WFAA documentary 'Rise Up, West' debuts almost a year after blast

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on April 6, 2014 at 9:05 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 7 at 10:04 AM

WACO — Around 1,000 people attended the debut of the WFAA documentary "Rise Up, West" on Sunday afternoon.

The 66-minute story chronicles the journey of the West High School football team in the months after the April 17, 2013 fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people in the Central Texas town.

During the premiere at Baylor University, there were a lot of laughs and even some tears as the community watched the documentary for the first time.

"I kind of teared up at some parts, and some parts just kind of got me," said Karson Kolacek, a junior player featured in the story.

Coach David Woodard said he was a little weary before seeing the final product. He said he hopes the film resonates with the town as the one-year anniversary of the explosion nears.

“Despite what happens in our life, we have to pick ourselves up the next day and move forward," said Woodard, who is in his first year as coach of the Trojans.

WFAA photojournalist Mike Richard spent weeks with the Woodard family, recording images sunrise-to-sunset to capture the challenge of coaching a team that just experienced enormous devastation and loss.

"It was a new experience for me, and a new one for them. It was kind of eye-opening," Richard said.

WFAA senior reporter David Schechter is the voice of the story. He said from the beginning it was important to focus on the town's future as seen through the eyes of the players.

“We tried to capture the essence of what it means to keep going forward," Schechter said.

The documentary will be broadcast on WFAA Channel 8 on Saturday, April 12 at 6 p.m.

Producer Jenny Lyon as well as photojournalist and editor Greg Johnson were also integral parts in helping piece together the finished product.

West ISD also provided incredible access to its schools and students.

West Mayor Tommy Muska told News 8 after the screening he thought the end product was "really very good. A lot of time went into that."

The Trojans only ended up winning one game this past season, but Kolacek said the documentary does a good job of showing they're actually ahead in all the ways that matter.

"We went in there and tried our best," he said.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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