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September 16, 2008 4:00 am

Youth is served

Murray highlights efforts for PHS

Freshman Desiree Murray's second-place effort was among the highlights for Powell High School's boys and girls cross country squads during last Friday's Cody Invitational at Don Little Park.

Murray, who missed PHS's season-opening meet in Billings a week earlier because of a family obligation, recorded a time of 22:59 during her varsity debut and helped the Lady Panthers to a first-place finish in the team standings. PHS paced the seven-team field with 31 points. The remainder of the top four was rounded out by Worland (52 points), Cody (68) and Lander (76).

Murray completed last week's event as the runner-up to Cody High School junior Sierra Jech, who took the top spot in the girls' portion of the meet with an impressive time of 22:03.

The Lady Panthers' other freshman, Alyssa Rodriguez, also enjoyed a stellar showing Friday. She finished the meet with a time of 23:54, which was the Lady Panthers' third-fastest time. Her effort also helped her land an eighth-place finish in the overall standings.

Cliff Boos, head coach of PHS's cross country squads, entered this season eager to see how well the Lady Panthers would stack up against the competition, particularly in the Class 3A ranks. So far, he's pleased with what has transpired.

“With everybody back, we knew the girls were going to be competitive,” Boos said. “(Desiree and Alyssa) have been two great additions, and being able to add to our lineup from last year really helps.”

PHS's girls squad also got a strong series of efforts from a trio of veteran runners, including seniors Lauren Dunleavy and Jordan Bigelow and junior Skye Albert. Dunleavy and Bigelow finished fifth and ninth overall with times of 23:26 and 24:06, respectively. Albert rounded out the Lady Panthers' point-scoring efforts with a 12th-place finish and a time of 24:26. Juniors Emily Schwahn and Kristi Mingus also ran well, according to Boos, and finished 15th and 16th in the overall standings. Schwahn posted a time of 25:21, and Mingus was close on her heels with a 25:27.

In the boys' portion of the meet, the Panthers notched a fifth-place effort. Lander took the top spot with 41 points. Worland (43 points) was the runner-up, and Cody (81), Riverton (82) and Powell (98) followed. Wyoming Indian's Caleb Her Many Horses had the top individual time. He finished with an 18:03.

Among the team leaders for the Panthers were a pair of Patricks — senior Patrick Sullivan and sophomore Patrick Voss. Sullivan, who was 18th overall, was the top placer for PHS with a time of 20:59. Voss was close behind and finished 19th with a 21:02.

Sophomore Danny McKearney ended the day in 24th place with a 21:45, and senior Alex Speiser's 22:40 helped him to a 29th-place finish.

Senior Jake Firnekas rounded out the scoring efforts for Powell with his 22:41, which put him in 30th place.

PHS junior Colton Smith and sophomore Tyler McCauley added 33rd- and 35th-place efforts with times of 23:08 and 23:47, respectively.

• Up next: PHS's boys and girls teams have one meet scheduled this week, and it will take place Thursday in Lander. The start time for the event is 4 p.m.

“I'm very impressed so far,” Boos said. “I thought both the boys and girls did well in our first meet in Billings, and they both ran well in Cody. We'll keep working, hope we can keep people healthy and see how things play out.”

September 16, 2008 4:00 am

PHS swimmers top Worland

Lady Panthers third at Dozah Invitational

The Powell High School Lady Panthers outswam Worland in dual competition and earned a third-place finish Saturday in their own Gene Dozah Invitational.

The Powell swimmers earned seven first-place finishes in Worland, split the second-place finishes with the Lady Warriors and took nine of the 12 third-place efforts to earn a 114-71 victory last Thursday.

Monique Zorgati swam to a pair of first-place finishes in both the individual medley and the 100-yard freestyle to lead the Lady Panthers. Samantha Baker topped the field in the 200, and Jenna Hotovec did the same in the breaststroke, and diver Laura Morse earned her third first-place finish in a row. The 200- and 400-yard relay teams completed the first-place finishes for the meet.

Hannah Toland swam her first qualifying time of the year to finish second in the butterfly, and Jessica Curtis finished second in the 50 and the 500. Alice Pinter added a second-place performance in the backstroke, and Kourtnie Rodgers did the same in the breaststroke. The medley relay team added a second-place finish to the team score.

Maddy Jones contributed two third-place finishes in the 200 and the breaststroke, and Baker finished third in the butterfly. Other third-place winners were Jessica Wurzel in the individual medley, Anya Tracy in the 50, Stepfanie Thompson in diving, Rodgers in the 100 and Pinter in the breaststroke, along with two relay B teams in the medley and 400.

