Double competition – the toughest sport

    Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

    Track is the toughest of all sports. Swimming, wrestling, and cross country are a close second, but in the case of these runner-up athletic venues, the pool and the mat are temperature regulated, and while cross country is an outdoor sport, with full exposure to the elements, the weather isn’t that bad in the fall.

    If you’ve looked outside the last five months since the snow arrived in November you understand why track is such a challenge. It’s not just the grueling nature of individual competition, it’s that competition against the elements, things that are far from your control.


    In my sophomore year Coach Sinner arranged a quadrangular meet in Thermopolis on a late Tuesday afternoon.

    The track at Leroy Hayes Memorial Field is the fastest in Wyoming today. The surface is excellent for hurdling, sprinting, and relays. Many boys and girls set their personal best at the Bobcat Invite or their Twilight meet.

    That’s the modern track, the one we ran on that early April Tuesday was good, old-fashioned cinder. For those of you who don’t remember, or who’ve never seen a cinder track, they were fast if properly rolled before a meet, and they were made of cinders. The cinders came from the railroad and coal-fired power plants.

    It was early April and the snow had just begun to melt. The three inside lanes on the south end of the Thermopolis track were saturated, with standing water almost the entire length of the curve. I was running the mile with a couple of runners from Thermop, a guy from Ten Sleep, and three kids from Basin. It didn’t matter with us, my friend Cubby Furlong was in the race and he could run.


    After the first three laps, with all of us moving judiciously to the fourth lane on each lap around the sound end Cubby was in the lead by a good 80 yards and pulling away. As the gun sounded for the final lap we all picked up the pace, but one of the Basin runners had a better idea. As we swung wide into lane four he cut inside, to take the shorter route in the standing water of lane one. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him stagger, then fall and spin to the track, before sliding face first down the muck.

    Have you ever tried to laugh while competing in a distance race? It’s more of a snort and it wastes your wind and cuts your stride. All of us trailing Cubby in the pack were making that snorting sound.

    Such is Wyoming track.


    A week later we were in Cody, on a frozen Saturday. We arrived on Friday night before competing on the asphalt of the Broncs’ new track. Not the rubberized asphalt you find at every Fremont County High School but plain old highway asphalt. It was slick, hard, and worse in cold weather. None of our spikes worked on the hard surface so we ran in flat, training shoes.

    I was in the 180-yard low hurdles. The 180 lows was a great event, you didn’t have to be blazing fast if you could hurdle, and if you couldn’t hurdle but were fast, you could compete well.

    The problem that day was ice on the track. As we warmed up, I noticed ice in front of the second hurdle in my lane. Coach Sinner told me not to worry about it, I’d probably miss it. (probably, is that word ever a good thing?)


    The gun sounded, and I cleared the first hurdle with ease but on that icy second one, my plant foot slipped on the ice, and I slid down the track on my back after shattering the hurdle. Dazed, I could hear Coach Sinner yelling, “Get up and finish.” I got up, ran the remainder of the flight a long way out of first, and finished the race.

    I had a nice raspberry on my left shoulder from the slide and felt blood running down my cheek. A part of the shattered hurdle had hit me in the face. A few butterfly band-aids stopped the bleeding, and I got stitches later that evening in Riverton when we returned home. Yep, such is Wyoming track.

    As a first-year coach, I took my Lusk Tiger track team to a meet in Bayard, Nebraska. I’d dealt with rain, snow, and ice on the track as a kid, but never the kind of wind that awaited us in the Nebraska Panhandle.

    Bayard was a wind tunnel with cyclonic gusts arriving just before lunch. The field events were all completed by 11 am. The hurdle prelims were set to start just as the wind began to rise.

    We finished the four flights of girls’ 100-meter prelims, but as we moved the hurdles up six inches and set them on the marks for the boy’s 110-meter high hurdle race the gale hit.

    This sideways tornado was new to me, but old hat to the volunteer crew from Bayard running the meet.

    They had self-righting hurdles. When one fell over from a kid hitting it or if a full three or four flights were leveled by a wind gust, the hurdles gently rolled back to upright position. It was like watching wheat in front of an advancing afternoon thunderstorm.

    They had two finish lines so the kids could always hurdle with the wind, a much safer option.

    Bayard developed a method of getting off the sprints, hurdles between gusts.

    There was a guy in the crow’s nest with binoculars looking west. About a half-mile away, just west of the tiny town was another guy holding a white flag. As the gusts blew to full strength he raised the flag, and the crow’s nest observer held up a red flag for the starter to see.

    When the white flag dropped, that meant a lull. The red flag was pulled back inside, and the starter had about a minute to get off the flight. Amazingly, it worked for almost every event, aside from one.

    The 3200-meter run started right after the hurdle prelims were completed. There was no way to run in the lulls when the wind wasn’t blowing in an eight-lap race.

    The girls ran first and a tiny little gal from one of the Nebraska schools was far out in front when a gust hit. This one was powerful, maybe 60 or 70 miles per hour, powerful enough to rip the high jump pits loose from their anchor straps. The pits took to the air, flipping end over end and she didn’t see them coming. One smacked her hard, driving her into the track face first. It knocked out her front teeth. A school nurse put her teeth into a paper cup, and she was taken to Scottsbluff for treatment.

    In a meet the following week at Morrill, Nebraska she wasn’t competing, but her coach told us she was recovering well and would run the following week. She had her smile back thanks to quick action by a local dentist.

    A tough kid, in a tough sport. Hopefully, the weather breaks soon and gives our local track athletes a break as well.


    Related Posts

    Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?