By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

2017 sports year in review


December 30, 2017


Sports editor's note these are the favorite sports stories from Worland, Thermopolis and Ten Sleep in 2017 are compiled in no specific order. Happy New Year!


They came, they saw, they conquered.

The Worland 12U baseball team closed out their home tournament Sunday afternoon with a 7-5 victory over the Casper Crush to win the Worland Club Tournament championship at Newell Sargent Field.

"We were playing to show that we're right there with them. That was out biggest thing after losing to them [Saturday] and two weeks ago in Casper. We proved we could do it and in a big game," said Worland Baseball coach Jerry Levya about his team's win over the Casper Crush.

Worland played all tournament as a cohesive unit with their bats and gloves to accomplish their stated goal of winning the Worland Club Tournament.

"In practice that was our goal. It's our tournament and we wanted to win it. We knew if we played our best we'd see the Crush, but we needed to go out and give it our all to beat them. We did just that and hats off to the boys, they played tough, they played hard," said Leyva.

With the exception of the Casper Crush game, Worland cruised through pool play beating Buffalo 19-3 on Friday, Thermopolis 30-0 and Riverton 11-1 on Saturday.

Worland's final game in pool play was against the Crush and with both teams still unbeaten the winner would claim the No. 1-seed in the bracket portion of the tournament on Sunday.

The final inning and a half would test Worland's mental strength, in the bottom of the fifth the Crush put together several hits to score one run. With two outs and a runner on third, a Crush batter hit a hard shot toward the left center of the infield that looked to be a base hit. But Anderson, from the shortstop position, dove to stop the ball then quickly popped up to gun down the runner and escape the inning with one run scored.

In the sixth, and final inning, Worland had one out and runners on first and second, but was rolled up for a double play that prevented them from scoring any insurance runs.

Leading 7-4 Worland needed its defense to come through for the victory. Out of the gates the Crush got three hits to score one run and only had one out. With runners on first and second Leyva Jr. struck out one batter for the second out, then did the same thing, striking out the next batter for the final out of the ballgame.

"We totally turned it around from [Saturday's] game and it's funny that we played better and won by the same score they beat us by," said Leyva. "I told them before the game let's go out there and give it our best. We know them, they know us and let's go out there a play tough. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win."

After the final strikeout Leyva celebrated with an emphatic fist pump as the rest of his teammates swarmed him and celebrated their championship win.

"[In the final inning] We had runners on first and second and held them off. Jerry threw a heck of a game and went all six innings. His defense behind him was very good and I'm totally happy with these boys," said Leyva.



Defending a championship is one of the hardest things to do in sports. There are no days off, shrinking your margin of error as everyone attempts to knock you down. Even with the challenges of repeating in front of them the Worland Lady Warriors grinded through the season and returned to the 3A girls state championship game.

Standing in their way of back-to-back titles were the Star Valley Lady Braves, the same opponent from last season's championship game.

Unlike last season though, the Lady Warriors fell in a heartbreaking 44-43 loss to the Lady Braves.

In what turned out to be the best championship game of the night, the two evenly matched teams traded punches for the entire 32 minutes. With neither gaining an advantage on the other as one team looked to take control the other would respond and wrestle that control away.

Star Valley's leading scorer, at 17.1 points per game, Savanah Lucero had been held in check all game by Gibbons and freshman guard BreAnna Parra.

"If you had told me that Savanah (Lucero) was going to be 2 of 10 for a total of seven points, I would have said we probably win going away. Honestly, I think their coach would have said the same thing. She's their heart and soul player and again holding her to 20 percent shooting and seven points, I thought we would have won. So give some of the credit to the girls [on Star Valley's team] that stepped up," said Hofmann.

After a few turnovers by both teams Star Valley connected on one free throw to go up 43-41 with 1:59 remaining. Soon after Gibbons finished at the rim from the left side with her signature long-strided layup to tie the game at 43-43 and only 1:26 left on the clock.

With possession back to the Lady Braves they ran the clock down to 20 seconds before calling a timeout. After another timeout by Hofmann, the final seconds of the season were ready to be decided.

