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Tribune Staff


The calendar has turned to August. In less than a week, college football fall practices will begin. Shortly thereafter, the obligatory annual talk of how messed up the BCS is as a system for determining college football's national champion will start.

But there's absolutely no reason to wait for college football to talk about messed up systems. We can start right now by looking at Wyoming American Legion baseball.

Wyoming is flirting with diamond disaster. To date, we've been lucky. In two years under the current format, the state's top two AA programs have found a way to meet in the championship. The top two A programs have managed to meet head-to-head on the consolation side of the bracket and everyone has been able to pretend the system works.

It doesn't work. We dodged controversy last season when teams were inexplicably allowed to change their classification prior to the state tournament. We were dangerously close to courting it again last weekend.

Consider, eventual state A runner-up Laramie trailed at one point in its game against Casper. Had the Rangers not rallied for a two-run victory, Powell would have repeated as state champion by virtue of … eating lunch at Perkins while its lone remaining challenger played an opponent not even from the same classification?

Look, I want success for the local nine as much as the next guy. That said, any system that potentially distributes hardware and regional tournament invites based on something other than head-to-head play is a ticking timebomb.

Wyoming American Legion is faced with a unique problem. The national entity has dictated that, in order to qualify a team to the regional feeder tournament for the American Legion World Series each year, it must hold a state tournament with at least eight teams.

The problem is, we here in Wyoming don't have eight AA teams. Nor is there any reason to suspect we will any time in the near future. In fact, that pool of AA teams has shrunk in recent years. The result is a tournament structure designed out of necessity for the bigger teams being used to also determine Wyoming's regional A representative.

That makes about as much sense as asking for a chainsaw when a butter knife will do.

As long as the current format persists, so will the no-win situation faced by managers like Powell's Mike Jameson.

Faced with a AA opponent in last year's semifinals, the Pioneers' skipper threw one of his top pitchers, lost badly and needed a Herculean 12-inning pitching effort that saw staff ace Scotty Jameson throw in excess of 200 pitches in a single day to help lift his team to a state title. This year, in an effort to conserve pitching arms in pursuit of a repeat state title, it meant the Pioneers were placed in the position of sacrificial semifinal lambs.

Let me be clear here — Jameson and the Pioneers' coaching staff made precisely the right call in taking their lumps and living to fight another day rather than risk that a 40-win season would prematurely end. I'd love to see Powell trying to be David to Wyoming's baseball Goliath — I love the Chaminades and Appalachian States as much as the next person — but the time for those story lines is in the regular season, not during a hybrid AA/A state tournament where different teams are playing for different prizes.

No coach playing for a title should find himself in that position. The post-season is about moving forward, not about pausing to take a step backwards. Brackets should be designed to ensure that all teams are competing for an equal prize, with equal goals. Right now, three Wyoming teams at state need to play for first place. The other five might be able to make do with fourth place.

That's not a recipe for equal competition.

I don't claim to know the fix to these issues. I do know that its just a matter of time before someone more mathematical than myself puts a value on how the current system skews the odds of an A title in favor of the north division teams compared to the south due to the imbalance among AA teams.

Perhaps there is no solution. Maybe it turns out that the Wyoming state Legion baseball tournament, like democracy, is the worst possible idea, save for all others that have been tried.

I don't have the answers. But there's no question we currently have an imperfect system, and it is only a matter of time before it blows up into major controversy.

As I sit down to write this column, it's with a twinge of sadness. This particular feeling of melancholy is not entirely to blame on the untimely death of our hen Black Bart, who upon jumping the neighbor's fence, was promptly set upon by one of said neighbor's dogs.

Don't get me wrong — I'm extremely sad about our dearly departed feathered friend, but a country girl can only grieve so long for a chicken.

Instead, the blue mood is brought on by the knowledge that this is my last week at the Powell Tribune.

I'm leaving of my own accord — no explosive family feuds or anything of that nature (though that would have made for a good story.) I'll be the first to admit that the daily commute from Cody to Powell, and back again, over miles of torn-up road (which is, ironically, now paved) was getting really old, especially with a 3-year-old.

But, instead, it was another job that lured me away. On Monday, I begin training to take the reins as the new director of Northwest Wyoming Family Planning, and I'm beyond excited about the new challenge (and maybe just a little bit nervous, as well.) So, in my mind, I am truly leaving for greener pastures and new adventures.

The decision came only after a lot of thought and discussion with my family. Without a doubt, the hardest part of that decision was the thought of leaving my co-workers here at the Trib. From the famous fair food eating contests (for the record, I never won), to the endless puns and embarrassingly irreverent sense of humor that pervades the back office, I've never spent so much time laughing at work. The free-for-all joke-fest has made what can be a really stressful and demanding job much easier and more enjoyable. Not to worry, Kara Bacon has generously offered to “pipe me in” via Google Chat or something if I have sick joke withdrawals. And let me tell you, I may need it.

More than that, though, I'll miss the friendships I've made at the Trib. It's been gratifying to work with a group of really smart, talented and capable people — the humor has truly just been icing on the cake.

However, you won't get rid of me that easily — I'll continue to contribute a column from time to time, just to fill you in on the crazy goings-on in our neck of the woods. While I can't predict the frequency of them — it depends on the demands of a new job and on my little child continuing to provide endless fodder — I'll keep them coming.

So, in the style of our managing editor, “Boomerang” Tessa Schweigert, who has written more “farewell” columns than can be counted on one hand, on Friday I'll say not goodbye, but “until next time.”

