With the welcoming of a new year comes the nostalgia for the year that was.
There were stunning accomplishments, heart-breaking defeats, buzzer beaters and Cinderella stories throughout Wyoming this past year.
Next year will no doubt have its own share of excitement, but while the calendar still reads 2018 there’s still time to remember all that happened the past 12 months. Throughout every sport, every classification, every team and every athlete something special happened this year. There’s no way to truly narrow a list of such accomplishments to a “best of.”
There were, however, storylines of anticipation that captured more eyes than others. Here’s 10 of the most noteworthy from 2018.
1. Reclassification shake-up
It had been proposed nearly a full calendar year before and underwent intense analysis before the massive 16-16-16-rest reclassification format was adopted by the Wyoming High School Activities Association. The 2018-19 academic year brought implementation of that format for volleyball, basketball and track, which has already produced results. While it remains to be seen if the move in fact lessened the burden of travel like planned, some schools took advantage of the move. Cody and Star Valley volleyball teams both made the state tournament in Class 4A, which freed the Lyman girls to complete an undefeated volleyball season at 3A. Results for the rest remain to be seen next year.
2. Mustangs are golden again
After a constant run of runner-up finishes and a multi-year drought as state champions, the Natrona County football team finally slayed the Goliath of 4A football that was Sheridan with a 28-14 win at War Memorial Stadium on Nov. 11. That gave the Mustangs their 18th overall state football championship, and first since 2014. It was a title months in the making for Natrona County and years in the making for its senior class. Now the torch has been passed on to the junior class that faces a possible historic achievement of its own. Despite all those championships, Natrona County has never won back-to-back football titles.
3. Another Trojan sweep
For the second season in a row both Kelly Walsh golf teams swept at the state championship meet. The Trojan boys held off Cheyenne East by six strokes while the girls cruised to victory, winning by 30 strokes over second-place Natrona County. Neither team had individual gold medalists, as Nicole Klungness tied for the lead after two rounds but eventually lost in a playoff hole. That’s a historic achievement for the Trojan golf program, which has stood as one of the best in the state under head coach Craig Marsh over the past few years.
4. Pool runnings
Wyoming’s most dominant program once again repeated as state champion in 2018 as the Lander boys swimming team won the 3A state championship by 128 points. It was the program’s 25th state championship in 27 years. And while the champion Tigers consisted of multiple seniors whose impact will surely be missed, a lot of prominent members of that team were sophomores in 2018. That makes the Tigers an odds-on favorite to move the tally to 26 titles in 28 years in 2019.
5. Sydney’s season
The calendar year brought obscene success to Rawlins’ Sydney Thorvaldson. She finished her freshman track season undefeated and the school-record holder in both the 1,600 and 3,200. She also won gold in the 800 at state but did come in second at a regular-season meet in that event, her only event loss in Wyoming so far in her career. Thorvaldson then finished seventh at the New Balance Nationals in the 5,000 over the summer and returned this cross-country season to break the state record and win gold.
6. Unblemished ‘Cats
Through all challengers, regardless of classification, the Douglas girls basketball team came away victorious. With a 63-52 win over East Conference rival Buffalo in the championship game, the Bearcats completed a perfect 27-0 record. Even more impressive, Douglas did it with just one senior and multiple contributing freshmen. The Bearcats stand as a clear favorite out of the East to repeat in 2019.
7. Best grapplers
The most recent wrestling season featured one of the best teams in recent memory, with Star Valley winning the Class 3A championship by 103 points. The Braves had six wrestlers make the finals and four win state titles. It was a season, and a team, that would have tested a lot of Class 4A competition. And because that’s the caliber of program that Eddie Clark has helped build in Afton, the Braves are the favorites to win again even after the new calendar goes up on the wall.
8. Eagles soar
No Lyman volleyball team had won a state championship since 1994. But Lyman did exactly that in 2018. The Eagles completed a perfect 36-0 season with a coma-inducing five-set victory over Rawlins in the championship match. It was an accomplishment that the community had waited two decades for.
9. History made
In May of 2018 Lovell High School made history by promoting assistant coach Jeny Gardner to head coach of the Bulldog football team. That promotion made her the first female head football coach in Wyoming’s history. Any honeymoon stage of such a move was abruptly ended six months later when, following a one-win season, Gardner was relieved of her coaching duties.
10. Central goes the distance
The 2018 calendar year brought incredible success to the Cheyenne Central girls distance runners. Central won girls’ indoor track gold, thanks to a one-two finish in the 3,200 and gold in the 4x800 relay. Central then won the outdoor girls championship with one-two finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200 and gold in the 4x800 relay. To put a distance-running bow on 2018 for the Tribe, senior Claudia Miller won the 4A girls’ individual cross-country championship.