As with any other year, 2018 has ushered in a lot of uncertainties in high school sports.
Above all else is the uncertainty with the upcoming legislative session. Most educators and coaches are on the edges of their seats to see how that will shuffle their responsibilities. It could mean minor tweaks across budgets. It could also very well change the face of Wyoming high school athletics as we know it.
Without even taking that into account, there’s still a lot to focus on. Here’s a list of some other storylines to watch in this new year of high school sports.
1. Don Julian sent shock waves through the state when he announced he was stepping down as head football coach at Sheridan. The Broncs had just won their third straight state title when Julian announced he’d back away from his coaching and activities director duties in order to spend more time with his parents in Kemmerer.
The head coaching job opened with the new year to members of the coaching staff. Who will head the Broncs next season and what will their expectations be with the possibility of four straight championships looming?
2. There’s one other government-related topic to keep in mind and that involves Natrona County head football coach Steve Harshman. Harshman, who is also the current speaker of the state House of Representatives, recently confirmed to the Star-Tribune that he has been approached about running for governor.
Harshman repeatedly said that he is focused on his current duties. If he were to explore a run for the office he’d have to campaign throughout football season and the election would be held the week before the state football championships.
3. In one of the most dominant seasons the state has ever seen, Rawlins’ Sydney Thorvaldson won every cross-country race she competed in as a freshman, including the state championship. She also finished ninth in the Nike Cross Nationals.
Can anyone test her? She finished seconds off the overall state record in cross-country as a freshman, so can she break that record as a sophomore? She plans on running distance in track, will she break any records in the spring?
4. With strong underclassmen talent, both Natrona County and Kelly Walsh boys soccer teams made post-season runs that involved quarterfinal heroics. The Mustangs nearly upset overall No. 1 Cheyenne Central in the first round while Kelly Walsh advanced on a dramatic shootout win only to lose to Central in the semifinals.
Both also finished their seasons with wins. Natrona County won the consolation tournament while Kelly Walsh topped Green River in a shootout that went 14 rounds. With all that momentum, how far will both go this season?
5. The Class 4A and 3A basketball races both figure to be a free-for-all in the 2017-18 season. Both Riverton and Kelly Walsh boys lost their top seven to graduation from last year’s championship teams, but have also impressed so far this year.
Fehringer was a top-10 finisher in both classic and freestyle at last year’s state meet. She could be on the fast track to gold this year but it’s still anyone’s season.
7. Green River finished on top of the Class 4A wrestling standings at last year’s state meet, withstanding the best shots from every other program. Can they do it again?
The Wolves always find a way to battle, but Natrona County, Cheyenne East, Kelly Walsh and Rock Springs will all have their sights set on the defending champions.
8. While Lander has been a constant figure at the top of Class 3A boys swimming, Class 4A has been a lot more up in the air. This year is more of the same.
With the Gillette split down the middle, who will emerge between the Camels and Bolts, and will a team like Kelly Walsh be ready to reclaim the state title after a three-year absence?
9. The Class 1A reign of Burlington boys basketball could be put to the test this season. The Huskies have been tested early and a possible fifth consecutive state title could be in jeopardy.
But who could take them down? Encampment has surprised so far. Then there’s Farson, Snake River and St. Stephens, who can change the landscape of 1A if the shots are falling that night. Wind River looks as strong as anyone in Class 2A to repeat.
10. By the time 2018 is over the new reclassification will be set in motion. That will be a game-changer in volleyball, basketball and track. It means Star Valley, Riverton and Cody will compete in Class 4A.
Among the new differences is the plan to split schools into quadrants, which would split Natrona County and Kelly Walsh as it stands. That’s a lot to get used to.