There was a different mood surrounding the 2019 Wyoming State Softball Tournaments in Casper earlier this month than in years past. This year there was a different kind of excitement and anticipation. Unlike in year’s past this tournament was accompanied by the looming possibility of high school-sanctioned softball.
Between the multiple fields in use at the North Casper Softball Complex were vendors selling shirts that read “#Letthemplay,” a common mantra fueling efforts for Wyoming to add softball to its list of sanctioned sports. On the field, the players wanted to show how valuable the sport is to young girls that get to play it in high school in 48 other states.
Cheyenne Extreme, one of the state’s cornerstone softball programs, once again showed the legitimacy in softball. They lost one game in Pool Play before running the table in the tournament, culminating with a 10-6 victory over the Gillette Blue Jays in the championship game. Once again, the Extreme were 18-under state champions. Together, they wanted this year’s title to send a message.
“This is a great opportunity for people to see how competitive it could be and to see how many numbers we could actually have,” Extreme pitcher Ariana Galicia said. “That could help attract other people. Especially in Cheyenne I know people like to follow us around so that will be really good for them to see that this is for something greater.”
She went on to say that this year especially the team experienced solid support, some even from strangers. They’re all buzzing about the possibility of high school softball.
“We’re very excited,” catcher Trista Stehwien said. “We hope this brings more girls out to softball, knowing that it’s a high school sport. And to compete against other schools that we don’t get to play against, because we don’t play in Wyoming very much. I think it would be fun.”
Back home, however, there’s a bleaker message. Laramie County School District No. 1 recently released their athletic survey, which was conducted by polling girls from sophomore year to sixth grade, that shows a massively underwhelming support for adding softball.
Overall, just 94 out of 1,550 girls surveyed (slightly over 6 percent) mentioned softball in an open-ended question about activities. Softball was the most frequent response to that open-ended question, according to the survey released to the Star-Tribune.
The LCSD No. 1 school board recently discussed softball and its survey results at its June meeting. This came after months of waiting. Keith Ungrund, Cody Pride coach and a main advocate for getting high school softball in Wyoming, originally emailed LCSD in December. According to Ungrund, that following month he had another phone conversation with Brown, who said they would be conducting a survey after the legislative budget session in March.
Tim Bolin, an LCSD No. 1 Board of Trustee, told the Star-Tribune in April that the board discussed softball at that month’s meeting and it collectively decided to conduct the interest survey.
In addition to the open-ended question, the survey also brought financial information and a look into a possible Title IX violation. It was brought to the board’s attention before the June board meet that, based on the most recent data, LCSD No. 1 does not meet the required participation rates, nor has it expanded its offered slate of activities to narrow that gap. That prompted the activities survey, which showed just over 6 percent of girls saying they would be interested in softball.
It’s unclear how LCSD will move forward. The percentage isn’t encouraging but softball was the most common response, making it a top contender if LCSD decides to add another girls-only sport.
“We’re trying to push the train a little bit and get them going on board,” Cheyenne Extreme President and Under-18 coach Adam Galicia said. “High school softball is a little different than competitive softball but it should still be good for the sport. It’s going to grow the sport. Now you’re going to have girls say, ‘Hey, I can play softball.’ So they’re going to give it an effort.”