The smell of horses led Abygail Hernandez to a first-place win in news photography on Saturday.
The 18-year-old was handed a map of California State University, Fresno and sent out on her own to find a photo.
When a string of locked doors kept her out of the art classrooms, she headed to what she thought was the agriculture laboratories. But the distinct tang of horse manure told her she had arrived at the rodeo grounds.
Fresno State's equestrian team was running its final home event. Hernandez captured a horse and rider as they came to a dramatic sliding stop. The dust is flying but the rider's face is serene.
Hernandez was competing in the San Joaquin Valley Press Association Conference, and she scored first place.
Tokay High School's yearbook and newspaper students were recognized for their writing and photographic skills at the conference sponsored by the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Fresno State University on Saturday. In Hernandez's words, the group "cleaned up."
Publication adviser Roger Woo said the early-morning drive and all the paperwork required for the trip was worth it.
"This totally validates what they do. Do the work and do it right," he said.
Tori Pinasco, 17, began the day thinking she was going to sit through a few journalism workshops. She was shocked to hear her skills would be tested. Pinasco was assigned to write as much as she could about a man who discovered Fresno through a variety of taco hot spots. She won second place in rookie feature writing.
"This is my first year in journalism. I'm probably going to take it farther," she said.
Carson Kautz, 17, had never competed in journalism before. The intensity of the opposition came as a surprise. These kids had trained, and they were ready. It was like a different world, she said.
Kautz felt a growing pride in her school and her classmates during the awards ceremony.
"I was like, 'Wow. We're good,'" she said. "You never think what you do is going to be good."
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.