The Wayne Chaney Invite, Gillette’s only home high school cross-country meet of the season, brought 10 teams and more than 250 runners to Cam-plex Park to compete in the 19th annual Wayne Chaney Invite.
There were four total races — boys and girls JV and varsity. About five times as many runners participated in this year’s event than in 2018 when only Thunder Basin and Campbell County competed.
The Wayne Chaney Invite has drawn as many as 30 teams in the past, Camels athletic director Cliff Hill said.
“I’m really glad that there (are) way more teams this year than there were last year,” Bolts coach Terri Hinkel said. “I’m really proud that we were able to get this many people out here and teams. And I think that we owe that to the Chaneys.”
Wayne Chaney was a 1999 graduate of Campbell County High School and a member of the Camels’ cross-country 1998 Class 4A state championship team.
He was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer, just after finishing the cross-country season and placing 6th overall as an individual in the 4A meet while he unknowingly had cancer.
He accepted an offer to run at Colorado State University, but his cancer treatment kept him out of competition in the fall of 1999, his father Jerry Chaney said.
In January 2000, Wayne Chaney died from the cancer, and a year later the first Wayne Chaney Invite was held at Cam-plex Park.
Jerry Chaney stayed for the whole event Friday and handed out T-shirts to the top finishers when the final race had completed. Jerry sprays the mile marker signs in the park twice a year to preserve them, and he and his wife Peg give out annual scholarships in memory of Wayne.
“We just love to come watch them. Sometimes it brings back memories, but it’s still good memories,” Jerry Chaney said about attending the annual event. “You learn to adjust to the situation. You never know what tomorrow has.”
The Sheridan Broncs boys varsity team dominated the final run of the day, finishing second, third, fourth, fifth and eighth for a score of 22.
Natrona County’s Mason Henry won the boys varsity 5K race with a time of 17 minutes, 2.37 seconds.
Campbell County finished fourth of nine teams and Thunder Basin was fifth.
“Last year when we went to state, we only had three boys under 21 (minutes), and today ... our top six ran under 21,” Camels coach Trisha Evenson said. “So, getting better from last year to this year, and the fact that they’re all freshmen and sophomores is awesome.”
CCHS runner Braik Hurm was the top finisher for any Gillette competitor with a time of 18:03.26 for 12th place overall. He’s planced 12th in multiple races this year.
“It could be a curse, but I think it’s a blessing, because last year I was mid-20s, mid-30s each race,” Hurm said.
Hurm said he had an advantage having run the difficult course many times before.
“The surface changes. It goes from dirt to sand to asphalt to wood chips to grass,” Hurm said. “The surface changes are huge.”
Natrona County High School took first in the girls varsity race with a score of 38. Sheridan was a close second with 42 points.
Hailie Wilhelm of Natrona County won in 19:46.89. She was the only female runner to break the 20-minute barrier Friday.
The Bolts’ girls varsity team took fifth place and the Camels didn’t have enough runners to place as a team.
“We just got to get our No. 3 (runner) up,” Hinkel said about the drop off after the first and second runners. “Still working them hard. We’re not tapering yet. We won’t taper until late next week.”
TBHS runner Meghan Hanson led with a 10th place finish and a time of 20:39.02. Thunder Basin’s Brooke Dunham finished 14th overall in 21:03.77.
“Last year it was just us and the Camels ... so it was really nice to have more teams to push ourselves this year,” Hanson said. “The more people in the race, the more motivated you’re going to be.”
The Wayne Chaney Invite was the last regular season meet of the season for the Bolts and Camels. Both programs have the 4A East Conference meet in Sheridan on Friday, Hinkel said.