Living the dream: A life on the small screen, meeting big sports stars
Cory Hepola always wanted to be a sports anchor. As a young boy, he would pass a toy microphone around to each of his family members at Christmas and ask them how they liked their gifts. By middle school, he was creating “Tonight Show” episodes, his sister Chelsea behind the camera while he interviewed his friends, who would pretend to be guest athletes and movie stars. Well, he doesn’t have to pretend anymore. Today, Cory’s the sports anchor and host at Comcast SportsNet (CSN) in Houston, a regional sports network that broadcasts across Texas and four other nearby states. He travels around the country to cover professional games, and interviews nationally known sports figures. Similar to ESPN, CSN Houston provides daily sportscasts and original programming, and also broadcasts NBA, MLB, and NCAA games. Cory anchors the nightly 30-minute sportscasts for the network, and hosts shows that highlight major league teams, such as “Astros Field Pass.” In an interview, Cory said every day at his job is different and interesting. “The news cycle never stops, so I’m on my phone, email, and Twitter throughout the morning,” he explained of his usual work day. “I typically get to the network studios in the afternoon to start planning for the nightly shows. We meet as a team (anchors, producers and directors) to discuss what stories we’re going to put in our show. The next few hours I continue to research, communicate with our producers and reporters, and creatively write the stories in my show. “Our newsroom is loaded with TVs, so we’re able to see what’s constantly going on,” he added. “Our final show of the day airs live at midnight; I have a producer talking to me in my ear telling me which stories are next and counting me down each segment. Most nights, throughout the show, I’m handed scripts I’ve never read for highlights I’ve never seen. After it’s over, we meet quickly to discuss the show and plan for the next day.” But while the schedule is beyond busy, the work is worth it for Cory. He loves the performance aspect of it, and appreciates the art of creative storytelling. Then, there are the perks. In April 2011, for example, he got to go to Radio City Music Hall in New York City to cover one of the year’s biggest sports stories, something he used to watch on TV every year as a kid – the NFL draft. He returned to the Big Apple the following year to cover another major event, the 2012 Heisman Trophy Ceremony. Before that, in 2010, he stepped foot in the Metrodome for the first time as a member of the media, a memorable moment for him. Even before that, while working as an intern at KXJB-TV in Fargo, he had another memorable moment – his first major road trip, to cover Vikings Training Camp and interview Randy Moss. That internship was the first step of many down a long road to Houston. After Fargo, Cory moved to Helena, Mont., then to Elmira, N.Y., then to Rochester, N.Y., and then to Austin, Tex., before landing his current gig. “It’s been an exciting, yet difficult journey to get to Houston,” said Cory. “Sports television is an extremely competitive field, but the values and skills I learned at Perham High School (and from my parents) have prepared me well.” A 2000 PHS graduate, Cory was involved in basketball, baseball and cross-country as a student, and was named Heart of the Lakes Most Valuable Player in basketball as a senior. He was also named Snow Week King. He went on to attend Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., majoring in mass media, and graduated from there in December 2003. “I certainly appreciate all I’ve been able to experience, and because of the challenging road I’ve been on, I feel a sense of accomplishment being at CSN Houston,” Cory said. “It goes back to the message I learned from Dave Cresap: ‘Nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy.’” The Perham teacher and coach, Cresap, was one of Cory’s biggest sources of inspiration as a youth, along with his parents and sister, whom he called “the most influential and supportive people in my life.” He also listed teachers Sandra Wieser-Matthews and Lance Rach for their lessons on creativity and positive thinking, along with Erin Anderson for his “faith, friendship and music,” and his wife, Camille, his “biggest fan.” “I couldn’t be more proud to be from Perham,” said Cory. “The community supported me in high school and has continued to over the years.” Cory was married to Camille last April; she is also in the television business, as a news reporter and anchor. The pair usually makes it back to Perham about once a year, in the summers. Cory’s parents, Terry and Diane Hepola, still live in town. They own Allegro Marketing. “It didn’t surprise us when Cory chose broadcasting as his career,” Diane said after relaying stories about her son’s youthful Christmas ‘interviews’ and home videos. Today, she added, “it’s fun for us, as parents, to watch him on television interviewing and hosting – and we realize how far he’s come since instructing Chelsea on how to film his ‘Tonight Shows’ in our basement.” Editor’s note: This is the second in an ongoing occasional series of stories on Perham High School graduates who now live out of the area and are involved in unique and interesting things.