SHERIDAN — A tremendous teaching and coaching opportunity presented itself to Taylor Kelting a few years back. After starting his professional journey in Rock Springs, Kelting found his way back to Northeast Wyoming and re-embraced his passion for coaching track.
Kelting inherited a talented Sheridan High School track and field team in 2016, and upon accepting the position, one sprinter stood out.
“When I came over here and got this job, it was one of those names like, ‘Holy cow, I get to coach Riley Rafferty,’” Kelting recalled. “… It was a really exciting thing.”
Rafferty made a name for herself with a noteworthy freshman campaign on the track; however, she found another gear in her first season with Kelting at the helm. Rafferty saw significant time drops and found her true calling in the 400-meter run, which encompasses its fair share of challenges.
“That race is a gutter,” Rafferty said. “It sucks, and it is hard. But it is really fun.”
Rafferty’s heightened success in the 400 came with an added bonus — a rival, and a friendly one at that. Kelly Moodry competed for Campbell County, and she and Rafferty jockeyed for supremacy whenever they both stepped onto the track.
Prior to high school, Rafferty and Moodry were quite familiar with one another, having competed in various races in junior high. The competitive nature surrounding the pair of sprinters bred a champion in 2016.
Rafferty came from behind on the home stretch to best Moodry for the 400-meter state title. Moodry waited all year to seek her amicable revenge and accomplished just that, winning the 400 last year as a junior, and leveling the score between the two runners.
The rubber match in 2018 will have a different feel, though. Not only will it settle the score, but the final individual race of both runners’ high school careers will involve the same color uniform. Rafferty and Moodry now wear matching Lady Bronc blue and gold uniforms.
Moodry moved to Sheridan ahead of the 2017-18 school year, and the long-time rivals have joined forces after years of stealing team points from each other.
“We’ve always been friends, and we’ve always been running against each other,” Rafferty said. “We were so friendly when we were on different teams, so it’s kind of nice to have her on the team. She’s so nice, and I love her. We really push each other.”
Kelting enjoys watching both of them duke it out, whether that’s in practice or at meets, and especially appreciates how Rafferty and Moodry view one another.
“I know there’s definitely respect there,” Kelting said. “I hear both of them talk about each other and how encouraging they are. They talk about how watching each other run and how beneficial it is being teammates. It is cool to have those two girls, where they’ve been rivals the last couple of years, and now they get to train together and be on a team together and even be on relays together. It is pretty special.”
Rafferty spent the winter playing basketball as opposed to many track athletes that elect to hone their craft during the indoor season. The basketball-track combo is very different in terms of conditioning, but Kelting sees many intangible things that translate from the hardwood to the track quite well.
“She so competitive. On the basketball court you just become so competitive in those team sports,” Kelting said. “In varsity basketball, in the 4A East Conference, you have to be tough, and I think she really carries that mental toughness around when she steps onto the track.
“She’s never afraid of anybody.”
The point-guard mentality she embodies on the court also shines through in the springtime. She can speak up when needed or just let her actions do the talking.
“She’s always been one of those girls, just a model of what you need to be as a track athlete, not only in practice,” Kelting said. “If you ever watch her warm up, you tell your younger kids to watch an athlete like that. She has a picture-perfect warmup. Kids just really respect her, and she’s always just worked really hard for us.”
Rafferty will carry that work ethic through the remainder of the season and down to Casper for the state meet where she will contend for yet another state title.