A calm atmosphere at the border between Wyoming and Colorado masked an anticipation building on both sides for the rapidly approaching annual showdown.
Colorado State University’s Army ROTC cadets arrived at the border — exhausted from their long trek up from Fort Collins, Colorado — shortly before noon Friday.
They were met by the University of Wyoming Army ROTC, well-rested and prepared for the hike to Laramie.
“There’s a lot on the line,” UW Cowboys Coach Craig Bohl said at the border meeting. “Just because you’re rivals doesn’t mean you don’t have great respect and I can tell you our football program has great respect for the Colorado State Rams.”
The gathered crowd included cheerleaders and mascots from both universities, law enforcement from both states and a gaggle of supposedly neutral reporters.
“Doesn’t mean we don’t want to beat the snot out of them,” Bohl added. “That’s going to be the plan, and we’re excited for tomorrow’s game.”
After carrying the game ball from Fort Collins, the CSU cadets passed to UW’s cadets, who would carry it as far as War Memorial Stadium, the location of today’s Border War game.
The border ceremony was the 50th of its kind, marking half a century of the Bronze Boot Run, so named for the trophy UW and CSU battle for each year.
The boot — an actual combat boot encased in bronze a half century ago — was worn by Capt. Dan Romero, a CSU Army ROTC instructor, during the Vietnam War.
UW, which won the Border War in 2016 at CSU, will attempt to retain the Bronze Boot trophy, which UW Director of Athletics Tom Burman said was the best trophy of any college football rivalry.
“Our goal is to keep that trophy in Laramie,” he said at the border to a crowd equal parts Coloradan and Wyomingite.
The UW cadets departed from the ceremony in formation, followed by a mounted color guard and a horse-drawn wagon borrowed from the UW Agricultural Experiment Station, which carried the Bronze Boot trophy.
After the first mile, the cadets carried on, two at a time and running now — one carrying the battalion flag, the other clutching the game ball.
Passing off to a new pair of runners at each mile marker, the cadets ran the game ball, throughout the afternoon, the 26 miles to Laramie.
Nick Kreuzer was one of those cadets and said participating in the Bronze Boot Run was one of the main reasons he chose to attend UW.
“The run went well,” he said. “It was very windy but we toughed through it.”
Ethan Hall, the UW cadet responsible for organizing and overseeing the 2017 Bronze Boot Run, said the run’s 50th anniversary was an important milestone for both universities, which have had a rivalry for more than 100 years.
“I think this is an awesome, super special year because this is a great tradition for both the Army ROTC programs of UW and CSU,” Hall said.
The run ended in Laramie with a parade through the city, replete with police escorts and other emergency vehicles, the wagon and mounted color guard present earlier during the border ceremony and the Double Dub’s military truck.
“I think tradition is huge for Wyoming and we definitely love our traditions here,” Hall said. “We definitely get motivated by things that are part of the football team or that are part of the spirit. We’re representing not just the ROTC program, not just representing the football program, we’re representing Laramie and we’re representing Wyoming and the tradition of the Border War.”