It’s playoff road trip season for high school teams

David Peck

Well, we’ve reached that time of year when teams fan out all over the great state of Wyoming to reach culminating events in high school sports.
The distances some teams – and their family, friends and fans -- must travel for a playoff game, meet or tournament is staggering, but probably necessary given the nature of Wyoming geography and our relatively small number of communities and schools.
We’ve already finished the state cross country meet last Saturday, and both of our local teams made the 400-mile trip to Cheyenne for the big event.
This week brings regional volleyball tournaments, which are at least, well, regional in nature and, thus, somewhat centrally located. Lovell and Rocky Mountain will travel to Lander and Riverton, respectively, a trip to Fremont County our teams are used to making.
It’s also round one of the football playoffs, and that’s where it gets crazy. We took a look at the various playoff games and the distances some teams have to travel to play a football game, and some of the distances are stunning.
Can you get any further apart than Cokeville and Torrington in the state of Wyoming? Cokeville is almost in Idaho on the very western side of the state, and Torrington is just eight miles from the Nebraska border on the east edge. By our calculation, Cokeville will have to travel some 455 miles to get to Torrington for the Class 2A first-round playoff game Friday evening. That’s unbelievable.
Similarly, Tongue River must travel to Lyman for a 1 p.m. Friday kickoff, a trek of about 426 miles, we figure. There’ll be lots of bus time for the Eagles.
Some other mileage-eating games Friday are Hulett to Little Snake River in Baggs – 400 miles, Pine Bluffs to Big Piney – 385 miles, Rocky Mountain to Lingle – 374 miles, Riverside to Southeast in Yoder – 370 miles, Wheatland to Mountain View – 330 miles, Worland to Star Valley in Afton – 321 miles, Meeteetse to Encampment – 290 miles, and Douglas to Cody, 264 miles.
What this means is many hours out of school, kids and adults on the road and expensive road trips. But that’s life in Wyoming for extracurricular sports. We’re fortunate. In many states athletes at public schools have to pay to play.
It appears to be mainly a Wyoming thing, perhaps Montana, too. But even in a huge state like Texas, there are so many communities in most regions that long road trips are rare, according to some Texans we’ve spoken to.
Of all the travel teams, the Lovell Bulldogs have it the easiest, making the relatively short jaunt to Big Horn for a 6 p.m. Friday kickoff, about 110 miles, though the team and fans must travel up and over the Big Horns.
And, of course, this all happens during the first big cold snap of the fall.
Oddly, there is one game with almost no travel at all. The Campbell County High School Camels host the Thunder Basin ‘Bolts Friday evening, both schools being in Gillette. How fortunate is that for the two rivals?
It’s just crazy. Lovell plays conference games in Mountain View, Lyman, Cokeville, Kemmerer and Pinedale in a given year. Conference games. That’s nuts.
Back in the old days, our local schools played local teams in the Big Horn Basin Conference. Lovell played Cody, Powell, Greybull, Worland, Thermopolis and the like, even Riverton, Lander and Sheridan. Cowley, Byron and Deaver-Frannie played each other and other Big Horn Basin schools. Of course, there were some road trips, as well.
In fairness, divisions have been set up so that schools of similar size are matched up in conferences, and the result is the long distances for conference game.
Best of luck to all of the teams, fans and families traveling this week, and most of all, be safe.
--David Peck