Sylvester paces Buffs at state meet

by nathan oster

There were no state champions, but several Greybull Buffs returned from the State 2A Track and Field Championships with medals — and in the case of one athlete, quite a story to tell about overcoming adversity.

With only 10 qualifiers, the Buffs lacked the numbers to make a run at the team title, finishing 13th in the boys division with 24 points and 18th in the girls division with three. The Burns boys and the Big Horn girls captured this year’s 2A titles.

“We didn’t do quite as well as I’d hoped, but still, not bad,” said Coach Jeff Sukut of his team’s culminating performance.

Sydney Eckman, a junior, accounted for all three of Greybull’s points in the girls division, placing sixth in the 400 meters. She had qualified in both the 400 and the 800 — and while she didn’t place in the 800, she ran both races faster than she ever had before.

Eckman’s 1:04.42 in the 400 was nearly two seconds faster than her seed time of 1:06.27.

In the 800, she placed ninth, finishing in 2:32.36. That, too, was a personal best, as it easily eclipsed her previous PR of 2:32.36. It was also just a half second slower than the eighth-place finisher, Tamara McKart of Burns, who ran a 2:31.87 to claim a medal.

“She’ll be back in the running again next year,” said Sukut. “She has an excellent running form … great stride and great arm movements. She struggled a little bit this season with shin splints. Hopefully those will go away a little bit (next year).”

Aftin DeRosa made it 3 for 3 in terms of PRs. Also a junior, she went into state with a personal best of 14-10 ½ in the long jump. All she did in Casper was exceed that by nearly a foot, going 15-7 and coming within 2 inches of the earning a medal. The eighth-place finisher, Emily Blaney of Big Horn, went 15-9.

“Aftin had a good state meet,” said Sukut. “She went with her best jump of the season (14-10 ½) at regionals, then went 15-7 at state. She was happy and I was really pleased with her. She is a hard worker and I look for good things from her next year.”

The Greybull boys also got a number of good performances in Casper.

One, however, stood out for Sukut.

It didn’t shock the coach that Ryan Sylvester placed second in the long jump.

It’s how he did it that left Sukut shaking his head in amazement.

Sylvester has been dealing with a hip injury much of the season, one that also plagued him last year. He went into state as one of the top jumpers in 2A, having automatically qualified, but scratched on his first jump. He wasn’t right. Sukut could tell.

“He came up to me after that and said, ‘Coach, my hip is sore. Do you think I should jump off the other foot?’ I told him he might as well, that it wouldn’t hurt anything. I thought he was in trouble. Then, on his next attempt, he went off his opposite foot — and went 20 feet, 8 ¾ inches. I was stunned. Most of us are right handed so our power foot is the left one. I’d never seen that before. Ryan, in the heat of battle, alternates feet and still busts out a jump like that. Incredible.” The winning jumper, Triston Parrish of Shoshoni, went 20-11 ¼.

With the second-place finish, Sylvester became the team’s only all-state performer.

Sylvester was also part of Greybull’s 400-meter relay team, along with Calder Forcella, Chris Ogg and Fabian Davila. They ran a solid race, finishing in 45.91. Just a half second separated the top four teams, as Thermopolis won it with a 45.41, Rocky Mountain was second in 45.64 and Southeast was third in 45.87.Greybull’s best time of the season, a 45.27, would have won it.

“Handoffs were pretty good; we just got beat, no excuses,” said Sukut. “Still, I was very pleased with them. All of them won a medal.”

Three of those four sprinters were also entered in the 100 meters. None placed or PR’d, as Ogg took 10th in 11.8 seconds, Davila was 16th in 12.0 and Sylvester 17th in 12.08.

In the 110-meter hurdles, Wyatt Nielson finished 11th in 18.98 seconds. His best time of the season was a 17.93. “He hit a couple of hurdles — and at state, the hurdles aren’t as forgiving as the ones we use during the season,” said Sukut. “You hit one with your lead or trail leg, it’s going to slow you down.”

Ogg did, however, earn a medal in the 300-meter hurdles. His 43.61, while just a shade off his personal best 42.62, was good for fifth place.

Cade Dooley, a sophomore, ran a 48.17 and didn’t place in the event. Nor did he place in the high jump, his other event. He went 5-6, which was good for 10th. Sukut said he struggled with form late in the season. With more training, and better strength, he should be more of a force next year, said Sukut.

In the jumping events, Davila placed eighth in the long jump with a leap of 19-9. Fox was right behind in ninth with a leap of 19-4 ½. Neither was a personal best. Davila also competed in the triple jump, finishing 13th with a 38-0 ¾.

Calder Forcella led the Buffs again in the throwing events, taking third in the discus with a heave of 147-2 and 10th in the shot put with a 41-foot effort. Neither was a personal best — although none of the throwers had particularly good throwing conditions. Friday’s weather, in particular, was brutal, said Sukut.

It was a good year for throwers in 2A. The winning effort in the discus was a 163-1, set by Marvin Fitzwater of Lusk. Scott Gross of Pine Bluffs placed second with a 153-8. “A very competitive gallery this year,” said Sukut.

“Overall, we had a great bunch of seniors this year,” said Sukut. “They’re going to be hard to replace. For all the kids, though, I think we had a successful season, regional and state meet. The biggest thing for us is the numbers. The more kids you have, the more fifths, sixths, sevenths and eighths you are accumulating, the better you are going to do. My main goal is to see their progress, to get them to state and see them peak, which several of them did.”