The Lady Warriors played excellent defense but Lucero was able to draw a foul with 4.3 seconds remaining.

Lucero snapped the net on her first attempt, putting the Lady Braves up 44-43.

Lucero's second attempt missed and Gibbons was able to haul in the rebound and race up the court. With the seconds falling off the clock, Gibbons passed the ball to Rich, who was just below the free-throw line, but as soon as Rich gained possession of the ball the final horn sounded, and the Lady Warriors were defeated.

... And more heartbreak

Again, repeating as state champions is one of the tougher things to do in sports,

repeating with an entirely different starting five adds to that difficulty.

Regardless, the Worland Warriors were still able to reach their third-straight championship game and were in position for back-to-back titles.

Standing in their way in the 3A boys basketball championship were the Riverton Wolverines (28-1 overall).

The Warriors were able to get on the scoreboard first by an Isaias Terrazas pull-up shot at the free-throw line. And in the first four minutes of the game the Warriors were standing toe-to-toe with the Wolverines.

Cody Baumstarck was a force on both ends of the court, protecting the defensive interior and finishing around the rim on offense.

Up 6-5 with 4:45 in the first quarter the Warriors looked to be in control. Then the Wolverine onslaught happened.

Riverton went on a 15-0 run to close out the first quarter and take a commanding 20-6 lead.

"We like to switch ball screens. That's something we have done during our winning ways. Other teams know that we switch but no team had been very successful attacking the switch. We do a really good job of getting high hands to the ball and the guy that's switching to the roll man usually has good high hands as well. Teams have to make a perfect pass to take advantage of our switching," said WHS boys basketball coach Aaron Abel when breaking down Riverton's run," said Abel.

The Warriors tried to respond but the Wolverines had an answer each time as they went on to defeat Worland 62-34.

After the game Abel told his team that this loss is going to sting but reminded them of everything they accomplished this season. And more importantly how they kept building on the Warrior basketball tradition

Abel said, "We told them it will hurt for a while but the larger picture will become known to them soon. I think we went most of the season considered to be in the bottom half of 3A and we were able to turn that around. Winning our quadrant again, winning 20 games for the third season in a row and making our third-straight appearance in the title game. It shows where our program has gotten to, as far as the tradition and high expectations.

"No matter who is here we expect to win year in and year out and be a highly competitive basketball team. Losing all five starters from the championship team then making it back to that point a year later shows that we have a winning tradition started and really high expectations for whoever wears a Worland uniform."


Sports are the best, while a form of entertainment they serve so many life lessons. They're hard to top and here's reason #105 why they are the best - when you watch a group of athletes come together, believe in one another and see the foundation of something special beginning. Then when you combine that with a David vs. Goliath-esque story there's some serious magic brewing.

For example, the Lady Pioneers track team went into this season well under everyone's radar. Even coming off a fourth-place finish in 2016 and returning three-time state champion sophomore Kelli Holiday, the expectations for the Lady Pioneers outside of Ten Sleep were modest.

They had the talent of a state championship team with the likes of Holliday, senior Allison Hampton and freshman Sydney Holiday, but they lacked the numbers to bring home a state title with only seven girls out for the team.

The small numbers did not stop the Lady Pioneers from working hard and pushing themselves each day in practice.

Their goal of topping their fourth-place finish from last season was well in-play and so was the 1A state championship, which would be the first girls track and field championship for the program since winning six straight from 1981 to '86.

"People say track is an individual sport and it is in some aspects, but we're competing together to score as many points as we can for the team. The other 1A schools have more girls than we do but it takes a team effort to place as a team and we have that," said Allison Hampton.

All seven of the Lady Pioneers qualified to make it to the state meet in Casper at Kelly Walsh High School; putting them in the best position possible to maximize their point potential.

Having all seven girls qualify took hard work and every successful group needs those leaders who push everyone to run that extra lap. For the Lady Pioneers those leaders were Hampton and Loveland.

"She says it then I tell everyone to do it," said Hampton of her's and Loveland's leadership this season. "I'll ask if we should warm-up and she says yes and I go get everyone to warm-up."

