nothing was going to get in my way,” O’Donnell said.

Northern migration

At KTUU, O’Donnell’s assignments are primarily in-depth feature interviews on camera with athletes, but she occasionally does some live coverage and filling in as a studio anchor.

Right now, she’s also helping with coverage of the famous Iditarod dog-sledding race that takes place across all of Alaska.

In less than three months on the job, she’s already turning heads.

“She shines on camera,” said KTUU news director Tracy Sabo. “Her personality comes alive. She’s immediately likeable as an on-air talent. She makes me want to know about her.”

Sabo said one of the key things she saw in O’Donnell was her willingness to adapt to the cold climate and cover certain sports rarely seen in the contiguous United States.

So far, O’Donnell has taken everything in stride.

“I was really excited to start another chapter in my life,” O’Donnell said of getting the job. “I was a little nervous because I had never been to Alaska, but I had heard great things.”

A sporting life

Though the O’Donnells consider themselves a hockey family first and foremost, there’s plenty more in the mix.

Beth is the youngest of three kids who grew up in Palmdale before moving to the Santa Clarita Valley when she was 10. She always looked up to her brother, Brett, who played basketball, baseball and hockey.

Their father, Mike, helped coach many of those teams through the years.

“Beth was just kind of around sports all the time, and we’re a sports family. She was always around either rinks or baseball fields ever since she was little,” said Mike, who played basketballat Alemany High School and a year at College of the Canyons.

It was all sports all the time for the family. Mike used take the kids to Los Angeles Kings games at Staples Center and USC football games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Soon, Beth started watching hockey and football on TV. When she was younger, she’d memorize the entire Kings roster and she’d know everything she could find out about the team.

While watching the games on TV, Beth would critique the play-by-play commentators and she’d watch people like Heidi Androl, a reporter for Fox Sports West who primarily covers the Kings.

It quickly became a mission for Beth to become the next Heidi Androl or the next Erin Andrews, who is a national reporter for Fox Sports.

“She’s always been very focused on things,” Mike said. “If she really wants to do something, she’s one of those kids who really set her mind to it and she really basically accomplished all her goals.”

Reporter in the making

Beth’s first real experience on camera came at Golden Valley High, where she participated in the school’s video production program and starred on the school network, GVTV.

Though Beth ran on Golden Valley’s track and field team for a year, was a cheerleader and was named homecoming queen her senior year, her focus gravitated toward GVTV as time went on.

After graduating high school in 2009, Beth attended Washington State University because of its reputable broadcasting program.

While there, she took internships with the school’s sports information department, which allowed her to get experience interviewing college athletes on air.

People she worked with in the sports information department used to call her a superstar. She heard similar talk from those she worked with at Golden Valley.

“I’ve been told I can go really far in the industry and Ialways hope it’s something I can achieve, but I’m just trying to take it one step at a time,” Beth said.

After graduating from WSU with a double major in communication and sports management, Beth landed a key internship with Q13 Fox News in Seattle this past summer.

While there, she was able to get plenty of time in front of the camera covering the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners.

Her most high-profile interview yet came during that summer when she had a sit-down with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is now a Super Bowl champion.

It was only a few months and several job applications later when Beth received the call from KTUU, her first full-time broadcasting gig.

The 13-year-old girl with a dream had become a 22-year-old sportscaster with a microphone in hand.

“Beth has amazing potential,” Sabo said. “She has very natural drive and ambition to succeed.”

For years, Beth has been hearing people talk about her potential and talent. It seems she’s been listening.

“I’m just enjoying the ride that I’m on and I’m going to see where it takes me,” Beth said.

dagnew@signalscv.com

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