McColloch paces GHS effort at state meet

Nathan Oster

The Greybull Buffs didn’t have the numbers to make a run at a team title, but there was still plenty to rejoice about in the aftermath of last weekend’s State 2A Track and Field Championships in Casper. 

Ten of the 14 GHS athletes that made the trip earned medals — some of them in multiple events — and one Buff, senior Gaven McColloch, joined some very exclusive company with an epic run in the 3,200 meters, in which he became the first Buff to win that 2A crown in more than three decades. 

Blaine Stulc, among the most accomplished track athletes in GHS history, was the last to do it in 1990.

Coach Nolan Tracy called McColloch’s run “the race of a lifetime” and the perfect capper to an excellent career at GHS.  A state champ and an all stater this year, McColloch seized the opportunity he missed as a junior (when the season was cancelled) and as a sophomore (when he missed the state meet due to illness).  As a freshman, he placed 16th in the event, posting an 11:58.94.

All signs pointed to McColloch having a leave-it-all-on-the-track mindset, but he went to Casper knowing that to pull it off, he’d have to post the best time of his life.  Wyatt Ostler, a junior from Tongue River, had beaten McColloch every time they’d raced this season, and Ostler’s best time, a 10:17.73, was more than 40 seconds better than McColloch’s best, a 10:59.19.

But with input from his father and his head coach, Gaven developed what turned out to be a winning strategy.  He’d been chasing Ostler all season, studying his strategy in races.  He used what he learned to improve his own approach, which produced the best times of his career. The strategy boiled down to this:  Don’t let him pull him away, stay on his heels and be in a position to beat him on the homestretch. 

Everything was going according to plan – until the sixth lap.  The fast pace was taking a toll. The simple act of glancing behind him to see how much of a gap there was between himself and the third-place runner concerned his parents, Michael and Michelle, watching from the stands. 

“All of us were thinking at that moment that he was crashing,” said Michelle, crediting her daughter with encouraging them throughout to “stay positive.”

Michael concurred, saying “He’d run it perfectly to that point and I knew that he could stick with him for five laps, but (from his own experience as a runner) I knew that the sixth and seventh laps is when it hurts the most.  I thought he was going to fade – I just didn’t want him to fade too far back.”

They weren’t wrong, admitted Gaven.  He, too, had concerns. “When I saw (the third-place runner) was 20 meters behind me, I was like, it’s not worth it to slow down and keep my pace.  Better to keep pushing – and truthfully, it is a lot easier to run with someone right in front of you instead of 20 meters behind you.”

So the dual continued – Ostler in front, McColloch a few strides behind — until the eighth and final lap.  With about 300 meters to go, Gaven made his move.  A little earlier than his father had advised him, but he passed Ostler and started to pull away.  

McColloch finished in a blazing 10:19.29 — about 40 seconds better than he’d ever run the race.

Hunter Skeens of Sundance was second, finishing in 10:33.33.

Ostler crossed the line in 10:41.91.  There was reason for his late fade, as he stumbled across the finish line and required medical attention.  He was taken to a Casper hospital, where he was treated and released.  A key to the TR’s title hopes, Ostler didn’t run again in Casper, but the talented junior will have another go at it next year.  Before that, he had lost only one 3,200 race all season — and it happened on the day he posted his best time, a 10:17.73.

With his 10:19.29, Gaven almost eclipsed it.  Not even he could believe the time he posted. At about the 100-meter mark, he looked up at the scoreboard, but couldn’t make out all the numbers.  He thought about 10 minutes and 30 seconds had elapsed and that he’d easily be able to beat his personal record.

“With about 10 meters left, I glanced back up and saw that it was at 10:16 just as I was about to cross the finish line.  I was like, ‘What did I just do to myself!’  It was insane.  I didn’t think I was running that fast.”

He’d heard splits being called out along the way:  1:11 after the first lap, 5:03 after at the one-mile mark.  “I knew they were way too fast (particularly the first one), but all I could think was, my goal is to stay on him, so I have to do what he does.”

Tracy summed it up this way:  “Everything came together in that one race – all the years of training paid off.”

McColloch wasn’t at his best for the 1,600 meters — an event he actually thought he had a better chance of winning.  But the senior still placed third, finishing in 4:53.04.  Al Spotted of Tongue River and Skeens took the top two spots.  The 18 points powered the GHS boys to an 11th-place finish.  As a team, Greybull scored 26 points.  Rocky Mountain, with 161, took the 2A title.


Other Buffs

He wasn’t the only Buff who reached the awards stand.

Jesus Hernandez, another senior, captured third in the discus with a heave of 122-07.  Jasper Caldera of Lusk won the event, throwing 157-4.

Tracy said Hernandez didn’t get off to a good start this season, missing time due to COVID-19. Primarily a jump, he didn’t even consider throwing the discus until Tracy raised the possibility at midseason. 

“He’d qualified for state as a freshman and I asked, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to throw?’  He said, ‘I don’t know.’  He finally made the decision to do it — and is probably glad now that he did.”

Hernandez scratched all three times in the triple jump and did not place.

The other four team points were supplied by TJ Davis, who soared to seventh place in the long jump, going 19-2 ¾; Aiden Reece, who tied for seventh in the high jump, clearing 5-4; and Irving Castro, who took eighth in the 100 meters, 12:34.  Davis was the only one of the three to PR, going nearly a foot farther than the 18-3 ¾ which was his best going into the meet.

On the girls side, it was all Tongue River.  The Eagles rolled up 158 team points – nearly twice as many as second-place Glenrock — to capture the 2A crown.  Greybull placed 15th, scoring eight total team points.

All but one of them came in the relays.

The 1,600-meter medley relay team of Caroline Boyer, Kelsie McColloch, Chaise Benasky and Katie Murph placed fifth in 5:04.84, their best time of the season by more than three seconds.  

The 400-meter foursome of Boyer, McColloch, Benasky, and Kaylyn Burns captured sixth place in a time of 54.56.  Tracy said he’d been hoping for a top-four finish.  They didn’t quite hit a PR, but even if they had, they would have had a tough time finishing much higher, since the top three were in the 53s.

Burns, a senior competing for the final time, rounded out the scoring with an eighth-place finish in the 100.  Placing in two events “was a great way for a senior to end her career,” said Tracy.

And while there were four Buffs who competed but did not place, Tracy said Sarah Murph (discus), Torrey Sanford (800 meters), Stella Wade (100 and 200) and Cole Bolzer (long jump) will all be better for the experience.

As he looks ahead to next year, Tracy said the Buffs will miss their seniors, McColloch, Hernandez, Burns, Mikayla Foster and Avery Swiftney.  But there’s some optimism, too.  “Three of the four members of our 4x100 team were freshmen — Chaise was down there competing in three events (high jump, medley and 4x100).  On the boys side, it’ll be hard replacing the points Gaven scored, but we’ll still have Irving and TJ busted out a nice jump and got a medal. We have reasons to be hopeful.”