KHS relay team takes state!

Track teams shine at 2A State Meet

Don Cogger, Gazette Sports Editor
Posted 5/23/23

Girls 2nd, Boys 8th; Burnett, Walker win multiple events

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KHS relay team takes state!

Track teams shine at 2A State Meet


For Kemmerer High School sophomore Laynee Walker, hitting 10 feet in the pole vault was a pipe dream, a height she figured she’d be lucky to hit by the time she graduated with the rest of the Class of 2025.

Turns out she was a couple of years ahead of schedule. Walker – whose best vault until last weekend was 9 feet, 6 inches – cleared the 10-foot mark Friday at the 2A State Track and Field Championships in Casper, winning the 2A state championship over Wright’s Carly Moore by over a foot, and forcing Walker to reevaluate her goals for the next two seasons.

“I’m hoping I can get to 10 feet, 6 inches,” she said, laughing. “But that’s really getting up there.”

Walker’s impressive showing in the pole vault was just one of many outstanding performances turned in by the KHS track and field teams, who took full advantage of three days of uncharacteristically beautiful weather (aside from a few sprinkles Thursday afternoon). When the dust settled following the final event on Saturday, the Lady Rangers finished second overall in the team standings, while the Rangers placed eighth.

“I was 100% satisfied and pleased with what our teams did at state – both the boys and the girls,” said KHS head coach Phil Thatcher. “I told my kids that it’s pretty rare where every single kid shows up, and does their job – does what’s expected, or exceeds expectations. That’s a pretty rare thing in life, let alone in a sports season, and they all did just that. Whether they earned points or not, it didn’t matter – they all came, and absolutely produced. I was very happy.”

The two teams combined for 25 individual placers – including six state champions – won two relays. In addition to her win in the pole vault, Walker swept the hurdle events, winning the 100 hurdles in a time of 16.76 and the 300 hurdles in a time of 47.21.

“For Laynee to win those hurdles – I think she was seeded second going into the 100 hurdles and third going into the 300 hurdles – to come out and win was a testament to how hard she trains,” Thatcher said. “I was on the track as a hurdle judge towards the end of the track on both races, and she was in second place in both races when she passed me. She pulled it out on the last couple of hurdles, and it was awesome to see. Just a great effort on her part.”

Ranger senior Owen Burnett closed out his final state meet with a pair of state championships, setting a new 2A state record in the 3200 meters with a time of 11:12.62, and winning the 1600 meters in a time of 4:21.28.

“It felt good to close out my high school career on that note,” Burnett said. “Of course, I wanted more; I was shooting for an overall state record and some faster times, but I can’t complain about how I performed.”

Burnett – who will run for the University of Wyoming next season – said he’s ready to begin the next chapter, though the last four years have been special.

“The athletes themselves will always stand out to me at this state meet,” Burnett said. “Wyoming has some special performers and getting to know them and grow with them is something I’ll always remember. My Kemmerer teammates are much closer to me than my Mountain View teammates, so I will miss my Kemmerer teammates very much going forward.”

Another two-time state champion was Lady Ranger sophomore Jolee Swasey. Swasey won the long jump, with a personal-best distance of 16 feet, 9.5 inches; she also finished third in the 100 meters (12.95).

“Going 16 feet, 9.5 inches in the long jump was great for Jolee – she’s been fighting all year to get out of the 15s and up into that range, and it came together for her at the right time,” Thatcher said. “I was really happy for her.”

Swasey also ran a leg in 4x100 relay – along with teammates Keira Heiner, Natasha Martinez and Walker – winning the event, and setting a new school record in a time of 50.13.

“The girls running the 4x100 set a new school record, and that was exciting,” Thatcher said. “We expected them to win, but when you break a school record, it’s just more fun. Those girls are perfectionists, which is why they’re so good – they want to do better all the time.”

The boys’ 1600 sprint medley team of Hunter Burnett, Skyler Rogers, Landon Heaps and Owen Burnett set a new 2A state standard of 3:37.26, adding to Kemmerer’s state championship total.

“Those boys weren’t expecting that,” Thatcher said. “They knew they could go fast, but man – they really ran hard, and they were pretty happy with that.”