Rounding out the scoring were fourth-place efforts by Belen Quillen, Christina Dietz, Ryanne McDaniel, Leigh Bush, Kylie Zickefoose, and the 400 relay C team. Courtnie Pool also earned a fourth-place finish, but as Powell's fourth swimmer in the butterfly, she did not score team points.
On Saturday, Baker led the Lady Panthers to a third-place finish with a first-place performance in the backstroke and a runner-up effort in the 100. She also added first- and second-place finishes as part of relay teams. Baker joined Zorgati, Pinter and Curtis on the 400 relay squad, which edged Lander to end the meet. The 200 relay team of Baker, Pinter, Curtis and Jones finished second.

The Lady Panthers accumulated 227 points to finish behind Lander's 335 and Riverton's 242. Cody finished fourth with 138.

Zorgati earned the Lady Panther's only third-place finish in the 200 and added a sixth in the 400. Pinter earned fourth in the 50 and sixth in the 200, and Jones was fifth in the butterfly and sixth in the individual medley. Curtis was sixth in the butterfly and eighth in the 50, while Alyssa Smith finished fifth in the backstroke and 10th in the individual medley.

Four divers finished in the top 12, including Morse, who finished fourth. Thompson finished seventh, Nicole Emmett 10th and Dietz 11th.

Other top-12 finishers were Quillen in the 200 and 400, Jenna Hotovec in the breaststroke, Tracy in the backstroke, Rodgers in the 100 and the breaststroke, Bush in the backstroke and Sierra Baker in the individual medley.

Toland was the only new state qualifier in the competition, according to PHS coach Karen Roles, but a number of swimmers swam their best times of the season. Hotovec swam her lifetime best in the 100, cutting four seconds off her best previous time, and Dakota Jones cut eight seconds from the time in the 400 meters to swim her lifetime best. Jones also swam her season's best in the 50.

Other season's best times were recorded by Samantha Baker, Jones, Tracy, Zickefoose, Quillen, Sierra Baker, Pinter, Olivia Paxton, and Bush.
Roles said the team's times are normal for this time of the season.

“They're tired right now,” Roles said. “You never swim your best times during the middle of the season.”

Roles said the team has been focused on “streamlining in turns,” and the swimmers have been improving, and she praised her team's energy and team spirit.

“They've been very enthusiastic. There's been a lot of cheering during events,” Roles said. “Our enthusiasm is high, and that's always a plus.”

The Lady Panthers will entertain the Cody Fillies Friday afternoon in their only competition of the week. The meet, originally scheduled to take place in Cody, has been moved to Powell, and the time has been changed to 4 p.m. to accommodate homecoming activities.

September 16, 2008 4:00 am

City commits to Sletten

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This is the most recent rendering of the aquatic center's design, provided by the City of Powell. Certain aspects of it, such as the window wall, may not be in the final plan. The Powell City Council will continue discussing alternates of the design with Sletten Construction. Courtesy illustration

Construction of aquatic center with 8-lane pool expected to start in October

Powell will get its pool.

On Monday, the Powell City Council approved a contract with Sletten Construction, and construction on the new aquatic center is expected to begin in October. The decision came after years of planning, discussion and, at times, heated debate.

“It's been a long, hard struggle,” said Councilman Jim Hillberry. “We've been working toward a common goal and reached it. It will be a facility we can all be proud of in the future, meeting the needs of the community, the schools — everyone.”

The council approved plans for an aquatic center with an eight-lane competition pool and recreational features, including a lazy river, spray pad and toddler slide.

By law, Sletten Construction had to hold its bid until Monday, Sept. 8 — 60 days after the bid opening on July 10. After that, the company could legally alter its bid.

With that in mind, David Burbach of Burbach Aquatics, Inc., told the council Monday that it “should be in a position to award the contract with value engineering.”

Over the past two months, Sletten and Burbach worked on that value engineering, which basically entails finding alternative brands or materials that would help lower the $9.4 million project cost.

Some changes were minor and only accounted for $400, while more major changes would save the city more than $40,000.

The council discussed the alternates, but will decide on some major projects, such as the roof, in future work sessions with Sletten.

Certain projects, and therefore a concrete price tag, are pending, said City Administrator Zane Logan. Shawn Warner of Sletten Construction agreed to work on specific alternates with the city.

“He knows he has the job, but there's still going to be discussion on fluting, the roof and other projects,” Logan said. “He realizes that's yet to be determined.”

September 11, 2008 4:40 am

Gym's future fades

A report to the school board left the future of the old Powell High School gymnasium looking dimmer Tuesday night.

