GOSHEN COUNTY – A pair of Goshen County high school officials were honored in the past two weeks by the Wyoming High School Activities Association.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, Kathy Hamer-Smith was presented a plaque for 30 years of officiating volleyball prior to the state volleyball championships in Casper, while Tim Williams was honored at halftime of one of the state championship games last weekend in Laramie for 20 years of officiating football.
Both Hamer-Smith and Williams both capped off their 2022 fall seasons working state championship games in their respective sports. Hamer-Smith officiated the Class 4A volleyball title game between Kelly Walsh and Cody, while Williams worked the Pine Bluffs and Shoshoni game.
After hanging up the whistle as the Torrington High School volleyball coach after 12 seasons, Hamer-Smith wanted to continue to be a part of the sport of volleyball.
As a result, she decided to become an official.
“When I decided to step down, it was kind of a natural progression to go into officiating,” Hamer-Smith said. “I still really enjoyed the game of volleyball and wanted to stay involved in it. I’ve been blessed over the years to work with really good partners and a lot of different officials throughout the state.”
She said one of the challenges of officiating is the time it takes.
“It has become a pretty big commitment,” Hamer-Smith said. “There is a lot of travel involved, but if they are willing to do that and do all kinds of levels.”
She said nearly 5,000 miles from the end of August through to the second weekend in November, making stops anywhere from Goshen County to Rawlins to Sundance to Casper.
The 2022 state tournament was her 23rd tournament officiated.
“The thing I really enjoy about the state tournament is, is that you get to officiate all four classes,” Hamer-Smith said. “I feel very honored to officiate each class. They all have a lot of great volleyball and have a lot of great volleyball players. It’s just an honor to officiate at the state tournament.”
Looking back over the years, Hamer-Smith remembers her firsts – the first regional tournament in Hulett to the first state tournament in Riverton before it moved to Casper – but one thing she finds the most important to her is seeing two of her former players – Trisha Bates and Julie Nicks-Irvine – move on into coaching and then officiating.
“That has always meant a lot to me they had a positive experience with the game in high school to carry it on for a lot of their lives,” Hamer-Smith said.
She added the payback over the years has been well worth it.
“I appreciate all the opportunities I’ve been given as an athlete and a coach then now as an official,” Hamer-Smith said. “It’s been really a great opportunity.”
Williams’ officiating days began further than just 20 years ago.
His began referring basketball when he was in college at the University of Wyoming.
“A group of guys decided to go to an officiating meeting based on a flyer that had been posted at the university,” Williams said.
Unfortunately, some of those early years didn’t count toward his years of service.
It wasn’t until this second or third year of teaching at Southeast before he got into football officiating.
“When I started working in Southeast, Jason Vowers and Marv Haiman talked to me about for a couple years,” Williams said.
After putting them off, he decided to give it a go.
After working a soap scrimmage in Torrington, he ended up getting a call to help work a Cheyenne East and Green River game, and that became his first official game.
Last Saturday, Williams officiated his sixth state championship game, working the Pine Bluffs and Shoshoni game. He said, working those games never gets old.
“It’s always awesome. Five of the six I’ve been fortunate to work have been at War Memorial, and that’s just cool,” Williams said. “I can’t imagine there isn’t a kid in the state who wouldn’t want to play on that field. It’s the same way with officials.”
The other game was in 2020, a game between Cheyenne East and Thunder Basin.
“The wind was blowing 70mph plus in Cheyenne, and it was the COVID year, so they were playing them at the home school sites,” Williams said. “The bleachers blew out on the field, and it was one of the most unique games that you’ll never forget.”
Besides the championship games, there are two other moments he points to, highlighting his time as an official.
One was a state semifinal football game between Cheyenne East and Sheridan in Sheridan when Tevis Bartlett was a senior for East.
“It was one of the best games I’ve ever officiated,” Williams said. “It was just highly competitive and very intense. It was a great atmosphere. Sheridan is a great place to work anyways.”
The second are the road trips.
“The thing that sticks out to me the most are the road trips,” he said. “The time in the vehicle with those guys, no matter who you are traveling with, it gives you some time away and a mental break.”
Williams attributes his longevity in officiating to Mike Jennings.
“The man is amazing. I don’t know how many officials he has mentored over the years,” he said. “I would consider him my mentor. I’ve been in this long as I have because of him.”