"I'm a distance person and they always call me crazy because I like to run farther than most. As seniors we've come together to work hard and get our team to be the best we can be," said Loveland. "This year I ran cross-country for Worland with Kelli and Jariah, then ran indoor track with Sydney and Kelli for Cody. So it's really cool that we can finish the year running for Ten Sleep."

Being in contention for a state championship had different meanings for each Lady Pioneer. Some saw it as a chance to draw closer to their family.

"I'm just super happy. My whole family is good runners and they've won a lot of things, so now I actually feel like I'm a part of them in that way," said Cogdill.

Others were happy to be among the best in the state.

"It's exciting to be one of the best people in the state," said Sydney Holiday.

Or to see the program's growth.

"I'm excited to see how much this program has grown. My freshman year I was the only one and now I have six other girls going to state with me. It's cool to see how much it has grown and it's important to know how much hard work it takes to go to state," said Hampton.

And excitement for the team as a whole.

"I always like watching my team and it is a little nerve racking having to defend state titles but I'm excited to see how the team does," said Kelli Holiday.

The goal at state was, as Sky Taylor put it, "to kick butt," each of them would run to the best of their abilities and leave nothing to question.

"I want every single one of us to put all of our effort out there and if we fall short we can still say that we did everything we could," Kelli Holiday said.

And if that wasn't enough Sydney Holiday had another strategy the team could put in place.

"We could trip people," joked Sydney Holiday.

The Lady Pioneers would not need to trip anyone as they scored 93 points, their highest since 1986, and placed third, their highest finish since the 1987 team finished second. The team was only five points shy from taking second, but nonetheless still an impressive feat to score 97 points with a team of seven.

Kelli Holiday not only successfully defended her 800, 1,600 and 3,200 titles but also added the 400 to her list of state titles. Sydney Holiday won the 100 and 200 and Hampton went out on top in the triple jump.

"It was hard and I was nervous. I think it helps me prepare for the race. I don't like being too nervous, just a little," said Kelli Holiday. "It was really good and a good experience, we just worked together. We didn't place as high as we liked but something didn't happen that we needed. We just fell a little short but I think we all did our best and I'm grateful for how well we did. I'm just excited how my team and I placed."

Even as they were celebrating their third-place finish the Lady Pioneers were already thinking how they could top this season's achievements next season.

"The goal next year is to get second or the championship," said Sky Taylor.

It's like the Lady Pioneers knocked out Goliath and before he even hits the ground they want to know where his brother is at.


With their backs against the wall and facing a tough path to the 3A State tournament, the Worland Lady Warriors volleyball team gave their best performance of the year, so far, ripping off three-straight victories to finish third at the 3A East regional tournament, locking up their fourth-consecutive trip to the state tournament in the process.

"It was a good weekend and so fun. It was all about their will to win. Our girls wanted to go to state and their backs were against the wall and they were extremely resilient and showed some grit. They were pedal to the metal," said WHS volleyball coach Brittany Miller.

The Lady Warriors, Saturday in Newcastle, were slated with three potential matches, two of which were loser-out matches.

The first match was against a rebuilding Newcastle Lady Dogies team. Worland cruised to a 3-0 (25-6, 25-17, 25-15) victory over Newcastle, setting up a showdown with rival, the Buffalo in a winner qualifies for state, while the loser calls it a season.

In the regular season, Buffalo was a team Worland had a hard time figuring out, losing both contests to them, 3-2 on Sept. 22 and 3-1 on Oct. 12.

Although, Saturday, with a state tourney bid on the line, the Lady Warriors solved the Lady Bison riddle and did so in convincing fashion, winning 3-0 (25-14, 25-12, 25-16).

Games 1 and 2 the Lady Warriors jumped out to quick leads and held Buffalo at a distance. Game 3 was closer at the start with the Lady Bison holding an 8-6 lead at one point. Undeterred, Worland responded with an 11-1 run to take command of the game, firing up the Worland faithful, who traveled to Newcastle, with each point.

The Lady Bison attempted one last push but the Lady Warriors held their ground and countered with a small run of their own. Senior Saige Jones recorded the 25th point with a kill that secured her team a spot in the 2017 3A State tournament.