Following a report from Superintendent Kevin Mitchell on a meeting with the Wyoming School Facilities Commission and comments by Powell Middle School principal Jason Sleep, the District No. 1 board appeared ready to designate the site of the old gym as the location of a new middle school. Since the item was not on the agenda as a business item, however, Mitchell told the board they would have to wait until the October meeting to act on the issue.

A group headed by Ric Rodriguez has asked that the district delay the decision for eight months to a year while efforts to find an alternative that would preserve the gym as a community recreation center are explored. At a meeting of the board and the Powell City Council last month Rodriguez offered two alternatives for a site for the new school, including one that would relocate the school to city-owned land across the street from the new high school and one that would use the current site but would require closing Third St.

At Tuesday's meeting, however, Mitchell indicated that the board should make a decision by January to avoid a delay in building a new middle school. Referring to a capital facilities tax proposed by Rodriguez as a major part of funding for preserving the gym, Mitchell noted that such a tax would not be on a ballot until Nov. 2010, and by that time, projections indicate the middle school will face over-crowding.

September 11, 2008 4:37 am

Failure to maintain lanes

High oil prices wreaking havoc on road maintenance

Sky-high oil prices have all but put a halt to road maintenance.

If prices don't drop, roads in the Powell area stand to fall into disrepair.

Typically, Park County chip-seals 60 miles of roadways each year. This summer, the county road and bridge department has sealed exactly zero.

“We can't afford to,” said county engineer Dave Kieper.

In the state's northwest transportation district, which includes parts of Teton, Big Horn, Washakie, Natrona, Fremont, Hot Springs, and Park counties, the Wyoming Department of Transportation normally chip seals 100 to 125 miles of road. This year the state isn't chip sealing either.

“It's a struggle,” said WYDOT spokesman Cody Beers. “No doubt about it.”

The cost of chip oil — the sticky stuff used to seal roadways and make the chips stick — has rocketed at a rate that almost defies belief.

For the 2008 fiscal year, the county spent $310 a ton.

Expecting a hefty increase, Kieper budgeted $550 a ton for this year.

But he “hadn't any more than hit the send button” on his budget, when he learned prices were up to $760 a ton.

Not long after that, as though that was a bargain, Kieper received word that chip oil was no longer available.

Today, Sept. 16, is Step Up for Kids Day.

Step Up for Kids Day was created by the Every Child Matters Fund, a non-partisan, non-profit group whose mission is to make the needs of children, youth and families a national political priority.

The group focuses on making politicians aware of issues affecting children and families.

Nearly every state in the union is hosting a Step Up for Kids Day event. The First Lady of Wyoming, Nancy Freudenthal, is speaking in Cheyenne, along with former district court judge Gary Hartman, who is currently the governor's advisor on juvenile justice.

Additionally, 12 of the 23 Wyoming counties have plans to recognize the day in a variety of ways.

Child advocates in Park County have asked people to wear red on Step Up for Kids Day to show a commitment to learning about issues facing our children.

Too many Park County children live in poverty, face abuse and neglect and are uninsured.

It's sometimes all too easy to lull ourselves into believing these things are only problems in other places.

The sober truth is that's not the case.

So today, wear red for Step Up for Kids Day — then commit to learning what you can do to make life better for kids in our community.

Let candidates for office know that we demand they pay attention to issues facing young people.

And on an individual basis, the options are many: We can mentor, volunteer at a school or a food bank, or take in a foster child, among other things.

We should all do something. Our future depends on how our kids are raised today.

September 16, 2008 4:00 am

City commits to Sletten

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This is the most recent rendering of the aquatic center's design, provided by the City of Powell. Certain aspects of it, such as the window wall, may not be in the final plan. The Powell City Council will continue discussing alternates of the design with Sletten Construction. Courtesy illustration

Construction of aquatic center with 8-lane pool expected to start in October

Powell will get its pool.

On Monday, the Powell City Council approved a contract with Sletten Construction, and construction on the new aquatic center is expected to begin in October. The decision came after years of planning, discussion and, at times, heated debate.

“It's been a long, hard struggle,” said Councilman Jim Hillberry. “We've been working toward a common goal and reached it. It will be a facility we can all be proud of in the future, meeting the needs of the community, the schools — everyone.”

The council approved plans for an aquatic center with an eight-lane competition pool and recreational features, including a lazy river, spray pad and toddler slide.

By law, Sletten Construction had to hold its bid until Monday, Sept. 8 — 60 days after the bid opening on July 10. After that, the company could legally alter its bid.

