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KSEN and K96 in partnership with Bozeman Trophy held their annual Athlete of the Year Banquet and Awards last night at the Marias Valley Golf and Country Club. Rocky Erickson spoke to those in attendance and every Athlete of the Week was presented with their plaque.

A big thank you to our sponsors, First State Bank of Shelby, 3 Rivers Communications, Bell Motor Company, Big Sky Drug Testing, Billman's Home Decor, Billman's True Value, BTI Feeds, CHS, Cut Bank Tire, Glacier Electric Co-operative, Grizzly Auto Repair, KW Insurance, Leavitt Group, Liberty Safes, Mark's Tire, McNair Furniture of Rudyard, Mountain Front Agency, Mountain View Windows, Norman's Sport and Western, Pizza Hut, Springhill Auctioneers, Dr. Mark Stanchfield, Stockman Bank, Torgerson's LLC, United Country/First Choice Realty and Village Dining and Lounge. We'd also like to thank Rocky Erickson for joining us and everyone who attended the evening.

Our finalists included
Emma Gunderson, Senior, Choteau Bulldogs, September 30, 2021; along with a talented group of teammates, have taken Choteau to an undefeated conference record and close to undefeated overall. In the highly anticipated match against Townsend, who had beaten the Bulldogs in a short match in a pre-season Tournament, Choteau was able to pull out the first set 25-21. They lost the 2nd but then blew them out in game 3 and game 4. In the match Gunderson threw up 5 aces, knocked down an amazing 18 kills and dug up 9 balls off the floor. Choteau also won the Mid-Season Tournament in Choteau and Gunderson played strong again with at least one pressure kill late in the match against Jefferson County who they had lost to earlier but came back to defeat in the Championship match.

Claire Bucklin, Sophomore, Sunburst Refiners, March 16, 2022, April 6, 2022; because this was just too good to go unnoticed, we backtracked a bit to name Sunburst So. Claire Bucklin our female Athlete of the Week. In the opening game of the 10C District Tournament, the Refiners Guard broke loose with 35 points from 5-2pt field goals, 4-3’s and 13-15 from the free throw line. Sunburst Coach Tyler Tharp says she’s a “heckuva player” and they weren’t able to confirm that 35 was a school record, but they did know it was a record at least back to the early 90’s or late 80’s. Bucklin was not immune to scoring, she had two 28-point games during the regular season and averaged well into double figures, but when the tournament began, she stepped it up even one more notch. Claire caught the attention of local fans and possibly the whole state when she stretched out a 16-foot, 3.75” long jump at the Snow Bird meet in Fort Benton. That jump broke a Sunburst school record that had been in place since 1979 when Kristie Hesla jumped 16’1”. It’s early, but Bucklin’s jump is so far the best among Class C competitors and just inches away from the top ten in the State. But that wasn’t all there was, she also won the 200m dash and took second place in both the 100 and 300m hurdles. The 36 points from Bucklin along with teammate Nikki Nau’s win in the 1600 and 2nd in the 3200 gave the Lady Refiners a 3rd place team finish. Claire was also a Top 10 finisher at #10 in the State X-Country meet in 2021.

Ada Bieler, Junior, Choteau Bulldogs, October 27, 2021 a leader and mainstay on the Choteau Bulldogs Volleyball team which has won another 1B Conference Championship with an undefeated conference record. Jr. all-around standout, Ada Bieler is always clutch under pressure and builds up the numbers in sort of a routine way. In a match against Cut Bank last week, she recorded 9 kills, 3 blocks and 14 digs. In the match against 2nd place Shelby, she had at least 10 kills. Choteau won both matches in 3-straight. She was selected as an All-Conference, All-State player at the end of the season

