Sports

Best of Preps — Winter 2021

Recognizing the winter's top high school athletes from throughout Flathead County

By Micah Drew

Teegan VASQUEZ

SCHOOL: Glacier
CLASS: Sophomore
STATE TOURNAMENT: Champion 120 pounds

Teegan Vasquez won his second state championship after taking the title at 113 pounds as a freshman, tying him with his older brother. Two down, two to go, as Teegan attempts to claim his place as the most decorated Vasquez yet, a huge feat in a family of talented grapplers. After watching his older sister Tilynne wrestle for years, Teegan had a front row seat to the first year of sanctioned girls wrestling in Montana as 20 girls joined the Wolfpack squad. “It was pretty dang cool to see that many girls wrestling with us,” Teegan said. “It made the team and coaching dynamic so amazing, just on every level.” At the state meet, Teegan continued what was a nearly flawless season, winning his first three matches by fall and taking the championship match by major decision 8-0. “It was super exciting just to go out and wrestle this year,” he said. “It already felt like winning just getting to be on the mats.” 

Ethan FREUND

SCHOOL: Flathead
CLASS: Sophomore
STATE TOURNAMENT: Champion 126 pounds

Ethan’s family moved to the Flathead last fall to ensure he had two things: the opportunity to attend school in person and a great wrestling program to join. He found both at Flathead, where he was the team’s only individual champion in his first-ever state tournament. Despite going undefeated all season, Ethan wasn’t sure what to expect at state. “I was super nervous going into the first match — it was my first state meet!” he said. “I was mentally prepared by day two, and in the final I just spaced out and wrestled.” He won the championship match with a 5-3 sudden victory against a three-time defending champion from Billings. Now his goal is to hold on to his win streak and tack on more titles. “Moving here was kind of awkward being the new kid at school and on the team,” Ethan said. “But these guys are my new best friends.”

Lily MILNER

SCHOOL: Flathead
CLASS: Junior
EVENT: 100 Freestyle, 100 Backstroke

In the words of Lily Milner’s high school coach, “The water just moves out of her way.” Lily exploded onto Montana’s swimming scene as a freshman, finishing a close second in the 100 and 200 freestyle. Now a junior, Lily is a double-double state champion after winning the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke in back-to-back state meets with huge margins of victory. Lily went into the state meet knowing that, as the defending champion, she had a target on her back, but she didn’t let that faze her. Her sizzling time of 50.98 in the freestyle was nearly three seconds faster than her nearest competitor, and twice her winning margin from 2020. In the backstroke, Lily’s time of 56.58 was also more than two seconds clear of the field. “I wanted to get my hand on the wall first, and then I just tried to sit there and enjoy the moment of everyone else coming in to the wall,” she said. “It was just pure relief.”

Ellie KELLER

SCHOOL: Glacier
CLASS: Senior
POSITION: Guard

Ellie said she put in lots of extra work over the last year with the goal of being more of a shooter. That work paid dividends during her senior season with the Wolfpack. Ellie led her team in scoring eight times throughout the regular season, including a team high of 22 points in a game against Helena, which just happens to be her jersey number. In addition to scoring, where Ellie ranked fifth in the state, her offensive stats were impressive across the board. Ellie’s name is on the state’s the top 10 list in assists (3.29), steals (3.14) and free throws, where she ended the season as No. 1 having made 53-67 shots. But the Wolfpack were far from a one-woman show, with six experienced seniors on the court. “We had such an experienced team this year, and we’ve all made such gains from our first years together,” Ellie said. “We just had all the right vibes this year.”

Ada QUNELL

SCHOOL: Whitefish
CLASS: Junior
EVENTS: 100 Medley, 500 Freestyle

Whitefish junior Ada Qunell didn’t swim from March through June of last year, after her trip to a regional meet was canceled due to the pandemic. Upon returning, Ada threw herself into training full-heartedly. “I’ve been more motivated than ever and pushing myself more,” she said. The work paid off as Ada defended her Class A/B state title in the 200 individual medley (2:09.12) for the second time, while also picking up a win in the 500 freestyle (5:14.27) and anchoring two third-place relay teams. Ada has also won state titles in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly in previous years, leading her club swim coach, Major Robinson, to call her “a jack of all trades — she can swim anything.” Now that the high school season is over, Ada is turning her attention to regional and national swim meets. “After not having had much competition in almost a year, it’s super exciting to swim and the competition is so fun.” 

