Wyoming track definitely not for faint of heart

May 30, 2017 By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

The state track meet 10 days ago brings to mind the idea that weather has never been a factor in Wyoming track and field. It is as if people suddenly realized it snows on the plains and foothills in May.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association didn't have a lot of choices weekend before last when a spring storm descended on Casper.

Either you held the state meet last weekend, or Wyoming didn't get one this year. It was as simple as that in the end.

The lack of scheduling space in the calendar dates back to football season and the insane need for every team in Class 4-A to play each other, requiring a nine-week regular season.

Blend in a three-week playoff format when half of the teams should have packed the trunk on the last game of the regular season, and it gets even tighter.

Add the latest trend of playing tournament after endless tournament in volleyball and basketball, and the winter sports season extend even deeper into the final few weeks of the school year.

While these are all scheduling issues, there isn't much anyone can do about the weather.

Mother Nature can throw a wrench, often a big one, into the best-laid plans.

In 1972, the state meet was scheduled for Casper, but a last-second storm piled about 14 inches of wet snow on the cinder track.In an act that would probably never occur in today's overhyped prep sports world, the entire meet was moved to Torrington.

In 1973, the Lander Invitational was moved to Powell due to a spring storm. Our Wind River team stayed overnight in Cody, but friends on the Lander track team had to leave at 4 a.m. to compete in their own meet.

Yes, they complained about it.

A few years later, I was coaching the Niobrara County track team. Our 1982 regional meet was scheduled for Douglas.

You guessed it, another storm cancelled the venue, but the meet had to be held.

A solution was found in Morrill, Nebraska.

Morrill had an excellent track, and the 11 teams of the Texas Trail Conference held their culminating qualifying meet in Nebraska.

You do what you can to stay on schedule.

A year later, we were running in Cheyenne at the War Tribe Track at Central High School.

The weather outside was fine that year, but I was in a political storm with the administration at Lusk. The principal couldn't do enough to me, so he began leaning on the kids.

I had a 400-meter runner who had an excellent chance to win a state championship. The problem came on regional weekend.The principal made a one-time mandate that graduating seniors had to attend baccalaureate late Saturday afternoon or they could not walk with their class on Sunday. It effectively prevented my 400-meter runner from competing at the state meet the following week. There were no qualifying standards in those days, and you had to finish the race in the finals to advance to state, no exceptions.

I spoke with meet officials and with the other coaches in the conference to see if they'd let my athlete run a solo final heat at 9 a.m. Saturday morning.His time running alone would count toward his final placing and he'd be able to run at state that way.We lined the track with teammates to encourage him and he ran well, a high 52-second finish.He took second in the conference and third at state in a driving rainstorm the following week.

Political storms are easier to manage than physical ones. Track isn't for the faint of heart.

In 2006, my wife and I watched our son Brian compete in his first collegiate decathlon at Dickinson State University.

It was 15 degrees on the first day with a 20-mile per hour wind out of the north and it began to rain in the early afternoon.The drops froze instantly on the steel rails surround the Blue Hawks' home track.

A lot of the mothers watching their sons and daughters compete in the multi-event championships looked like they'd freeze, but the guys completed their 10 events, and the girls their seven, without a complaint.

Brian and teammates Kevin McElvaney and Joe Gentilini finished 1-2-3. Kevin went on to set the Dickinson State all-time record at the national championships three weeks later.

Track is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one.

Colorado suffered the same weather as Wyoming during state finals, but Colorado simply moved the meet to a two-day event on Saturday and Sunday.

In South Dakota, the state finals were last weekend, but they moved their regional events to Monday with all timed finals and only three attempts in the field events.

The WHSAA looked at moving the meet to Monday and Tuesday, but eight schools said they couldn't make it ,and with graduation in about half the schools on May 21, it wasn't possible to follow Colorado's lead.

It was a historical decision based on the 1986 state meet.

A similar storm roared into Casper, and they ran just the 3200 meters on Thursday.

As the runners came down the backstretch, they disappeared from view in the heavy snow and appeared only briefly as they ran past the seats on the east side of the facility.

There is no real solution, just a reminder that competing on the track in Wyoming takes a tough competitor. We had those in droves this year.

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Wind River's Lue Herbert, left and Abby Philleo looked for a place to stay warm at the state track meet two weeks ago. Photo by Randy Tucker

Wind River's Lue Herbert, left and Abby Philleo looked for a place to stay warm at the state track meet two weeks ago. Photo by Randy Tucker

Wind River's Lue Herbert, left and Abby Philleo looked for a place to stay warm at the state track meet two weeks ago. Photo by Randy Tucker

Wind River's Lue Herbert, left and Abby Philleo looked for a place to stay warm at the state track meet two weeks ago. Photo by Randy Tucker

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