Girls capture gold, boys fifth at State
Robert Galbreath photos
An epic track meet
CASPER – In a demonstration of teamwork and talent, the Big Piney High School Puncher athletes triumphed at the 2023 Wyoming Track and Field Championships in Casper on May 18-20, shattering personal and 2A state records and earning state championships and All-State honors.
The Lady Punchers snagged gold as a team, beating 14 other schools to secure the 2A Wyoming State Championship with 127 points.
The Puncher boys garnered fifth place out of a field of 16 teams with 71 points.
Each Puncher athlete stepped up and contributed to Big Piney’s success at State, whether they added points to the leaderboard or pushed themselves and teammates to compete at their best. Every point added to the scoreboard represented substantial blood, sweat and tears by all competitors.
“I can’t describe how State 2023 turned out – so many emotions,” said Head Coach Jess Nugent. “Heading into State, the kids were ready, the coaches were ready and the weather looked great. The boys’ competition was strong and our boys did what they could, but injuries and strong athletes from the east side of the state prevented us from staying in the top four. I’m so proud of our boys – we had some incredible competition and record-breaking performances.”
The Lady Punchers set the bar high for the future of the program, Nugent continued.
“The girls stepped up – they knew they had a job and they were hungry,” she said. “We have a huge squad and they came to play. We had big personal records, we had girls bump up from predicted places and we had fun. The team walked away with a safely secured state title. It takes believing in one’s self to get the job done and the girls did it.”
Coach Nugent thanked the “amazing” coaching staff at both Big Piney Middle School and BPHS for their parts in building a thriving program. At the middle school, Ken Sare, Cole Clifford, Megan Kershner and Glade Mitchell go above and beyond to prepare athletes for high school, Nugent said.
“As for my assistant coaches at the high school – Terry Cain (distance), McKenzie Sullivan (hurdles) and Jennie Kozeal (throwing) – no words can describe their impact on our athletes and their performances. Our athletes wouldn’t be where they are without these three ladies and I’m very lucky to have such a talented, caring and competitive staff. Hubba hubba!”
Ten Puncher athletes won state championships. Sophomore Micah Strong achieved gold in three events – the girls’ 100-, 400- and 800-meters. Strong broke the BPHS school records in the 100-, 200- and 400-meters at State.
Senior Colby Jenks bagged first place in both the boys’ 800-meters and 300-meter hurdles. Jenks set new 2A state records in each event and won the Best of the Best Award for recording the fastest time out of all classifications in the 800-meter. Jenks also broke the BPHS school record in the 1600-meters and 300-meter hurdles.
Sophomore Emma York won the 3200-meter run by a considerable margin. In a close race for gold in the girls’ 1600-meters, sophomore Jolynn Jones pulled ahead to post the win.
Senior Hannah Runyan won the girls’ shot put. In jumping events, senior Hunter Fisher snagged gold in the 110-meter hurdles.
Freshmen Kodee Greene and Tilly Evans, sophomore Addison Losik and Jones beat out the competition in the girls’ 1600-meter sprint medley relay to obtain gold.
Nine Big Piney runners, jumpers and throwers received 2A All-State honors for placing first or second in their respective events. Strong and Jenks both earned All-State accomplishments in all four individual events they competed in at State.
Jones and Fisher snapped up All-State accolades in three individual events. York bagged All-State awards for the mile and 2-mile. Runyan netted All-State honors in the shot put. Greene, Evans, Jones and Losik snapped up All-State recognition for their win in the 1600-meter sprint medley relay.
Lady Punchers crush the competition – Thursday
York set the pace for the Puncher girls, winning the 3200-meter run on Thursday afternoon. Clocking in at 12 minutes, 17.68 seconds, York edged out the competition from Tongue River by 52 seconds.
Junior Julia Hymas placed 10th in the 3200-meter at 14:42.46 with senior Brynne Hoffman finishing 15th at 15:30.45.
Big Piney throwers stepped up to the ring as the sun began to drop. Runyan captured gold in the shot put, trouncing the competition by nearly 2 feet with a throw of 34 feet, 10 ½ inches.
Tallying points for the Puncher girls, sophomore Charleigh Smith picked up fourth place in shot put, reaching a distance of 31-08 ¾. Senior Esther Van Grol placed 11th in the event at 30-05 ½.
Later on Thursday evening, hurdlers laced up their shoes for the 100-meter preliminaries. Van Grol finished 14th out of two heats, timing in at 20.05 seconds. Freshman Ahbre Nunn took 15th place at 20.11 seconds, junior Morgan Brown 16th at 20.97 seconds and sophomore Addison Statham 18th at 22.56 seconds.
Thursday culminated with the 1600-meter sprint medley relay. Greene, Evans, Losik and Jones kicked it in to beat Lingle-Fort Laramie by more than 4 seconds to win at 4:32.49, securing Big Piney’s position as the front runner on the first day of competition.
Girls team – Friday
Athletes rose early for the 800-meters. Strong captured her first gold medal in the event, posting a time of 2:22.61. Jones came in close on Strong’s heels to garner second place and All-State recognition at 2:25.43.
Freshman Lizzy Brandt and York scored additional team points with fifth- and sixth-place finishes in the 800-meters, respectively. Brandt clocked in at 2:30.25 with York at 2:30.69.
Junior Julia Hymas represented BPHS in the pole vault, placing 12th with a leap of 7 feet.
The 200-meter prelims took place at 10 a.m. sharp. Strong punched her ticket to the finals with a second-place finish at 26.02 seconds. Greene placed 15th in the event at 29.27 seconds.