After taking down Buffalo, Worland had one more match on the day, the third-place match against the Torrington Lady Trailblazers, the same team who beat them 3-1 the previous day.

Still riding the momentum from the Buffalo victory, the Lady Warriors were firing on all cylinders again taking down the Lady Trailblazers 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-16) to place third in the tournament.

"The team we see in practice was the team we saw on the court. They were not afraid to swing at the ball, they played to win.

"We've been focusing on something every single week the entire season, with the goal of it all coming together at regionals. I really felt like it all came together, everything we talked about on and off the court and mentally all lit at the same time Saturday and that's what you want to see. I was so pleased with them," said Miller.

Doling out credit for Saturday's turnaround was easy for Miller, it was an entire team effort. Seniors Jones, Jaycee Page and Casey Wassum stepped up their leadership while juniors Emily Baumstarck, McKenna Butte, Alexa Caballero, Caitlin Cottrell, Payton McEndree, sophomore Casey Wassum and freshmen Darla Hernandez and Denali Jones made plays when needed.

"It was true team effort, we had some of our juniors, sophomores and freshmen giving it everything they could. Our seniors were a lot more vocal than they've been, we needed that too because they felt the sense of urgency. Overall, we had a huge team effort and I truly believe our wins were because we out-teamed every one Saturday," said Miller.


The season is finished but the 2017 Bobcats made tremendous strides as a program. Last year this squad was a one-win team that missed the postseason and was routed in seven of their eight games. This season they won three games, made the postseason and were competitive in a majority of their games.

"A lot of factors go into that. We had a lot of commitment and offseason work that paid dividends. It's an eight-game season, six of them we played close. All things considered, the boys took a step forward and tasted success. We were in the tournament and that's nice to have the chance to play for a state championship. But all of those things are a result of the effort and hard work.

"I think our young men are starting to understand that. It's always tough to lose, but every year only one team is able to end with a win in the postseason. It's never easy but I'm proud of them for the commitment and accomplishments they've had this year," said McPhie when talking about the program's turnaround this season.

This season's seniors were instrumental in the team's success and, hopefully, started a long tradition of qualifying for the postseason.

"We had six seniors and as I told them after the game Friday, they've laid the foundation for the future. They've been great teammates and laid the groundwork for the success to come. We're going to miss all six of them a lot and they all played integral roles this season. I also feel really good about the future because of what they did and the example they set with the commitment. They'll certainly be missed but they'll always be a part of what we have here," said McPhie.

With the seniors having helped lay the foundation, next year's returning players will have the opportunity build. Jon Harvey, Chandler Maddock and Logan Cole, to name a few will be back to help lead the way as the program aims to make a deeper postseason run in 2018.

"They understand that we've tasted success at this point and they want to go even further. Now to have success in the playoffs is going to take more work and commitment. I think they understand what it takes and we have a great group that is willing to put that effort in and becomes better at all sports, not just football. I'm excited to watch our young players and seniors compete in their other sports the rest of the year," said Mc-Phie.

The 2017 season had its fair share of highlights for the 'Cats and having to pick one was tough. The team's 34-20 victory over Moorcroft, which paved the way to their playoff berth, was one of McPhie's favorites moments on the season.

"That's tough because the whole season is a body of work. The Moorcroft game here at home, Moorcroft had some big plays and picked up momentum, then we had a weather delay. Coming out of that delay we played some great defense and scored a couple touchdowns to put the game away.

"That kind of summed up our season, there was plenty of adversity and the kids were always willing to battle. Same thing with Mountain View, the score indicated otherwise but our kids' battled and there was no quit in them. We received plenty of compliments from the other team that we played hard and to the whistle the way the game was meant to be played," said McPhie.


During last season's appearance in the 3A girls soccer state championship, the Worland Lady Warriors dug themselves a 4-0 hole against Jackson. The Lady Warriors then had to mount a frantic comeback that ultimately fell short as they lost 4-3.

Saturday at the Big Horn Equestrian Center in Big Horn, the Lady Warriors played in their second consecutive state championship match, this time against the Cody Fillies, who have beaten them twice this season.

