As the final soccer ball graced the back of the net and the ribbon broke in the 1,600-meter relay, Wyoming tied a bow on the 2017-18 sports season. While our ears adjust to the ringing of aluminum bats and our hearts brace for the eight-second rides, let’s take a moment to reflect on another successful, intense, disappointing, (insert another emotion here) season of sport in Sheridan County.
As I’ve noted before, on both a personal and communal level, we’re mighty lucky to watch (and report on) the teams and athletes in this community. Just last week I wrote on the historic season at Sheridan College, and a week before that I had to tell the bittersweet resignation stories of two of the county’s best coaches.
But those columns only cracked the surface. With the final All-State lists popping up over the weekend, we can now soak in what a year it’s been as a whole. At this point, it might seem redundant to do this year after year, but when you have success like this county has, it’s difficult to pass it over, no matter how frequent it happens.
First, we had our champions.
Again, maybe it’s beating a dead horse, but I’m not one for animal cruelty so I wouldn’t repeat it if it wasn’t important: The Sheridan Broncs won their third-straight state championship. They went undefeated in the process, and standing on the sideline as Aaron Sessions picked off a Natrona pass late in a tight 4A state championship was as exhilarating an experience as I’ve had as a reporter.
The Sheridan Hawks held court on their home ice in the winter, raising a state championship banner for the first time in 12 years with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Laramie.
At the regional and conference levels, we saw even more success. At Sheridan College, the men’s basketball team and men’s rodeo team won regional titles, and the Sheridan High School boys basketball and boys track teams also won regional titles.
The Big Horn boys track team took home a regional championship, and the Arvada-Clearmont girls basketball team claimed a conference title.
The individual list of state champions is even larger, still, will local athletes littering the podiums in swimming, track, golf and wrestling.
And like all offseasons, we’ll see shifts in coaching staffs at all schools.
Most notably, Michael McGuire and Don Julian will be off the sidelines in the fall as both champion football coaches resigned, taking seven state titles with them.
We’ll have new volleyball coaches gracing sidelines across the county; both Tongue River and Big Horn will experience shifts with basketball coaches. Larry Martoglio passed the baton within the Sheridan High School golf program, and a number of young coaches will continue pushing forward in their second and third years at the helm.
And to play devil’s advocate, there were some tough moments this year, too.
Big Horn football, SHS girls swimming, SC women’s soccer, SC volleyball, SHS boys basketball, Kirby Coe-Kirkham and Lennon Dregoiw and Libby Standish all finished runners-up — still positive if your glass if half full, but a tough pill to swallow no doubt.
The Arvada-Clearmont girls basketball team won its first conference title in a decade but faltered in the regional tournament and missed the state tourney altogether. Both SHS soccer teams missed the state tournament as well, and a number of other programs and individual competitors suffered setbacks along the way.
Still, as shortcomings, injuries, disappointments and resignations squeezed themselves into the schedule — as they always do — they were brief moments in another grander overall year. And without some of those moments, the joys of triumph wouldn’t be as great.
Those joys of triumph have become second nature for many coaches, athletes and fans across Sheridan County. Maybe we take it for granted. We have to in a certain extent; it’s human nature to become complacent and habitual.
But with every graduating class and approaching summer baseball and rodeo seasons, we’re given a quick opportunity to stop and breathe, reflecting on the previous nine months and all the glory we’ve seen in the area.
If you allow yourself a minute to do that, you’ll certainly hold your head a smidge higher and hopefully keep it there when the ball is kicked off three months from now.