There’s a strong possibility that 2019 could change the landscape of Wyoming high school athletics for the foreseeable future. At least, that’s the potential. Some ideas remain in their infancy while others are percolating at a rate that will demand attention by the end of 2019.
And some of those ideas and changes have already happened — they simply await the proper avenue for their debuts.
What makes a new year all the more interesting is that there will be teams, individuals and stories that will shock Wyoming. There will inevitably be those sorts of stories that are brought up for days at greasy spoons and debated over cups of coffee in the early hours of the morning. That’s just the way things happen.
But here are the known stories that could make the most impact on Wyoming high school athletics in 2019:
1. Nine-man football
There has been no official motion put forth by the Wyoming High School Activities Association Board of Directors or any of its quadrants, but this has been discussed through multiple meetings and will likely move forward in 2019. As the board waits for return surveys from affected coaches, the most popular venture would simply change Class 1A/11-man to a 9-man classification. Teams in the current 1A/11-man unwilling to move down to 9-man would move up to 2A in that scenario. With an unforeseen level of cancellations and season forfeitures in 2018, this will likely be addressed with even more seriousness. At the earliest it would be implemented for the 2020 football season.
2. Cody girls soccer
The most recent two seasons have involved pure domination of Class 3A by Cody. The Fillies also return a tremendous amount of talent coming into 2019, which means that this could be the continuation of the next great dynasty. The recent reclassification does not affect soccer and a proposed reclassification for soccer was defeated by a considerable margin, so it will be years before Cody moves up to Class 4A. It could be just as long until the Fillies aren’t favored to win the state championship.
3. High school softball
There’s been a groundswell of support for high school softball in Wyoming and with school board votes approving high school softball at both Rock Springs and Cody, only four other districts remain before they have enough support for the WHSAA to consider adopting it as an officially sanctioned high school sport. No school board has heard anything on the matter since Cody adopted it in early November. That, however, is likely not the end of the discussion.
4. Goin’ to Afton
Since the 2013 season the state cross-country meet has taken place at the Veterans Affairs Hospital grounds in Sheridan. Multiple records have been set there and successful careers have ran into the twilight there. However, starting in 2019 the state cross-country meet moves West to Afton, where Star Valley will host. That course contains more hills than what runners have become accustomed to at the state meet. It will also wipe the slate clean on records as they don’t transfer over to different courses.
5. Goals in Jackson
After an extended stay at the foot of the Big Horns outside of Sheridan, the state soccer tournament moved to Jackson in 2018. That’s where it will once again take place, scattered across the campus of Jackson High School. However, it will also be the last year of the tournament being held there for the known future. After the 2019 tournament it will move to Cheyenne, where it will be spread throughout the city on multiple campuses. So this is the last year for a while in which transportation is not necessary to see all games.
6. Dual-threat Finley
Kelly Walsh freshman Finley Klinger started the fall as a standout tennis player and then quickly adapted to standout cross-country runner. She finished with state runner-up finishes in both sports during her very first varsity season. She previously said she plans to continue such an arrangement for as long as the rules allow it, so it’s likely that she’ll continue to do so again.
7. Trojan duo
Volleyball season will bring the senior seasons for Kelly Walsh’s Danilynn Schell and Corin Carruth. Schell was named one of the top freshman in the country two years ago and together the duo has won two state championships. Carruth was named 4A Player of the Year by the Wyoming Coaches Association in 2018. Their futures remain up in the air but 2019 will signal their final chapters in Wyoming high school volleyball.
8. New digs
Early in 2019 indoor track athletes will be privileged to see the new indoor facilities inside the Mustang Activities Complex at Natrona County High School. The new environment will feature everything necessary to host the state indoor meet, which would make it just the third site in the state of Wyoming to potentially do so. The Mustangs and Fillies will practice there and two regular-season meets will be held there in 2019.
9. Win on the horizon
Ever since the Gillette split happened the once-prestigious Camel football program has yet to win a game. That’s a now-19 game losing streak spread over three seasons. When the split happened head coach Micah Christensen was forced to play mostly freshmen and sophomores. In 2019 those kids will have playing experience and the Camels, who nearly notched a victory in 2018, should be able to at least gain a win and possibly battle for a playoff spot.
10. T-Birds’ time?
The Cheyenne East boys basketball team has been a capable contender for years. However, the Thunderbirds are still in search of the their third state championship and first since 2006. That could change in 2019 as the T-Birds return four key contributors from last season and add Rock Springs transfer Graedyn Buell. This year’s field is filled with teams that could end East’s hopes of a title, but this year looks as good as any to end the drought.