They fell to the Fillies, 2-1, for the third time this season, resulting in another second-place finish. The Lady Warriors battled for all 80 minutes and ultimately came up one play short in a championship match that lived up to the billing.

"We were two very, evenly matched teams," said WHS girls soccer coach Danielle Warren.

The Fillies were the first to get on the board with a goal in the seventh minute by Jules Novakovich. The Lady Warriors kept their composure after the early goal and went back to work. After coming close on several shots Worland finally got the ball in the back of the net in the 33rd minute. Casey Wassum took a rebounded shot and tapped the ball into the net, evening the match at one-all.

After their first goal, the Lady Warriors kept pushing the attack to keep the Fillies on their heels for the remainder of the first half. Worland's aggressive attack continued into the second half with a handful of shots on goal just missing.

The sting of coming up short for the second consecutive year is expected but Warren does not want her team to think this season was a failure. They gave it their all in the championship and lost in a match that could have gone either way.

"They played so well. It wasn't one-sided or one team dominating. They were one play away and we just ran out of gas. Their journey said so much about them. I know winning the championship is what we all wanted but there's so much more to their season than this game," said Warren.


The mission was simple for the Worland High School football team, win and they were in the playoffs, lose and the season ends in Pinedale next week. When the clock hit zero Friday night at Worland High School the Warriors had accomplished their mission with a 14-0 win over the Evanston Red Devils.

Not only did the Warriors do away with the eight-year playoff drought, that hung over the program like a dark cloud, they did it in convincing fashion, playing their best game of the season at the most crucial time.

"Whenever you set the bar high or you have that goal out in front of you, you always get that satisfaction of actually reaching it. People might have thought you couldn't reach it, but you show them and yourself that you can. It has been eight years since the last time and it's a great opportunity for the school to get back into the playoff picture and have that energy of postseason play. Then for the young guys to get that whiff of success, it starts a pattern of us keeping things rolling for the years to come," said WHS football coach Ryan Utterback.

The Warriors were dominant in every aspect of the game Friday night, and where slow starts have plagued them most the season, that was not the case for the team lining up against the Red Devils. Offensively, they were able to march into Red Devil territory on all six of their first half series, chewing up valuable minutes along the way. Worland's first two series stalled out deep in Evanston territory with a turnover on downs and a missed field goal.

Toward the end of the third quarter, a fumble recovery by JR Hofmann (4.5 tackles, 14 defensive points) set the Warriors up deep in Evanston territory at the 24-yard line. From there the Worland offense went to work killing clock and marching closer to a two-possession lead. Eventually, Edholm powered in the touchdown and the Warriors took a 14-0 lead.

The Warriors biggest test of the game came on a goal-line stand, late in the fourth quarter. Protecting their 14-0 lead with the Red Devils on the WHS 2-yard line and ready to make it a one possession game, Worland jumped on the ball after a bad Evanston snap.

"Coach [Josh] Garcia has been doing a great job of promoting that attitude of being hungry and going and getting the ball. That attitude is contagious and it spreads down the line and soon everyone can put a big lick on someone. That's just fun to see and they came up big tonight," said Utterback.

Having clinched the No. 4-seed out of the West conference and barring any major upsets, the Warriors will more than likely matchup with the No. 2-ranked Torrington Trailblazers in the 3A quarterfinals.


Up for grabs at the 3A East regional cross-country meet were the boys and girls team championships, two individual championships and two coach of the year awards. The Worland High School cross-country program took five of the six in an incredible showing and overall amazing day for the team.

The Warriors three-peated as the 3A East champs, the Lady Warriors earned the 3A champ title, junior Porter Harman repeated as the individual champion and their coach Tanya Kienlen was named boys and girls 3A East coach of the year.

"It's nice for them to see their hard work come together and pay off. They worked so hard for this moment and it's important to celebrate, but by the time we get on the bus it's time to get back to were work," said Kienlen.

The Warriors won their third-consecutive title with a score of 30 and had four all-conference selectees, which goes to runners finishing in the top 10. Harman (17:56.06) finished first, Jadon Swalstad (18:14.89) was third, Nathaniel Nelson (18:28.66) fifth, Rylan Mocko (18:55.23) ninth and Victor Olvera (19:33.74) 13th.

