Best decision ever

The Prowler and what it has meant to me


Annika Pepper

My time with The Prowler has been nothing short of amazing. From the people to the opportunities, I will forever be grateful to room 703.

Three years really flew by. I never thought that I wanted to join The Prowler, but I wouldn’t trade the last three years for all the money in the world.

No one really knows the story of how I joined The Prowler staff. 

It was my freshman year at AP and Special Programs night, and I had just finished my AP World History session. My mom wanted to go to the journalism session for my sister. I had no interest in joining the school paper. I left the session completely on board.

One application and an interview later, I was officially on staff and joined my sophomore year. I already knew I wanted to write sports, and I immediately got to work. At first, I was extremely shy and kept to myself in class. Then I went to the sports room. I’ve got to say, there were some interesting characters in that room, but that was one of the best parts of the class.

Flash forward to my junior year, and I continued to improve my writing, and I found out that I would eventually be the Sports Editor my senior year. While being nervous about it at first, the nervousness turned to excitement, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Senior year came and it was the most interesting year in my Prowler career. Our staff dwindled to 22 compared to 31 the previous year, and I had one full-time sports writer to work with. While most people would see this as a disadvantage, I saw it as an advantage to really kick the sports department up a notch while also connecting with the other departments.

No one really knows the story of how I joined The Prowler staff. ”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

It was also different because I was one of the few boys on a basically all girl staff. It took some adjusting, but I got used to it and eventually embraced it. 

Everything was going smoothly, and I was about to go cover a NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. COVID-19 had other plans. My last year was taken away from me. No last “Coach’s Corner.” No last “From the Panther Pit.” No last coverage story. Just like that, my Prowler career was over.

Being on The Prowler has taught me a lot, mainly how to go up and talk to people that I don’t know. When I first started, I had some pretty high social anxiety, and while I might still have social anxiety, it is not nearly as bad. 

Shoutout time! Rilee Stapleton and Jenna Sanders were the best mentors I could ever ask for, and they taught me everything I know today. Ty Odom came up with me as a cub, and besides all the roasting (which became a theme in the sports room for me), he was one of my best friends. 

Everyone else in the sports room over the years, including John Webb, Shelby Foster, Emma Posey, and Alyson Phinney, thank you for being really amazing friends and making my experience with The Prowler one I will never forget.

Daniel Stackhouse, thank you for being one great cub for me to groom, and I know the sports department is in good hands. 

Adviser Justin Spencer, thank you for giving me a chance to come in and do some tremendous things on this stellar newspaper. I will miss you, but I’ll come back to the newsroom and visit.

For the last time, this is Sports Editor Ben Barkley. Thank you to everyone who has read my stories the last three years. Go Panthers! 

Barkley out.