Chanhassen’s Ren Clayton becomes sports reporter at WCCO 4 TV | Chanhassen Sports

Ren Clayton was in one of the most beautiful places on the planet in Hawaii, working as a sports anchor for FOX affiliate KHON2. His down time was spent learning how to surf.

But the Chanhassen native missed home. He missed seeing family. Catching up with those in Minnesota was challenging with the time difference. Someone was usually sleeping.

So he took a chance, not renewing his contract, coming back to his home state as a free agent. That’s when an opportunity at WCCO 4 opened up for him.

“I didn’t want to commit to two more years so I made the decision to come home. I was working back at Prep Spotlight, looking for the next step. I was looking at a bigger market, one with pro teams, so I was very happy and a little surprised when I got the call. I feel very lucky, ”Clayton said.

He’s been on the job since November, primarily working on feature stories, including some news, but had a chance to anchor the night newscast last week.

GETTING HIS CHANCE

Outside of a two-year period where he lived in the Milwaukee area at a young age, Clayton grew up in Chanhassen. He, along with his three siblings – Ren is the second oldest – were home-schooled. By junior year of high school, he was taking PSEO classes, eventually attending Concordia-St. Paul University.

Clayton played multiple youth sports, but his work in a theater group in Chanhassen is where he met some of his best friends. And he found a passion for being on stage, preparing him for the live camera.

“It really wasn’t until late in college, I interned at Channel 5, where I figured out what I wanted to do. It didn’t feel like that crazy of a choice having done theater and video and live sports production in college, ”Clayton said.

His internship working with longtime anchor Joe Schmit, Chris Long and Darren Wolfson gave him an inside look into the sports reporting world.

“They gave me the tools to prepare me for what was to come,” Clayton said.

After a stint working for Prep Spotlight, including covering Chanhassen’s run through the state baseball tournament in 2015, Clayton got his first break as a sports anchor and reporter in Rapid City, South Dakota.

It was a jump off stop. He next landed in Hawaii. A place he quickly found out he was only “partially prepared for.”

“I knew it was going to be an adventure. Time difference was a little bit of a hassle. But it was amazing in tons of ways. I fell in love with the ocean. I got to learn to surf. It was just beautiful, ”Clayton said.

With no professional sports teams, Clayton covered the University of Hawaii as well as other Hawaiian natives who had made it big at the professional level such as Marcus Mariota and Tua Tagovailoa. “We ran a lot of Alabama highlights when he was the face of college football,” Clayton said

Other sports such as MMA and surfing were also popular in Hawaii.

COMING HOME

Being in a market with many professional teams and a large university certainly makes the story opportunities unlimited.

How does Clayton not become a fan and stay neutral in his reporting of the hometown teams?

“These are teams I grew up rooting for, so I think it’s natural to feel that way. I want to have as much integrity as I can. To make sure I’m not biased in my reporting. You know, represent things equally. I think the more I’m in front of athletes in the locker room, I better solidify my approach. It’s such a crazy scene. The access we get as media is something I never knew until I knew, ”Clayton said.

Clayton spends much of his workday attending press conferences and out interviewing athletes. Some are done in-person, others over Zoom.

“When I first started, I remember looking at the Timberwolves schedule and the Magic were coming to town. They have rookie Jalen Suggs, so it was super fun to have that Minnehaha (Academy) connection. A bunch of us were at a shoot around and talked to him, ”Clayton said.

A recent interview with three Minnesota Wild hometown hockey players, recently waived Rem Pitlick, along with Nick Bjustad and Alex Goligoski, was another highlight. After Pitlick scored a hat trick in a game, Clayton tracked down Pitlick’s dad, Lance, a former NHLer, and a former coach at Shattuck-St. Mary.

“His dad cried a little bit talking about his son,” Clayton said. “I love being able to find that Minnesota connection in professional sports.”

Clayton has settled into an apartment in the North Loop in downtown Minneapolis. The winter scene in Minnesota provides ample opportunities to report with the Wild, Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers basketball and hockey teams to name a few.

“Honestly, it’s a dream job. I have really tried not to plan my future. You never know in this business. But I am super happy to be here. I could see myself at the station for a very long time, ”Clayton said.

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