After a memorable senior year that included a state championship in the 4x800 in track and an 18th-place finish in state cross country, former Panther Jayden Yates will continue his running career …
After a memorable senior year that included a state championship in the 4x800 in track and an 18th-place finish in state cross country, former Panther Jayden Yates will continue his running career next season at Central Wyoming College in Riverton.
Yates signed his letter of intent Friday at the Park County School District No. 1 Administration building, surrounded by coaches, family and friends.
“I’m excited to show what I can do and to improve,” Yates said of the opportunity. “I want to learn to get better, and I’m looking forward to getting to know new people.”
Yates began the 2018-19 school year by helping lead the Panthers' cross country team to a fifth-place finish at state. His time of 17:29.41 at the state meet in Sheridan earned him 18th place and bettered his previous best time on the course by over a minute.
At the 2019 3A State Track and Field Meet in Casper in May, Yates finished seventh in the 3200 meters, eighth in the 800 meters and 10th in the 1600 meters. But he saved his biggest state moment for last, winning a state championship as part of the 4x800 relay team, along with teammates Alan Merritt, Jay Cox and Aidan Jacobsen.
“That whole experience was very exciting,” Yates said of winning a gold medal at state. “It was definitely a different feeling. I really didn’t expect it, so it was really cool to experience that.”
Along with being named to the 3A All State Track and Field Team, Yates won the Jim Miller Memorial for Distance Award and the William Farthing Memorial Scholarship, given to a PHS athlete who exhibits good citizenship and loyalty to PHS and its athletics while demonstrating good leadership and a high level of integrity.
Yates’ father Ty and mother Amanda said it’s been a whirlwind year for their son — and they were happy to be along for the ride.
“It was such a fun experience to go to campus visits, go to state meets and watch him [Jayden] grow as a runner and as a student,” Ty said. “And to see him win a state championship in that relay with a bunch of guys he’s been running with was really fun to watch. All of them have grown so much, it was fun to see. This new chapter he’s starting now is going to be great.”
“He’s worked really hard over the years, and its nice to see him be able to get this opportunity,” Amanda added. “I’m excited for him.”
Yates caught the eye of CWC cross country coach Al Lara at last year’s state meet, who immediately sent the graduating senior a letter expressing interest. Dawson Community College in Montana had also reached out to Yates, going so far as to send a letter of intent. To Lara’s delight, Yates chose to stay close to home.
“I was very glad,” Lara said. “I had heard there were a few other schools trying to get ahold of him, including Dawson.”
Yates had also participated in a 5K over the Fourth of July down in Riverton “and I was very impressed with him,” Lara said.
The coach said Yates’ biggest adjustment will be being away from Powell, but he’s confident the transition will be an easy one.
“I’m glad he chose CWC — we’re a junior college, and I really felt he needed two years at a junior college,” Lara said. “We’ll bring his times down and get him to a four-year school. He’s got the talent to really do that. I told him that one of the biggest things he needs to work on is being aggressive.”
Asked what he liked most about his new recruit, Lara said Yates’ build and work ethic will serve him well at the collegiate level.
“His build, he totally has that 10K body. I just really feel like he’s going to excel,” he said. “The coaches did a good job with him here, and he’s going to fit in just fine. The guys he’s met on the team really like him, and he’s a hard worker.”
Yates said his new teammates at CWC have made him feel welcome.
“They’ve been very nice and very welcoming,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to working with them. And I’m only 2 1/2 hours away, so my parents won’t be too worried about me.”
On hand to join in the celebration of his signing were PHS coaches Cliff Boos and Ashley Hildebrand, as well as Jess Campbell, owner of Freedom Fitness. Campbell has been training Yates for years, and said the success he’s achieved didn’t happen by accident.
“I’ve had him [Yates] for at least four years, and his ability exists for him to excel at the juco level and beyond,” she said. “I told his college coach that Jayden hasn’t even tapped into his potential. I’m super-proud of him, and it’s really neat to see him grow as a person and as an athlete. I’m excited to see what he does.”
Praising Yates’ work ethic, Campbell added that, “he’ll be brilliant when he’s there.”