{gallery}08_03_10/carflip{/gallery}

A driver in the Figure 8 Races flips his car during the Friday night event at the Park County Fair. The races “get more popular every year,” said Fair Manager Steve Scott. He said Monday that gate entrances and carnival revenue were up at this year's fair. Saturday night's demolition derby was the only grandstand event of the week to sell out, with more than 2,200 tickets sold. Tribune photo by Kevin Kinzley

The sow grizzly bear found guilty of the death of a camper and the injury of two others in Soda Butte campground just east of Cooke City, Mont., on July 28 was euthanized Friday.

Her three cubs were delivered to ZooMontana in Billings on Saturday.

Nine of the 13 candidates for the Park County Commission made pitches to the Cody business community at a forum last week.

Questions at the July 29 event centered around economic development.

The forum, held in the Coe Auditorium at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, was open only to invitees: Cody Chamber of Commerce members, Forward Cody investors and local media.

Following rainstorm, country singer gives acoustic show to fairgoers

Known for her hit song “Bring on the Rain,” country music star Jo Dee Messina faced a thunderstorm moments before her Park County Fair show with an attitude true to her song's lyrics — “I'm not going to let it get me down.”

Regardless of the rain-drenched stage, flooded equipment, electrical issues, muddy ground, windblown fans and continuing storm, Messina was determined that the show would go on.

{gallery}08_03_10/pioneers{gallery}

The Powell Pioneers storm the field in celebration of their second Class A state title on Friday in Sheridan. After falling behind 5-4, Powell scored nine unanswered runs to repeat as state champs. Tribune photo by Ben Wetzel

Powell tops Sheridan to reach title game

When they met in the opening round of North District tournament play, the Sheridan Troopers stunned Powell by vaulting to a seven-run lead before Powell rallied for a 13-11 victory. Meeting in a state elimination game last Friday, the Pioneers made certain there would be no repeat.

Powell jumped on the tournament host Troopers early and often, building a 12-0 lead and cruising to a 15-7 victory that ultimately set the stage for a Class A title contest against Laramie.

Regional return

After a momentary third-inning hiccup, the Powell Pioneers American Legion baseball team emphatically played itself back into the Northwest Regional Class A tournament with a 13-5 victory over Laramie on Friday. The win delivered Powell its second Wyoming state Class A title in as many seasons.

Additions bring summer signing total to five

On the eve of fall semester student-athletes reporting to campus, Northwest College men's basketball coach Andy Ward announced a trio of signees to the Trapper hoops program. The signings include a shooting guard, a wing and a post player.

Followers of the Trappers will likely recognize the last name of new Fort Collins, Colo., signee Ty Ackelson. Ackelson, a 6'2” shooting guard, is the younger brother of two-year Trapper Mitch Ackelson, who graduated this past spring. The younger Ackelson averaged 18 points and five rebounds per game as a senior for Fossil Ridge High School.

Included in those numbers are a 37 percent accuracy from 3-point range an an 87 percent clip at the free throw line.

“(Fossil Ridge coach) Matt Johannsen does a great job of developing his student athletes and preparing them for college and the rigors of intercollegiate basketball,” Ward said. “Ty is an exceptional 3-point shooter with outstanding range. He's an instant threat from the offensive perimeter and works very hard on the defensive end of the floor, too. He's a great fit for our basketball program and we are looking forward to his contributions at Northwest College.”

Joining Ackelson as a member of the Trappers incoming 2010-2011 recruiting class will be 6'2” wing Dee Crandall from Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City.

Crandall averaged 13 points per contest as a senior, earning all-region and all-state honors as a senion.

“Judge Memorial has a strong reputation for having an outstanding basketball program,” said Ward. “The coaching staff there consistently moves students into intercollegiate basketball programs. Dee was a member of their state championship team as a junior, plus he's an outstanding student, making the honor roll all four years.”

Crandall is expected to add depth to the Trappers' perimeter game, but Ward also notes that he provides the team with a strong, physical athlete.

“He possesses a great work ethic and has a very high basketball IQ,” Ward said.

The final addition to the Northwest College basketball family is Kemmerer native Eric Robinson. The 6'4” Robinson will reunite with former high school teammate Keeton Tucker after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds this past winter.

“Eric was recruited to play college football, but has opted instead to play college basketball,” said Ward. “He brings a tremendous work ethic to our team and will be a physical presence in the paint. He also has the ability to step out and play some on the perimenter. He shot better than 50 percent from the field as a junior and as a senior and was an all-conference and all-state selection both of those years,” added Ward.

The Trappers are coming off a 25-7 campaign in 2009-2010. Northwest College spent significant chunks of the season appearing in the NJCAA's top 25 poll.

Dialogue, education necessary

More Wyoming teenagers are becoming mothers.

From 2000 to 2007, the state's teenage birth rate rose by an alarming 21 percent, according to a report released last week.

The Cowboy State bucked the national declining trend, according to the 2010 Kids Count report — the nation's teen birth rate dropped by 10 percent in that same seven-year period while Wyoming's rate rose. The state ranks 37th in the nation for teen birth rates.

The worrisome statewide spike in births among young women ages 15 to 19 highlights the need for more attention to the issue.

“We are not doing an adequate job of educating our young people about reproductive health and the consequences of poor decision making,” Wyoming Kids Count Director Marc Homer told the Casper Star-Tribune.

Clearly, Wyoming is lacking.

Whether it starts at home or in the classroom, parents and educators alike need to consider how to best curb Wyoming's rising number of teen pregnancies.

Through open dialogue about sex, education and resources, teens could be better equipped to make wiser decisions so they don't become parents before they're ready.

The issue isn't receiving much attention in current campaigns. In the weeks leading up to the Aug. 17 primary election, candidates have the opportunity to step forward and address Wyoming's high number of teenage pregnancies and other youth-related issues.

Those issues affect Wyoming families as well as the state's overall social and financial health.

Page 480 of 514

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