Gabe ADAMS

SCHOOL: Flathead
CLASS: Senior
POSITION: Forward/Center

At 6 feet, 5 inches, it’s hard to imagine Gabe being anything but a varsity basketball player, but when he was towering over his teammates on the freshman team, he was seriously considering his future in speech and debate. Now he’s aiming for a collegiate career on the court. His last season playing for the Braves was his best — and had the best team dynamic he says he’s experienced. After a “disheartening” 2019-2020, in which the Braves only eked out three wins, Gabe says that new head coach Dirk Johnsrud has made a huge impact on the players and elevated positivity on and off the court, which led to an upset crosstown victory over the Wolfpack in January. “The team just had this natural movement with the ball this year and we were really clicking together,” Gabe said. “Everyone was playing together and there was a flow going. That’s why I love the game.”

Logan BOTNER

SCHOOL: Whitefish
CLASS: Junior
EVENTS: 100 Butterfly, 500 Freestyle, 200 Freestyle Relay, 200 Medley Relay

Logan Botner claims he was out of shape this season — he did take nearly nine months off from swimming last year —but he still added to his collection of individual and team medals at the Class A/B state meet. Logan won the 100 butterfly (54.49) and the 500 freestyle (5:15.43) well clear of his closest competitors and contributed to two podium-topping relays for the Bulldogs. Logan attributes some of his success to taking a more relaxed approach to swimming this year and trying to have more fun with the sport. While the Bulldogs missed defending their team title, the group dynamic, especially on the relays, was a highlight of Botner’s season. In the 200 freestyle relay, the Bulldogs narrowly edged rival Columbia Falls by .65 seconds. “The free relay was pretty nerve wracking going into it,” Logan said. “It was so close but we definitely all started freaking out as soon as I touched the wall and we saw we had it.” 

Hannah Schweikert

SCHOOL: Columbia Falls
CLASS: Senior
POSITION: Guard

“After last year, we were all pretty hungry this year,” Hannah said of a Wildkats team determined to return to the state tournament after a fluke season in 2020. “We came on stronger and stronger every day.” Columbia Falls went undefeated during the regular season and through the divisional tournament, before their 20-game win streak was snapped at state. “I wouldn’t take anything back. I left it all on the court those last games.” Hannah led Class A in scoring at 16.5 points per game during the regular season, scoring a total of 247 points in her final season. The senior was also an all-state volleyball player for the Wildkats and will play that sport at Carroll College, but she leaves basketball behind after putting together easily her best season on the hardwood. 

Sophi LOGUE

SCHOOL: Bigfork
CLASS: Junior
EVENTS: 100 Butterfly

Last year, Sophi Logue made Bigfork history by snagging the first individual state title in school history with a win in the 100 butterfly. This season, nine years after Bigfork fielded its first swim team, Sophi helped the Valkyries make history again as Bigfork made the podium for the first time at the Class A/B girls state swim meet. Sophi defended her title in the 100 butterfly (1:05.77) and had a personal best in the 100 backstroke to take second. “There was definitely a lot of pressure on me as the defending champion; I knew that everyone wanted to beat me but I had so much support from the team and the coaches,” Sophi said. She swam in two relays that medaled as well, but was most excited about her runner-up finish in the 100 backstroke. “My backstroke was what blew my mind, though,” she said. “That’s a huge PR [personal record] that I wasn’t expecting.”

Weston PRICE

SCHOOL: Glacier
CLASS: Senior
POSITION: Forward

Weston Price was part of a dynamic offensive crew that helped the Wolfpack earn a berth to the state tournament for the first time in three years by downing No. 2 Hellgate with a narrow play-in victory. “I wanted to take on the role of leader and top scorer for the team,” said the 6-foot-5 senior. Weston took to that role with ease, topping Glacier in scoring in half of the Wolfpack’s regular season games and finishing second in scoring in another two. He put up at least 20 points in four games, including 21 points during the second Kalispell crosstown game where the Wolfpack avenged an earlier loss to Flathead. “I grew up playing with my friends and I’m glad we made it to state, even though it was a hard loss.”

Fin NADEAU, Asher KEMPPAINEN, Noah POE-HATTEN

SCHOOL: Flathead
CLASS: Junior, Junior, Sophomore
STATE TOURNAMENT: Runners-up at 152, 132, and 160 pounds

The Braves hosted the state wrestling tournament, and a trio of runner-up performances ensured that the team trophy stayed right here in Kalispell. Three Brave Brawlers lost close matches to miss out on individual titles: Asher lost a 10-3 decision in the 132-pound final, Noah was unable to repeat an early-season win over Big Sky’s Hunter Meinzen at 160, and junior Fin Nadeau, at 152, was a runner-up for the third season. “I was ready to get that state title finally,” Fin said. “It was a tough loss, but I’ve also never been part of a team like this year’s.” Asher took his loss as a sign to kick it in even harder next year. “I just want to wrestle as much as possible now,” he said. While Flathead went undefeated in the regular season duals, and had a point lead going into the second day of state, it wasn’t until the 126-pound match was decided that the Braves knew they were going to take the team title. “There’s been a cool energy at Flathead High School ever since that tournament,” Fin said.

