Persistence paid off for Craig Godderz, a photography and art teacher at Derby High School.

For the past four years, he submitted photographs from his students to the statewide “Kansans … As Talented as You Think” competition, which features drawing, painting and photography. No one from Derby won.

Until this year, when not only were students Christian Simmons and Kyle Findley finalists but winners. Simmons won in color photography, and Findley won in the “freedom” category. The seniors both submitted digital photos in the competition. Simmons’ winning photo, titled “My February,” shows silver-frosted trees along railroad tracks, shot after an ice storm. Another photo of his, titled “Any Given Road,” also was a finalist. Findley’s winning photo, titled “Endurance,” shows an American flag hanging in an abandoned building.

Simmons said he and Findley were driving around last year and encountered the scene he captured. Simmons has been studying photography for about a year-and-a-half. He said he likes taking an idea and building on it.

“It’s probably going to be the career I pursue,” he said of photography.

Findley said he spent about 45 minutes setting up his photo, “and it turned out perfect.”

His father is a professional photographer, he said. Findley has been studying the art for about five years.

“I want to be a wildlife biologist,” he said. He enjoys photographing wildlife.

Godderz said his students typically have done well at local competitions.

“To win this is like the football team going to state and winning,” he said.

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