Confusion, 'shock,' as fans and athletes learn of state tournament cancellation - Casper, WY Oil City News
Oil City News Logo

Confusion, ‘shock,’ as fans and athletes learn of state tournament cancellation

Casper Events Center staff turn people away after the 2020 Wyoming State High School Basketball Tournaments were cancelled on Thursday, March 12, 2020. The events were cancelled a day after the first reported case of coronavirus was reported in Wyoming. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – Natrona County High School junior Ruby Salazar was on the court with her teammates warming up for their quarterfinal game against cross-town rivals KWHS on Thursday morning.

“One of the administrators went on the microphone and said that the whole state tournament had been cancelled,” said Salazar.

“We have four seniors on the team and they’re really bummed out,” she said.

Article continues below...

Parents and fans flowed out of the Casper College Swede Erickson Gym on Thursday morning during what was supposed to be the first day of the 2020 4A/3A High School State Basketball Championships.

A sign allowing only staff and athletes was posted on the Casper College Swede Erickson Gym on Thursday morning before the state tournament was cancelled. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

While the first games of the day were underway, the Natrona County Health Department announced that only athletes and support staff would be allowed inside the venues.

The move follows a wave of sporting and entertainment event cancellations across the country as the coronavirus, or COVID-19 rapidly spreads. The first confirmed case in Wyoming was announced on Wednesday evening.

But just as the first games ended, word started to spread that the entire tournament was “postponed” indefinitely.

People who were trying to enter the gym were locked out, including media. Casper Police and Casper Events Center security stood by, passing along news to the outside as they heard it.

“We got our game in, and then it was done,” said Ciera Birch of Green River, who watched her daughter play Cheyenne Central this morning.

“They told us at halftime, but they didn’t tell the players thankfully,” she said. “The players found out as soon as the game ended.”

“My daughter’s a senior, so we were all crying when we found out we couldn’t watch her anymore,” said Birch, “and then it turned to shock when we found out it’s just over.”

“We have our hotel but we’re trying to decide what to do now,” said Birch. “If we have no more games to watch, we might as well go home.”

Mark Gates came to watch his granddaughter play for Kelly Walsh, but paused outside the gym as people left.

“I know the Cody athletic director, and he came and told me there’d be no more spectators,” said Gates. He found out later about the cancellation.

Gates said he’s not surprised, considering the number of events and sports that have been called off or closed to spectators around the country.

“I was hoping we’d get through it, but I had an inkling that this would happen,” he said.

“I don’t know how they’ll make (the games) up, I feel like it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Birch.

“We’re going to keep practicing and hoping that we’ll get to play them again,” said Salazar. “We really wanted to play them.”

While disappointed about the cancellation, Gates took longer view.

“Sports are great, but people’s lives and health are more important,” he said.

NOTE: A previous version of this story said that Casper College security staff turned people away from the gym on Thursday. That is incorrect. The security staff at the gym was provided by the Casper Events Center and the college did not have a role in the decision. Oil City regrets this error.

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email:

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.