Ben Camino pulls his head down

Buffalo High School senior junior Ben Camino pulls his head down as he falls back over the high jump bar on Friday in Buffalo. Camino finished in second at the meet with a height of 5’6”.

Buffalo High School track and field is back as of Friday, when the Bison kicked off the season at home in a dual meet against Sheridan High School. 

Though the boys and girls teams both fell to their neighbor, head coach Ryan Mader said it was one of the best first meets in his memory, by far, amplified by the canceled season last year and the presence of most of the team’s 61 athletes.

“Traditionally, for the first weekend we don’t have a full team because of things like state basketball or the FBLA’s state convention, so we had more kids to compete than usual,” he said. 

The Bison also usually compete in Casper for their first meet with another roughly 1,000 athletes, Mader said. 

Mader’s runners started out strong on Friday, already qualifying for the 3A state contest in seven events.

“We don’t see this many prequalifiers this early in the season,” he said. “We have some kids from indoor (track) and from basketball who are coming out in phenomenal shape and ready to compete. You also have a lot of upperclassmen bringing experience into it.”

Junior Lexi Rule is one upperclassman who brought leadership to a prequalifying 1,600-meter sprint medley relay that finished in 4 minutes, 37.39 seconds. Rule anchored the team of freshman Carly Norman and sophomores Hannah Qualm and Alaina Gross, who saw their first high school competition on Friday. 

Rule also qualified in the 3,200-meter race with no competitors other than her teammate, junior Elizabeth Farris. 

Norman also qualified in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles alongside junior Kendall Tietjen, a regional champion in the event her freshman year, who qualified in the 300-meter race. This winter, Norman was second in the 55-meter hurdles at the indoor state contest.

“That 16.92 in the 100-meter hurdles is a superb time for a freshman and for the first meet of the season,” Mader said. “Then a race (Norman) has never ran before, the 300-meter hurdles, and also putting in a prequalifying time, going sub-50 (seconds) in that is very impressive, and we’ll see both of those times drop throughout the year.”

The Bison saw success on the boys side too, with a prequalifying time in the 4x800-meter relay featuring seniors Alex Cahhal and Kollen Milmine, sophomore Ryer Morrison and freshman Brodyn Lambert.

Mader said the relay is the most competitive he’s seen in a while on the boys side.

“They’re really excited to run that all season long and see how low they can get that, and how well they can finish the state,” he said. “It’ll be a fun one to watch this year.”

Field athletes are still garnering experience, Mader said. Runners, for the most part, were able to still practice on their own last year when the season was canceled, unlike many throwers or jumpers. Typically, Mader and other coaches would hold practice on Thursday nights over the summer for track and field athletes, but COVID-19 prevented most of those practices in 2020. 

These athletes are also hindered in the beginning of even a normal season by unpredictable Wyoming weather that often forces practices indoors.  

“Traditionally, our field events, we’re not seeing state-qualifying marks or PRs in the first couple of meets because we don’t get a lot of reps and practice with those events, just because of the weather,” Mader said. 

Still, a few of these athletes set personal records in various events, including junior Aidan Burke in both the shotput and the discus and junior Ben Camino in the long jump. 

For Mader, who spent the afternoon monitoring his athletes in events across the stadium in the warm rays of the sunshine, it’s good to be back. 

“It’s so exciting to be out there with the kids, to see them compete and to just be in that environment,” he said. 

The Bison will travel to Cody for the Yellowstone Sports Medicine Invitational on Saturday.  

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