The Saratoga Sun -

Tigers take tops for track


An Encampment Tiger winds up to launch the discus at the Burt Willford Invite in Saratoga Saturday.

Saturday was cold and gray at the Burt Willford Invite at Saratoga High School's track, and the flurries were flying toward the end of the meet, but that didn't stop the Encampment High School track team from taking first in a host of events.

The rather young Encampment team, anchored only by two seniors this year, has been "punching above its weight" for most of the season, and the close-to-home Saratoga meet threw the Tigers into competition with a series of much larger, older teams.

Despite that, the team of young Tigers earned plenty of berths at state, repeated previous earnings and set a bevy of personal records.

"We had a terrific meet, I know weather wise we weren't sure what it was going to be like over the course of the meet there," Kegan Willford, the Tigers' head coach said. "The kids stepped up and they performed well. We had a lot of personal bests at the meet, with regionals just around the corner I think we're progressing the right way."

Senior McKenzie Powell earned first place in every event she competed in, and reprised taking a place at state in both. She won the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:57.46, and took home the proverbial gold in the triple jump with a distance of 34'10."

Other Lady Tigers were just as motivated. Hailey Barkhurst took first place in the discus and shotput events, with a distance of 108'5.50" for the disk and 33'1" with the shot. Even though Barkhurst had already pre-qualified in state for both events, Saturday's performance only reiterated her strength in the events.

For the Lady Tigers, Noelle Peterson and Lauren Buford rounded out the groups top three wins with Peterson taking second in the discus and shotput and Buford taking first in the 800-meter run.

For Willford, these successes mean a season-long plan is coming to fruition. Earlier in the season, he had athletes set personal short-term and long-term goals. As students have met shorter-term goals, those successes have whet their appetites and they've begun transitioning into working toward their long-term season goals.

"A lot of the short-term goals the students have set for themselves they've achieved those and a lot of them are looking more toward their long term season goals right now and trying to accomplish those," Willford said. "Some of the kids who haven't achieved those yet, I think they're on the right track to achieve some of those."

Encampment's Boys' team also worked toward setting goals as the season begins to wind down. Wyatt Cox pre-qualified for state in discus in Saratoga this weekend with a first place throw of 127'2.75." Cox also repeated the first place performance in shotput by lofting the metal 41'11."

The Tiger men ran well, too. Sean Stewart took first in the 800-meter run, and Reid Schroeder took first in the 1,600-meter run. Jarom Herring came in second in the 1,600-meter run, only a little over six seconds behind Schroeder. Justin Shaw also put the Encampment runners on the podium with a second place finish in the 400-meter dash.

Kyler Miller placed second in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 47.77.

There are only two meets left in the regular season for Encampment, one in Thermopolis and another in Lander and they will both be held this weekend. The busy weekend will be a good one for the Tigers, Willford predicted, saying the two large meets will get the athletes in the mindset for the much larger competitions at regionals and state.

"We just want to try to get kids a sense of what it's going to be like in the post season," he said. "Both of these meetings are large just like you'd see at regionals and state so it'll be good competition and hopefully it'll give those kids a sense of what it's like to compete at that level and get them ready for regionals and state."

Willford is also looking well past regionals and state. With such a young team doing so well he thinks it means fans of Encampment will have a bright future to look forward to.

"We have a really young team this year and we have several of our younger kids that are seeing success this year and I think that after they get another year or two under their belt they're going to see even more success," he said. "I'm really excited for the future and I think all the kids are, too."


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