By Sammi Carpenter
Staff writer

CASPER, Wyo. – Ten hours, 33 minutes, that is how long it takes to get from Hutchinson to Casper.

The 2024 NJCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Championship was held in Casper this year and the Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball team got the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Many Blue Dragon fans made the trip to Casper to support the women’s team. One of the fans that made the trip from Kansas is Max Ontjes, son of Hutchinson coach John Ontjes.

Hutchinson Community College president Carter File helps cut down the net Monday at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper, Wyo.

“I came from Manhattan, Kansas. It was a pretty smooth road trip, I went to Hutch to grab a car then I headed here. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. The whole crowd got into the game, everybody was yelling ‘defense.’ It was a blast.” Ontjes said, “I am extremely proud of my dad and the other coaches and team. It was awesome.”

The tournament was held at the Ford Wyoming Center, which can hold a maximum of 8,842 people for basketball games. Though the center was not sold out, the fans who were able to make the trip cheered like it was sold out.

HutchCC Athletic Director Josh Gooch loved how fans showed their support.

“For our games, it was exciting. Blue Dragon fans love to travel, so I am not surprised by how many came to support. We had a send off from the hotel with over 50 people (Monday),” Gooch said, “I know that the fans who couldn’t make the trip were still watching and still supporting. That is why I love Blue Dragon Nation.”

Sophomore AJ Weninger also made the trip to Casper to help stat the games.

“I was helping with stats to put on the NJCAA because they did not have a person to help so I made the trip here. With working the game I wasn’t allowed to cheer which was hard but our team definitely had support,” Weninger  said. “The fan environment was amazing. I was surprised by how many Hutch fans came out here, and it was amazing to see all of them cheering, even when we were down.”

Hutchinson Community College president Carter File was also seen in Casper.

“The Blue Dragon fans have always traveled well. We have an amazing fan base,” File said. “It is a bit of a juxtaposition. This is the first women’s championship we have ever won and it is in my last year of president. It is very sweet and something I will always remember.”

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