Goodbyes are never easy, yet they're an undeniable part of life.

For me, it's time to say goodbye to the city of Owensboro.

Yesterday was my final day at the Messenger-Inquirer. I've accepted a position at the Evansville Courier & Press as a digital content producer. It's home, and it was simply an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

I've had the pleasure of serving as a sports reporter for the Messenger-Inquirer for a little over a year and a half. During that time I've been blessed to have met so many great athletes and coaches with amazing stories to tell, and I was glad to be here to share those with you.

When I started at the Messenger-Inquirer in June 2012, I had so many people tell me right away how good the sports scene was in Owensboro, from youth sports all the way up to the collegiate level. You all weren't kidding. Some of the best athletes and coaches in the state of Kentucky and the entire region are right here in Owensboro and other towns nearby.

In order to best serve you all, the readers and fans, my goal was to cover sports in a way that hadn't been done here before. As my time here comes to an end, I can honestly say that what I set out to do came to fruition.

The Messenger-Inquirer gave me the freedom to try new things, like starting a blog dedicated to Kentucky Wesleyan and high school sports as well as a YouTube channel to post videos of local sports news. I also gave our sports department a social media presence that was absent, and you all were extremely receptive to that.

Many of you follow along on Twitter with my updates and blog posts and interact with both positive and negative feedback. That's the kind of stuff that makes this job fun. It's that relationship that I've built with you — the fans — that makes this goodbye so hard.

You all have welcomed me and made me feel like a part of the community.

There's a laundry list of people that I'd like to thank, but I'd be remiss if I didn't single out several people who I dealt with almost daily.

First and foremost, I owe a big thank you to Messenger-Inquirer sports editor Jim Pickens and executive editor Matt Francis. Both of them took a chance and hired me just a few weeks after I graduated from Western Kentucky University. I'll be forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me, because this was everything I could have hoped for and more in my first job.

I'd also like to thank fellow M-I sports writer Mark Mathis, who's been a friend and mentor — both personally and professionally.

Thanks as well to former KWC basketball coach Todd Lee, former athletic director Dave Williams, current KWC basketball coach Happy Osborne and current athletic director Jim Askins. Those four, along with sports information director Roy Pickerill, allowed me to have unbelievable access to the men's basketball program and were extremely welcoming toward me during my time covering the program.

To legendary KWC broadcaster Joel Utley, thank you for your friendship and for always being a constant source of encouragement.

To all the other area coaches, athletes and administrators, thank you all for being so accommodating during games as well as being open and honest during interviews. You all constantly provided me with good stories to share and were always approachable.

Lastly, thank you to the readers. Ultimately, it's you who I'm writing for. Not only does Owensboro have good sports, it has good sports fans. You all are knowledgeable about your sports and it's evident how much passion there is in this area for local sports. That, too, makes this job fun.

Many of you have asked what I'll be doing in my new role. I'll be shifting into more of a multimedia/Web editor position where I'll be doing some behind the scenes stuff with video, audio, managing the Web site and pretty much anything that can be turned into a piece of digital content. There may be some writing mixed in as well.

Frankly, it's a job that takes me in the direction that this industry is headed and it's a chance for me to stretch my legs, take on a new challenge and do some unique things, with both sports and news. It's a job that fits my skill set well.

On top of that, it's home, and that's something that's hard to quantify.

The good thing is I won't be too far away, and there's still plenty of ways to stay in touch. The best way is probably on Twitter, where you can follow me @ColeClaybourn.

Owensboro has a rich sports tradition, and that will continue on for many years to come. I'm fortunate to have been a part of it.

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