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Changes coming in RHS activities programs

Jul 5, 2013 - By Jeremy Hill

Since the highly successful Riverton High School activities seasons are behind us, it's time to look back with honest reflection and forward with earnest anticipation.

With change comes frustration and confusion, especially when those changes are not communicated effectively. The activities office understands that the more we communicate, the less opportunity exists for confusion and misinformation. As the activities director, I will work more diligently to share our vision and promote our activities.

We love hosting events at Riverton High School. We continue to look for all opportunities to host events on our campus, and we constantly seek willing volunteers to make those events successful. If anyone in our community has an idea for student involvement, we'd like to hear about it.

Patrons often call our office with questions about "why RHS is the largest school in our football classification, but the smallest in basketball and volleyball." The Wyoming High School Activities Association Board of Directors sets those conferences based on competition. Sometimes it's a simple (or complicated, depending on how you look at it) math problem based on the number of games a team must play each season.

Callers also ask "why we play other Fremont County teams when we are so much larger than those schools?" Sometimes that call is followed by another that asks why we don't "play Wind River or Shoshoni more often?" All of those questions are great ones that we ponder very carefully. We try to build our schedule based on the needs of the teams that year, considering input from the coaching staff and other schools as well as our teachers and administration. Sometimes we can't make everybody happy, but we sure try to do so.

Last year we hosted the beginning-of-the-season basketball tournament in response to another school backing out of its hosting duties. It was a great tournament, well attended by fans from Douglas, Lovell, Lander and all places in between, but we were also the only Class 4-A school in this tournament. While the local venue is great for our athletes, we have to consider the academic consequences as well. We displaced students from their physical education classrooms at the high school and the middle school, impacting scheduled lunches, recess and transitions for 1,300 students.

Next year, instead of hosting two of the three allowable tournament weekends, we will host a bigger Bill Strannigan East West Classic the first weekend of the second semester. By adding sophomore teams to the Bill Strannigan tournament, we hope to offset the losses of restaurant and lodging income, as well as entry fees from the eliminated tournament. In order to balance competition for Wolverine basketball, tournaments that we will attend in 2013-14 will be the Cheyenne McDonald's Classic, the Flaming Gorge Tournament, and the Bill Strannigan East West Classic at home.

At the request of 4-A volleyball coaches statewide, the annual McDonald's Volleyball Tournament will now be rotated between Riverton and Cheyenne, with Riverton hosting in even-numbered years. The aim is for the weekend to be a 4-A only tournament, increasing the level of competition for all schools. Some of the smaller schools may argue with the level-of-competition conversation, but the really strong point for our program is that we will have an opportunity to see the 4-A schools earlier in the season, improving our chances of being competitive late in the season.

The lost revenue from McDonald's volleyball should be offset when Riverton hosts the Class 4-A West Regional Volleyball tournament on Oct. 25-26.

Traditionally, RHS freshman volleyball and basketball teams have been paired against local teams, not seeing the 4-A school until sophomore or even junior varsity contests. In the coming year, freshman schedules will look significantly different from years past as we join the statewide Geldien League targeted to building 4-A freshman programs. According to Adrian McNamee, head volleyball coach, "we've been looking at this for several years, and now that we are part of the league the adjustment will take some getting used to."

The goal is that our teams will be stronger contenders as our freshmen progress through high school. McNamee continues, "the biggest difference is we are on the road more often, but that should be balanced by tougher competition at those places."

The games are typically double headers on Saturday, with Riverton and Rock Springs competing as travel partners. Riverton will be the host site of some home games for Rock Springs, and the opposite will also be true. While our fans will be on the road more often for regular conference games, the long trips will include two games and not just one. Our students will also miss less school as they travel on weekends.

Freshman football also will have a different look as we come more in line with what our varsity program is doing. Five times next year, our freshmen are slated to play on the same field right before the varsity game. Families traveling from Douglas, for example, will be able to watch their freshmen play, grab a quick bite to eat, and then settle into Wolverine Stadium for a varsity matchup between the two schools.

The same will be true as we travel to Powell for the season opener. Freshmen will play at 3 p.m., followed by the varsity at 7 p.m. From our perspective, the only thing better than one football game on Friday night is two football games on Friday night. For players who suit up at more than one level, playing freshman on Friday and junior varsity on Monday or Tuesday gives our athletes a chance to heal up and play more downs each week.

Athletics isn't the only place we see changes next year. The National Forensic League District National Qualifying Speech Tournament has been in Riverton for several years, but didn't fit with the district calendar next year. Just like Ron Thon wrestling or 2-A West Regional basketball, NFL District tournament calls for a day missed from school as every single classroom at the high school is utilized. Two Fridays are already released in February because of Ron Thon wrestling and 2-A Regional Basketball.

The calendar committee felt three release days in February and March for tournaments was too many based on feedback from teachers districtwide. The activities office plans to look at this again next year and hopes a solution can be reached where the tournament will rotate back to Riverton very soon.

Thanks to Jim Davis and our partnership with the Riverton Chamber of Commerce, RHS will be able to host many successful tournaments and conferences next year. We look forward to hosting our regular golf and boys and girls swim meets. We are also hoping to grow the Berry Bryant/Kyle Johnson Cross Country Meet, Ron Thon Memorial Wrestling Tournament, Roy Peck and Twilight track meets.

We also are grateful that the 2-A basketball coaches voted to keep the 2-A West regional tournament in Riverton. In 2013-14 we are excited to add regional volleyball and conference golf. In a survey of RHS sponsors and coaches, 95 percent stated we should host more than we already do. That will be a focus of the activities office as we continue to look at opportunities to add regional and state contests in Riverton, including Geldien League tournaments for freshmen.

It is not the intention of the activities office to eliminate opportunities for visitors to come to our community. In fact, the opposite is true. Any opportunity we have to provide excellent competition for our own students at home is sought. The balance between being at home and playing quality rivals is a delicate one that we deliberately consider with the coaching staff and administration. If anyone is interested in helping host tournaments and games at Riverton High School, please call 856-6557 and ask for Jeremy or Tim.

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