PAVILLION – Early Thursday morning the Commons Room at Wind River High School was busier than it normally would be during the late summer months. That’s because there was not one, but two Cougar student athletes signing with colleges after four years of success in sports. 

Wind River’s JayCee Herbert and Wylie Shearer, both of whom were major factors and assets to the Cougars’ 2A Regional Championship victory on the court this season, signed their letters of intent alongside their families and their coaches. Herbert, a supremely fast track star, was also a huge force of nature on the Cougars’ football team which started off the year 6-0 before falling in three of their last four. 

Wind River’s Herbert signed his letter of intent with his entire family with him in the Commons Room at WRHS (p/c Shawn O’Brate)

Herbert signed his letter of intent to continue his stellar track and field career at the Montana State University – Billings (MSUB) location, preparing him to wear the Yellowjackets’ colors after this month. 

“I took a few tours of their campus and it just felt right, I feel like it’s the perfect place for someone like me,” Herbert said after signing. “I’ll miss the closeness of [Wind River] and Pavillion, everybody knows everybody here.”

The future Yellowjacket currently holds the school records in the 100-meter dash (11.20 seconds), 400-meter dash (50.62) and helped the Cougars’ 1600-meter Sprint Medley Relay team set the record at 3:43.19 alongside his brother Remington who has one more year left at Wind River. 

Shearer was also dominant for Wind River in his own way, putting the Cougars’ basketball team on his shoulders in many games during last season’s State Championship run. The tall forward put together the best statistical game of the year last year for any 2A player when he put up 37 points against Shoshoni. 

Shearer signed with a smile alongside his brother, grandma and mother (p/c Shawn O’Brate)

Now, Shearer hopes to bring some of that dominance to Bottineau, North Dakota where he signed a letter of intent to play for the Lumberjacks of Dakota College at Bottineau. 

“I hope to just work hard and give them whatever they need, whatever they want me to do,” Shearer said. “I want to bring everything that Coach [Justin Walker] taught me throughout my four years … my competitiveness, my pace pushing up the floor, my work ethic, my attitude, everything.”

The big man led the Cougars in points per game (17.9), rebounds per game (9.2) and blocks per game (0.5). These averages also propped Shearer into the top five across all of Class 2A basketball, placing him fifth in both points and rebounding averages.That paired extremely well with Herbert who led the team in steals (96) and free throw attempts (123), Herbert also finished second in Class 2A in steals per game (3.7). 

Both Cougars were physical creatures heading to the hoop, never fearing anything as they put their head down and bum rushed through the defense, much like how Herbert did during the football season as well. 

Wind River’s Jaycee Herbert sprinted around the corner during the boys 4×400-meter race (p/c Carl Cote)

Even though Herbert doesn’t plan on continuing his football career at MSUB, his stats from last year should still be mentioned as he was one of the better players in all of Wyoming’s 9-Man Football conference despite being injured for the last few games. 

Herbert was second only to Cooper Frederick (2,028) in total yards, putting up 1,163 yards of offense to go along with his 14 touchdowns. He led the team in receiving yards (184) and averaged 73.6 rushing yards per game in the two-headed monster of a backfield next to Frederick. 

Both Herbert’s football and basketball coach described what the track star will bring with him to college in Montana, and both used very similar wording. 

“His leadership, it’s always been there ever since the first day I met him,” Coach Walker said about his point guard. “He’s always been a leader of young men, I don’t expect that to change much.”

“JayCee’s competitiveness is a huge part of who he is,” Wind River football coach Rod Frederick said about Herbert. “He’s always go, go, go, go and he wants to just do it all as fast and as strong as he can.”

Meanwhile, Coach Walker described Shearer’s similar attitude on the basketball court as a “quiet competitiveness” that he knows he’ll bring to Bottineau. It’s that quiet competitiveness that helped Shearer sneak past defenses and reach 1,000 career points for the Wind River team.

Wind River’s Wylie Shearer and head coach Justin Walker stood for a photo on the floor in Pavillion as Shearer was recognized for breaking the 1,000 career point mark. (p/c Carl Cote)

Both Cougars will head their separate ways after four years of playing with each other, passing each other in the hallways and having fun with each other. But both will also be leaving the Wind River basketball program as Regional Champions and leaving their high school sports careers with the Cougars in a much better position than when they first arrived. 

BY: Shawn O’Brate