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Former volleyball star on broadcasting fast track
November 26, 2012
Contact: John Hartrick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When the 2012 Binghamton volleyball team celebrated its America East title and the program’s third NCAA Division I berth, one former standout was cheering loudly from across the country.
Jacki Kane led the volleyball program to its first conference title and NCAA Division I berth in 2005. She earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the America East Championship, where Binghamton defeated Maine and Stony Brook to win the crown. Kane, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in political science and English, has since embarked on a successful career in television broadcasting. But memories of her volleyball career, former teammates and time at Binghamton are never far from her mind.
“I am so very proud of this year’s team winning another America East title,” Kane says. “Coach Kiriyama has worked very hard to create a solid volleyball program and obviously his hard work is paying off. He continues to bring in talented women who really know the game and know how to perform under pressure. I am thrilled and so excited for them.”
Kane shared some memories of that magical 2005 season, which culminated with an NCAA matchup against national power and second-ranked Penn State (the same Nittany Lions program the 2009 team faced and now the 2012 BU team will oppose in the NCAA first round this Friday). The Bearcats were picked to finish sixth (out of seven) in the America East preseason poll, but instead ran up a 10-2 conference mark and went 12-2 down the stretch. The team, which had no seniors and eight underclassmen, was anchored in the middle by the 6-foot-2 Kane, who amassed 162 blocks in her sophomore campaign.
“Every athlete dreams of playing in the NCAA tournament,” she says. “I think most of us think that’s all it is ... just a dream that will probably never actually happen. But in 2005 ... everything we expected to happen at the tournament just didn’t.”
Kane was referring to a big semifinal upset that took out defending champion and host Albany and propelled Stony Brook into the finals. After dispatching Maine in four sets, the Bearcats met the Seawolves for the championship.
“I knew Stony Brook would be good, but we matched up against them really well, so I went into the match confident,” she says. “It was an incredibly intense match and I felt like my heart was racing the whole time .... there was this fire inside all of us and we sprang back from each mistake determined to fight for that next point.”
When that final point was won and Binghamton had secured its 30-20, 28-30, 30-21, 30-28 win, Kane recalls the feeling of disbelief.
“I don’t think it set in for me until they were handing us the awards and I could feel the plaques and trophies in my hand and I finally thought, ‘We’re going to the NCAA tournament!’”
The “prize” for the title was a trip to State College, Pa., and a matchup against one of the nation’s premier programs, Penn State. Though the resulting 3-0 loss ended Binghamton’s season, Kane relished the experience and the atmosphere of the NCAA match.
“The NCAAs were everything I imagined,” she says. “Penn State’s massive gym was more like a coliseum and it had big screens on the wall displaying our names and stats. The gym was filled and it was so loud, I could hardly think. It was probably one of the best moments of my life, even though they steamrolled us.”
Fast-forward two years, and though Kane and the Bearcats wouldn’t get a return trip to the national tournament, she ended her stellar collegiate career as a three-time first-team all-conference blocker. In her senior season, Kane led the America East and ranked eighth in the nation with 186 blocks. She was a scholar-athlete, the school’s NCAA Woman of the Year nominee and its Female Athlete of the Year.
Jacki Kane, the elite athlete, was now ready to transition to Jacki Kane, upstart news reporter.
Kane’s charm and effervescence made her perfectly suited to be in front of the camera. She did a test-run late in her senior year with some interviews for the athletics department’s year-end highlight film and she also was chosen to speak to the entire student-athlete body at the awards banquet. But it turns out, the reporting itch took hold many years earlier.
“When I was 10 years old, I remember sitting in French class and we were supposed to pick out an occupation for some class activity,” she says. “I remember seeing ‘journalist’ and just thought, ‘Well, I like writing and it sounds adventurous!’ So I checked it off. After that, I just became focused on doing whatever was necessary to get into the news business.”
