Index-Journal staff members won 26 South Carolina Press Awards at a banquet Saturday. Front row, from left, Adam Benson and St. Claire Donaghy. Back row, Bob Simmonds, Chris Trainor, Damian Dominguez, Ariel Gilreath, Richard Whiting and Matthew Hensley.

The Index-Journal took home 26 South Carolina Press Association awards, including third place in general excellence for newspapers circulating less than 14,000, during a Saturday night banquet in Columbia.

The paper finished first in nine categories, second in eight categories and third in nine categories. This is the fifth consecutive year the Index-Journal has tallied more than 25 awards at the annual event.

Strong news coverage earned the newspaper six awards, with several Index-Journal staff writers were recognized for their strong beat coverage. Ariel Gilreath took first place in education beat reporting, a combined circulation category covering daily newspapers circulating to as many as 40,000 customers, while Damian Dominguez won first place in beat reporting for his coverage of public safety and courts in the Lakelands. Dominguez also took second place in the reporting-in-depth category for his coverage of the Demetric Cowan case. Former staff writer Colin Riddle took third place in government beat reporting, also in the combined circulation division. Staff writer Adam Benson took first place in enterprise reporting for "Woodhurst breaks silence." He also won third place in the breaking news category "Tragedy at the lake."

Column and editorial writing netted the paper four awards. Executive Editor Richard Whiting and columnist Chris Trainor took second and third place in column writing, respectively. Trainor earned second in humor column and Whiting took second in editorial or column in support of FOI/open government issues, both open divisions for all S.C. dailies.

Feature writing tallied another three awards for the newspaper. Staff writer St. Claire Donaghy won first place in news feature writing with "Faith for all." Donaghy also took second in arts and entertainment writing for "Houses of faith." Mundy Price, director of community relations, took third place in profile feature writing or story with "So inspiring: Meet Zeke," which published in the company's So Lakelands magazine.

Sports coverage netted two awards for the newspaper. Former sports writer Ethan Joyce won first place in short story for "The Gotham Knights Rise." Former sports editor Michael Christopher took first place in spots sports story with "Homegrown."

Index-Journal's design desk earned nine awards and swept the single feature page design category. Page designer Bob Simmonds took first and third place in inside page design, second place in single sports page design, third place in feature page design portfolio and third place in single feature page design. Former page designer Aron Agerton took first and second place in single feature page design, first place in single sports page design and third place in single page one design.

Former staff photographer Joshua S. Kelly took second place in online photo gallery for photos from Sen. Billy O'Dell's funeral service.