Gracie SMYLEY

SCHOOL: Whitefish
CLASS: Senior
POSITION: Guard

Growing up in Whitefish, Gracie was indoctrinated into the crosstown rivalry against Columbia Falls. Since moving back to the Flathead as a sophomore, she had two goals for her basketball team: beat the Wildkats and make it to the state tournament. Gracie helped her team accomplish both goals as the Bulldogs qualified for state for the first time since 2008 and handed Columbia Falls its second loss of the season, 46-38, to advance to the consolation final and ultimately finish fourth. “The team just had a different intensity — more people had drive and wanted to work hard than ever before,” Gracie said. The senior was a high-scoring power source for the Bulldogs, averaging 15.6 points per game, the third highest in the state, while making 70% of her shots from the free throw line. 

Allec KNAPTON

SCHOOL: Columbia Falls
CLASS: Senior
POSITION: Forward

An all-state wrestler-turned-basketball player, Allec pulled off a season double-double, averaging 10.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a senior on a Columbia Falls team that started the season 2-0. Even though the Wildcats would win just four more games the rest of the way, including an end-of-season, single-point victory to break a seven-game losing streak, Allec came away from this season feeling better about the program and the future. “We have such a young team and we came out hot at the start of the season,” he said. “I tried to show the younger kids that you can’t be afraid out there.” While Allec just missed his goal of earning an all-state distinction in a second sport, he’s looking forward to the spring track season where he throws discus and shot. “Whichever season you’re in, it’s about just putting in the hours, even if you don’t always like it,” he said.

Shelby THOMPSON

SCHOOL: Bigfork
CLASS: Senior
EVENT: 50 Freestyle

When Shelby Thompson moved south from Alaska to the Flathead last year, she wasn’t sure what to expect from the swimming community. What she found was a team of dedicated swimmers who were ready to take the Bigfork program to the next level. “It was a great experience to just come in and have a new team be so welcoming,” Shelby said. “A lot of swimmers never thought it would be possible to do that well, but all the stars aligned for us to make Bigfork history.” Shelby was instrumental in helping Bigfork make the podium for the first time in the program’s history by winning the 50 freestyle with a time of 26.05 and then doubling back to take second in the 100 freestyle. Shelby also helped Bigfork take second in two relays, which secured enough points to push the Valkyries to second place at the Class A/B state meet. “I am just so proud of this team and how they performed when they needed to,” she said.

More Honors

Girls Wrestling

Class AA

Aleeya Derlatka, Flathead, Senior, 2nd 145 lbs.
*Aleeya was selected as a featured athlete as the highest placing girls wrestler from the Flathead, but was unavailable for a photo*

Alyssa Poe-Hatten, Flathead, Senior, 3rd 103 lbs.

Hania Halverson, Flathead, Junior, 4th 113 lbs.

Trinity Bolvin, Flathead, Sophomore, 6th 120 lbs.

Mckenna Mcccarthy, Glacier, Freshman, 5th 145 lbs.

Boston Howell, Flathead, Freshman, 6th 170 lbs.

Lucille Libby, Flathead, Freshman, 6th 205 lbs.

Boys Wrestling

Class AA

Cade Gardner, Flathead, Sophomore, 4th place 120 lbs.

Logan Stansberry, Flathead, Freshman, 6th place 120 lbs.

Anders Thompson, Flathead, Freshman, 4th place 138 lbs.

Gabe Lake, Flathead, Sophomore, 3rd place 145 lbs.

Cade Troupe, Flathead, Sophomore, 4th place 145 lbs.

Chase Youso, Flathead, Junior, 3rd place 170 lbs.

Ryan Nelson, Flathead, Senior, 6th place 182 lbs.

Gaige Winter, Flathead, Senior, 6th place 205 lbs.

Rocco Beccari, Glacier, Senior, 5th place 285 lbs.

Class A

Nathan Sproul, Whitefish, Senior, 5th place 113 lbs.

Justin Windauer, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, 2nd 126 lbs.

Lucas Thacker, Columbia Falls, Senior, 3rd 160 lbs.

Josh Bertram, Columbia Falls, Senior, 3rd 182 lbs.

