SHERIDAN — As a freshman, Big Horn’s Carley Motsick remembers walking into Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho, for the first time. The sounds of athletes running around the wood frame track echoed through the building of 12,000 seats.
Motsick had to familiarize herself with the unique 200-meter bank board track. Shaped like an outdoor track, the straightaway stretches lay flat along the turf with the corners raised and banked like a NASCAR track.
Motsick was not able to attend the Simplot Games her sophomore and junior years, but as a senior, she is thankful to receive the opportunity to return her senior year.
Athletes from Big Horn and Sheridan high schools have to earn their way onto the roster for the Simplot Games.
Times, distances and height standards are set, allowing for the top competitors for each school to attend. Sheridan is taking 33 athletes and Big Horn is taking 12.
The Simplot Games feature high school athletes that go on to compete for NCAA championships, in the Olympics and in the NFL, SHS track head coach Taylor Kelting said.
The athletes attending the event also have taken care of business outside of track. Kelting said the coaches have discussions on what athletes attend.
BHHS head coach Andrew Marcure said athletes that earned their ticket to Simplot showed up to practice regularly and are a positive influence on the track program.
The high level of competition garners a lot of attention to the event, aiding in the exposure of athletes looking to compete at the collegiate level.
Marcure said track and field is a data-driven sport. College coaches have the data showing what an athlete is producing and if they have the measurements required to compete at the different collegiate levels. The intensity of Simplot fuels the most intense competitors, helping them post times that can raise eyebrows of current coaching staff and college coaches.
The Simplot Games leave the coaches and athletes with memories to last for the rest of their life. Marcure said he will reminisce with athletes that graduated five or six years ago about their experience at the Games. It ranges from the athletes’ own accomplishments to seeing an athlete from Australia break a record.
It takes eight hours on a bus to reach Pocatello if the weather is cooperating. Long bus trips are nothing new for Wyoming athletes. Big Horn senior Will Pelissier said the bus trips provide an opportunity for team bonding. The hours of team bonding gained because of bus trips is a unique opportunity for Wyoming athletes and is something very few states experience on a regular basis.
Marcure remembers playing high school athletics in Montana. A 45-minute bus trip was a long trip for an event that was not state or regionals. For Wyoming, 45 minutes is an easy trip; even two hours to Gillette is a quick trip for the team.
The hours spent on the bus are passed with card games, talking to teammates and the occasional nap. Car games range from slap jack to poker.
Marcure coaches with Kirk McLaughlin, who heads the football and outdoor track programs. The two coaches spend a lot of time together on bus trips across Wyoming. Both coaches will spend time talking with their families and the rest ends up being a time the two start scheming drills for track practice or how the football team will approach an opponent next season.
Both programs hope to have a few athletes qualify for the finals hosted on Saturday.
“Championship Saturday,” Marcure said.
Kyler Ostler competed Saturday for Big Horn last year and the Broncs had multiple appearances in a variety of events on Saturday. Sheridan won the 4×200-relay last season.
Field events have benchmark requirements to make it to Saturday. Athletes can prequalify for the finals if they consistently produce numbers above the requirement. Track events take the fastest runners from Thursday or Friday and have them compete for championships on Saturday. Each event has a set number of spots for Saturday.
Athletes from Sheridan County compete Thursday and Friday in hopes of qualifying for the final round on Saturday.