Best of Preps — Winter 2019

The top high school athletes from Flathead County


Junior | Forward | Glacier High School

In one offseason, the 6-foot-3 post went from one of the few underclassmen on a senior-laden team to one of the centerpieces, both on and off the floor, for a rebuilding Wolfpack squad this year. Drew, still just a junior, averaged 10.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, leading Glacier in all three categories. Next season, barring a major growth spurt that catches him up to his 6-foot-11 dad, former UM star Daren, Drew is working to expand his game away from the basket and bring the Wolfpack back into the state title picture. “I’m looking forward to (next year),” he said. “I think our goal’s definitely going to be to make it to state and hopefully take home a trophy.”

Ryley KEHR

Senior | Guard/Forward | Columbia Falls High School

One of only three senior regulars on a young Wildkats team, Ryley and her classmates turned what could have been a rebuilding season into the winningest one of all time at Columbia Falls, quite an achievement for a program that ranks among the state’s very best. The Wildkats won a school-record 25 games this year, thanks in no small part to Ryley’s 15.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and finished third at the state tournament with three hard-fought wins in two days after a blowout loss in the opening round. “We talked about how we can either come ready to play … or we can just roll over and die and just go home,” she said. “But we didn’t want to go home, so we decided to battle back.”


Senior | Guard | Bigfork High School

A four-year starter at point guard, Anders racked up more than 200 assists in three of his four seasons and totaled 805 in his career, a new all-class Montana record. More than anything, though, the 5-foot-10 dynamo will go down as one of the state’s most prolific winners, guiding the Vikings to back-to-back state championships in 2018 and 2019, and a four-year record of 89-10. After going undefeated as a junior, Anders and the Vikings came into this season with a target on their back, something that made another title that much sweeter. “This one was definitely more rewarding,” he said. “At the end of the day, we got every team’s best shot and we still got to the top.”


Senior | 500-yard freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke | Whitefish High School

The Montana High School Association changed the format of the state swim meet this year, putting competitors in Class A-B in a separate race than the state’s largest schools for the first time. The new format gave swimmers like Annie a better opportunity to stand atop the podium and she took full advantage, winning two state titles and leading the Bulldogs to the team championship for the second time in three years. Annie swims year-round with her club team and hopes to remain in the pool at a to-be-determined college next year. “Swimming just has a very special community,” she said. “You get to work on it so much … And when you finally see improvement it’s really rewarding to be like, ‘Oh look, I shaved off a couple of seconds.’”


Senior | Forward/Center | Flathead High School

An imposing presence in the post for four years with the Bravettes, Taylor was one of the few interior players on an otherwise undersized team this year and wound up averaging nearly a double-double at 13.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. The 6-foot senior was an all-state volleyball player for the Bravettes and will play that sport in college at Montana Tech, but Taylor leaves basketball behind after putting together easily her best season on the hardwood. She scored more points as a senior (238) than in her previous three years combined. “I think that we had good things happening (this year), besides not winning a lot,” she said. “It was a fun team and fun coaches.”


Senior | Forward/Center | Whitefish High School

A tremendously gifted athlete and future University of Montana football player, Dillon was hoping to end his basketball career by bringing Whitefish to the state tournament for the first time in a decade. Alas, the Bulldogs fell one win short of that goal, but the 2018-19 season was a resurgent one for a program that had been mired near the bottom of the standings for years. Dillon and classmate Lee Walburn provided a potent 1-2 punch for Bulldogs, who won nearly as many games (15) as the previous three seasons combined (16). “I think we turned the program around quite a bit,” he said. “We have a new coach (Scott Smith), and hopefully he’s there for a while, hopefully he can build a program.”


Junior | Forward | Bigfork High School

The loss of a large class of seniors meant Ansleigh was going to take on a bigger role this season no matter what, but her stabilizing presence became even more important early in the year when Valkyries coach Jami Grende and her daughter, point guard Rakiah, were away from the team. When the Grendes returned, Bigfork made a late-season push and even upset District 7B champion Eureka at the divisional tournament before falling one win short of state. “We were faced with a lot of obstacles this year but we pushed through and I feel like we did the best we could,” she said.


Sophomore | Forward/Center | Flathead High School

Before a middle-school growth spurt, Gabe thought he was destined for Flathead’s speech and debate team. But ever since a pair of coaches brought him to the hardwood, basketball has become an obsession. The 6-foot-5 big man was on the Braves’ freshman team a year ago and, by his own admission, took a while to find confidence and comfort as a varsity player. Once he did, the sophomore became an adept finisher at the rim, leading the team at 8.6 points per game, and showed off a nice shooting touch, sinking nearly 76 percent of his free throws. “There was a point where I had to get past my nerves and get out of my head,” he said. “And I think it really wasn’t until probably the last couple games where it started clicking.”


