Behind the lines…Your true colors…

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    The Riverton Relays was a great track meet in its day. At the old Wilford Mower 440-yard oval, meet officials came up with every conceivable relay. The traditional 4×100, 4×400, and 4×800 relays were run with a thing called the “Mile Team Race,” an event scored like a cross country race.

    Add in similar field event relays, and my favorite, the shuttle hurdle relay that had four teams hurdling against each other on the eight-lane track. Four hurdles came out of the blocks, slapped hands with teammates at the other end of the track and they ran back towards the starting line with the hurdles reversed. Lather, rinse, repeat and the event was over.


    In our modern era where every meet must be sanctioned to allow for automatic qualifying for the state meet, the relay meet is likely gone forever.

    One of the final relay meets wasn’t in Fremont County, but at the Southeast Goshen Track in Yoder. The Cyclones’ late head coach Barry Miller loved relay meets and kept the tradition going with the Southeast Relays until about 1990.

    It was always a twilight meet, and the lights weren’t that great on the Southeast field in those days.

    I took my Lusk Tigers to the meet all three years I was the head track coach. One April evening it was dark early with approaching storm clouds. The rain never materialized, but southern Goshen County always has wind, oftentimes high wind. This twilight meet had the best gusts the flat land off the Laramie Peaks could produce.


    The 4×200 meter relay was about to start. Lusk had lane three, Lingle lane four, and lane two was the LaGrange Longhorns. Nothing special there, except all three teams were red and white, with an angled sash across the front of the kid’s jerseys and either Lusk, LFL, or LaGrange written in blue.

    In the gathering darkness, all three teams looked a lot alike.

    The 4×200 at Yoder had a two-turn stagger, meaning the runners were cut in just after the second exchange. I was shuttling kids on the final exchange zone trying to get them in the order of their approaching teammates. Wheatland coach Bart Trautwein was on the zone as well.


    We couldn’t tell if the incoming runners were from LaGrange, Lusk, or Lingle until they were just a few strides away. Yes, we had a couple of collisions, and memorably, a LaGrange kid handed the baton to one of my guys, who promptly handed it back.

    It wasn’t quite the Olympics, but it sure was fun.

    It brought up another memory from that season when we competed at Bayard, Nebraska. It was a windswept plains track as well, but it was a uniform, not the conditions that stood out.


    The Hyannis Longhorns are a blue and white team, but their track uniforms didn’t reflect it. Both the boys and girls wore wild, swirled tiger stripe jerseys with the requisite blue and white mixed with streaks of green, red, and orange. It was colorful but on the verge of gaudy.

    I found the Hyannis head coach and asked him about the color scheme.

    “If your hurdler and mine are in a dead heat, who do you think the spotters are going to see?” he said.

    He was right. Lusk was just another red and white team while his Longhorns made a statement before the race even began.

    School colors matter, mostly due to tradition. A few schools change colors over the years, and some even change mascots.

    Riverton was orange and black until 1950 when they became red and white. Powell was originally the Spud Throwers before they became the Panthers.

    Consolidation brings about color changes more often.

    As a freshman and sophomore at Wind River, we wore green-lettered Morton Bronc t-shirts for PE. The freshman basketball team wore green and gold Bronc reversible for practice, and until my junior year, we wore silver and red Pavillion Panther jerseys for football practice, even though Pavillion’s school colors were red and white.

    We were purple and white, yet sometime over the ensuing years the Cougars moved to purple and black, and sometimes purple and silver. It all depends on how traditional the coach, athletic director, and school board are.

    At Lusk, or rather, Niobrara County High School you’ll always find a bit of blue on the jerseys and singlets of the Tigers.

    There was never any blue in the red and white of Lusk. When Manville High School closed in 1953, the Panthers brought the blue from their jerseys with them to the larger town nine miles east. As a concession the Tigers always have a splash of blue. Even 71 years after Manville High graduated its final class, there are those who remember.

    Some consolidations are easier than others when it comes to school colors. When Manderson-Hyattville combined with Basin to create Riverside High School in 1986, the Demons and the Bobcats were both red and white. It took a little creativity to come up with a Rebel as a mascot where a Bobcat and a Demon once stood, but it worked.

    A few miles further north in Big Horn County it wasn’t so easy. Cowley, Byron, and Deaver-Frannie all had great athletic traditions, but the reality of three small schools just a few miles apart didn’t make sense. Their alternative was to bus everyone to Lovell and make the Bulldogs a much larger Class 3-A school.

    Lovell didn’t want it, and neither did the three smaller communities.

    The Deaver-Frannie Trojans were blue and white, the Byron Eagles green and white, and the Cowley Jaguars maroon and white. There wasn’t much in common with mascots or team colors, so they scrapped any semblance of connection with all three and created the brown and gold Rocky Mountain Grizzlies.

    The tension between the three former rivals remains even after the Grizzlies moved from Byron to Cowley a few years ago. It’s likely that it will never go away. It hasn’t in Lusk after almost three-quarters of a century.

    Consolidation is one reason to change, but why would a mid-sized (by Wyoming standards) school like Riverton change their colors?

    The reason came not from the Wolverines but from their opponents, Powell, Worland, Rock Springs, and Casper Natrona are all orange and black. When Riverton changed to red and white it was to break the dominance of those two colors.

    Blue and gold, red and white, green and gold, red, white and blue, green and white, and purple and white were all colors that did and still do represent the communities of our county.

    Does school color matter anyway? Why don’t you try to change them and see what happens?   


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