CHEYENNE – Contact tracing related to COVID-19 exposures have forced the Cheyenne East volleyball team to be quarantined for two weeks.

The team has not had any in-person activities since Oct. 9, and it will be eligible to return to the court Oct. 23.

The quarantine has resulted in the cancellation of Saturday’s matches against Campbell County and Thunder Basin in Gillette. The Lady Thunderbirds are tentatively scheduled to return to the court Oct. 23 against No. 1-ranked Laramie.

East hopes to move their Oct. 22 match with Cheyenne South to Oct. 24, athletics director Jerry Schlabs said.

The Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department has told Laramie County School District 1 that contact tracing is showing the bulk of the transmissions aren’t happening at school, but are originating at home, LCSD1 Assistant Superintendent for Support Operations Dave Bartlett said.

“We’ve had kids who have not had their masks on when they’re outside of school, or driving to and from practice and things like that,” Bartlett said. “The health department said we’re seeing a rise in spread across the county. The majority of those kids have been tested, and we’re quarantining people so we can watch symptoms and limit the spread.”

East volleyball is the only team within LCSD1 that has had to be quarantined, Bartlett said.

On Monday, Burns announced it had to alter its football schedule because so many players were being quarantined after positive tests among Burns Junior-Senior High students. Burns is in LCSD2.

The Broncs’ football game Friday in Newcastle has been postponed until Oct. 29. That is the first weekend of playoffs across the state, but the teams agreed to move their game to that date because both have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Burns’ Oct. 23 home game against Torrington has been canceled entirely.

“We were pretty diligent about wearing their masks when this school year started, but I think some people have relaxed,” Bartlett said. “We are emphasizing that we need to be on top of making sure masks are being worn.”

Air quality issues

Last week’s Leroy Sprague Invitational was only the second time Laramie’s Libby Berryhill had run outside that week.

Smoke from the Mullen Fire burning less than 40 miles west of Laramie so greatly reduced air quality in the Gem City that Berryhill and her cross-country teammates were forced to run the halls of their school. Berryhill considered herself lucky because she was able to log additional miles on a treadmill.

“It was nice to be able to race outside for a change,” said the senior, who won the Leroy Sprague Invite. “It’s definitely impacted the way we train. We’re usually outside twice a day, every day. Fortunately, I’ve been able to get on the treadmill and keep my training close to what it would typically be.

“Running inside isn’t optimal, but I was able to keep my mileage up close to what it usually would be.”

The Mullen Fire has burned nearly 180,000 acres, and was 34% contained as of Wednesday morning. Cooler temperatures – and even a little snow – have helped fire crews make progress on containment.

As a result, air quality hasn’t been as much of an issue this week, but it’s still being monitored by school administrators. Air quality indexes greater than 175 particles per million are harmful.

Laramie’s Sept. 25 home football game with Kelly Walsh had to be moved to Sept. 26 in Casper because of poor air quality in Laramie.

Athletes in Cheyenne haven’t been immune to the impacts of the Mullen Fire. Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East and Cheyenne South were forced to postpone volleyball matches Sept. 26 because the air filtration systems the schools have used to combat the spread of COVID-19 were pulling smoky air into the gyms.

Football and cross-country practices were pushed indoors or to the evening, when air quality had improved.

Poor air quality threw the day and location of the Oct. 9 prep football games in Cheyenne into doubt.

While the changes and uncertainty weren’t ideal, athletes rolled with the punches, East cross-country coach Rebecca Fournier said.

“At this point, they’re just happy they get to run, so they’ve almost laughed off any inconveniences,” she said. “They have been really diligent about following (COVID-19) protocols, because that’s what they have to do to compete. They view the smoke as just another wrinkle 2020 has thrown our way.

“The pandemic has really put things into perspective for them. They have been flexible and prepared for anything.”

On the course

The Central, East and South cross-country teams will host the Class 4A East Conference meet at 1 p.m. Friday at North Cheyenne Community Park.

On the court

The Pine Bluffs volleyball team plays at Southeast at 7 tonight, and plays at Lingle-Fort Laramie at 6 p.m. Friday.

Burns travels to Rawlins for a 6 p.m. Friday start.

South’s match with Sheridan that was slated for Friday has been canceled because Sheridan is currently quarantining its volleyball team. The Bison will play at Kelly Walsh at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Central plays Thunder Basin and Campbell County at noon and 4 p.m. Saturday, respectively. Those matches are in Gillette.

In the pool

The Central girls swimming and diving team hosts Campbell County at Kelly Walsh at 4 p.m. Friday. The Lady Indians host Thunder Basin at 8 a.m. Saturday.

South hosts Thunder Basin at 4 p.m. Friday. The Lady Bison will take on East and Sheridan at 9 a.m. Saturday.

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