Cowboys in Communities
To engage fans around Wyoming, UW’s sports teams schedule events in towns from Afton to Gillette.
By Miles Englehart
It’s either a blizzard or blowing snow. Icy roads or zero visibility. You never know what Wyoming has in store for you until you get on the road. Maybe a pile-up has closed the interstate in front of you, and you’re forced to find an alternative route. This type of trip has to be a matter of life or death, right?
Actually, this is your typical mid-winter trip across the state to watch the University of Wyoming Cowboys and Cowgirls. As the only university in the state, UW has great fans everywhere in Wyoming, and driving four hours through blizzards and black ice isn’t uncommon. Fans from around the state show unmatched commitment by constantly finding a way to get to Laramie and supporting the Cowboys and Cowgirls.
In an attempt to engage UW fans and make life easier for them, the Athletics Department has been making a concerted effort to bring sports outreach events to communities around the state. UW Athletics Director Tom Burman tries to connect the people of Wyoming with the sports programs.
“We try to make it a priority and push the coaches hard to try to find a way to move one of their events and compete around the state,” Burman says. “It’s important for the people of Wyoming to stay engaged with UW and UW athletics, but it’s equally as important for our students to understand where these people are from—how far they are traveling to watch them compete.”
Attending sporting events like wrestling, whose season takes place in the middle of the winter, can be a serious hassle. “Most of the people in this state are pretty hard-core Wyoming Cowboy fans, but it’s not that easy for them to make it to Laramie,” Head Wrestling Coach Mark Branch says. “These fans are very passionate about the Cowboys, so it is kind of the least that we can do to make it easier for them to see the teams representing the brown and gold.”
This year, Branch takes his team to Afton on Jan. 30 for a dual meet against Boise State. “There’s a really strong wrestling tradition in Star Valley, so I don’t have any doubt that it’s going to be well received,” Branch says. “I think that the fans in that area are going to be really excited and make it a special event for us.”
The swimming and diving teams hosted two meets in Green River this year in November and December.
Bryan Berryhill, head coach for the track and field and cross-country programs, notices how proud his athletes are to compete around the state. “We have a lot of kids on our roster from the state of Wyoming,” Berryhill says. “So I think they take a lot of pride in being able to get out across the state, whether they’re from Gillette, Rawlins or Rock Springs.”
For the past four years with great success, the track team has traveled to Gillette to compete. Campbell County Parks and Recreation Executive Director Rick Mansur has been very impressed. “It works out really well,” Mansur says. “A great thing that Coach Berryhill does is he usually brings his athletes up a day early and takes them to the schools to do reading programs.” The track team has another indoor meet scheduled in Gillette for Jan. 28. There, the Cowboys and Cowgirls will go head to head with Montana State.
The men’s basketball team also planned a big outreach event in Torrington for its first game of the season on Nov. 3. The event was a homecoming for senior Jason McManamen, who played all four years of high school and won two state championships for Torrington.
“I’ll be a little nervous, but more than anything, I’ll just be excited to play in front of those fans,” McManamen said in October. “That community really meant a lot to me, and hopefully they feel the same about me.”
UW has made a serious effort to make these trips a great experience for everyone—coaches, players and fans—but above all, these events are meant as a huge thank you to the great fans of the University of Wyoming. Your support means a lot to UW student-athletes.