The Winter Shuffle – Scheduling on the Run

High school athletics are set by schedules long before most seasons begin. The most rigid scheduling comes in football where conference alignments and new formats like 6-man and 9-man prevent many schools that were once longtime rivals from playing each other at all.

In rare occurrences, a hybrid game will take place. Dubois head coach David Trembly and athletic director Tina Baker did some creative adjusting last season with the Rams playing a hybrid 6-man/11-man game with Natrona County.

Those games are rare, and to the NC Mustangs’ credit, they’ll field teams in just about any configuration to get the huge numbers of kids they have out for football a chance to play. In years past Natrona County teams have played Wind River, Shoshoni, and Rocky Mountain from our area in 9-man and 9-man/11-man hybrid games.

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Last week had nothing to do with the careful planning that coaches and athletic directors do months before a season begins or the careful balancing that takes place when the WHSAA oversees conference alignments and inter-conference play at the state level.

Summer roads are long, but Wyoming athletes can handle the distance – {h/t Randy Tucker}

The same storm that has your packages and mail just now arriving after it hit Casper last Wednesday threw a monkey wrench into athletic competition last week.

In Wyoming, aside from nearby teams within 100 miles of each other, everybody has to go through Rawlins, Shoshoni, or Casper most weekends.

Changes came quickly beginning Thursday morning with the closure of Interstate 25 between Casper and Buffalo. While Interstate 80 is closed many times throughout the year, Interstate 25 North of Casper is almost always open. It wasn’t last week.

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The Lander Tiger wrestling team was entered in a meet in Miles City, Montana. They could have taken the long route through Billings and then east to Miles City, but that’s a lot of bus miles, instead, they called Wind River athletic director Joe Robison and make the short trip to Pavillion for the Don Runner Memorial Tournament.

The view from the driver’s seat for most of basketball and wrestling season – {h/t Randy Tucker}

Riverton did likewise after South Pass was closed, giving them the option of driving to Rawlins and then west on treacherous Interstate 80 to Green River for the Thoman/Jackman Tournament.

Both Riverton and Lander faced excellent competition from the Class 2-A field at Pavillion.

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Thursday night the Riverton boys and girls basketball teams were planning to head back to Cheyenne for a mid-week game with Cheyenne East. The two teams played last weekend in Cheyenne in a tournament and were heading back just five days later on another nearly 600-mile round trip when poor road conditions forced the games to be rescheduled for January 26.

Every Fremont County school was affected by the Casper storm.

St. Stephen’s was scheduled to play in a tournament in South Dakota, but couldn’t make it. Instead, a quick call to Glenrock had the Eagles playing the Class 3-A Herders in Converse County.

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Glenrock was scheduled to play in the Big Horn Basin Shootout but couldn’t make it so they were happy to play the St. Stephen’s boys, and they picked up another game with Dubois.

Spectacular but dangerous describes Wyoming roads in winter – {h/t Randy Tucker}

Dubois was able to play a couple of games in Midwest in the Little 6 tournament last weekend, but some of the teams were unable to get there.

Three teams that did make their scheduled tip-offs on time despite the storm were Shoshoni, Big Horn, and Tongue River.

For a brief time, Tongue River played in the Class 2-A Northwest even though they and Big Horn are located in the foothills of the eastern side of the Big Horn Mountains. Travel problems with winter roads over the mountains are the main reason they don’t play in the west.

Last Thursday, the usual route for Shoshoni to Tongue River was blocked by the closure of I-25. The Wrangler boys and girls weren’t able to make the quick run to Casper, Midwest, Kaycee, Buffalo, and then the back road west from Sheridan to Dayton to play the Eagles.

Weather is unpredicatable but schedules aren’t – {h/t Randy Tucker}

Instead, they took the oldest road in Wyoming, the Cloud Peak Scenic Byway as it is known today, (US Highway 16) On its winding 47-mile course from Ten Sleep to Buffalo. Shoshoni drove to Worland, then headed another 22 miles east to Ten Sleep and over the pass on the Ten Sleep Trail as the Oglala tribe called it, and later mountain men in the fur trading era.

In a present-day paradox, the most modern highway in the state was closed, but a route discovered eons ago by Oglala hunting parties remained open.

The Wranglers made it to Tongue River without issue. Friday morning Shoshoni head coach Jonathan Wakelin called Big Horn head coach Cody Ball and suggested the Rams follow the same route. They did and made it easily to Shoshoni on Friday.

Shoshoni athletic director and girl’s head coach Max Mills had a three-game weekend planned, as many teams try to do in preparation for regional tournament play.

Winter windshield time in the Cowboy State – {h/t Randy Tucker}

The Wranglers and Lady Blue played the first two days, but a game with Burns, played halfway for both teams in Douglas didn’t make the cut.

Highway 20/26 had a no unnecessary travel restriction in place, and the other option was a trip to Muddy Gap through Riverton and Jeffrey City then on to Casper before heading to Douglas.

Instead, the game was rescheduled for Monday.

The teams played at 6 and 7:30 respectively at the Douglas Middle School gym and both Shoshoni and Burn returned home around midnight.

Storm or fair weather, the games go on.

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