Royal Oak students Sam Klonke, left, and Ben Machiniak, right, recently started “The Ravens Round-Up,” a podcast that covers all Royal Oak High School sports.

Royal Oak students Sam Klonke, left, and Ben Machiniak, right, recently started “The Ravens Round-Up,” a podcast that covers all Royal Oak High School sports.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Royal Oak High students create sports podcast for all things Ravens

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Royal Oak Review | Published January 10, 2024


ROYAL OAK — Class projects tend to bring out the creative side in students, especially when it revolves around something that the students are passionate about.

For Royal Oak High School senior Sam Klonke, his advanced production class turned out to be the perfect home for an idea that he’s carried over the past year.

During his fourth and fifth hours, Klonke works for the Royal Oak School District’s WOAK, a student-produced television station.

Klonke is a man of many hats for WOAK, filming, editing and producing various sports and other media for the station’s social media pages, but Klonke, who plays high school football, golf and track, has always had a special passion for sports media. Klonke is also the class president and a mentor for the Royal Oak Unified Special Olympics Basketball Team.

When it came time to develop a class project this year, Klonke had an idea that he felt could revolutionize the school — a podcast that covers Royal Oak High School sports called “The Raven Round-Up.”

Alongside his co-host and close friend Ben Machiniak, a junior football player and track athlete at Royal Oak, the duo had everything to jump-start the podcast, but all they needed was approval from Klonke’s production teacher, Mike Conrad. Klonke showed Conrad a video that has become the introduction to each episode of the podcast so far.

“I showed him that video and said, ‘I want to make a sports podcast.’ I had the logo, the video, and Ben was on board with it, so we wanted to get it started. That’s how it kind of all came together,” Klonke said.

As for Conrad’s reaction to the podcast introduction, he said he instantly knew that Klonke had something special on his hands.

“I looked at it, I turned his laptop around and said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Conrad said. “It really was that quick because he had it all planned out. He knew that to come to me with something of this magnitude, he needed to be ready, and he was. He was so organized in getting it ready to go that he set it up so I couldn’t say no.”

Four episodes in with some apparel and banners to their podcast’s name, Klonke and Machiniak have been all gas, no brakes when it comes to the podcast, which is both audio and video recorded in the school’s podcast room with state-of-the-art equipment courtesy of the high school and Conrad.

They prerecord interviews with coaches and players on Thursdays and Fridays, record the podcast on Mondays, edit on Tuesdays, and the episode is then posted to YouTube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts each Wednesday.

Every Ravens sport from bowling, competitive cheer, hockey, basketball, football, swimming and much more are all discussed on the weekly episodes.

“We try to do everything,” Klonke said. “I think everyone deserves recognition for the sports they play, so we talk about football, but we want to talk about everything. We don’t want to put football first. We don’t want to put boys basketball first. We want to put sports that people don’t really know about like bowling teams. We think about it when we’re planning the episodes and the scripts. We want to put the teams that don’t get as much recognition first and talk about them first.”

“I’d like this to bring the Royal Oak sports community together, because I feel like we’re kind of looked down on for a lot of sports, and I feel like having this can help people have more pride in it,” Machiniak said.

Sure, there were some bumps in the road throughout the first couple of episodes, but the duo have continuously worked alongside Conrad to perfect their craft each week and strengthen the show.

Klonke and Machiniak will admit the podcast’s first episode is a tough listen for both of them, especially now, but they said they’re enjoying the journey as they grow along the way.

“We’ve loosened up,” Klonke said. “I still think we’re kind of stiff, talking. I think we just need to work on loosening up and talking to each other instead of going up to the mic. There’s challenges like staying up all night editing on Tuesdays and making sure it’s ready for Wednesday. Sometimes we have mistakes where we don’t press the record button, and I’m trying to make sure my guests are feeling great and comfortable with being in the studio, and then I forget the easiest things to do like hit the record button. That won’t happen again.”

“At first, I was more worried about screwing up and sounding stupid,” Machiniak said. “Now, I’ve realized it’s just a conversation between me and Sam about sports that we love. It just makes it so much easier.”

Machiniak will inevitably take over the podcast once Klonke graduates, and then it will be up to him to find a junior to co-host as well.

Klonke currently does all the video and audio editing for the podcast, but Klonke said he plans to show Machiniak the ropes before it’s time for him to step up.

“That was my goal starting this, is that I don’t want this to be just one year,” Klonke said.

Klonke is hoping to pursue sports media as a career, and he has a respectable resume behind him with what he’s accomplished so far.

“I want to do this,” Klonke said. “I love every part of being on camera, filming and editing. I love all of it. The dream is to go to Syracuse.”

Conrad said it’s been a pleasure watching both the podcast and Klonke grow each week.

“The thing that I find that is really fascinating with him is that everyday we talk and I give him feedback, and he thanks me,” Conrad said. “I feel like I should be thanking him, because the journey that he is on is so fun to watch. He’s just one of those unique kids.”

Check out “The Ravens Round-Up” on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or watch on YouTube at the ROHS WOAK YouTube playlist titled “The Raven Round-Up.” Episodes are released once a week on Wednesdays.