Boys Swimming

Connor Cheff, Columbia Falls, Junior, 1st 200 medley/ 2nd 200 freestyle relay/ 2nd 100 breaststroke

Jack McDaniel, Whitefish, Sophomore, 1st 100 freestyle/ 2nd 50 freestyle/ 1st 200 medley relay/ 1st 200 freestyle relay

Derek Smith, Glacier, Junior,6th place 200 freestyle/ 5th place 400 freestyle relay/ 6th place 200 freestyle relay

Isaac Keim, Glacier, Freshman, 5th place 50 freestyle/ 6th 100 backstroke/ 5th place 400 freestyle relay/ 6th place 200 freestyle relay

Xander Stout, Glacier, Sophomore, 5th place 100 butterfly/ 5th place 400 freestyle relay/ 6th place 200 freestyle relay

Drew Bouda, Glacier, Junior, 5th place 400 freestyle relay

Jakob Sonderegger, Glacier, Sophomore, 6th place 200 freestyle relay

Aaron Dicks, Whitefish, Junior, 1st 200 medley relay/ 1st 200 freestyle relay/2nd 100 backstroke/ 4th 100 breaststroke

Ben Dalen, Whitefish, Senior, 3rd 50 freestyle/ 2nd 100 butterfly/ 1st 200 medley relay/ 1st 200 freestyle relay

Adam Schrader, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, 2nd 500 freestyle/ 2nd 200 freestyle relay

Jonathan Blankenship, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, 6th 500 freestyle

Peyton Malmberg, Columbia Falls, Senior, 2nd 200 freestyle relay/ 3rd 100 breaststroke

Thane Borgen, Columbia Falls, Freshman, 3rd 100 backstroke

Girls Swimming

Eden Flake, Glacier, Junior, 4th place 50 freestyle/ 2nd place 100 butterfly/ 6th place 400 freestyle relay

Lexi Gladeau, Glacier, Freshman, 6th place 400 freestyle relay

Madison Taylor, Glacier, Freshman, 6th place 400 freestyle relay

Emma Lane, Glacier, Sophomore, 6th place 400 freestyle relay

Sydney Slawter, Bigfork, Junior, 3rd 50 freestyle/ 2nd place 200 medley relay/ 2nd 200 freestyle relay/ 3rd 100 backstroke

Allie Reichner, Bigfork, Senior, 2nd place 200 medley relay/ 2nd 200 freestyle relay

Emerald Templin, Columbia Falls, Senior, 3rd 500 freestyle/ 5th 200 medley/ 4th place 200 medley relay

Eloise McKeon, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, 5th 200 freestyle/ 4th place 200 medley relay/ 6th 200 freestyle relay

Norah Bagley, Columbia Falls, Freshman, 5th 100 butterfly/ 4th place 200 medley relay/  6th 200 freestyle relay

Kaylee King, Columbia Falls, Sophomore, 6th 50 freestyle/ 5th 100 freestyle/ 4th place 200 medley relay/6th 200 freestyle relay

Linnea McCrady, Whitefish, Sophomore, 6th place 200 medley relay

Patricia McDaniel, Whitefish, Senior, 6th place 200 medley relay/ 3rd 400 freestyle relay

Nia Hanson, Whitefish, Junior, 3rd 200 freestyle/ 2nd 100 butterfly/ 6th place 200 medley relay/ 3rd 400 freestyle relay

Rayna Mercer, Whitefish, Sophomore, 6th place 200 medley relay/  3rd 200 freestyle relay

Kay Weaver, Whitefish, Sophomore, 4th 50 freestyle/ 3rd 200 freestyle relay/ 3rd 400 freestyle relay

Emi Qunell, Whitefish, Freshman, 3rd 200 freestyle relay

Jolie Friar, Columbia Falls, Freshman, 6th 200 freestyle relay

Boys Basketball

Joston Cripe, Flathead, Junior, All-State

Hunter Hickey, Flathead, Senior, Western AA Honorable Mention

Jaxsen Olsen, Glacier, Senior, Western AA Honorable Mention

Jace Hill, Columbia Falls, Freshman, All-State

Bodie Smith, Whitefish, Junior, 1st Team All-Conference

Jayce Cripe, Whitefish, Senior, Northwest A Honorable Mention

Isak Epperly, Bigfork, Sophomore, All-State

Corman Benn, Bigfork, Senior, 1st Team All-Conference

Bryce Gilliard, Bigfork, Sophomore, 2nd Team All-Conference

Walker Fisher, Bigfork, Senior, 2nd Team All-Conference

Girls Basketball

Claire Converse, Flathead, Junior, 2nd Team All-Conference

Emma Anderson, Glacier, Senior, Western AA Honorable Mention

Maddie Robison, Columbia Falls, Junior, All-State

Brook Smith, Whitefish, Senior, 1st Team All-Conference

Lakia Hill, Columbia Falls, Senior, 2nd Team All-Conference

Mikenna Ells, Whitefish, Senior, Northwest A Honorable Mention

Lauren Falkner, Columbia Falls, Senior, Northwest A Honorable Mention

Jadi Walburn, Whitefish, Junior, Northwest A Honorable Mention

Emma Berreth, Bigfork, Junior, 1st Team All-State

Madison Chappius, Sophomore, 2nd Team All-State

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