Rhett Reynolds, Senior, Shelby Coyotes, October 6, 2021; January 20, 2022, March 3, 2022 Turned in a rare performance and with that performance most likely secured a 1st round playoff spot for the Shelby Coyotes. The wide receiver and defensive end not only has the size but also demonstrates great athletic ability with speed and focus. Of course, in regard to the night he had we have to give due credit to senior quarterback Taylor Parsons who continually delivered passes on target 4 times to Reynolds for touchdowns. The longest, a 65-yarder late in the 2nd quarter. Two more touchdown catches in the second half and a short run late in the game gave Reynolds 5 touchdowns total. He had 13 receptions all together for 231 yards. Add to those 9 tackles and 2 sacks from the defensive end and Shelby head coach Mike White said it was one “of the best games I've seen in quite a while.” Another massive scoring night and with all the shots he took, he missed only once. Rhett Reynolds, Shelby’s 6’9” post racked up a season high 39 points against division rival Malta Saturday. 11 of those 39 came in the 4th quarter as the mustangs who trailed most of the way would not give in and the Coyotes kept right on feeding inside to Reynolds and while the points were one thing, the manner in which they came was even more impressive, 17-18 from the field. Rhett was also big on defense with 17 rebounds including 10- defensive and 7-offensive boards. He added 2 steals and 2 blocked shots with one of those blocks coming in the key 4th quarter as Malta was making their final run. Shelby head coach Tom Reynolds said he felt like Rhett stepped it up and made some plays when they needed it late in the game. In his words, “he’s doing a lot of good things for us,” which might be a major under statement from a humble coach. Reynolds also has a 38-point game to his credit this season and his teammates continue to seek him out with great passes that lead to scores. Rhett averaged a double-double in scoring and rebounds in the 4 games of the Northern B Divisional with his best effort in the game that mattered most against Rocky Boy Sat. night…….26 points and 13 rebounds. That performance gave Shelby 3rd place and another trip to the State B Tournament in Bozeman next week. Reynolds has been very good all season long with a season high 39 and 17 rebounds against Malta in the regular season. We would like to point out that his teammates, especially all of the starters have become very adept at passing to Reynolds. When you see those OneTouch dunks or soft layups, those passes have to be near perfect and the players around him have done it time after time with pinpoint accuracy

Austin Vanek, Senior, Cut Bank Wolves, October 20, 2021, December 29, 2021, February 16, 2022; a “hardnosed, old-school kid.” Cut Bank Head Football Coach Dylan Johnston says his Sr. running back and middle linebacker, Austin Vanek has especially been a great tackler on defense. In Cut Bank’s near upset of #1 Fairfield last Fri. night, Vanek ran the ball 18 times for 90 yards, but his real impact was on defense where he recorded 10-solo tackles, 2 assists and one tackle for a loss. He is averaging 15 tackles per game for the Wolves whose defense has kept them in the game and given them a chance for victory this year. The defending State Champion swept his way through the talented CMR Holiday Classic at 182 pounds and remains undefeated on the season. Among his opponents to go down to defeat were the #1 ranked Class A wrestler from Havre and 3rd ranked AA Wrestler from Billings West. Cut Bank Head Coach Cody Fetters makes a bold statement about Vanek saying, “I think he can beat anyone in his weight class, whether it be AA, A, B or C. In some regards he’s already gone along ways to proving that and Coach Fetters says he’s trying to get him some matchups with the current #1 & #2 in AA. Vanek, meanwhile works like a dog year-round, and in the Coaches words, “he really never stops wrestling all season long, attending off-season tournaments, camps and practices throughout the year. Cut Bank Sr. Austin Vanek wins his 2nd Straight State Wrestling Championship at 182 LBS. At the beginning of the season, probably no one would have denied that Vanek would win another Championship, but if you had said that 40 of his 41 wins would be by pin, that might have raised some eyebrows. But that is the way it turned out and his last pin in the State Championship match was necessary for the Cut Bank Team to pass Jefferson by a half-point and finish in 2nd place. Head Coach Cody Fetters told us “I knew he was going to win but didn’t know if it would be by a pin, even though he said Austin probably knew.” He said we decided not to say anything to him and let the chips fall where they may” They fell on the Wolves side as Vanek pinned his opponent in the 1st period and ended another incredible season with 41 wins and 0 losses, 40 of those wins by pin.

Kellen Doheny, Senior, Dutton/Brady Diamondbacks, November 10, 2021; February 23, 2022; has been one of the Sr. leaders for this team all season and according to Head Coach Tom Tranmer, “he sees the field really well, is an unselfish player and we’re fortunate to have him.” In the quarterfinal matchup with White Sulphur Springs, Doheny completed 17 of 26 pass attempts for 230 yards and 2 TD’s. He’s also a defensive back and the Titans punter where he may have completed the play of the day, the only time the team had to punt. A 57-net yard punt for a touchback. Coach Tranmer says it really was a “great kick” In the Titans 1st playoff game against Tri-Cities, Doheny threw 4 TD passes and caught a pass for a TD. When it came time for basketball, Doheny Scored and rebounded in bunches. When asked about the overall performance, Diamondbacks coach Tyson Anderson was quick to say “he had a huge weekend for us,” as the diamondbacks played in the district championship game. In this case the numbers speak for themselves as Doheny opened the tournament with 32 points, 16 rebounds and went 6-10 from the three-point line. Coach Anderson says “he was warm.” In the semi-finals against sunburst, Doheny scored 15 points and continued to be a dominant rebounder with 12. In the championship game, 29 points and 10 rebounds with a double-double average for the tournament. Coach Anderson says, “all in all he just had a great weekend for us.”

And, at the end of the evening, the Male Athlete of the Year Honors went to Rhett Reynolds of Shelby and Austin Vanek of Cut Bank. Our Female Athlete of the Year is Ada Bieler of Choteau.