Her path continued with an internship at local television station WIVT during her senior year. The station liked her work and hired her during her final college semester to be a weekend reporter. A position opened up at another Binghamton station, WICZ, and Kane was hired and started the day after graduation. A year and a half later, Kane made a move to a larger market in Springfield, Mass., where she worked for about 14 months before landing her current position at KWGN Channel 2 in Denver. The jump to the 18th-largest market brought Kane back home: she grew up in Centennial, located less than 20 miles from Denver.
Kane (who goes by the name Jacki Jing on the air) has been handling the station’s traffic reporting, but got a taste of entertainment in April when she traveled to Los Angeles to interview the stars of the movie The Avengers. That Youtube video has been watched more than 70,000 times and the experience has led to additional Hollywood interviews with the likes of Tom Hanks. Just how did Kane get the coveted gig of talking with Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (Captain America)?
“It’s a funny story,” she says. “Our entertainment reporter sent out an e-mail asking all the on-air talent if anyone was a fan of comic books. I immediately responded and I guess I was the only one who did. He said, ‘I have to miss this interview for The Avengers … will you go?’ I was mortified and scared, but he gave me pointers, told me to be myself and I guess I did okay because he sends me out to LA for these interviews every now and again when he can’t go.”
Kane’s growing list of Hollywood interview subjects also includes John C. Reilly, Jennifer Garner, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman and Samuel L. Jackson, with whom she shared a funny, albeit embarrassing moment.
“When I was interviewing Samuel J. Jackson, I got so excited, I told him, ‘I’m a HUGE fan. I’ve been watching you … FOREVER’ … and then I sat there and thought, ‘Oh my god, what did I just say? I just called him old!’”
At 25 years old, what Kane lacks in experience, she makes up for with a natural smile and friendly air that puts her interviewees at ease, even if she isn’t.
“When I first started, I remember just being frozen sometimes … and I just blabbed and stuttered,” she recalls. “But practice makes perfect and now when I stutter, instead of panicking, I just keep going.”
Kane came away from her interview with Tom Hanks singing his praises.
“He’s a gem … seriously an amazing, sweet person. When I walked into the interview, he gave me the warmest welcome ever,” she says. “He demanded that everyone give me a round of applause. I feel very grateful to have interacted with all these incredible people … sometimes I think I’m still dreaming.”
Kane cites many mentors and role models in the broadcast business but one anchor she singled out was Meredith Vieira, the former moderator of the ABC talk program The View and co-host of the long-running NBC News morning news program, Today.
“[Vieira] isn’t on-air as much anymore, but I used to watch her religiously,” Kane says. “She had this aura that demanded respect when there was hard news, but she was never too authoritative … she had this welcoming warmth about her. And she could make you laugh so hard, creating these hysterical, light moments on the Today show. I thought she was great at interviewing, too.”
Closer to home, Kane remains deeply connected with her family. And her strong ties to former Bearcats teammates also keep Kane both grounded and enriched. She reminisces about her college career and the relationships and memories forged.
“I still keep in touch with almost all my teammates. To this day and forever, Kathleen Schauer and Katie Robertson will be best friends. I just miss the camaraderie, the hours in the gym, in the weight room, on the bus, in the hotel rooms. I miss it all the time every day.”
Kane’s experience as a Division I athlete helped prepared her for the pressures of her job and she easily draws parallels between the rigors of being an athlete and being an on-air personality.
“It’s the exact same thing!” she says. “Right before I’d play games in college, I would get this insane rush … this strange surge of adrenaline. Before I go live, I get that same feeling. When there’s a big story, a big interview … it’s like a big game. You just feel more amped, more pressure to perform. But you just have to do it … or you lose.”
So, where will those stories and interviews take Kane next?
“We’ll see where I end up,” she says. “I’ve always been kind of a drifter. I follow my heart and my gut and let the wind take me.”
That next gust of wind just might carry Kane to a TV set or movie screen near you.