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Perino named sportscaster of the year

Alexandria native Mary Jo Perino could not believe the latest bit of recognition she received for her work as a sportscaster at WLEX-TV in Lexington, Kentucky.

Perino, the daughter of John and Sandy Perino of Alexandria, was recently named the sportscaster of the year for the state of Kentucky by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

She became just the third female to receive the award since its inception in the 1950s. She will be honored at a ceremony in Salisbury, Maryland on May 3 at the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.

"The award was a total shock to me because I didn't submit anything for it," she said in an e-mail interview. "I literally flipped out in the newsroom when I got the call. I was so excited. To be on such a short list of women, one of whom is the voice of the Yankees and is of national prominence, is an honor. I am proud to be part of such a small sorority of female sportscasters."

Perino is a 1995 graduate of Jefferson High School in Alexandria. She went on from there to study broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri. Perino also did an internship at KSAX-TV in Alexandria that helped propel her to her first full-time position in the media field.

She has risen through the ranks in the years since. Perino is on her second stint with WLEX-TV. She first moved to Lexington in 2002 to take a sports reporter/anchor position before leaving in 2006 to take a position at CNN Headline News in Atlanta. Perino returned to WLEX in 2007 to be the main sports anchor for the NBC affiliate.

A lot is expected out of her from one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. Perino's main focus is centered on the University of Kentucky football and basketball programs.

The hiring of John Calipari has re-energized the men's basketball team this season. Calipari was a renowned coach and recruiter at the University of Massachusetts and at the University of Memphis. His success there landed him the job at Kentucky in the spring of 2009.

He has not disappointed in his first year on the job. The Wildcats are the top ranked team in the country after jumping out to a 19-0 record behind a star-studded freshmen class led by future NBA lottery pick John Wall.

Covering the program with the most wins in Division I college basketball history is an exciting challenge for Perino. It is a fan base that demands a lot of information on the Wildcats. Perino would not have it any other way.

"This year has so far been unbelievably fun," she said. "John Calipari has brought Kentucky basketball back to where it belongs. The fans are so passionate here, and it definitely rubbed off on me. I'm already planning for a trip to Indianapolis for the Final Four."