Now that the state meet is in the books, Thatcher said he’s already looking towards next season. He’ll have some talented seniors to replace, but he’s excited about the future of KHS track and field. He credited his assistant coaches – Shelby Thatcher, Katie Schulthess and Amanda Aimone – for being the best in the business.

“What I’m most proud about, is these kids fought through a lot of adversity – probably more than most teams in the state,” Thatcher explained. “We didn’t get outside until the fourth week in April. Can you imagine a football team or a basketball team not being able to practice on their field or court for the first six weeks of their season, having only one meet, and still showing up and being as competitive and taking home as many state titles, and having as many placers? It would be unthinkable. But these kids did it, and I’m so proud of them.”

Lady Rangers

The Lady Rangers found themselves in a dogfight with Big Piney for 2A bragging rights all weekend, and the team title wasn’t decided until the final few events on Saturday. In the end, it was Big Piney in the top spot with 127 points, followed by Kemmerer in second with 116 and Lingle Ft. Laramie in third, with 94. Pine Bluffs (69) and Niobrara County (63.5) rounded out the Top 5.

Lady Ranger senior Keira Heiner performed well in the sprints, placing second in the 400 meters (59.17) and third in the 200 meters (26.04).Along with her championship in the 4x100 relay, Heiner also anchored the 4x400 relay, placing second, along with teammates Natasha Martinez, Tyler Thatcher and Ella Thatcher (4:15.15).

“Keira broke two school records – the 400 meters and the 200 meters,” Thatcher said. “If you’re going to go out with a bang, breaking records is the way to do it. I know she wanted to be a state champion in some individual events, but you can only do what you can do. I was super-proud of how she handled herself this year, and how she finished. It’s pretty exciting.”

Other multiple placers for the Lady Rangers included Arianne Dearden in the 3200 meters (3rd, 13:32.45) and the 1600 meters (7th, 6:04.72), and Aralynne Erickson in the 800 meters (4th, 2:28.81) and the 1600 meters (5:55.83).

“Arianne Dearden taking third in the 3200 was huge for us,” Thatcher said. “She ran a great race for us right off the bat, and set the tone for the whole meet. She just went out and absolutely killed it.”

Tyler Thatcher also placed in a pair of events, taking fifth in the triple jump (31 feet, 8.75 inches) and seventh in the 800 meters (2:31.33).

“Tyler Thatcher had only been doing the triple jump for about two weeks,” Thatcher explained. “We made a late-season change to see if we could get more points at state, and she came through – she was seeded eighth, and took fifth.”

Other podium finishes included Natasha Martinez in the 200 meters (7th, 27.95), Haddy Plowman in the 400 meters (8th, 1:05.04) and Nadia Runnion in the discus (5th, 100 feet, 8 inches).

“Nadia Runnion – it’s been a long time since we had a kid place at state in the throws,” Thatcher said. “She comes out and takes fifth in the discus. I’m just so happy with all of the girls.”


Led by Owen Burnett’s wins in the 1600 and 3200 meters, the Rangers placed eighth as a team, with solid performances from top to bottom, aided in no small part by the almost perfect weather conditions.

“The weather was fantastic, and undoubtedly created some fast performances for everyone,” Burnett said.

Hunter Burnett earned a spot on the podium in the 300 hurdles, placing seventh with a time of 41.70.

“Hunter PR’d by two seconds in that event, which was fantastic,” Thatcher said. “What a run he had! He was pretty excited, and I was excited for him.”

Bryson McGill was eighth in the high jump, clearing the bar at 5 feet, 8 inches, while Derek Hagler had a pair of eighth-place finishes in the throws, going 41 feet, .25 inches in the shot put, and 117 feet, 7 inches in the discus.

“We had Derek get two eighth-places – the only boy from the west side of the state to place in the throws,” Thatcher said. “That was a big showing for him, especially as a sophomore. He showed that he belonged over there.”

Freshman Malachi Villarreal also made it to the podium in the 3200 meters, placing eighth, with a time of 11:12.62.

