Sheridan transfers detail journeys to Northwest College amid shutdown

Posted 10/15/20

Some were at home. Others were at work. A few were even at the gym training for their upcoming seasons.

Regardless of where they were, Sheridan College athletes will never forget the moment June …

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Sheridan transfers detail journeys to Northwest College amid shutdown


Some were at home. Others were at work. A few were even at the gym training for their upcoming seasons.

Regardless of where they were, Sheridan College athletes will never forget the moment June 25 when they found out the school was canceling its athletic program.

“I was shocked,” said Taryn Wagstaff, a former Sheridan soccer commit who visited campus just a week prior to the announcement. “It was crushing. I didn’t really know what I was going to do next.”

Another Sheridan soccer commit, Kaitlin Castle, found out while working at Cheyenne’s school district. She simply described the experience as “heartbreaking.”

Shelby Tarter, a former Sheridan women’s basketball player, was also at work when head coach Ryan Davis called her.

“I was like, ‘that’s weird; why is he calling me?’ Tarter said. “He said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but there’s no basketball this year.” I thought he was kidding, but I could tell by the tone in his voice that he was not.”

To make matters worse, none of the Sheridan athletes had any idea this was coming.

“I started crying,” volleyball player Emily Baumstarck said. “I just got hit so hard because we had no previous news about this.”

Fellow volleyball player Grace Trandahl was at an open gym when she was blindsided by this announcement, saying “It was just crazy because it was so sudden. There was nothing leading up to it that we heard or anything.”

Men’s basketball player Jaren Fritz was working at his summer job at Glenrock’s school district when his coach, Cody Ball, called him. Due to Ball’s loose demeanor and this decision being so unexpected, Fritz didn’t believe him at first.

“I thought he was kidding because I had a joking relationship with Coach Ball,” Fritz said. “I asked him if he was serious, but I could tell by his tone after he said it again that it was serious. I was just shocked because I had heard some other schools were doing it, but I never thought a program like Sheridan would ever close down.”

For Hayden Peterson, another men’s basketball player, he knew something was wrong because of Ball’s decision to call, rather than texting.

“I was just sitting at my house when coach called me,” Peterson said. “He texts us and stuff, but when he calls you, you know it’s pretty serious.”


A new opportunity arises

Receiving the news about the removal of sports was stressful and blindsiding for every athlete at Sheridan College, but many found new opportunities to play the sports they love. For the seven previously-mentioned athletes, that new opportunity came at Northwest College.

Some of them discovered this chance on the same day as the announcement. Wagstaff and Castle both received their offers and committed to NWC later that day.

Castle’s mother is a graduate of Northwest, so she already had a strong familiarity with the school and program. Wagstaff, an Evanston native, was acquainted with former Tribune sports writer Don Cogger, who now works for the Uinta County Herald and gave her background information about the community.

Just like the girls were diligent in looking for their next opportunity, so was soccer head coach Aaron Miller in pursuit of these players.

“I was on top of it,” Miller said.

Fritz and Peterson also committed to NWC soon after Sheridan cut athletics. Fritz emailed Trapper head coach Jay Collins that evening and committed the following morning. Just a couple days later, Peterson joined the squad.

A strong impression of the program and Collins’ leadership is what brought that duo across the Bighorn Mountains.

“I just thought the opportunity was really good to come to Northwest,” Fritz said. “Coach Collins seemed cool, so I came right away.”

While soccer and men’s basketball transfers earned this opportunity soon after the announcement, it took longer for volleyball and women’s basketball players.

Tarter began following various coaches on Twitter after Sheridan made the cuts, and about two weeks later, NWC head coach Camden Levett messaged her. After exchanging messages back and forth, Tarter became a Trapper.

“It was kind of stressful because I had multiple options,” Tarter said. “I had to weigh all of my options, but I think I made the right choice.”

For Trandahl and Baumstarck, they didn’t get the offer until about a month after Sheridan made the decision to cut athletics. This waiting process was “stressful,” according to Trandahl, but eventually getting the offer from NWC was “refreshing.”

Whether the former Sheridan athletes received their next opportunity on the same day or had to wait a month, they were all in the same boat on June 25 when they received the life-changing news. That’s why staying close with one another was so important in this stressful summer.

“We were all really close at Sheridan,” Baumstarck said, “So we were all supportive of each other and helped each other through it.”


Adjusting to new scenery

While several admitted to missing campus life at Sheridan, each of them have begun to feel at home within their programs at Northwest.

Just a few weeks into practice, Fritz and Peterson feel like the men’s basketball program at NWC will suit their skill sets better than Sheridan’s did.

“I like it because I can play more of a guard,” Fritz said. Last year, I was one of the big men, and I don’t like to play that. For me, it works out well.”

Peterson added, “We’re going to try to be fast; try to get up a lot of threes. He and I are both shooters, so that fits us pretty well.”

A year ago, Sheridan volleyball won just four conference matches. Northwest’s stronger program and family-like team bond has helped ease this transition for Trandahl and Baumstarck.

“I like the program here better,” Trandahl said. “Coach (Scott Keister) is awesome, and it’s a great group, so I like it.”

As freshmen, Wagstaff and Castle never had the chance to enroll full time at Sheridan or put on the General uniform. But they have since found comfort at their new program.

“Just the fact that we’re on the field playing soccer is amazing,” Wagstaff said. “Getting to know the girls has been fun, too.


Looking forward

Due to being in the same conference, these new Trappers (except for Castle and Wagstaff) have played against NWC at one point or another. Tarter had one of the best games of her freshman season against NWC, dropping 17 points at Cabre Gym on 10-of-12 shooting from the free-throw line.

“It is kind of weird,” Tarter said. “It’s just kind of an interesting perspective to come together.”

Now, Tarter ­— and every other former Sheridan athlete — adds extra experience against Region IX opponents. Having this extra insight could benefit NWC women’s basketball, as well as every other Trapper athletic program, when official competition begins in the next semester.

“It’s funny when we talk about other teams together,” Tarter said. “I’m like, ‘We played them and did this.’ They’re like, ‘When we played them we did this.’”

In July, the NJCAA announced its decision to postpone sports to the spring semester, due to COVID-19 precautions. Every one of these athletes is counting down the days until their regular season begins.

Because of Sheridan’s struggles on the court last year, the thought of having a winning season thrills the Trappers’ volleyball transfers.

“Winning some games will be fun,” Trandahl said. “Having a winning culture excites me. I think that benefits you in a lot of ways.”

Just having the chance to compete in what has been a crazy year excites all of these new Trappers.

“Playing games with our teammates will be great,” Fritz said. “I really like all of our teammates and I think it will be fun to play and start winning.”

Castle said, “We’ve worked hard, and just having the chance to play is amazing, and I can’t wait for it to start.”