Hurdlers returned to the track for the 300-meter prelims. Freshman Clairee Bingham earned 12th place at 56.39 seconds with Nunn in 13th at 58.66 seconds.
The long jump got underway after lunch with four athletes representing the Punchers. Van Grol took 14th place at 13-05 ¾, Evans placed 15th at 13-00; freshman Maybrie Denison came in 16th at 12-10 ¾ with Losik in 17th at 12-08 ¾.
Preliminaries for the 100- and 400-meters took place that afternoon. Strong placed first in the 100-meter prelims at 12.97 seconds. Greene finished 15th at 14.62 seconds with Evans in 16th at 14.64.
In the 400-prelims, Strong placed second, clocking at 1:01.30. Jones also earned a spot in the 400-finals with a sixth-place finish at 1:03.75.
Athletes gathered for discus as the afternoon heat intensified. Van Grol came in seventh place with a throw of 98-08. Runyan took 12th place at 86-07.
Friday’s competition wrapped up with relays. Sophomore Mari Sambrano, Statham, Denison and senior Enna Coote pulled into seventh place in the 4x100-meter relay at 57.84 seconds.
Clocking the 4x800-meter relay in at 10:56.36, Brandt, Brown, freshman Kaydence Guest and York bagged third place.
Girls’ team – Saturday
The Lady Punchers remained in first place as Saturday commenced.
Bursting from the starting blocks in the 100-meter finals, Strong edged ahead of Niobrara County by 0.09 seconds to win the event at 12.61 seconds – a new BPHS school record.
The finals for the 400-meters began after lunch, with the heat reaching 75 degrees. Undaunted, Strong roared into first place in the event, posting a sub-1-minute time and a new school record of 58.37 seconds. She beat the second-place finisher from Kemmerer by 0.40 seconds.
Big Piney shut down attempts by Kemmerer to close the gap with first-, second- and third-place wins in the 1600-meters. York, Jones and Brandt set a blistering pace far ahead of the rest of the pack. Jones kicked in the final 200 meters to win at 5:33.35 with York in second at 5:33.55.
Brandt maintained her position through four grueling laps to place third at 5:47.12.
Strong snapped up second place in the 200-meter finals, along with All-State honors in her fourth event, clocking in with her third school-record-breaking run of 26.02 seconds.
Big Piney topped State off with a sixth-place finish in the 4x400-meter relay by Greene, Bingham, Brown and Brandt at 4:33.52.
Puncher boys earn fifth place
Throwers commenced competition for the Big Piney boys on Thursday. Freshman Zef Zuniga took 18th place in the discus, clearing 88-06.
Senior Brandon Jones tallied points for the team with an eighth-place finish in the pole vault at 11 feet.
Securing his ticket to the finals in the 110-meter hurdles, Fisher beat out the competition in both heats to win the preliminaries on Thursday at 15.10 seconds. Sophomore Kelby Staley placed 10th in the event at 17.78 seconds, with junior Jackie Meador 14th at 19.09 and senior Owen Nielson in 15th at 22.81.
Thursday came to a close with sophomore Caden Clifford, senior Braunsn Smith, Staley and Jones finishing eighth in the 1600-sprint medley relay at 3:56.13.
Early Friday morning, Jenks earned All-State honors in his first of four events by winning the 800-meters. Clocking in at 1:53.64, Jenks broke the 2A class state record he set the previous year. Jenks posted the fastest time out of all classifications in the event at State.
Jones came in 12th place in the 800-meters at 2:07.87, with Staley 16th at 2:12.18.
Fisher snagged second place in the long jump, posting 8 points for the Punchers with a leap of 20-10 ¾.
In sprinting prelims on Friday, Clifford finished 13th in both the 100-meters, at 12.10 seconds, and 200-meters, at 24.41 seconds.
Later on Friday morning, Jenks took first place in 300-hurdle preliminaries at 40.79 seconds. Fisher took third place at 41.79 seconds with Staley in fifth place at 42.32 seconds.
Shot putters entered the ring on Friday afternoon. Junior Roger Young snapped up 13th place with a toss of 36-09. Smith achieved 15th place, clearing 35-05 ½.
In the 400-meter prelims, Jenks took third place at 51.89 seconds. Jones finished the event in 10th place at 53.87 seconds.
Relay teams rounded out the action on Friday. Clifford, Meador, sophomore Ben Ferguson and Smith took eighth place in the 4x100-meter relay at 47.24 seconds. Ferguson, Nielson, freshman Scotty Ring and Young picked up eighth place in the 4x800-meter relay, timing in at 9:30.43.
Saturday morning began with jumping events. Fisher snagged gold in the finals for the 110-meter hurdles. Posting a time of 15.28 seconds, Fisher beat the second-place finisher from Burns by 0.76 seconds.
Only moments later, Fisher went on to place seventh in the triple jump at 39-11.
Jenks won the 300-meter hurdle finals, making history with a new 2A state record and BPHS school record of 38.22 seconds. Big Piney’s Heath Hetrick set the previous 2A state record of 38.81 seconds in 1985.
Fisher earned a second-place medal in the 300-hurdles, timing in at 39.73 seconds. Staley finished sixth in the event at 41.46 seconds.
On Saturday afternoon, Jenks shattered his personal record in the 400-meter finals with a new sub-50-second mark of 49.90 seconds.
Saturday culminated with a second-place finish for Jenks in the 1600-meters. He posted a school-record-breaking time of 4:29.72. Ferguson took 18th place in the 1600-meters at 5:32.48.