Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer. I start this week's column off with that note because, for those of you who attended last weekend's state track meet in Casper, the reminder might be necessary.
The assignment seemed simple enough. Travel to Casper for three days. Attend the state meet. Shoot photos like crazy and send the occasional blog post home via laptop computer to keep those interested from afar or those unable to travel from Powell to Casper apprised of the action.
But we all know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice, men and sports editors in planning meetings.
Now, to be clear here, I really did do my homework, faithful reader. I checked the weather forecast before I packed. I knew there was a chance of rain. I knew the temperatures were supposed to drop off from the low 70s on Thursday into the weekend. Heck, I even knew the wind —a permanent fixture in Casper — was supposed to rear up.
I knew these things, and still I remembered my first state track meet in Wyoming, parading about the Kelly Walsh track in sunshine and shorts. How bad could it really be? After all, this was the state track meet, with June right around the corner.
I took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Heck, I might have even chewed on the boat.
Let the record show that, before departing for Casper, I made the conscious decision to pull most of the winter gear out of my car to make room for other “essential items.” The winter coat that's been planted in the back seat since last football season? Gone. The thermal blanket that's been in the back seat “just in case”? Gone. Stocking hat and gloves? Not on this trip.
Boy was I suckered.
These are the sorts of mistakes I expected to make during my first year in Wyoming. Instead, I fell into the sophomore jinx because, as many of you are aware, it did not get into the 70s on Thursday. That small chance of rain did not stay small on Friday or Saturday. And the temperatures that were supposed to fall into the 60s for championship Saturday instead decided to keep falling through the 50s, into the 40s, and narrowly flirted for a period of time of entering the 30s —all while a 30 mile-per-hour wind howled its approval.
This explains why, as championship Saturday rolled along, I found myself huddled against the side of a shed, surrounded by others, desperately trying to stay warm and relatively dry. They say misery loves company. Now I know that the reason for that is because its harder to freeze to death if you're sharing body heat with two or three dozen other shivering spirits.
Welcome to the state track and field championships, sponsored by the Wyoming High School Activities Association. And hypothermia.
Last Saturday will go down in my personal history as one of the most miserable days I've ever spent covering a sporting event. I can't, in clear conscience, rank it ahead of standing in a 20-below wind chill atop a hill in Rapelje, Mont., covering six-man football, but it definitely gets solid consideration for second place. Had it not been for a long-forgotten Polartec shirt stashed away in my mountain pack in the trunk, I'm not sure I would have made it through the day.
As it stands, I survived long enough to see what had to be one of the most abbreviated state trophy presentations I've ever attended. Congratulations, here's your trophy, now run and get back on the bus to warm up. Quite the change from the nearly hour-long loitering on the infield that had accompanied last season's awards.
The moral of the story here, faithful reader, is that three-day advanced forecasts in Wyoming appear to be no more reliable than throwing a dart at a wide range of weather options. I'm learning from this mistake, as are many others, I'm sure.
So next May, when you're wondering why I'm standing in snow boots and sweating to death in 85-degree heat at the state track meet, you'll know exactly the reason why.