CASPER — Competing in conditions that more closely resembled early winter than late spring, the Kemmerer High School track and field teams nonetheless turned in some fantastic performances at last weekend’s 3A State Track and Field Championships in Casper.
The Lady Rangers placed 11th overall as a team, while the Rangers placed 12th; the two teams combined for 10 individual placers, with a pair of relays also earning podium finishes.
“I think, overall, that was probably the coldest state meet I’ve ever been to — we’ve had snow before, but to have it for three straight days was nuts,” said KHS head coach Phil Thatcher. “But I thought our kids were really solid. The effort was there on all the kids.”
Leading the charge for the Rangers was distance runner Owen Burnett, who claimed the top spot in the 1600 meters (4:23.46) and the 3200 meters (9:46.49); his win in the 3200 meters was particularly memorable, running in a blowing wind, with a wintry mix of sleet and rain to set a new school record.
“Owen even surprised himself,” Thatcher said. “We knew what he could do in the two-mile, and he PR’d by three seconds and established a new school record. That was impressive, such a strong effort to come out and perform like that, especially in those weather conditions.”
In the 1600 meters, Burnett avenged a loss to Mountain View’s Tanner Erickson, who beat Burnett for the gold a week earlier at the 4A West Regional Meet.
“Owen had been running the mile in about 4:32, and we were going to try to break 4:30,” Thatcher said. “For him to go 4:23 was just crazy — his last lap was a 1:01. It was such an effort, and he was racing the kid from Mountain View that he’d lost to at regionals, so Owen was pretty determined coming in. Such a great effort.”
Freshman Jolee Swasey was the highest placer for the Lady Rangers, placing fifth in the long jump (15 feet, 10 inches); she also finished seventh in the 100 meter dash, with a time of 13.17.
“Jolee made the podium in her sprint and the long jump,” Thatcher said. “We had several freshmen who performed really well. It’s funny — some of these kids were a little dejected by placing seventh or eighth, and I’m like, ‘Do you realize who you’re running against? These are good kids.’ We had to put it into perspective for them, because they have pretty high goals for themselves.”
The KHS track and field teams will compete at the 2A level next year, and Thatcher said expectations will be even higher at that level for his young teams.
“We want to be one of the top teams in 2A next year, and there’s a lot that goes into that,” he said. “You have to have healthy kids, and they all have to stay in school — there are a thousand things that have to happen before next March. But looking at it now, it’s a pretty promising picture. We have a bunch of kids going to different track camps this summer, working on different events. They’re pretty excited about it, and that kind of commitment makes me pretty happy as a coach.”
The Lady Rangers finished the weekend with seven individual placers, along with podium finishes by the 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.
Laynee Walker had a pair of eighth-place finishes in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles, posting times of 17.23 and 49.08, respectively.
“Laynee Walker qualified for state in four different events, and placed in both the hurdles,” Thatcher said. “Ella Thatcher placed in the triple jump — she and Laynee are both freshmen. Lots of young kids, doing really good things.”
Olivia Nielson also reached the podium in both throwing events, placing sixth in the shot put (34 feet, 4.5 inches) and seventh in the discus (111 feet, 8 inches), closing out her high school career, as well as her first season as a member of the track and field team.
“Olivia is such a cool girl — she has worked so hard in volleyball and basketball, and she’s a strong kid,” Thatcher explained. “She has decent speed, especially for someone that plays post in basketball. To come out and throw for us this season, she was such a huge addition, and she became a leader on this team in a very short time. There were high expectations for her, and she met them. To go to state and place in the shot and the discus in her first year — and to step up and throw PRs — that’s pretty special. When you have a kid that can turn in their best performance at the state meet, you know that you have someone who’s not only physically talented — mentally, they’re able to focus, and take care of their business. She is that kind of kid.”
Ella Thatcher made the podium in the triple jump, placing seventh with a jump of 32 feet, 7.5 inches.
In the relay events, the 4x400 relay team of Ella Thatcher, Tyler Thatcher, Natasha Martinez and Keira Heiner broke a school record, finishing fourth (4:10.55), while the 4x800 relay team of Tyler Thatcher, Lilly Jamison, Aralynne Erickson and Janae Skidmore finished fifth (10:43.30).
