Part of why I continue to run wyoming-football.com — for which I started the research in 2004 and have since expanded to basketball and, well, everything else with Champlists — is that I keep learning new things.

The past year in particular, I hit the researching hard, thanks to a subscription to newspapers.com (a bonus made possible by those who provided a sponsorship!). I found some interesting things about coaches, players and others — some cool, some sad, some disturbing.

Of the myriad tidbits I’ve encountered, here are some of the more interesting ones — stories I wouldn’t have know about if I hadn’t been putting together research for my sites.

The cool:

The sad:

  • Sheridan coach O.E. “Oc” Erickson was a highly successful football coach, but he left the head coaching spotlight his early 30s. He moved to his hometown of Cheyenne and was an assistant for the Cheyenne High team for a few years. He should have been around much longer; he died at 41 after he fell in a hotel lobby the night after a UW football game and fractured his skull.
  • Then there’s the story of the high school basketball coach who coached his daughter in the state tournament; the team lost two and went home. The next day, his daughter died in a car crash; a moment of silence was held before the championship games that Saturday night.

The disturbing (with names removed):

  • The girls basketball coach who was convicted of having sex with players on his team — and who in his court testimony struggled to show remorse.
  • The basketball coach who traveled separately from his team to the state tournament — and then got pulled over and tagged with a DUI and speeding while on the way. By all accounts, he coached at state, but he didn’t keep his job much longer.
  • The coach who left education to get into law enforcement, became police chief of a major Wyoming city — and was convicted of soliciting bribes while police chief.
  • The driver of the “other” car in the crash that killed Byron and Lovell coach Wilford Mower, the guy for whom the big award handed out to high school athletes in Wyoming’s northwest corner — he died several years later in another car crash that also took the life of one of his own children.

These are just a few of the hundreds of tidbits I’ve found while researching Wyoming’s high school sports. I think it’s important to remember all of it — good, sad, disturbing and more — to understand the totality of how sports, community and culture intermingle. I’m hoping to bring some of the more interesting stories to this site in the future thanks to the details I’ve picked up in researching for Champlists.

–patrick

Photo of Ned Turner posing in a starting position.
Edwin “Ned” Turner poses for a photo while at the University of Michigan in 1932. Turner, a graduate of Natrona County High School in Casper, ran in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, placing fifth in the 800-meter run. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

Exactly 89 years ago today, a Casper native took to the Olympic track at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and held his own with the best runners in the world.

Today, though, Ned Turner’s accomplishments are nearly forgotten.

Edwin T. “Ned” Turner finished fifth in the 800-meter run at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. He was one of the first, if not the first, Wyoming athletes to compete in the Olympics, a list that includes celebrated names like Rulon Gardner, John Godina, Lance Deal, Heather Moody, Jesseca Cross, Jennifer Nichols and a handful of others.

Turner was just 19 when he ran in the Olympics. A junior at the University of Michigan, Turner had made his mark with guts. A Casper Tribune-Herald article from 1952 noted that “Ned was not a sprint finisher, as are many middle distance runners, but he was noted for his strength, endurance, and untiring running ability.”

Ned Turner's yearbook photo
Edwin “Ned” Turner’s photo from the 1929 Natrona County High School yearbook.

Despite his world-class finish in the Olympics, Turner was never an NCAA champion at Michigan. Moreover, he was only once a Wyoming state track champion, winning the 440-yard run as a junior at Natrona in 1928. He had appendicitis as a senior and missed the entire track and field season while recovering.

But at Michigan, Turner grew and matured; after all, he was just 16 when he graduated from NCHS. He qualified for the Olympics by finishing third in the AAU championships, which doubled as the U.S. Olympic trials, in mid-July. Once at the Olympics, Turner finished third in his opening heat, good enough to make the final race.

The 800-meter final itself put Turner in a field that saw almost everyone, including Turner, run a time that was better than the gold-medal time from the 1928 Olympic 800-meter run. Great Britain’s Tommy Hampson ran a then-world record time of 1 minute, 49.7 seconds to win the race. Turner finished fifth in 1:52.5.

You can watch the race on YouTube here. Turner is wearing a white tank and white shorts and has dark hair, but it’s hard to make him out in the footage as that was the attire for several racers. See full race and heat results here.

Turner led a full, but short, life after his Olympic opportunity. He graduated from Michigan in 1933 and turned to business. In 1952, an article in the Casper Tribune-Herald described Turner as “a successful business executive” in Michigan. Turner worked in a variety of industries, including industrial machinery and paper, and lived in New York in addition to Michigan. Like many young men of his time, his career was interrupted during World War II, when he served in the Navy. Turner died Aug. 17, 1967, in Michigan, a month short of his 55th birthday.

As Wyomingites watch the Tokyo Summer Olympics this month, let’s make sure the name “Turner” stays in the conversation.

–patrick

After several months of preparation and research, I’m proud to announce the newest website to highlight Wyoming’s high school sports history.

Say hi to champlists.com.

The site is exactly what it says — lists of champions for Wyoming’s sanctioned high school sports. But it’s much more than that.

Each sport has its own special area: alpine skiing, cross country, golf, gymnastics, indoor track, Nordic skiing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball and wrestling. While each sport has individual and team champions, several sports have more than that. For example, soccer and volleyball have all-state team listings and state championship history broken down by school; volleyball has listings for championship coaches; and other sports have listings unique to them.

In short, I’m bringing the wyoming-football.com and wyoming-basketball.com treatment to other high school sports in the Equality State. Although the research for other sports is not as deep or intricate as the research for football and basketball, champlists.com does help fill a gap in Wyoming’s high school sports history.

While the Wyoming High School Activities Association’s website with its sports archive has been incredibly useful, it has also been limited by a reduced range. The WHSAA website does not list champions or results prior to 1973, the year the WHSAA moved from Riverton to Casper, for any sports except football or basketball. WHSAA listings have long been incomplete for sports like cross country, golf, swimming, tennis, wrestling and track. Champlists.com tries to close that gap while at the same time make it easier for people to find specific names, records and details for each sport.

Despite all of my best efforts to this point, many sports have incomplete listings of their champions. Your help is invaluable to completing these lists. Please use this form to send me any missing information you have, as well as any documentation you have to support it, such as a newspaper clipping, yearbook listing or something similar.

In that same vein, champlists.com is a work in progress. If there is something else you’d like to see there, let me know; I’ll see if I can research it, or maybe if we can research it together. I’m going to look for ways to constantly expand the listings that are available to satiate your curiosity about Wyoming’s high school sports history. Broadly, I am planning on updating champlists.com once a year, likely in the summer.

Similarly, I will likely expand the scope of this blog to include occasional posts about other sports, as I have done the past few years with the occasional basketball or track and field post. I have several fun and interesting posts in the works already.

If you’ve made it this far, you care about this kind of stuff. So give champlists.com a look, and let me know what you’d like to see from it moving forward.

–patrick