Cut Bank was dangerously close to missing its chance to be the first banner hung in their section at the state wrestling meet. 

The bus pulled up to the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark just past 2:30 p.m. Thursday, but earlier had just made it through a section of highway between Eddie's Corner and Harlowton before it was closed due to weather

"Once more teams start getting them up, it's hard to find a spot for your team," said team manager Katelynn Larson. 

Banners supporting teams and individual athletes have long transformed the walls among the Metra's seating into a homecoming week-like tapestry. Competition for space has historically been intense, with team supporters racing to get their posters up first. 

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff
Cut Bank wrestling team managers Abbi Fitzpatrick, left, and Katelynn Larson hang a team banner at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Thursday, February 8, 2018.

"Some of the parents get a little rowdy," said Great Falls CMR High senior and team manager Emma Tovson. 

This year was relatively orderly, at least in the early stages of banner hanging. That was helped by pre-assigned sections for schools, divvied up by a pair of parents.  

"It's unenforceable, but we all try to be kind to one another," said Billings West parent Kimberly Braaton. 

Along Section 12, she hung posters with blown-up photos of individual athletes, including her son, Hunter. Since AA schools were slated to wrestle on mats near the center of the arena, large schools were keen to get corresponding sections, she said.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff
Kimberly Braaton hangs team banners for Billings West at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Thursday, February 8, 2018.

"For a lot of us, this has been what we've done every weekend for the last 12 years," Braaton said. 

Schools used a mix of screen-printed banners and homemade signs. While Tovson and other CMR managers hung a large printed banner, other students tacked up homemade, glittery posters celebrating individual athletes. 

"It shows support and shows where we're sitting," said CMR junior Morgan Hollar. 

"Our parents are usually the biggest, I would say," Tovson chipped in. 

The banners are something of a beacon for athletes to know where their cheering sections are. 

"It's fun having a good support group of parents and fans," Larson said. 

For West High, it was Braaton's first year in charge of hanging banners. 

"We just want everyone to have a good time this weekend," she said. 

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