Every point counts.
It’s not just the credo of the Douglas High School Track & Field team, it’s the only way to win. At the state Track & Field meet in May, it took every athlete on the team and every single point for them to win the 3A State Championship.
They won by a razor-thin 9.5 points over the Powell Panthers.
Now, two months later, the architects of that success were honored again. Head coach Josiah Smith was named the Wyoming Coaches Association Girls’ Outdoor Track Coach of the Year for 3A, and Wendy Gamble was one of two to win the Outdoor Track Assistant Coach of the Year award.
The awards were handed out during the Hall of Fame Banquet in Casper on July 19, along with the awards for all other coaches across the different sports seasons. This was the first time Smith won the award, and the second time for Gamble. They have both coached at Douglas High School for 13 years, kicking off year number 14 next month.
Last year was the second as head coach for Smith after 11 years as an assistant. Smith made the most of his time at the Hall of Fame dinner. Getting dressed up with his wife, and leaving the kids at home, they enjoyed their time together at the banquet where Smith was reunited with his eighth grade basketball coach from Torrington.
Something that stood out to Smith from the dinner was how many of the coaches were still around from when he was an athlete. His other takeaway was the sheer length of the ceremony, extending well past three hours of honoring the state’s coaches.
Gamble was only days out of knee surgery when the Hall of Fame celebration came around and opted to stay home so that she wouldn’t have to limp across the stage. Since it was her second time winning the assistant coach of the year award, Gamble recieved a plaque. For the first win, the award is a ring. As a coach, Gamble specializes in distance running, which she did back when she was in high school and college.
Smith and Gamble also crossed paths in their time at Chadron State College. Smith was drawn to track & field because it was where he shined the most as a young three-sport athlete. Gamble came upon it almost accidentally. After she had the fastest time running the mile in middle school, her teacher encouraged her to join the cross country team.
As the head coach of the team, Smith’s responsibilities stretch far beyond the track. He’s in charge of all the logistics of competition, like meals and transportation, while coordinating practice schedules with his assistant coaches, including Gamble.
“We’ve all coached together for so long and we just have that mesh,” Smith said.
Because of the relationships all the way down the staff, he doesn’t have to worry about anyone—he has complete faith in his fellow coaches. According to Smith, more of his job than he expected is spent watching scant bits of footage from other schools competing and looking at results for his team and others—trying to decipher the stats and get the most out of everyone’s potential.
The relationships to the other coaches are vital, but it’s all about the students and their mutual relationships. One student to notice the care from the coaches is Kinley Johnson. Johnson runs in the 800m and will be starting her junior year next month.
“They care about every single person on the track team no matter what,” she enthused.
They also contend with the schedules of the kids. Almost all of the track athletes compete in other sports, have jobs, engage in other school activities and have to dedicate themselves to their education. Both coaches, as well as the rest of the staff, prioritize the students’ wellbeing and physical health.
“I want them to do well, but I also don’t want them to be forced into doing something that will break their bodies down more by not getting enough rest,” Gamble said.
She tries to tailor the training times and practices to what the kids can do and what they’re willing to do. One member of the team that was specifically recruited by Smith to join the team was Jenny Porter. After running cross country as a freshman, she joined Gamble’s long distance runners for her sophomore year and built a strong connection to Gamble.
“I love her as a person as much as I love her as a coach,” Porter said.
Outside of the track, both are active members of the school system in Douglas. Smith teaches social studies at the high school, and Gamble works as an early childhood liaison for Douglas School District. Smith’s job keeps him engaged with almost every high school class, depending on the classes he teaches in a given year. Gamble’s position has her help the younger kids transition into school life. She is also working with the Jump Start program during the summer.
Like all athletes, the members of the track & field teams look up to their coaches for inspiration and guidance. Porter and Johnson mentioned that Smith and Gamble care about them, above all else, and guided them to their championship season.
“The coaching staff really is what makes track the way it is,” Porter said.