Herd brings momentum home
For any high school athlete, playing at home is one of the biggest thrills there is. The opportunity to put on a show in front of friends and family,who may not get to travel to away games or meets, is an undeniable adrenaline rush that helps fuel performances. For the Herders track and field team, that opportunity is now.
It’s that time of year again, when the Herders athletes get to compete in the annual Finch- Lehner Invite. Even with no school scheduled, the facilities will be abuzz with the sights and sounds of 10 schools competing in the meet, as athletes from around the state gather and attempt to improve upon their best statistics.
“Putting together a meet is a tough on a lot of people, but when you see the kids that enjoy the sport, on a beautiful day, that’s what makes it all worth it,” athletic director Julie Kuhlman said. “We’ve got lots of great helpers--good community people, good school people that have worked on meets for a long time. I can’t do it without the help of people around me.”
In the old days, track meets used to be recorded with volunteers, eight stopwatches and a couple of clipboards, Kuhlman recalled, a far cry from today’s electronic based recordings and statistic compilations.
The 10 other schools competing in the Finch-Lehner Invite will be Arapaho Charter High School, Guernsey, Kaycee, Kelly Walsh, Little Snake River, Lusk, Natrona, Rawlins, Shoshoni and Wheatland. The Finch-Lehner Invite is a limited meet, meaning each athlete will be allowed to compete in four events with the school allowed to have six entries in the meet.
The names Al Finch and Tony Lehner are heavily revered around the halls of the high school, and with 77 combined years of coaching, respected members of the community as well.
“Those guys are a huge part of what we do around here, and that’s the way we want to keep it,” Kuhlman said. “Al’s going to be working the meet, but Tony’s got commissioner duties, so unfortunately he can’t make it.”’
After retiring from full-time coaching and teaching last year. Al Finch still stays busy helping out at the school, working as a substitute teacher and helping out with the junior high track team.
Despite all the career accolades and having his name as part of the meet’s name, Finch was modest when talking about himself.
“You know, it’s very humbling. It’s something that when you start coaching, you never think of. You coach the best you can,” he said. “But getting to coach with Tony for so many years, and building the relationships with the kids over the years, that’s what was really nice.”
Last Saturday, the team competed in the Guernsey Invite and acquitted themselves quite well. The girls’ team scored in fourth place overall, and the boys’ finished second in the standings.
With the season approximately half over, the team is beginning to reach their potential. All in all, 44 athletes have set personal bests in 79 different events thus far.
“Our team did really well in our last meet, and we finished second overall,” coach Ryan Collier said. “Our kids continue to compete and progress each week, and that was evident again. A lot of kids were able to set new personal bests, and as long as they keep doing that, we’ll be alright.”
Collier also said that with the short week combined with a home meet, it would be a challenge for the kids. He said that there would a little more selfinflicted pressure on the kids as they would want to do their best in front of friends and family, but that he had the confidence in their ability to compete well.
In the midst of his first year as head coach, Collier said that the season has been a great learning experience.
“I think it’s been about what I expected. Of course, there’s always the little twists and turns that you don’t realize a head coach has to do,” he said. “It’s been a little stressful with that, but it’s been nice to be more involved with the other events and seeing what’s going on in the other part of the track.”
Sophomore Morgan Schwindt became the fourth individual member of the team to prequalify for State. She cleared 8 feet, 2 inches in the pole vault, both winning the event and easily eclipsing the 7 feet, 9 inch standard for the event.
The 4x100-meter relay team consisting of Tucker Bopp, Dom Griffitts, Garrett Schwindt and Payton Steinmetz also prequalified in their event, as they took the gold-medal on Saturday with a time of 46.53 seconds, finishing just under the Wyoming High School Athletic Association (WHSAA)’s standard for the race.
In addition to these wins, there were three more individual wins as well as another relay win for the Herders. Junior Mikalah Jones out-threw the rest of the discus field with a toss of 98 feet, 6 1/4 inches, and sophomore Tucker Bopp won the 200-meter race, setting a new personal record in the process. Sophomore Skyler Piasecki also set new personal records in his two events, as he won both the 3200-meter race and the high jump competition as well. The 4x400-meter team of Brysen Collier, T.J. Kraft, Cole Thornock and Kale Kuhlman won handily, finishing almost four seconds ahead of second place.
Field events for The Finch- Lehner Invite will begin at 10 a.m. at the high school.