“That 4x400 team ran out of their minds,” Thatcher said. “They had all run fast legs throughout the year — just never on the same day. When you can put it all together on the biggest stage, it says something about those kids. It was a great performance by those girls.”
The girls 4x100 relay team of Jolee Swasey, Laynee Walker, Natasha Martinez and Keira Heiner turned in a fantastic time, though their efforts were negated by a disqualification — a result Thatcher called the heartbreak of the meet.
“They [the 4x100 team] ran so well, but a slight infraction took them out of it,” Thatcher explained. “That was heartbreaking for those girls. But the good news is, all four of those girls will be back to try it again next season.”
Other notable performances included Keira Heiner in the 400 meters (10th, 1:03.43) and the 200 meters (12th, 27.82); Aralynne Erickson in the 3200 meters (20th, 13:51.53); Janae Skidmore in the high jump (10th, 4 feet, 8 inches); Natasha Martinewz in the long jump (14th, 14 feet, 8.25 inches); and Laynee Walker (10th, 8 feet, 6 inches) and Tyler Thatcher (13th, 7 feet, 6 inches) in the pole vault.
Ranger Senior Tommy Skidmore closed out his final state appearance with an eighth-place finish in the high jump, clearing the bar at 5 feet, 10 inches to earn a trip to the podium; he also finished 10th in the 400 meters (53.95) and 10th in the long jump (18 feet).
“I was really happy for Tommy to get his 5 feet, 10 inches in the high jump,” Thatcher said. “To perform up to expectations at state was really good to see, especially in the conditions. And he ran a high .52 on his split of the 4x400 relay — he did what he was supposed to do at that meet. It was a good, solid performance for Tommy.”
The 4x400 relay team of Hunter Burnett, Aiden Runnion, Owen Burnett and Tommy Skidmore earned a spot on the podium with a seventh-place finish, posting a time of 3:41.28.
In the throwing events, Aiden Runnion placed 15th, with a toss of 88 feet, 1 inch.
3A State Meet Results
1. Powell 96, 2. Mountain View 90, 3. Lander Valley 76.50, 4. Rawlins 67, 5. Torrington 64, 6. Buffalo 53.50, 7. Lyman 51.50, 8. Wheatland 51, 9. Pinedale 40, 10. Burns 35.50, 11. Kemmerer 24, 12. Worland 20, 13. Lovell 17, 14. Thermopolis 10
100 Meter Dash
7. Jolee Swasey 13.17
200 Meter Dash
12. Keira Heiner 27.82, 14. Jolee Swasey 27.92
400 Meter Run
10. Keira Heiner 1:03.43
3200 Meter Run
20. Aralynne Erickson 13:51.53
100 Meter Hurdles
8. Laynee Walker 17.23
300 Meter Hurdles
8. Laynee Walker 49.08
4. Ella Thatcher, Tyler Thatcher, Natasha Martinez, Keira Heiner 4:10.55
5. Tyler Thatcher, Lilly Jamison, Aralynne Erickson, Janae Skidmore 10:43.30
10. Janae Skidmore 4’8”
5. Jolee Swasey 15’10”, 14. Natasha Martinez 14’8.25”
7. Ella Thatcher 32’7.5”
10. Laynee Walker 8’6”, 13. Tyler Thatcher 7’6”
6. Olivia Nielson 34’4.5”
7. Olivia Nielson 111’8”
1. Lander Valley 98, 2. Mountain View 88.50, 3. Powell 75.50, 4. Torrington 61, 5. Worland 55, 6. Wheatland 54, 7. Lovell 52, 8. Rawlins 51, 9. Douglas 48.50, 10. Burns 47, 11. Buffalo 24, 12. Kemmerer 23, 13. Lyman 20.50, 14. Pinedale 2
400 Meter Run
10. Tommy Skidmore 53.95
1600 Meter Run
1. Owen Burnett 4:23.46
3200 Meter Run
1. Owen Burnett 9:46.49
4x400 Meter Relay
7. Hunter Burnett, Aiden Runnion, Owen Burnett, Tommy Skidmore 3:41.28
8. Tommy Skidmore 5’10”
10. Tommy Skidmore 18’
15. Aiden Runnion 88’1”