Lady Rangers win 2A State Track and Field Championship

Walker wins three events; Hagler wins shot put

By Don Cogger, Gazette Sports Editor
Posted 5/21/24

CASPER — Heading into last week’s 2A State Track and Field Championships in Casper, Lady Rangers head track coach Phil Thatcher knew he had the horses to make a run at a state title.

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Lady Rangers win 2A State Track and Field Championship

Walker wins three events; Hagler wins shot put


CASPER — Heading into last week’s 2A State Track and Field Championships in Casper, Lady Rangers head track coach Phil Thatcher knew he had the horses to make a run at a state title.

After all, his girls had missed out on a Regional title by just a point to defending state champion Big Piney a week before, and were hungry to prove that result wasn’t a fluke.

Over three days last weekend, it all came together. Led by three individual state championships by junior Laynee Walker, three relay titles and 13 individual trips to the podium, the Lady Rangers accomplished something the program hadn’t done since the Reagan era: They brought home a 2A State Championship.

“I’m just so proud of the girls,” Thatcher said. “It was a big moment. We finished runner-up to Big Piney last year by 11 points, and we knew we could compete with them again — they were bringing most of their kids back, we were bringing most of ours. I’d never talked to the kids about winning a state title; I told them at the beginning of the year we had the talent to do something special, and in the locker room and on bus trips, they started talking about how they wanted a state title. I think that motivated a lot of them.”

On the boys’ side, the Rangers finished eighth as a team against some strong competition. Led by a state championship in the shot put by senior Derek Hagler and six individual placers in total, the Kemmerer boys left Casper Saturday as the top point-scoring team out of the 2A West.

“Our boys were the highest-placing west side team in the state, and I couldn’t be prouder,” Thatcher said. “You can only do what you can do. We went in with pretty realistic goals, and we were able to meet them. We only move forward with this group — I really think next year if we’re healthy, we’ll finish Top 4.”

The defending 2A state champion in the pole vault, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, Walker once again swept all three events to earn back-to-back titles. While her times of 16.96 in the 100 hurdles and 47.45 in the 300 hurdles were marked improvements over last year’s numbers, it was her finish in the pole vault that had people talking. After winning the event with a vault of 9 feet, 6 inches, Walker went on to set a new school record by topping out at 10 feet, 6 inches. She then took a run at the 2A state record of 11 feet, 1 inch, just missing on her second attempt at 11 feet, 1.5 inches.

Not bad, considering all three of her events were run within an hour of each other.

“With pole vault getting pushed to Saturday morning, Laynee had a busy morning,” Thatcher explained. “But she’s a gamer — she’s ready to play. She won the 100 hurdles, then ran back and won the pole vault. Then she goes and wins the 300 hurdles, comes back to the pole vault and goes for a new school record at 10 feet, 6 inches. She clears that, and goes for the class record, and almost gets it on her second attempt. But talk about starting the day off with a bang. It was pretty cool to watch her excel.”

Walker said she was pleased with how things turned out, especially with all three of her finals stacked on one another.

“It felt great to hit 10’6,” she said. “It was a relief to finally bring everything together at the end of the season. I attempted the 2A state record, and although I missed it, I was still super-happy with my results. I did know it was going to be a good day — especially with good weather — and I was confident in my abilities to compete.”

Hagler closed out his junior campaign with a monster effort in the shot put, winning the event with a toss of 47 feet, 5 inches; he also finished fourth in the discus, with a throw of 133 feet, 9 inches.

It was the culmination of a year of hard work for the talented junior, who began to turn heads with his throws during the indoor track season.

“It was so fun to watch Derek — he’s been working hard all year,” Thatcher said. “He came out of indoor, and he’d been throwing 45s — and all year in outdoor, he’s been playing around in the low 40s, 41, 42. Every time in practice, he’d come up to me and say, ‘Coach, I think I threw a 46 today, a 47.’ I’d say, ‘Derek, I need to see it in a meet.’”

After watching Hagler hit 44 feet in his first attempt Saturday, Thatcher figured he was a lock for Top 3, and left to oversee another event. Now he’s wishing he could have stuck around.

“I had to go take care of something else, and the kids came running up to me about 30 minutes later, saying he went 47 feet,” he explained. “Such a cool performance for a kid to perform on the big stage and get that throw out there. Super-proud of him.”

The Lady Rangers won three of the four relay events, beginning with the 4x100; the team of Jolee Swasey, Laynee Walker, Natasha Martinez and Tyler Thatcher posted a time of 52.19 to earn the state championship. The team of Martinez, Ella Thatcher, Tyler Thatcher and Aralynne Erickson won the 4x400 in a time of 4:17.12, while the 4x800 team of Erickson, Arianne Dearden, Laranda Waldner and Tyler Thatcher finished in the top spot, with a time of 10:49.46.

Lady Ranger senior Tyler Thatcher was a fixture on all three winning relays, though perhaps her most memorable moment came during her anchor leg of the 4x800. Finding herself in second place behind Wright’s Briana Meza after 500 meters and bucking a headwind,