The third one is in the books.

The Best of News-Star Preps Winners section is in today's newspaper. Take time to check it out and see the winners from all of the sports, spirit awards and, of course, the student of the year who won a brand new Jeep Renegade.

Hundreds of students and athletes were honored Monday night. Dozens of sponsors made it possible. I may be biased, but I would call the evening a success.

With sponsors, athletes, coaches, family and friends, more than 1,300 people attended our third annual event. Some of them had to come and go because the Dale Lady Pirates were busy winning their fourth straight slow pitch state championship right across the parking lot.

If you don't understand how amazing the FireLake area has become, wrap your head around the fact that on a Monday in May, they had thousands of people watching the slow pitch state championships for the three largest classes of schools, hundreds of people in FireLake Arena for an event, and hundreds more at the casino, grocery store or restaurants in the area.

That's not bad for a Monday night. The Citizen Potawatomi Nation is reaping the benefits of the vision and perseverance of Tribal Chairman John "Rocky" Barrett. I know Chairman Barrett would be quick to share that credit with Dr. Linda Capps who has served as the Tribal Vice Chair for almost three decades.

Their incredible development and partnership with this newspaper are primary reasons that we were ever able to even consider holding an event of this magnitude in this area.

Highlights from the event are housed on our website at www.news-star.com now. More than 750 photos in more than a dozen photo galleries show everything from the events of the evening, the red carpet entrance, the award winners and the fun photos from the photo booth that was added to this year's event.

The videos we played during the event are on the website as well, and can also be found on the News-Star YouTube channel.

We also owe a huge debt to Shawnee Basketball Coach Ron Arthur for helping bring his good friend Bryant "Big Country" Reeves to our event as a VIP Guest. 

Many speakers and guests charge thousands of dollars to appear and then cause stress with their crazy demands. We have been very lucky. Joe Washington and Greg Pruitt were great speakers in year one for us and even played catch after the event with our football centerpieces.

But this year's VIP really went above and beyond. Reeves didn't ask for anything. Not only did his generosity allow more money to be poured back into prizes, scholarships and awards for the students and athletes at the event, he was also a gracious VIP guest during our reception before the event and he even took photos for more than two hours with every award winner.

There aren't many people in his position who would do that. I hope everyone appreciates his kindness as much as I do.

It is time now to start looking toward next year. I would love to keep it shorter, but not if it means we leave out deserving athletes or shortchange those being honored. We will be working on solutions. Actually, we were about 15 minutes faster this year than in year two and we added four categories and about 200 people to the event. That's not too bad.

Hopefully, in the next 51 weeks, we will find even more ways to save time and honor more students. That's why we do the event. That's why our sponsors support it every year. 

I'm not sure how we are going to make year four better than year three, but we have a year to figure it out and we are trending in the right direction. I like our chances.