Jun 3, 2012 - By Randy Tucker, Sports WriterGerald Ford was president when Tim Ervin first walked into the halls of Shoshoni High School. The English teacher and coach arrived in Shoshoni in the fall of 1976. Ervin was hired to teach English, journalism and speech in his first year, and he worked with students for the next 30 years in publishing The Wrangler on the last Thursday of every month.
Ervin retired as Shoshoni head track coach last week after a stellar showing by his girls in the 4x400-and 4x800-meter relays.
As good as it gets
"It probably wasn't going to get a lot better than that," Ervin said of his relay team's performances.
Ervin commented first on his academic work at Shoshoni.
"The newspaper went away in 2006," Ervin said. "There were so many electives we couldn't get enough students to sign up for the class. We won all-state newspaper several times, and we always scrambled the last Tuesday and Wednesday of each month putting it together. But it was good for the kids.
"Good for the kids" became the mantra of Ervin's work in the classroom and on the field.
In his second year he became football coach Harold Bailey's assistant and the tandem worked well together for the next 20 seasons.
Shoshoni was renowned for academic excellence during the 1980s and 90s. Ervin and fellow teachers Cathleen Galitz and Echo Claproth were key elements in that excellence.
"Academically we had a real good department with Cathleen and Echo, "Ervin said. "When the juniors and seniors had to take the compass test at CWC, the lady that ran the lab said she'd never seen scores like that before and... to make sure you tell the English department that."
Ervin's lessons were always grammar-based.
"The three of us always worked well together," Ervin said. "The kids just nailed it time after time. It wasn't just teaching and testing. We incorporated into their writing. They always edited with me before they hit print. It was a good system, and it worked well. I ran the mouse, and they used the keyboard. Our focus was to make sure that no matter how good the content was that the structure was spot on."
Ervin served as an assistant coach his first years in Shoshoni, working with Bailey, Mary Urbigkit and Chuck Wells in track, and with Jerry Nolan and Wells for two basketball seasons.
"Chuck left in the spring of '87," Ervin said. "They decided to not have an assistant anymore. Harold stayed the boys coach, and I took the girls."
For the next 24 years, Ervin was the Shoshoni girls head track coach. When Bailey retired in 2006, Ervin became head coach of both the boys and girls.
With two separate programs, the boys and girls didn't interact much at practice. With no track to train on, Shoshoni athletes either practiced at the school or took a short run from the little town to a dirt oval carved out of the sage brush in the early days and then onto an asphalt surface west of town beginning in the 1990s.
"It was easier to focus without the boys and girls being around each other," Ervin said. "Girls always had an easier time focusing on the task at hand. They were amazing at times with the laser-like focus they put into practice."
While working with teenagers in the classroom and on the athletic field was a highlight of the job, not everything happening in the school system was positive.
"The constant change was a low point. Every three to five years the target changed. Every time you had your ducks in a row and thought you had things figured out and made them happy, they changed the target. That was probably the most frustrating thing in education," Ervin said.
Coaching the Class B state championship football team in 1985 was an indelible memory, as was coaching back-to-back state track champions in 2003 and 2004.
The 2003 Wrangler girls won the Class 2-A state track title then came back in 2004 and won the Class 1-A title following reclassification.
"In 2004 we had three girls in 10 events. Two of them were in the 400, so 98 points was the maximum they could score in their 10 events. Sarah Downey won the shot put and discus. Jennifer James won the 100, 200, 400 and long jump, and Michelle Huxtable won the 300 hurdles the 800 and the 1600 and took second behind James in the 400. The girls scored 98 points. The rest of the team combined in relays and in open events for another 30 points, and we won the title over Burlington."
Ervin coached the Shoshoni girls to multiple individual championships in 13 of the 17 events in Wyoming high school track and field. The Wranglers tallied many individual state champions in every event except the triple jump, long jump, pole vault and 4x400-meter relay.
When asked to name specific high points in his third-of-a-century plus career at Shoshoni Ervin said, "There was a litany of moments. I couldn't pick one."
As retirement neared, Ervin philosophized on the sport itself.
"The reason that track is the best sport to coach is that the tape measure and the stop watch don't care who your daddy is. Once the kids accept that, it is all good from there on out. Those who learn that are the best people to work with."
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