Solid numbers turn out for KHS track & field

Lady Ranger sprinter Jolee Swasey keeps pace with Powell’s Waycee Harvey, left, and Jenna Hillman in the finals of the 100 meter dash at last year’s 3A West Regional Championships. Swasey placed third in the event. (GAZETTE PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Rangers, Lady Rangers move to 2A for 2023 season

Old Man Winter has so far had other plans, but the Kemmerer High School track and field teams are practicing like there will, indeed, be a spring sports season, with solid numbers turning out for the Rangers and Lady Rangers as they make the move to Class 2A for the 2023 campaign.

“Things are looking pretty good — I think we’re at 39-40 kids this year,” said KHS head coach Phil Thatcher. “I think we’re about even as far as boys and girls go, which is good for us — last year, we only had about eight or nine boys; this year we have 18. We have around 21 or 22 girls, so it’s a lot better mix for us.”

With Kemmerer still buried under a record amount of snow, however, practice has yet to make an appearance outdoors.

“The kids look good,” Thatcher said. “Of course, we’re just running inside — we’ve got a lot of snow up here. I think our field and track are still under two to three feet of snow, and I don’t know if we’re going to get on it anytime soon. We just have to be creative with how we work them out inside. We just have to get after it.”

The first meet of the season — scheduled for last Saturday at Wind River — was canceled due to snowy conditions; Thatcher said his teams will try to cross the border this weekend in search of a clear track to compete on.

“We were supposed to go to Wind River last Saturday, and obviously that didn’t happen,” Thatcher said. “We’re supposed to go to Utah the next four weekends, and I’ve already seen the weather forecasts for this coming Saturday in Copper Hills, and they’re expecting snow and 39 degrees, so I don’t know. We’ll see what they say, and do what we can do.”

Thatcher said he’s a bit envious of the teams in eastern Wyoming, who have been able to get their outdoor programs up and running on time this season.

“The east side of Wyoming has a little bit of an advantage over us this year, when it comes to conditions,” Thatcher said. “Places like Rawlins and Laramie and Cheyenne have hardly any snow. The whole west side of the state is going to have to get creative to find our competition. We’re going to go to Utah for most of the first month, try to find some decent weather and obviously there will be some good competition. It will be interesting — if we get out there Saturday, our kids will not have stepped on a track for relay handoffs, or jumps, or anything. We’re going to try and get there early, introduce the kids to what a track looks like, see if we can do some good. That’s our plan right now — head south, and try to find some open track.”


The Rangers will be led this season by senior Owen Burnett, the defending 3A state champion in the 1600 and 3200 meters. Burnett hopes to add to what has so far been a memorable senior year, winning a 3A State Cross Country title as a member of the Mountain View team last fall, being named Wyoming’s Gatorade Cross Country Athlete of the Year in January and winning a pair of 3A State Indoor Track Championships in the 1600 and 3200 meters earlier this month, setting new state records in both events.

“You have a kid like Owen Burnett, it’s pretty special,” Thatcher said. “We just hope we can keep him healthy, and keep him progressing. He has some big goals this year, as far as where he wants to place, and how he wants to do — not just in 2A, but compared to the rest of the state. And of course, he’s prepping for college cross country, and maybe some track, so we’re trying to work with him, and keep him progressing.”

Also returning for the Rangers is a handful of athletes with regional and state meet experience.

“Hunter Burnett is coming back — he’s a sophomore this year,” Thatcher said. “He competed pretty well for a freshman in 3A last year in the hurdles and a few of our relays. We have Dylan and Derek Hagler, both throwers for us — Derek also jumped in on a relay or two last year, but they mainly focus on the shot and the discus. Jace Bullington is coming back, he’s a sprinter for us, as well as a long jumper.”

Also in the mix are a few upperclassmen from other sports, making their track debuts this season.

“We have a few older kids coming out that we’re excited about,” Thatcher said. “We have a senior — Landon Heaps — he hasn’t done a lot of track in high school, but he’s a good athlete. Skyler Rogers is a junior that’s a solid athlete, and hopefully can do some good things for us. And we have a bunch of freshmen that came out, we’ll have to see how they hold up on the track.”

Lady Rangers

The Lady Rangers return several state placers from last year’s roster, including Jolee Swasey (5th, long jump), Laynee Walker (8th place, 100 meter hurdles, 300 meter hurdles), Ella Thatcher (7th, triple jump) and the 4x400 relay team of Ella Thatcher, Tyler Thatcher, Natasha Martinez and Keira Heiner, that finished fourth and set a new school record with a time of 4:10.55.

“On the girls’ side, we have a couple of relays that broke school records last year,” Thatcher said. “I think we have all those girls coming back. We’re going to miss Janae Skidmore — she got hurt during basketball season, and she was a thrower and a 4x800 relay runner last season. We’ll miss her, but we have some pretty good freshmen coming out, and hopefully, they can help fill in that gap. We have a great senior in Keira Heiner — she’s a key member on three of our relays, and will probably be a good 400 and 200 runner for us. She’s a talented girl. I’m hoping — as a girls’ squad — to be competitive with the top three or four teams in the state.”

Tyler Thatcher and Laynee Walker also had solid seasons as pole vaulters, with Walker placing second at the 3A West Regional Meet, and Thatcher seventh.

“Tyler Thatcher and Laynee Walker will be our pole vaulters,” Thatcher said. “We picked up another one, a little freshman, she’s wanting to give the pole vault a go. But we’re gonna lean on Tyler and Laynee pretty heavy in that event. And Laynee will also compete in the hurdles, and Tyler is part of that 4x400 relay team that broke a school record.”