1 school year, 3 state titles in Baggs, Wyo.
May 28, 2011
Walk through Little Snake River Valley School in the coming months and chances are there will be little to no activity.
School has let out in Baggs, Wyo., graduated seniors have moved onto the next chapter in their lives and families have packed up their vehicles to go on much-anticipated camping trips.
But, the 2010-11 school year won't be one forgotten anytime soon.
That's due in large part to seven athletes who played on the six-man football team, boys basketball team, and boys track and field team, each of which won state titles for the Rattlers.
Seniors Sean Rietveld and Chance Englehart, juniors Daniel Wille, Miles Englehart and Rex Stanley, and sophomores Conner and Grayson Lee competed on all three teams and raised a trophy in November, March and May.
Each athlete contributed to each state title, football and track head coach Mike Bates said.
"As a coach, you always want to coach the kids that are coachable and understand the plays," he said. "As coaches, we thought about how we were able to bring this group of kids through three state titles, and I think it has to do with their well roundedness."
Athletics, Bates said, isn't the only thing the seven student-athletes are good at.
Performing in the classroom
Rietveld will graduate from LSRV with a 4.0 grade point average. Fellow senior Chance finished with a 3.8 GPA.
Daniel and Miles have held a 4.0 GPA through three years and said they don't plan on letting that change next year.
Stanley holds a 3.89 GPA, Conner a 3.5 and Grayson isn't far behind.
"When we have away games, there are a lot of guys on laptops doing math homework," Daniel said. "We want to compete and win on the field or court or track, but we also want to get good grades."
Besides being a football and track head coach, Bates is also the social studies teacher at LSRV.
Because the school is small — the senior class had 15 students and the sophomore class is the biggest at the school with 21 — Bates has had a chance to teach each of his players in the classroom, as well.
"In the classroom, they are attentive and give articulate answers," he said. "But, there is the goofy side to them because they are kids. I love teaching them because I still can be a kid to a certain extent by having them in my class."
But, Bates teaching doesn't stop in the classroom, Stanley said.
"Our coaches keep on us about turning our stuff in," he said. "They say we are student-athletes, but we are students first."
Bates said he has put in place a program called study bus, where the teachers who are also coaches can teach on the bus on the way to or from a game.
However, Bates said he never had to institute the program this year, as the football team had an average GPA of 3.5.
"These kids learn stuff out on the football field that they can't learn in the classroom," he said. "However, I know and I think they know that the academics will take them farther than any of the sports will."
Rietveld said the success the guys have in the classroom has an affect in the three sports as well.
"Because everyone tries to maintain a high GPA, it shows they have dedication to the sport, too," he said. "It would take us a day to learn five plays instead of a day to learn one play because we learn quicker."
Bringing a community together with sports
"We pretty much know everyone in the stands and can tell you where they sit," Daniel said. "During the game, when you hear someone cheer, you know exactly who it is."
The sign heading into Baggs may say the population is 348, but all seven players insist the number is up to about 440 people.
And, when it is game time, no matter the sport, almost all 440 people show up to support the Rattlers, LSRV activities director Ann Wille said.
"We pack the stands every game," she said. "The sports are the center of our community. People are always there when our kids need something for anything they do."
Travis Weber, 28, graduated from LSRV in 2001 and competed on many of the sports teams.
Because the football team was brought back to the school in 2009 after a 55-year hiatus, Weber never had a chance to step on the gridiron.
"Because there isn't a lot to do here, kids grow up playing sports, and especially basketball," he said. "Most of those kids probably started playing basketball when they were 5, but with football, the school just started again two years ago. We just have really good athletes who picked the game up quick."
Whether the boys were winning or not this year, Weber said the community would have come out in large numbers to support the Rattlers.
"Everyone comes to the games to support our players," he said. "People come even if they don't have family or relatives playing. The sports are a big deal to the community."
Miles said the support doesn't end when the teams leave Baggs.
"When we have a football or basketball game, we know that pretty much the entire town is in the stands," he said. "Even away games, when it is a tough place to play, we have a lot of fans who are there supporting us."
For Stanley, having the support of the community is always encouraging.
"It is fun playing in a small community because everyone supports you no matter what," he said. "It is good to know they are always behind us."While Weber said three state titles weren't needed for his support, the success has helped bring the community together, he said.
"It gives everyone a lot of pride saying we are from here," he said. "There isn't a lot to do in our small town, so we take pride in our sports. For those guys to win three state titles means they were the best in everything.
"This has never been done before (at our school) and it is something really special and the community as a whole is proud of those guys."
Like any teenagers, the boys of LSRV enjoy to step away from school and organized sports every so often.
Unlike other teenagers, however, Rietveld's family doesn't own a television and just recently got an Internet connection.
"I hang out with friends and family a lot," he said. "It is a small town, so you have a lot of time to do not many things."
Daniel said he heads to Steamboat Springs and enjoys some time on the mountain.
"I snowboard in the winter time whenever the coach doesn't know," he said. "Our coach frowns on (snowboarding), but he won't tell us not to, because he knows it is really important to us."
When summer rolls around, Conner said he enjoys being around the water.
"A lot of us will go to the lake in Craig as just friends," he said. "We go chill with some girls, and relax and have a good time."
The athletes and coaches have differing opinions on what title was harder to win, but with all three trophies now sitting in the school's trophy case, they agree it was a one-of-a-kind year.
"Three state titles is the perfect way to finish my high school career," Rietveld said. "Most people think it is great to have one state title or even a winning season, but to go out with three is pretty neat and a rare honor."
Ann said this year's success just added to what people around the community and the state already knew.
"Snake River is built on tradition," she said. "If you look in the gym, you see banners from girls and boys teams alike. We have a strong tradition, and that is known throughout the state in 1A schools."
Out of the seven guys who were on all three teams, the programs will lose only two seniors.
Stanley said they are already looking to next year.
"When you win three state titles, you kind of have a target on your back," he said. "That will push us to be in the gym and work on stuff because we will have teams coming after us."
No matter how next year turns out, this year's seven athletes have set the bar high.
"We started a winning tradition," Miles said. "We set the standard high and I think it will just help our programs for years to come."