With that in mind, David Burbach of Burbach Aquatics, Inc., told the council Monday that it “should be in a position to award the contract with value engineering.”

Over the past two months, Sletten and Burbach worked on that value engineering, which basically entails finding alternative brands or materials that would help lower the $9.4 million project cost.

Some changes were minor and only accounted for $400, while more major changes would save the city more than $40,000.

The council discussed the alternates, but will decide on some major projects, such as the roof, in future work sessions with Sletten.

Certain projects, and therefore a concrete price tag, are pending, said City Administrator Zane Logan. Shawn Warner of Sletten Construction agreed to work on specific alternates with the city.

“He knows he has the job, but there's still going to be discussion on fluting, the roof and other projects,” Logan said. “He realizes that's yet to be determined.”

Money saved from accepting alternates in the future will go into a contingency fund, which the project currently lacks.

September 11, 2008 3:48 am

Gym's future fades


A report to the school board left the future of the old Powell High School gymnasium looking dimmer Tuesday night.

Following a report from Superintendent Kevin Mitchell on a meeting with the Wyoming School Facilities Commission and comments by Powell Middle School principal Jason Sleep, the District No. 1 board appeared ready to designate the site of the old gym as the location of a new middle school. Since the item was not on the agenda as a business item, however, Mitchell told the board they would have to wait until the October meeting to act on the issue.

A group headed by Ric Rodriguez has asked that the district delay the decision for eight months to a year while efforts to find an alternative that would preserve the gym as a community recreation center are explored. At a meeting of the board and the Powell City Council last month Rodriguez offered two alternatives for a site for the new school, including one that would relocate the school to city-owned land across the street from the new high school and one that would use the current site but would require closing Third St.

At Tuesday's meeting, however, Mitchell indicated that the board should make a decision by January to avoid a delay in building a new middle school. Referring to a capital facilities tax proposed by Rodriguez as a major part of funding for preserving the gym, Mitchell noted that such a tax would not be on a ballot until Nov. 2010, and by that time, projections indicate the middle school will face over-crowding.

Mitchell told the board, after his meeting with Todd Wilder of the Facilities Commission and CTA architects, that he believes the district should designate a site by January.

Sleep spoke in favor of building the new school at the present site, citing the advantages to the school's curriculum and activities of being close to downtown.

Sleep said safety and security make the site preferable, along with enabling students to walk or bike to school.

He added that using the site preserves the athletic fields and would allow PMS to develop its own identity.

Sleep reminded the board that projected enrollment indicates that the current middle school will be overcrowded in 3-5 years, so delaying a decision is not practical. He urged the board to approve the proposed site.

Mitchell said the facilities commission is aware of the situation Powell is in regarding a new middle school and the old high school, and said Wilder believes the new middle school will be high on the priority list for school construction if the district designates a site.

“Basically, the board has to make a site decision by January,” Mitchell said.

Following Mitchell's report, board member LeAnne Kindred said the district's main concern should be the needs of the kids.

“There's a lot of ifs about the gym,” Kindred said. “If they don't work out, we're in a bind. We need to decide this site now.”

September 11, 2008 3:45 am

Failure to maintain lanes

High oil prices wreaking havoc on road maintenance

Sky-high oil prices have all but put a halt to road maintenance.

If prices don't drop, roads in the Powell area stand to fall into disrepair.

Typically, Park County chip-seals 60 miles of roadways each year. This summer, the county road and bridge department has sealed exactly zero.

“We can't afford to,” said county engineer Dave Kieper.

In the state's northwest transportation district, which includes parts of Teton, Big Horn, Washakie, Natrona, Fremont, Hot Springs, and Park counties, the Wyoming Department of Transportation normally chip seals 100 to 125 miles of road. This year the state isn't chip sealing either.

“It's a struggle,” said WYDOT spokesman Cody Beers. “No doubt about it.”

The cost of chip oil — the sticky stuff used to seal roadways and make the chips stick — has rocketed at a rate that almost defies belief.

For the 2008 fiscal year, the county spent $310 a ton.

Expecting a hefty increase, Kieper budgeted $550 a ton for this year.

But he “hadn't any more than hit the send button” on his budget, when he learned prices were up to $760 a ton.

Not long after that, as though that was a bargain, Kieper received word that chip oil was no longer available.

One problem is that SemMaterials of Billings, the chip-oil supplier for the county and many other construction groups, is bankrupt. But it's not just SemMaterials that couldn't provide chip oil. Beers said that refineries all over the country are producing less and less road oils and instead are using as much oil as they can to make gasoline.