"We knew that they had to come out and be consistent and trust in their training. Like in the movie "McFarland" where if they go out and do what you need to do and we'll walk away with a handful of all-conference winners, which makes me super proud to be where we need to be. Seeing some of our kids up there in the JV, that is just truly aspiring for our team. It shows me that they are wanting to continue to build and be in those top spots," said Kienlen about her boys team and what the continued success means for the program.

The Lady Warriors finished with 61 points, with Kelli (22:06.18) and Lindsay Holiday (22:18.92) finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. Preparing for regionals Kienlen believed her girls team could finish either first or second, but wanted them to focus on executing their training, knowing if they did that they would come out on top.

"I knew looking at the spreadsheets it's tough to have five top girls, I knew we had a shot within one or two and the girls knew they didn't have to do anything fancy. They just needed to come out and do what they needed to do and it worked out," said Kienlen.

As for being name both boys and girls 3A East Coach of the year, Kienlen was quick to give all the praise to her runners.

"The team basically gave it to me and they deserve all the credit," said Kienlen.

Coming off their impressive performances Friday afternoon, the WHS cross-country team will ride the wave of confidence during their training next week as they prepare for the final race in the 2017 season, the State Meet in Sheridan next Saturday.

"Coach [Amy] Lamm and I will look through and see how the other side [3A West] did to prepare. This week we had a taper week, but still closed the gap on our team spread which was our ultimate goal. When we go to State, we'll get right in there and with a bit of a confidence booster after [Friday]. We know on the other side there's going to be a lot of competition and there will be no room for complacency," said Kienlen.


Make it four in a row for the Worland High School girls swimming team, Saturday in Rawlins, they won their fourth consecutive 3A East conference championship.

But it did not come easy.

The Lady Warriors had a fight on their hands the moment the meet started as the Buffalo Lady Bison came out swinging at the three-time champions. After a slow start, Worland was able to prevail 294 points to Buffalo's 286.

"It was an extremely close meet, and we weren't completely sure we won until they announced the final scores," said WHS girls swimming coach Mike Blissett. "Buffalo came out hard on Friday, you could tell they wanted to take the meet, and everyone from their athletes and their coaches to their fans knew they could do it. You could see their determination and excitement right away, and their performance caught our girls off guard, who came out a little flat to start the meet."

With the finals beginning Saturday, the Lady Warriors held a 12-point lead but when Blissett and his staff crunched the numbers the margin of error was thin if they were to four-peat as conference champions. That is when the 200-yard medley team (Ellyse Russell, Juli Warren, Kristen Collingwood, Macy Trombley) provided a much-needed spark for the team.

"Going into Saturday we knew that as things stood we were in the lead, but only by 12 points. We also knew that we would be losing up to 20 points at our lowest point and that we'd have to make up some ground in the other events to stand a chance at winning.

"There was a lot on the line heading into the first event, but the girls came out and obliterated the 200 medley relay conference meet record by four seconds, and that set the tone for our team. From that point on, the girls killed it," said Blissett.

In total, the Lady Warriors ended up winning 7 of the 12 events, broke three conference records (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay, 100 breaststroke) and three team records (200 medley relay, 200 IM and 100 breaststroke).

Junior Juli Warren had herself a meet as well, along with being a part of the record-breaking 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams, she also broke the conference and school records in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:08.47, as well as the school record (a record she set last season at state) in the 200 IM, 2:16.77. Warren also won all four of her events and for the cherry on top was named the athlete of the meet and athlete of the year in the 3A East conference.

"Juli Warren (1:08.47) annihilated the conference meet record in winning the 100 breast (the previous record was 1:10.38, set in 2016). Her time also reset her team record by almost four seconds (1:12.27). It has been incredible to watch her swim this season, and the fact that she was involved in breaking three conference records and winning all four of her events more than earned her the honor of being named athlete of the meet, as well as athlete of the year in our conference. She has worked extremely hard this season and I'm so happy for her and her successes. Something tells me she's not quite done yet, though," said Blissett.


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