GILLETTE – On Sept. 16, 2001 eight members of the University of Wyoming cross country team perished at the hands of a drunken driver as the team returned from a meet in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The accident hits close to home to the Torrington High School cross country team.
Torrington High School assistant cross country coach Kelsey Grant lost her brother Shane Shatto on that day.
Along with Shatto, Justin Lambert-Belanger, of Timmins, Ontario; Cody Brown, of Hudson, Colorado; Kyle Johnson, of Riverton; Joshua Jones, of Salem, Oregon; Morgan McLeland, of Gillette; Kevin Salverson, of Cheyenne; Nicholas Schabron, of Laramie also lost their lives.
“For my family, even though it’s been 20 years, it still feels like yesterday,” Grant said. “Having these sorts of events, I’m just so excited that the boys’ memories are staying alive.”
Last Thursday, marked the 20th anniversary of the accident, which happened 17 miles south of Laramie on U.S. Highway 287. This year also marked the 11th annual Memory of the 8 run in Gillette, a run which takes place every Sept. 16.
The Torrington cross country team was scheduled to compete in Alliance, Nebraska last Saturday, but Grant and head coach Gerald Wilmoth decided to take the team to Gillette for the memorial run instead.
“Gerald and I discussed how it would be pretty cool to take our team up to that event with my brother being one of the athletes who passed away on that day,” Grant said. “It meant a lot, not only to be able to coach them, but have them be apart of it with me and my family.”
Nearly 400 competitors took to the course, which winds its way through the cemetery and past the grave site of Morgan McLeland. The run featured runners of all ages, including other teams from around the area, along with many of the family members of the fallen athletes.
Debbie McLeland, the mother of Morgan McLeland, helps organize the event which helps raise awareness for the dangers of drunk driving, and Governor Mark Gordon was on hand to speak at the event.
“We do these runs to remind everyone to drive sober,” Grant said. “They are pledging to drive sober when they do these runs and to keep the boys’ memories alive.”
Out of the nearly 400 competitors, Blazer junior Ayden Loya finished third last Thursday.
The Blazer cross country teams are back in action Sept. 24 in Casper at the Glen Legler Invite.