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Champions

Oct 2, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

There haven't been many in RHS boys sports, so celebrate the golfers

State championships for Riverton High School sports teams have been rare through the years, especially for the boys, so the Class 4-A golf title won Tuesday by the Wolverines is a significant milestone, and a very happy one as well.

Nearby Lander Valley High School gets a state title or two every year, it seems. The remarkable Tiger swim program has won 17 straight Class 3-A boys crowns, for example. (And congratulations to the Lander boys, who won their Class 3-A golf title over the weekend as well.)

Riverton is not Gillette, which rings up a boys or girls basketball title about half the time, and always contends in virtually every sport. In our county, Wyoming Indian High School gets a basketball trophy, a cross country trophy, or both, more seasons than not.

Riverton's girls teams have done pretty well since sanctioned state championships for girls began in the late 1970s in Wyoming. They won track three straight years in the 1980s, basketball twice in a row, and there are four state volleyball crowns to their credit from 1977 to 1990. But at RHS there had been just five state championships for the boys since the Wolverines began taking on other schools in sports in the 1920s. The track team won it all in 1963, and there were four Class 3-A football titles during the unforgettable run of excellence on the gridiron in the 1990s.

That's it. Five titles in 90 years.

Make that six. The golfers got it done Tuesday.

This was a Class 4-A triumph, the first time that has happened for Riverton's boys. There were some Class 4-A heartbreaks -- a couple of losses in the state basketball title game, including this year, and three near misses in the 1970s on the football field when today's Class 4-A was known as AA. So that's another hurdle cleared.

Golf is different from all the other ball sports. Anyone who has played it learns those frustrating differences in a hurry. The ball is stationary until you hit it. It's small and hard. It might be sitting in deep grass, on dry dirt, mud or sand when it's time to hit it. You might have to hit it uphill, downhill or sidehill. Sometimes you can't see the target you're hitting toward. If it's windy or raining, or cold ... well, that's just tough.

And you're on your own. There's no one to pass the ball to, nobody to block for you, to take the shot for you, or to cover for you when you aren't doing well. You have to hit the shots -- all of them -- yourself. Half the game, at least, is in your head. Pressure mounts in golf as in no other major sport. In no other sport can the presence of spectators be so intrusive. The silence over a putt can be deafening. If you doubt it, ask any golfer. You'll hear the same story.

So this win by Riverton, with a team assembled mostly of freshmen, no less, is as worthy as any state championship could be in any sport. The players overcame added adversity as well in the tournament itself, having to play with four players instead of the customary five. Their team leader, the state individual champ, had a terrible family tragedy this year as well. And still they won. It speaks marvelously for them and their coach.

A mistake people make is looking to the future while the present is still to be appreciated. We start talking about how many more titles might be won, or what sort of college or professional opportunities might follow down the road. Let's not do that with the RHS boys golf team. Not yet. These are boys. The youngest is 14, the oldest just 16.

Expectations, ambitions and, probably, achievements will continue to be high for them. But for now, this is enough. On Monday and Tuesday, in the Rock Springs wind, these four boys did this very good thing -- for themselves, for their school and for their community. Mark it, celebrate it and remember it, whatever else might follow.

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MAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Tuesday's edition of The Ranger was delivered to the Riverton post office at 3 p.m., in time to meet the postal deadline for next-day mail delivery.

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