SHERIDAN — Brian Gonda couldn’t feel Dawson LaRance behind him, but he knew the Billings Senior sprinter was coming. Gonda pushed; LaRance closed.
The two stretched across the finish line neck-and-neck, but LaRance had closed the gap and snatched a miniscule half-second victory in the boys 4×800-meter relay Tuesday at the Gary Benson Memorial track meet at Sheridan High School.
LaRance is no slouch, by any means. On April 8, he ran a personal best 1:51.59 in the 800-meter run, a time that would have won the 2016 Wyoming state meet by more than four seconds.
“We tried to run the relay where we could get far enough ahead where we could maybe open up the gap far enough where they couldn’t catch us,” Sheridan head track coach Taylor Kelting said of the event. “But as you can see, a 1:51 kid can do a lot of damage.”
The Broncs had a lengthy advantage before Gonda’s final leg, and Gonda made a strong push to the tight finish. Had the race been 10 meters shorter, Gonda and the Broncs would have taken home the top prize.
“I know I have to push as hard as I can, because I don’t know where he is; I don’t know when he’s coming,” Gonda said. “I kind of just got out as quick as I could and tried to hold the pace.”
Kelting said the competition was good for his 4×800-relay team against a Montana school that doesn’t have that event in its state meet. It meant Billings Senior was putting its best runners in the race and giving the Broncs all they could handle.
It also meant another chance for the Sheridan foursome to snatch a pre-qualifying time for the state meet, which they did. So both the team and its coach somewhat shrugged off LaRance’s finish and looked at the meet as a victory.
“Our first goal today was to go get a pre-qualifier for the state meet,” Kelting said. “We were happy about that, getting that out of the way, because we don’t get to run the relays very often. And it’s neat for our anchor to see how fast he has to run compared to a kid like that.”
Sheridan’s 4×800-meter relay team won the state championship last spring with Gonda, Tymer Goss, Jered McCafferty and JT Vrieswyk. Vrieswyk, the only graduate from that bunch, was replaced with Derek Vela in Tuesday’s race, but the goal hasn’t changed.
Gonda, Goss and McCafferty know what it takes to win a state championship, so they understand that there is still plenty of work to be done to get back to the top of the podium come season’s end.
“We know we can get a lot faster; we’ll get a lot faster,” Gonda said. “Our main goal is just to win state again.”
The Gary Benson Memorial was a tough meet all around for Sheridan, bringing some of Billings top teams to town along with plenty of Wyoming’s top contenders. It was the first time the Broncs had faced Casper’s two high schools — Kelly Walsh and Natrona — since the opening meet, and it gave Sheridan another look at indoor state champion Gillette.
Kelting said he’s seeing positive progress from his team as it moves through the back half of the season. Each meet presents another step toward preparation for the regional and state meets, and he’s confident his athletes are heading in the right direction.
“We feel like we can compete with the Casper schools, and we’re getting closer to Gillette,” the coach said. “With that in mind, we’ve just got to keep getting better and better until those culminating events.”
Other top-four finishers from the meet included:
3. Taemalle Lawson, 200-meter dash 27.34
1. Riley Rafferty, 400-meter dash 59.32
2. Pippin Robison, 800-meter run 2:20.42
3. Laura Alicke, 1600-meter run 5:23.41
1. Xiomara Robinson, 3200-meter run 11:57.03
2. Trinity Preston, 3200-meter run 12:26.55
3. Zoe Robison, 3200-meter run 12:34.54
2. Peyton Bomar, 300-meter hurdles 46.22
2. 4×400-meter relay (P. Robison, Rafferty, Lawson, Bomar) 4:03.66
2. 4×800-meter relay (Robinson, Alicke, P. Robison, Z. Robison) 9:53.73
3. Kylie Sorenson, high jump 5 feet
3. Emily Hooge, pole vault 9 feet, 9 inches
1. Bomar, long jump 16 feet, 6 inches
2. Lady Broncs team 131.42 (1. Billings Senior 137.78)
4. Tyler Holloway, 200-meter dash 23.55
4. Jered McCafferty, 800-meter run 2:02.05
3. Alec Riegert, 110-meter hurdles 16.10
1. Riegert, 300-meter hurdles 40.94
2. Drew Boedecker, 300-meter hurdles 41.61
3. 4×400-meter relay (Boedecker, Riegert, Tymer Goss, Matt Willey) 3:27.32
5. Broncs team 64 (1. Billings West 142.33)