Moving up to Class 5A proved to be no problem for the Crook County High School track and field team.
After winning the Tri-Valley Conference Championship and placing second at state the year before, the Cowboys once again won the district title, this time in the Class 5A Intermountain Conference, as well as finishing fifth, just shy of earning a trophy at this year's state championships.
"Looking back at state, there were a lot of should have, could have, would haves that you can look at, but the thing is our kids came out and they competed," head coach Ernie Brooks said. "Seventeen of the 20 we took to state came home with medals. We finished above what we thought we would do. We could have got into that trophy and moved up, but you know what, we absolutely laid it out and the kids came through."
Meanwhile, the Cowgirls also had a successful season. After finishing second by a mere two points a year earlier in the Tri-Valley Conference meet, this time the Cowgirls came even closer to a championship, finishing just one point behind first-place Ridgeview.
"The girls over performed and moved up," Brooks said. "We had the girls at third or fourth and here they are a point out, and there are so many things where we could have punched over the top, but guess what? They competed and they competed with class."
Next year's team will look very different from this year's roster, although both teams should still be competitive.
Crook County had 25 seniors on the roster this year, way more than is typical.
According to Brooks, those seniors not only scored a lot of points for the team, they also provided leadership and team unity.
"Those seniors mean a ton," Brooks said. "All of them contributed in some way, but at districts and state, almost all of them scored. They were a huge part on the guys side, we are graduating 600 team points."
Brooks noted that throwers Tyler Humeston and Caleb Parrott, distance runner Miles Chaney, sprinter jumper Dominic Langley, and pole vaulter Noah Chaney all made huge contributions to the team.
"Every eight to 10 years you get a group that comes through that changes the look of your program," Brooks said. "What we talk about is leaving a legacy and this group has definitely done that. About eight to 10 years ago, we had a group that grabbed hold and they started to change the path of Crook County track and field. We were always down here and now we've got one group that came in and bought into it and elevated it, and from then on, we have been stair-stepping up."
Brooks added that despite the loss of so many seniors, the team will still be strong next year.
The girls team has more athletes who scored points returning than the boys team, and Brooks believes that next year they can finally break through and win a district title.
Although it will be a long shot for the boys team to repeat as district champions, Brooks still believes that they will be in the mix.
"Our girls should get stronger and if everyone comes back, we will win district next year," he said. "If the guys can pull it off next year, it will be like a Disney movie, but they will be competitive. Our team motto is one team, one goal, one track mind, and we will be competitive next year."
Brooks added that next year's boys team will be anchored by a strong crew of distance runners along with thrower Carson Chamness, hurdler Jonas Rice and sprinter Zach Guthrie.
For the girls, Kenna Woodward provided much of the scoring punch at state this year, but other throwers, including Marissa Asher and Samantha Black, should score big points as well as a jumpers Dallas Hutchins, Elise Rice and Sofia Langley, distance runner Jan Carne, hurdler Maggie Ramos and a host of other individuals who placed at this year's district championships.
In addition, Brooks said that the team expects to see several athletes step in from the middle school that could contribute immediately to both the boys and girls programs.
Brooks added that one of the key things that has made the Crook County High School track and field program so successful in the last few years is a large group of dedicated volunteers.
"Without volunteers, we don't put on great meets, we don't have team dinners, and we don't do a lot of things," he said. "So, a huge thank you to our volunteers this year, from donations to fence signs to working the meets to scraping snow off the stairs, we have a huge base of volunteers and community support, and we absolutely love it. We can't do it without them."
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