Braeden Walk still spends time with his friends, just not in the manner he’s accustomed to.
“We play Fortnight a lot,” the Mountain View senior said in a phone interview last week. “That’s what we do.”
It’s not what Walk had in mind for his final year of high school, but it’s the reality for every student in the state due to the coronavirus outbreak. Instead of attending classes and track practice, Walk is working, studying and spending time at home.
“I’m still trying to get used to all this online classroom stuff,” he said. “I go to my job and when I get home I eat dinner and then do my schoolwork. And whenever I get the chance I’ll work out.”
Walk works out not only to stay in shape but to prepare him for his next step – playing football at Dickinson State University, where he’ll be joined by Mountain View teammates Briggin Bluemel and Breckin Barnes. They were three of the 10 seniors who helped lead the Buffalos to two Class 2A state championships in three years, including a perfect 11-0 season that culminated with a 24-14 victory over Buffalo on Nov. 15, 2019 at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
And it’s those memories that Brent Walk, Braeden’s father and the Mountain View head football coach since 2012, wants this group of seniors to focus on during this unprecedented time.
“These kids need to be very, very proud and thankful of what they did accomplish,” Brent Walk said. “We’re not only teaching football but we’re teaching them how to get better day by day and how to take on challenges.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen today, but this is the situation that we’re in. I told Braeden that we’re not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves; we’re going to tackle one day at a time and just move forward. If we sit around and complain about where we’re at it’s not going to make it any better.
“When I get down I’ll pull up Hudl and I’ll watch our highlight film and that makes me feel good.”
Obviously, there are plenty of highlights for Walk to watch. Braeden Walk, Bluemel, Hunter Gross and Kimball Madsen were three-time all-state selections; Barnes was a two-time honoree; and Trevor Sweeney earned all-state honors this past season.
But the athletic success of the Mountain View seniors extended beyond the football field. Walk, Madsen, Bluemel, Gross and Barnes helped lead the Buffalos to a conference championship in basketball before they were upset in the West Regionals. Bridger Harris finished fourth at regional wrestling and qualified for state at 182 pounds. And Gross, Bluemel, Madsen and Travis Harmon (who ran cross country during the football season) helped lead Mountain View to the 3A track title last season.
What makes this spring even more difficult for the football seniors is that they have been doing things together ever since they were in third grade.
“Honestly, the social part is the hardest,” Braeden Walk admitted. “I would rather be in school with my friends. And I want to go hang out with them and I just can’t.”
It’s been doubly tough for Brent Walk, who sees his son’s pain from both a coach’s perspective as well as a father’s perspective.
“These kids are so close and they always have been,” he said. “My wife (Natalie) is putting together a video of Braeden ever since he was a little kid. She was working on part of it last night and she was pulling some pictures up of these seniors when they were third graders and I was out there teaching them a three-point stance and our backyard was painted like a football field. And I’m not going to lie, I was bawling.”
Those memories, and countless others, have helped the Walks get through these past two months.
“Me and my dad had a conversation and I told him, ‘Thank God this didn’t happen during football,’” Braeden Walk recalled. “And he said, ‘That’s right on the money.’
“I won a state championship as a sophomore. I went to the state championship as a junior. And I went out as a state champion so I can’t be sulking.”
Brent Walk has similar sentiments.
“In the grand scheme of things hopefully these kids can look back and say, ‘Yeah, I was in the Class of 2020 and I got to do this and I got to do this,’” he said. “It’s a tough situation, but we’ll get through it. It’s just a matter of time.”
Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN
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