“I called all over,” Kieper said. He tried places from Idaho to Colorado with no luck.

Then, last month, Kieper said he spoke to a supplier who said he could get the county some oil for $1,000 a ton out of Denver.

“We passed on it,” Kieper said.

The county's plan is to wait until next spring and hope prices come down.

Things could get dicey if they stay up.

Without regular sealing — typically every eight years or so — roads can fall into rough shape.

“If we don't get (chip) oil this next year, we're really going to notice some deterioration in our chip-sealed roads,” Kieper said.

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The 1978-79 University of Wyoming women's basketball team included Dale Ann Meeker (24) and Sue Pollart (20) of Powell and Lori Kline (50) of Cody. The team will join the UW Hall of Fame Friday night. Courtesy photo

Meeker, 1978-79 Cowgirls basketball squad to enter UW Hall of Fame

When the 1978-1979 Cowgirl basketball team joins the University of Wyoming Sports Hall of Fame Friday, it will be another career highlight for Dale Ann Meeker of Powell.

Meeker played guard for the 1978-1979 Cowgirl basketball team, which also included Sue Pollart of Powell and Lori (Kline) Waddell of Cody.

This is the 16th class of athletes and teams to join the Hall of Fame.

The team joins its coach, Margie McDonald, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame about six years ago.

“It's just quite an honor,” Meeker said. “For 33 years we were the best team that ever had played there.”

The team won a postseason berth in the AIAW Regional Tournament in Tucson, Ariz., and lost to Weber State 74-70 in the first round. The team compiled a 25-7 season record, racking up records that still stand, including most team rebounds at 77, most blocked shots in a game with 15, most points in a season – 2,464 in 33 games; most field goals attempted – 2,308 in one season and most rebounds in a season with 1,573.

The team remained UW's most successful women's basketball team until the 2006-2007 Cowgirls won the women's NIT.

Meeker said the women on her team succeeded because they all came to campus with a strong basketball foundation and the belief that they could compete at that level. Then they all worked during the offseason to make sure.

“We didn't worry about comparisons. We didn't worry about this or that. We just did our thing,” Meeker said.

Meeker was the first woman to receive a UW basketball scholarship. The first two years it covered tuition, but by her junior year it was a full-ride scholarship covering all her expenses. She started every game for four years.

Meeker said the women's basketball team was known and respected on campus.

“We were getting good crowds. We got full support of the students. When we walked around on campus, they knew who we were,” she said.

Four Wyoming players formed the core of the UW team during her career, Meeker, Cindy Bower from Worland, Linda Gilpin from Cheyenne and Rosann Wisroth of Burns. Sue (Owens) Pollart, a Colorado native, was the fifth player.

“That's kind of what's exciting, we were just four little Wyoming girls,” Meeker said. “We didn't know we shouldn't be able to compete. We just kept working at it.” Although women from many other states played for UW during her career, “that nucleus came out of the state of Wyoming.”

“We just loved to play. We loved to practice and we loved to play,” she said.

Meeker grew up playing basketball. Her father moved her family from Lovell to Powell when she was in eighth grade because Powell offered more athletic opportunities for girls. Meeker credits long-time athletic director Keith Bloom's foresight in emphasizing girls' sports as part of the early success of Powell girls' basketball.

Meeker played for two Powell High School teams that won “mythical” state championships in 1974 and 1975. They defeated Natrona County High School both times. “Mythical” state championships were awarded because Wyoming did not have a statewide classification system for girls' basketball. Bloom and other athletic directors organized a statewide, all-class tournament in Powell.

The Natrona team had never lost in more than 40 straight games before it fell to Powell in 1974, Meeker said.

“Powell should be very proud that they provided this opportunity for girls” before communities across Wyoming or Montana, Meeker said. “All of us that took part in the evolution are so proud.”

Girls basketball has come a long way from when Meeker's Powell High School teams got one night a week to practice in the main gym. The girls had to purchase their own black shorts, she said, although the school did buy uniform shirts. They played 12 to 14 games a season, all on Saturday mornings. At the university, the team spent the first couple of seasons getting taped in the hall before they were allowed to use the men's training room.

“It's been a real privilege to watch everything grow as it has,” Meeker said.

Meeker returned to Powell to assist Frank McCarthy, then coach of the Powell girls' basketball team, before assuming the coaching duties. She said she tried during her tenure as Powell High School coach to instill in her players that same sense of pride and to let them know they had come a long way since the beginning.

“I tried to help the girls appreciate those that came before them,” she said. Her PHS and UW days “gave me an appreciation of how important a team was,” not just individual efforts.