SHERIDAN — Quite a few things shifted this past offseason within high school athletics in the state of Wyoming. The Wyoming High School Activities Association reclassified various schools and determined which sports at any given school will compete at what level.
After the reclassification process for basketball and volleyball, the high school coaches and athletic directors met to figure out how the conferences would shake out. The coaches and ADs elected to move to a quadrant system where four teams make up a quadrant. This gave every classification, aside from 1A, four teams in each quadrant.
In years past, some conferences had four teams while others in that same classification had upward of six teams.
“From that end of the things, it’ll clean up the playoffs, regionals will just be the eight teams,” Tongue River High School girls basketball head coach Ryan Alley said.
Postseason play will combine two quadrants — each classification being comprised of four quadrants — for a regional tournament to decide which teams go to state.
Another driving force behind the quadrant realignment revolves around travel. The quadrant system will significantly cut down mileage teams log.
Last season, Sheridan High School was in the 4A East Conference with both Gillette schools, all three Cheyenne schools and Laramie. The Broncs played each one of those schools twice during the regular season, once at home and once on the road. This season, Sheridan is part of the 4A Northeast quadrant with Campbell County, Thunder Basin and Natrona County. Those four schools will play one another twice during the regular season, just like last season.
What’s different for the Broncs is they won’t have to make multiple conference treks to Cheyenne. Sheridan will only make one trip, from now on, to the southern reaches of Wyoming to play Cheyenne South and Laramie, while Cheyenne East and Cheyenne Central travel to Sheridan. In 2019-20, the Broncs will travel to play East and Central and South and Laramie will come to Sheridan. That will trim off about 350 miles of travel for the Broncs.
“It’s a little bit less travel,” Sheridan boys basketball head coach Jeff Martini said. “We have one less trip to Cheyenne, which is great. … We basically have the same regional tournament other than adding Natrona, which makes it a little bit tougher to go to state.”
Tongue River and Big Horn were part of a six-team conference last season with Wright, Upton, Sundance and Moorcroft. The realignment bumped Upton down to 1A — where it’ll compete in the 1A Northeast quadrant with Arvada-Clearmont — and shifted Tongue River to the 2A Northwest quadrant.
The Eagles will compete in a quadrant alongside Rocky Mountain, Riverside and Greybull. Playing those three squads on the road as opposed to playing Wright, Upton, Sundance and Moorcroft on the road — not counting Big Horn since the Eagles and Rams will play one another twice this season — will reduce Tongue River’s travel by about 820 miles. As mentioned above, the Eagles and Rams will still partake in their rivalry twice this season, it just won’t have the same ramifications as both games will be nonconference affairs.
“There’s been different times throughout the years where we were in different conferences or at a different level, whether it be 1A or 2A, and those games were always still high-energy games,” Alley said. “… I don’t know if it’ll have as big an impact since we do play each other twice a year. It’ll still have a lot of pride on the line and a lot of energy in the gym.”
The volleyball team tackled the new quadrant system in the fall without any hiccups and basketball season will look to do the same.