Thinclads fighting the weather as season nears

Nathan Oster

If the first couple weeks of practice are any indication of what's to come, the words "weather permitting" might be the most often used as area track and field athletes, coaches and fans navigate the traditional slate of meets leading up to regional and state competition in May.

Two meets have already been snowed out — the Wind River Invite on March 25, along with this Friday's Burlington Invite.  The Bill Gerrard Invite, which Greybull hosts every year, is a go for Saturday, April 1, but meet director Nolan Tracy acknowledged some concern about a spring storm in the forecast for today (Thursday, March 30). It's been that kind of start.

"The weather's been so bad, but honestly, we should feel lucky," said Tracy, who is also head coach of the Buffs. "Several schools haven't even been able to practice outside.  Big Piney has 3 feet of snow on its track.  Tongue River hasn't been outside — they got 8 more inches out of the last storm."

The Buffs have been able to train outdoors, but are still behind where they normally are at this point.

Tracy's roster of 28 young athletes includes nine returning state qualifiers in seniors Aiden Reece, Cole Bolzer and Chase Oster, juniors Kelsie McColloch, Chaise Benasky, Josselyn Jara and Sarah Murph and sophomores Julie Lopez and Fatima Chavez.

They're joined on the team by seniors Josh Lopez, Aidan Farrow and Ike Hoffman, juniors Dan Brown, Shea Weber, Juan Acuna and Joel Miller, sophomore Payton Hoffman and freshmen Carter Jacobs, Vanessa Vicencio, Camilla Acuna, Kylie Benasky, Troy Cheatham, Garrett Wiggins, Caiden Sorenson, Bradin Ewen, Yandel Hernandez, Jasmine Rodriguez and Sherlyn Diaz-Rios.

When asked about team goals, Tracy said, "Track's a numbers game.  We don't have 50 kids on the team and will probably have a hard time filling events, so as far as finishing first, second or third at a meet, that probably won't be happening.

"But getting some firsts, seconds and thirds is definitely a goal.  We want to make some noise.  We want to improve. We want to compete to the best of our ability.  But right now, we won't have a single relay for boys or girls this Saturday — and we may not the whole year."

Relay teams were the ticket to Casper for several of last year's state qualifiers.  For those who made it in individual events, and really for everyone, consistent improvement will be the goal. Tracy said he's emphasizing the 1-percent rule — and how incremental improvements add up to big gains over time. 

Reece is the team's most accomplished returnee, having won the state 2A high jump crown last May.  He cleared 6-0 last year.  "He missed 6-2 but I'm not sure how — just brushed the bar somehow," said Tracy. "He's more than capable of that."

As for the other returning state qualifiers in individual events, Tracy said he'll be working with them on specific goals — for Bolzer, it's a long jump of more than 20 feet; for McColloch, a 400 in under 65 seconds; for Murph, a toss of more than 100 feet in the discus, for Benasky, a high jump of 4-8.

Whenever the first meet is held, the Buffs will have an opportunity to establish baseline performances.

"We'll know a lot more about our team after that," said Tracy.

As for the schedule, Tracy said there's a chance Burlington reschedules its meet.  With it getting called off early, teams that were planning to attend started reaching out to him, hoping to get included in the field for the Bill Gerrard.

"It may be the only meet in the entire state, so I'm getting bombarded with requests," he said. "We're going to have 15 teams here, including us.  I let a couple teams in already that I haven't in the past in Lovell and Thermopolis."

So by Bill Gerrard Invite standards, it's going to be bigger than usual, he said. Some teams looking to join the field — Big Horn and Big Piney among them — have already been turned away. "We just don't have the facilities," he said, citing the six-lane track, single shot put and discus rings and two jumping pits.

The first round of field events including the boys long jump, boys high jump, boys discus, girls shot put and girls triple jump begin at 10 a.m.  They'll be followed by the boys triple jump, boys shot, girls long jump, girls high jump and girls discus.

The 3,200 meter relay starts at 10 a.m. as well, but the rest of the running events won't start until 11 a.m.