Indoor track athletes will keep running at Buffalo High School this winter season after the Johnson County School District No. 1 board of trustees voted to continue the program.
The trustees voted 6-3 in support of the program, with trustees Lynette Fox, Kristen LeDoux and Jodi Verplancke voting against, citing fiscal concerns.
Traditionally, the indoor track program for Johnson County students has not actually been held at BHS, and has instead been part of a cooperative school agreement with Sheridan County School District No. 2, where their students and Johnson County students competed together.
Cooperative school agreements are typical in Wyoming high schools that have a smaller number of students participating in certain sports.
But last year, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, BHS students were not allowed to combine with Sheridan. So, the Johnson County school board approved what was at the time called a “one year only” hiring of an indoor track coach to stage the program at BHS.
After having the program at the high school last year, BHS activities director Ryan Mader proposed that it be continued there, partly because of last year’s success, and also because indoor track is a growing sport in the state that has had significant interest in Buffalo over the past few years and would provide another opportunity for winter sports.
At the school board’s Dec. 8 work session, Mader presented the idea to the trustees, telling them that he had no concerns over fitting the program into his current athletics budget without needing it to expand because the only significant expenditure for the program would be the anticipated $5,000 to $6,000 coaching stipend.
He said in an interview with the Bulletin that all travel trips would be one-day only, meaning there would be no costs for meals or overnight trips and that the uniforms and equipment would be the same ones used by the outdoor track program.
At Monday night’s school board meeting, eight students came to talk during the public comment portion of the meeting about their experience participating in indoor track last year.
The students touched on the joy the sport brought them, how it helped them stay in shape for the spring sports they participate in and how they were able to make friendships and bond with their teammates.
Trustees Fox, LeDoux and Verplancke said they weren’t against the indoor track program in any way, but expressed concerns that they felt the district was already spending too much on athletics — more than the state funding model says the district should be — so it wouldn’t be fiscally responsible to add another sport.
But district superintendent Charles Auzqui said in an interview with the Bulletin that districts frequently fund things differently than what the funding model says to do, particularly in activities, where he estimated that “90% of the districts in the state still put more money into activities than what the model generates.”
Other trustees, including Randy Brown and Mary McCorkle, understood the fiscal concerns that were brought up about the greater athletics budget, but voted in support of the program because they said that it is important to provide more opportunities for county students.
“I think the one word that everyone has said tonight — and this is the word that I’ve been reflecting on thinking about this — is opportunities,” McCorkle said. “What opportunities can we give these kids? This is an opportunity we can give.”