Junior | 285 pounds | Columbia Falls High School

The state tournament was a chance not just for Taylor to bring home a title, but also to avenge two of his three defeats during a terrific junior season. The heavyweight did both in Billings, pinning Eastern A divisional champion Keegan Mires of Glendive in the semis and taking down Browning’s Wacey Zuback late in the final. Zuback had won the Western A divisional just one week earlier, out-pointing the Columbia Falls junior to do so, but at MetraPark Taylor took Zuback to the mat late in the third period to set off an emotional celebration. “I wrestled smart, didn’t do any bad moves, and I wrestled to win,” he said. “It was sweet. Probably the best feeling I’ll ever feel.”


Senior | Forward | Glacier High School

The two-sport star put a bow on her long and fruitful high school career by leading the Wolfpack to the state tournament for the third year in a row and helping Glacier win a game there for the second straight season. As impactful as she was on the court in both volleyball and basketball, Kali drew at least as much praise from her coaches for her off-court contributions, including in the classroom. The daughter of a pair of Division I college athletes, Kali will continue her basketball career next season at MSU-Billings. “We had a very successful season,” she said. “We accomplished a lot of what we were trying to do, had some great wins and had a lot of fun together, for sure.”


Senior | Guard | Columbia Falls High School

There were not a lot of wins for the Wildcats to celebrate this year, but one game in particular will be unforgettable for Drew, who led his team in points, rebounds, steals and 3-point percentage. Columbia Falls trailed Corvallis 47-45 at home on Jan. 26 with five seconds remaining and the ball in the backcourt when, after a timeout, a teammate found Drew behind the 3-point line and he canned a triple at the buzzer to give the Wildcats their third and final win of the year. “My whole life I’d made no game-winning shots and I’ve had like 10,” he said. “But he drew me up a play and it went in. I executed it right and it went in for once.”


Senior | 200-yard freestyle, 200-yard individual medley | Glacier High School

A standout in the pool even before she enrolled in high school, A.J. brought her acclaimed prep career to a close with another state title (200 free) and second-place (200 IM), giving her four top-two finishes in the last two years. A.J. will swim at Division I Northern Colorado next year, achieving a career goal to compete at the top collegiate level, and clearing a path for Kalispell’s next elite swimmer, Flathead’s Lily Milner, who finished less than a second behind A.J. in the 200 free. (Flathead and Glacier’s teams train together). “I wanted to make sure everyone on the team was really excited before their races,” she said. “If they needed help, I just wanted to be there. It was kind of a big role for me this year.”


Senior | Forward/Center | Whitefish High School

The 6-foot-1 post won’t be able to get physical with the opposition quite as much next year when she’s playing volleyball full-time at MSU-Northern, but her last season of basketball should tide her over for a while. A two-year captain, Marlee averaged 7.5 rebounds per game and blocked 27 shots as a senior on a Whitefish team that started the season 2-0. Even though the Bulldogs would win just two more games the rest of the way, Marlee still came away from this season feeling better about the program and the future. “It was definitely how much better we did than in previous seasons,” she said. “I know four (wins) isn’t a lot, but it’s definitely more than we’ve had in a while and it was against a few tough teams.”

Clayton & Colton REICHENBACH

Seniors | Guard (Clayton)/Forward (Colton) | Bigfork High School

The identical 6-foot-2 twins may have different games on the court — Clayton’s a shooter, Colton’s a bruiser — but they both were invaluable to the state-champion Vikings, especially at the state tournament. In the championship game, it was Clayton’s 12 first-half points that kept Bigfork alive after a miserable start and Colton’s free throws that sealed the win in the closing seconds. The twins, who won a state tennis doubles title together last year, both were named all-state this winter and drew high praise from their classmate and floor general. “I would put them up there as the two best defenders in the state,” Anders Epperly said. “We probably wouldn’t be where we are without them these last two years.”

More Stars

Boys Basketball

Lee Walburn, Whitefish, Senior, Class A All-State

Logan Gilliard, Bigfork, Senior, Class B All-State

Randy Stultz, Bigfork, Senior, District 7B Second Team

Luke Schmit, Bigfork, Senior, District 7B Second Team

Sam Hovde, Columbia Falls, Senior, Northwest A Honorable Mention

Sam Menicke, Whitefish, Junior, Northwest A Honorable Mention

Ryan Kemm, Whitefish, Senior, Northwest A Honorable Mention

Girls Basketball

Trista Cowan, Columbia Falls, Senior, Class A All-State

Izzy Santistevan, Bigfork, Junior, District 7B First Team

Aubrie Rademacher, Glacier, Junior, Western AA Second Team

LaKia Hill, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, Northwest A Second Team

Josie Windauer, Columbia Falls, Junior, Northwest A Second Team

Heidi Schneller, Bigfork, Senior, District 7B Second Team

Rakiah Grende, Bigfork, Senior, District 7B Second Team

Emma Berreth, Bigfork, Freshman, District 7B Second Team

Jenna Johnson, Flathead, Junior, Western AA Honorable Mention

Wrestling — Class AA

Brendan Barnes, Flathead,  Junior,  3rd place,  126 lbs.

