A word from Woytek

Once a Cowboy, Always a Cowboy…

Jim Woytek

With the hallways of Gunnison High School once again buzzing with teenagers, it is sobering to consider the overwhelming sadness that must have been felt in the same halls five decades ago this Saturday, September 11th. This week, our community remembers the victims of the horrific bus crash on Monarch Pass fifty years ago, just as our Homecoming celebrations return to honor our present students and all of those who have worn the red and black. 

Last year, two graduating Seniors, Rylie Robbins and Brayden Wilkerson, worked together to create a sign in memory of the eight student-athletes and one coach who lost their lives on 9/11/71. It carries the phrase, “Once a Cowboy, Always a Cowboy,” along with the names Broadwater, Cooper, Dutton, Graham, Hall, Maw, Miles, Pasqua, and Floyd. That phrase will hopefully become part of the vernacular for current students and alumni, alike, as community members will see it on the backs of every current student’s Cowboy t-shirt this year. It will also be spotted driving north on 11th Street, thanks to Senior Rori Kattnig’s project that has created an improved entrance to Cowboy Memorial Stadium. And, we end every class meeting, pep-assembly, and staff meeting with the phrase, highlighting our respect for a shared identity as Gunnison Cowboys.

During the first two weeks of school, I have had the privilege of speaking with students about the significance of Homecoming 2021 (or, if you are now accustomed to social media, #HoCo2021). Not only is it an honor for all of us to play a role in the 50th Anniversary Memorial of 1971, it is also exciting to introduce traditional Homecoming activities to half of our student body. Our Sophomore class experienced what student council dubbed “HoCOvid” last year, but there is nothing quite like the energy created by a week punctuated with a pep assembly, a parade, athletic events, and a dance. It is an exciting time for all of us at GHS. 

Homecoming traditions date back to the turn of the 20th century and the football game was always the focal point of welcoming alumni back to high school and college campuses. Over the years, these traditions expanded to include parades and dances, and in Gunnison, GHS Homecoming has long been a community celebration. Last year, the annual parade was cancelled, there was no dance, and many of the typical athletic events were postponed or altogether cancelled. Our student body willingly gave up so many of these rites of passage for the good of public health and safety. I am proud that all of us have made sacrifices for the common good in the midst of the pandemic, though it has taken a toll on teenagers and school culture to do so. 

This year, we are excited to once again invite you all to Main Street for the Homecoming parade. We have had a wonderful week of honoring our players on the softball diamond and the soccer pitch, and Saturday’s volleyball game is sure to have a full Student Bull Pen cheering on our Cowboys. Our GHS Cross Country team opens their season on the 11th, running in Alamosa, and we are just over a week past seeing our Golfers atop the tournament hosted at Dos Rios. And of course, in true Homecoming fashion, we are gearing up for the football game. 

On September 11, Cowboy Memorial Stadium will be filled with spectators who will not just be planning to cheer on our boys as they face off with Grand Valley High School. The crowd will be there to honor eight young men and a coach whose lives were cut far too short in the tragic bus accident on the east side of Monarch Pass. It will be more than a football game for survivors, family, and friends. And for our student body, it will be the first time in 698 days since the Bull Pen is allowed to find their place in the stands at Cowboy Memorial to rally behind the football team. It will be a momentous day for the school community, and for Gunnison. I hope you will join us.

We have talked a good deal about what it means to be a Gunnison Cowboy in class meetings the first two weeks of school. For alumni and staff, we feel a deep sense of pride for our school and our town. Our goal at GHS is to foster our commitment of Respect, Integrity, and Excellence in every student who walks our hallways and dons the red and black. We ask our students to “ride for the brand,” to acknowledge their place in our storied history, while forging ahead on their own path. We have talked a lot about the fact that, being Gunnison Cowboys does not make us better than any rival, but that it certainly makes us different. There is a past filled with heartache and triumph that only we share. We are connected by a rich tradition that is distinctly Gunnison’s. We are ready for

Homecoming. Join us this week as we unite behind a rallying cry of, “Once a Cowboy, Always a Cowboy.”