“To have Malachi go over and produce as a freshman is exciting for our future,” Thatcher said.

2A State Track and Field Championships

Girls Results

1. Big Piney 127, 2. Kemmerer 116, 3. Lingle Ft. Laramie 94, 4 Pine Bluffs 69, 5. Niobrara County 63.5, 6. Big Horn 61, 7. Burns 40.5, 8. Rocky Mountain 36, 9. Tongue River 33, 10. Wright 23, 11. Sundance 16, 12. Wind River 15, 13. Wyoming Indian 5, 14. Shoshoni High 2, 15.  Greybull 1

100 Meter Dash

3. Jolee Swasey  12.95

200 Meter Dash

3. Keira Heiner 26.04, 7. Natasha Martinez 27.95

400 Meter Dash

2. Keira Heiner 59.17, 8. Haddy Plowman, 1:05.04, 14. Lilly Jamison 1:12.02

800 Meter Run

4. Aralynne Erickson 2:28.81, 7. Tyler Thatcher, 2:31.33, 15. Arianne Dearden 2:44.35

1600 Meter Run

6. Aralynne Erickson 5:55.83, 7. Arianne Dearden 6:04.72

3200 Meter Run

3. Arianne Dearden 13:32.45

100 Meter Hurdles

1. Laynee Walker 16.76

300 Meter Hurdles

1. Laynee Walker 47.21

4x100 Relay

1. Jolee Swasey,  Laynee Walker, Natasha Martinez, Keira Heiner 50.13

4x400 Relay

2. Natasha Martinez, Tyler Thatcher, Ella Thatcher, Keira Heiner 4:15.15

4x800 Relay

2. Aralynne Erickson, Arianne Dearden,  Laranda Waldner, Tyler Thatcher 10:44.49

Pole Vault

1. Laynee Walker 10’

Long Jump

1. Jolee Swasey 16’9.5”, 8. Natasha Martinez 14’11.25”

Triple Jump

5. Tyler Thatcher 31’8.75”

Shot Put

10. Kylie Price 30’10.25”

Discus Throw

5. Nadia Runnion 100’8”, 14. Kylie Price 84’9”

Boys Results

1. Big Horn 102, 2. Burns 99.5, 3. Tongue River 85.5, 4. Lingle Ft. Laramie 79, 5. Big Piney 71, 6. Pine Bluffs 56, 7. Rocky Mountain 44.33, 8. Kemmerer 43, 9. Wright 36.83, 10. Niobrara County 26.33, 11. Sundance 24, 12. Wind River 21, 13. Wyoming Indian 5, 14. Greybull 4.5, 15. St. Stephens 3, 16. Shoshoni 1

200 Meter Dash

17. Hunter Burnett 24.99

400 Meter Dash

12. Skyler Rogers 54.09, 13. Mason Riding 56.56

800 Meter Run

14. Mason Riding 2:10.34

1600 Meter Run

1. Owen Burnett 4:21.28, 16. Malachi Villarreal 5:10.57

3200 Meter Run

1. Owen Burnett 9:26.38, 8. Malachi Villarreal 11:12.62

110 Meter Hurdles

11. Colter Krell 18.00

300 Meter Hurdles

7. Hunter Burnett 41.70

4x100 Relay

9. Hunter Burnett, Colter Krell, Austin Ruvalcaba, Jace Bullington 48.02

4x400 Relay

4. Hunter Burnett, Colter Krell, Austin Ruvalcaba, Jace Bullington 3:33.55

4x800 Relay

7. Jace Bullington, Malachi Villareal, Jacob Platt, Mason Riding 9:24.79

1600 Sprint Medley

1. Hunter Burnett, Skyler Rogers, Landon Heaps, Owen Burnett 3:37.26

High Jump

8. Bryson McGill 5’8”

Long Jump

16. Skyler Rogers 16’8”, 17. Jace Bullington 16’3.75”

Shot Put

8. Derek Hagler 41’.25”, 12. Landon Heaps 38’3”, 16. Dylan Hagler 33’7.75”

Discus Throw

8. Derek Hagler 117’7”, 12 Dylan Hagler 105’8”