It’s 3:45 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon in late February, and the Sheridan High School indoor track and field team is set to have a brief meeting prior to the start of practice. A couple distance runners trickle in, donning knit caps and gloves in preparation for the cold onslaught that awaits.
One quick glance out the window shows a snow-covered track and wind-swept snow drifts painted across the western reaches of Sheridan. Whichever weather app runners or coaches prefer, they all convey a similar message, “Wind chill advisory; frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.”
The Broncs, even those distance runners, will practice inside on this frigid Wyoming day. But, unlike some of their rival teams, Sheridan doesn’t have an indoor facility to utilize.
The Broncs don’t have a perfectly manicured synthetic surface to traverse. The don’t have well-marked lanes with predetermined distances. They don’t have a shot-put pit. They don’t have a runway for jumpers and vaulters.
Sheridan simply has its school. With the help of tape and cones, hallways transform into running lanes.
A gym — which features the Sheridan High School boys basketball team on one end — gives the sprinters just enough space to replicate an indoor-track turn.
After shifting tables and chairs around, the cafeteria gives throwers a space to sling around sand-filled shot puts.
Throughout the halls, distance runners go mindlessly back and forth, passing by the same lockers and classrooms countless times.
The high jumpers naturally have an eclectic mix of right-footed and left-footed jumpers. That requires the athletes to move their large high-jump pad from one end of the room to the other numerous times each day so each jumper can work on their approach and take off.
Even with plenty of imagination and flexibility, the entire Sheridan team can’t practice at its high school. About a mile eastward, pole vaulters work on their craft inside an old gym at Sheridan Junior High School. It certainly isn’t ideal, but the Broncs make the best of it.
“It obviously shows we try really hard because it’s kind of hard to do extended workouts when you’re restricted to hallways and a gym,” Sheridan’s Alec Riegert said.
But even that workmanlike attitude doesn’t remedy the disadvantage Sheridan faces with its counterparts to the south and east. Natrona County High School just opened a new indoor facility, allowing its runners, throwers and jumpers to practice where there’s no wind and it’s 68 degrees every day. Gillette’s community recreation center comes equipped with an indoor facility so state-of-the-art that the state meet called it home this past weekend.
And it was that state meet that the Broncs had no trouble winning, and doing so in style.
Sheridan’s 800-meter relay team — of Marc Wodahl, Carter McComb, Riegert and Matt Roma — broke the state’s indoor record, clocking in at 1 minute, 31.93 seconds. That record broken Saturday was one of five school records that the Broncs set this year. Taking it a step further, Sheridan’s 2019 team tallied 32 all-time top-five performances in program history.
The state championship was only fitting for a team as decorated as the Sheridan boys team.
“It’s just so big for our program, and it’s so big for those kids,” Sheridan head coach Taylor Kelting said. “… We have very committed kids. This is the type of opportunity that they work for.”
Fifteen different Broncs had a hand in the state title. Whether it was Riegert winning the 55-meter hurdles, or a couple 1,600-meter runners that overachieved to score a few points or a pole vault podium that was littered with Broncs, everyone played a role.
The state title — the second in school history and first since 2010 — provided a fitting bookend to a season that saw the Broncs go 4-0 in regular-season meets. Sheridan carried a target on its back for all others to aim at, and yet no one could hit it.
“We feel pretty accomplished,” Roma said. “We always say during the season that we would want to win a state title, and we just took it meet by meet. We got [to state] and focused in and said, ‘We can do this,’ and after the first day it was, ‘OK, we got this.’”