I had a heck of a time shooting the basketball tournament held in Worland and Thermopolis last weekend.
It was the first time I’ve shot the sport since I was a student at the University of Wyoming, working for the student newspaper The Branding Iron.
When I arrived at Worland High School Friday morning, I was worried that I would be rusty.
And I was. I was well into my third game before I found myself returning to form, and it was nice.
Looking through my viewfinder during the games trying to find the perfect shot brought back a lot of memories.
I remember buying the camera, a Nikon D5000, shortly before the start of my freshman year at UW in 2009.
Wanting to avoid the partying that can come with a freshman year at UW, I decided to work at The Branding Iron.
That’s it. No aspirations of wanting to be some kind of photojournalist or writer. But I wrote an opinion column, shot mostly sports. Some of my UW photos ran in a few “real” publications. At 18, having a photo run in my hometown paper was as good as being in USA Today.
I had a lot of fun. I’ll never forget being in my first photographers’ budget meeting (That’s press jargon for planning.), after not even a week of being away from Worland, and my photo editor saying, “You’ll need one of these,” before handing me a press pass.
“This gets you on the field!” I remember half asking and exclaiming.
It did and it was one of the most awesome experiences I’ve ever had. I couldn’t wait for game day at War Memorial Stadium. We beat Weber State at home that weekend.
The next weekend Texas came to town for a sellout.
The first half was incredible and UW was going crazy. It was hard not to get goosebumps as we made it a nail-biter for the first half against a No. 2 team led by Colt McCoy.
I won’t waste ink on the second half.
Looking back, as someone who jumps at the opportunity to see our Cowboys play, I’m still awed by the feeling of taking The War in for the first time as I stood on the field. You can’t beat that.
Winter brought UW basketball. The men’s team wasn’t that good, but we had Adam Waddell. That dude is a beast, and watching his signature dunk was a prelude to Larry Nance Jr. Of course, I was long gone when he rose to prominence.
The Cowgirls were significantly more fun to watch on the court, however. That year, they made it to semi-finals in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
I sat right under the goal, and one thing I remember is this predictable reaction.
You’d hear the ball swoosh through the net followed by the briefest moment of silence before the stadium erupted.
We lost that game in overtime, just as we lost to Texas a few months earlier.
But those seasons started a love affair with the Wyoming athletics that still endures to this day. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the only four-year university in the state. It’s all we have.
Or, perhaps, it’s that you can walk into a watering hole anywhere in the state on a Saturday and witness a sea of brown and gold whooping and hollering every time we score.
That love led me to a little place in Scottsbluff, Nebraska in the fall of 2016. Wyoming was playing Boise State at home. There’s a sea of Nebraska red in this place, except one person in his brown and gold.
You’ll have to trust me when I say I was louder than the rest of the place when we got the safety.
Some things never change, and that’s one of them.
– Zach Spadt