SHERIDAN — Don Julian has been here before — slopping through wet grass, painting lines and moving nets. A week before grad- uation, the Sheridan High School activities director hasn’t put much focus on the shift to summer.
He’s worried about the 32 teams coming into Sheridan for the Wyoming High School Activities Association 3A and 4A state soccer tournaments.
“When I was first hired here,” Julian said, “one of the things that was shared with me by the people hiring me in the district was, we want to have regional and state events that we can host. We would like to bring those things in. So I have tried hard to do that.”
This weekend’s state soccer tournaments will be the second straight year Sheridan has hosted the events and the sixth time in Julian’s 10 years at SHS.
And while Julian was quick to point out that he and his staff — assistant activities director Kasey Garnhart and trainer Joanne Brewster, especially — get better at planning for the event every year, the work isn’t necessarily turnkey.
“For the most part, we’ve done it so long in Sheridan that there’s not a lot of changes that need to be made,” WHSAA Associate Commissioner Trevor Wilson said. “A lot of work still needs to be done, but as far as change goes, they know what they’re doing; they do a great job.”
The process of hosting a state event begins with a bid. Julian pitches the plan to the WHSAA and can secure the event with either a two-year or four-year plan in place. After Sheridan hosted for four years from 2009-12, the event was split for three years — 3A in Jackson and 4A in Rock Springs.
But Julian credited the Big Horn Equestrian Center for being a big catalyst in Sheridan’s bid to host. It’s one of the few places in the state where every single state tournament game in both classes can be played at the same venue, fields tucked side-by-side.
With rain in the forecast — something that Julian’s dealt with at past state tournaments — the immaculate turf and drainage of the equestrian center also calms the nerves when trying to squeeze in the state’s culminating event.
Sheridan has really become an ideal location to host the state soccer tournaments.
So that creates plenty of work for Julian and his staff, who, according to Wilson, take on a bulk of the work.
“The majority of the responsibility is really with Don and his staff and the community,” Wilson said.
Julian nodded in agreement but shared the credit with all parties involved, especially Storm Soccer. With the Storm Soccer-hosted Snicker’s Cup just a week ago at the equestrian center, SHS is able to piggyback off the event, sharing goals and corner flags and using previously mapped out fields as a starting point for painting the lines for the state tournament.
“We would have a hard time hosting this size of event without being able to use a lot of the equipment of Sheridan Storm Soccer,” Julian said.
Julian called the state soccer tournaments — three full days of playing plus a few extra for preparation — essentially a mobile Homer Scott Field. It’s up to Julian and his staff to make everything that is readily available at the high school just as accessible at the equestrian center. That includes a training station for Brewster with all of her equipment, ball kids, hospitality rooms for officials and sound equipment in case a major announcement needs to be made — like weather-related stoppages.
More than just a singular venue for 44 soccer matches, Julian knows what bringing the tournaments to Sheridan can do for the entire town. Players, coaches and fans must sleep in Sheridan hotels and eat at Sheridan restaurants. They’re exposed to a community many might not have ever seen and will, hopefully, Julian said, come back.
So Julian, Garnhart, Brewster and all of the volunteers at the equestrian center and SHS and Storm Soccer move on. They hunched over spray cans painting lines. They trucked training tables and speakers across town, and they’ll stand in the rain making sure anyone and everyone is safe, comfortable and ready to enjoy three days of Wyoming’s best soccer.
Weather is the only thing threatening the state soccer brigade, but Julian almost scoffs at the idea of anything putting a damper on his crew’s tedious work.
“If we can kick the ball, if it’ll roll, we’re going to be playing,” the activites director said.
The SHS soccer programs have a pretty good track record playing at home state tournaments, too. They’ve accumulated three runner-up finishes, a third-place finish and one state championship in the six hosting gigs since Julian took over.
Although the Broncs don’t have a team competing in this year’s tournaments, they’ll surely have more opportunities. Jackson hosts the next two state soccer tournaments, but the smooth-operated equestrian center events make Sheridan an ideal place to conclude the soccer season.
“We’re just thankful that we have a facility like the equestrian center to do this,” Julian said.
The 3A and 4A state soccer tournaments begin Thursday and will culminate with the state championships Saturday. For a full schedule of the weekend’s games, see WHSAA.org.