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A longtime radio personality and the “Voice of the Hilltoppers” earned a big award at this year’s New Mexico Broadcasters Association awards banquet.
Gene Mortensen, the veteran sports announcer at KRSN, was named the Sports Play-by-Play Broadcaster of the Year. KRSN AM 1490, which regularly covers Los Alamos High School athletic events, competes in the NMBA’s Division 4 along with radio stations from Deming, Artesia and other similarly-sized towns.
This was a first-time win for Mortensen, who has picked up several awards for his work with high school sports throughout his career.
“I’ve been entering this (competition) for a few years and I’ve never made the grade,” he said. “I made the grade this year. It’s kind of exciting. It made my day when they called me and told me I won.”
Despite winning the play-by-play award for the first time this year, this is hardly the first time he’s been honored by the NMBA.
The NMBA inducted Mortensen into its Hall of Fame in 2010, being nominated for induction by current co-owner of KRSN, Gillian Sutton.
Mortensen was also nominated for the NMBA’s sports broadcasting award but didn’t win it.
“I was inducted into the Hall of Fame and KRSN was Station of the Year,” he said. “KRSN won 10 of the 14 categories, one of which was not play-by-play. How did I miss it in that year?”
Mortensen started his broadcasting career in 1985, although it was partially by default. Then-owner of KRSN, Dean Burns, wanted to broadcast Los Alamos’ games in the state soccer tournament, but the station’s sportscaster Burt Buehrer wasn’t interested in the assignment.
It was suggested that Mortensen, who had already spent many years as the public address announcer at LAHS sporting events, be recruited to call the soccer tournament.
Following that, Mortensen worked as a color announcer for Buehrer for the next several years at KRSN. After Mortensen retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1992, he turned to broadcasting as a nearly full-time gig.
Mortensen credits Buehrer for teaching him a lot of what he knows about broadcasting, not the least of which is getting organized and prepared prior to air time.
KRSN regularly covers Hilltopper sports such as football, boys and girls basketball and hockey.
It was not for any of those that Mortensen won this year, however.
Instead, he submitted a recording of his broadcast of his Nov. 10 Los Alamos-Española Valley volleyball match.
The volleyball match, which was for the District 2-4A tournament championship last season, was one of just a handful of volleyball matches Mortensen had called, but the recording of that match was one he just happened to have readily available as the NMBA contest deadline neared.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Los Alamos and Española Valley,” he said. “That was a great championship match. It gave me an exciting match to broadcast.”
By the way, Los Alamos won the match and the tournament championship.
Along with the award this year and the Hall of Fame induction in 2010, Mortensen also received the Distinguished Service Award from the New Mexico Activities Association in 2009 for his many years of public address work at the state tennis tournament.
He has also done PA work for many years at the state basketball tournament and does so at LAHS events when he’s needed and he’s not broadcasting.
Mortensen said he’s not planning on slowing down and is already making his plans for fall 2013.
He’s still planning on broadcasting most of the Los Alamos football games and other big events that are scheduled.