Fin Nadeau, Flathead, Freshman, 2nd place, 132 lbs.

Zaybin Stewart, Flathead, Sophomore, 5th place, 160 lbs.

Tanner Russell, Flathead, Junior, 2nd place, 170 lbs.

Paxton Boyce, Flathead, Junior, 5th place, 182 lbs.

Sebastian Koch, Flathead, Senior, 6th place, 205 lbs.

Tre Krause, Glacier, Senior, 4th place, 285 lbs.

Wrestling — Class A

Nathan Sproul, Whitefish, Sophomore, 2nd place, 103 lbs.

Thomas Peters, Columbia Falls, Senior, 6th place, 132 lbs.

Dakota Flannery, Whitefish, Senior, 5th place, 138 lbs.

Allec Knapton, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, 6th place, 170 lbs.

Colten McPhee, Columbia Falls, Senior, 2nd place, 182 lbs.

Jakob Freeman, Columbia Falls, Senior, 3rd place, 205 lbs.

Boys Swimming

Alex Bertrand, Glacier, Junior, 5th place 100 backstroke

Jace Reed, Flathead, Senior, 1st place 100 backstroke/2nd place 100 butterfly/5th place 200 freestyle relay

Gary Christianson, Flathead, Freshman, 5th place 200 freestyle relay

Gus DeSouza, Flathead, Junior, 5th place 200 freestyle relay

Ayden Strobbe-Barry, Flathead, Freshman, 5th place 200 freestyle relay

Bain Black, Whitefish, Junior, 6th place 100 breaststroke

Logan Botner, Whitefish, Freshman, 2nd place 100 butterfly/2nd place 500 freestyle

Aaron Dicks, Whitefish, Freshman, 5th place 100 backstroke

Kelvin Dicks, Whitefish, Junior, 5th place 100 breaststroke

Preston Ring, Whitefish, Junior, 1st place 50 freestyle/1st place 100 freestyle

Russell Albin, Columbia Falls, Senior, 3rd place 50 freestyle/3rd place 100 butterfly/4th place 400 freestyle relay

Conner Cheff, Columbia Falls, Freshman, 4th place 200 IM/4th place 100 breaststroke

Peyton Malmberg, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, 5th place 100 freestyle/3rd place 100 breaststroke/4th place 400 freestyle relay

Sam Pierce, Columbia Falls, Senior, 3rd place 100 freestyle/4th place 100 backstroke/4th place 400 freestyle relay

James Role, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, 6th place 200 freestyle/4th place 400 freestyle relay

Girls Swimming

Eden Flake, Glacier, Freshman, 4th place 100 freestyle/6th place 50 freestyle

Lily Milner, Flathead, Freshman, 2nd place 100 freestyle/2nd place 200 freestyle

Nia Hanson, Whitefish, Freshman, 2nd place 200 freestyle/2nd place 500 freestyle/3rd place 200 IM relay/5th place 400 freestyle relay

Helena Kunz, Whitefish, Sophomore, 2nd place 200 freestyle/2nd place 100 freestyle/5th place 200 freestyle relay5th place 400 freestyle relay

Patricia McDaniel, Whitefish, Sophomore, 3rd place 200 IM relay/5th place 200 freestyle relay

Ada Qunell, Whitefish, Freshman, 1st place 200 IM/1st place 100 butterfly/3rd place 200 IM relay/5th place 400 freestyle relay

Lauren York, Whitefish, Senior, 4th place 100 freestyle/3rd place 100 breaststroke/3rd place 200 IM relay/5th place 200 freestyle relay

Jayna Moultray, Columbia Falls, Junior, 6th place 200 freestyle

Emerald Templin, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, 4th place 200 IM/4th place 500 freestyle

If you enjoy stories like this one, please consider joining the Flathead Beacon Editor’s Club. For as little as $5 per month, Editor’s Club members support independent local journalism and earn a pipeline to Beacon journalists. Members also gain access to, where they will find exclusive content like deep dives into our biggest stories and a behind-the-scenes look at our newsroom.