Best of Preps: Spring 2022

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

By Micah Drew and Denali Sagner; photos by Hunter D'Antuono and Sarah Mosquera
Photos by Hunter D'Antuono and Sarah Mosquera | Flathead Beacon

Gabe Menicke

SCHOOL: Whitefish
CLASS: Senior
HIGHLIGHTS: Two-time state triple jump champion, school record: 46 feet, 10.75 inches

Gabe came into his senior season as the defending champion in the triple jump, with a target on his back but big goals to leap for. “All season I was working on different things, trying to put all the technique together, but there was always something off,” Gabe said. His jumps all season were solid — he never lost a competition — but stagnant, hovering just below the Whitefish school record. At state, a competitor’s initial jump exceeded Gabe’s lifetime best, putting on the pressure, but everything he’d been working on clicked at the perfect time. On his first jump Gabe launched himself almost 47 feet into the sand pit — nearly 18 inches beyond his lifetime best and his nearest competitor. “I knew I had it right then, and it felt so good,” Gabe said. His other highlight from the season also came from the state meet where he surprised himself with a third-place finish in the 400 meters, dipping under 51 seconds for the first time.

Scout Nadau

SCHOOL: Bigfork
CLASS: Junior
HIGHLIGHTS: School record in the shot put, third place at state

For Scout, this season’s track and field Western B & C Divisional meet was an intense one. After scratching her first two throws, Scout was neck and neck with the second place shot putter. When the Bigfork High School junior stepped up to the circle for her final throw, though, she was able to change the game. Scout threw 38 feet 6.5 inches to secure the win, beat her own personal record and break Bigfork’s school record. Scout’s win helped carry Bigfork to victory, winning the divisional meet. Scout hopes to keep the wins coming to Bigfork next year as a senior. After the team placed third in the Class B state meet this spring, Scout is determined to capture the state championship next season. While she’s looking forward to a bit of down time this summer, she’s already thinking about taking the team to first place next spring. “I think we can pull it off with hard work.” 

Talon Holmquist

SCHOOL: Whitefish
CLASS: Senior
HIGHLIGHTS: All-class leader in the shot put, school record: 57 feet, 8.5 inches

The 12-pound metal shot put looked diminutive cradled against Talon’s neck as he wound up in the throwing circle at the state track meet. Then with a grunt and an explosion of force he launched it nearly 60 feet through the air. He didn’t need to do a second throw— he won the meet by a full nine feet right there — but he took them all anyways. “Your biggest throws never feel like big throws,” Talon said. “All three of my first throws were over 57 feet, but then I could feel the adrenaline wearing off.” As a senior, Talon worked to not only defend his state title, but break Whitefish’s school record which took the whole season to achieve. “The season progressed well, with small improvements each week. All the technique, the strength, the footwork, it all started to come together and by the end I could feel I was ready. Then add in the adrenaline at Divisionals and State, and that was it.”

Aspen Dawson

SCHOOL: Columbia Falls
CLASS: Junior
HIGHLIGHTS: 32 runs, 1st team all state

When asked about the highlight of her season, two-time all-state softball player Aspen offers a quick answer: beating the Polson Pirates, last year’s champions. The early-season Polson game is “what drove us to beat every single team that came our way,” Aspen said. Even though she’s only a junior, Aspen’s record is one to beat. The star player hit a .540 this season and secured 32 runs. “Aspen’s a really solid, tough player. She was our best hitter this year and we were a hitting heavy team this season,” Wildkats coach Dave Kehr said. While Columbia Falls had two regular season wins over Polson they lost to the Pirates in the state tournament, ending up with a fourth-place trophy, which Aspen said is motivation to come back stronger next spring. For her senior season, Aspen is looking forward to being a good role model for younger players on the team and, of course, securing a state title.

Mason Kelch & Aaron Dicks

SCHOOL: Whitefish
CLASS: Sophomore/Senior
HIGHLIGHTS: Northwest A Divisional doubles title, State 3rd place

Aaron and Mason had never played together on the tennis court, but some last-minute switching by coach Chris Schwaderer brought them together the week before the Class A divisional tournament. “Our first match together was down in Corvallis. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a match and we just rolled with it from there,” Mason said. “Aaron’s energy is so high it just gets me going as soon as we step on the court.” Aaron and Mason made the most of their chemistry, playing off their strengths, working to cover any weaknesses between them and surviving a marathon number of matches to finish third at the state tournament. “They just came together as a team quickly. It was a great example of an older, experienced player who could take charge and a younger, talented player who was very responsive,” Schwaderer said. “The stamina and guts it takes to outlast every opponent to get to third is so high, but those guys had it.”

Chloe Raats, Afton Lambrecht, Coralyn Shillam & Danika Bucklin

SCHOOL: Bigfork
CLASS: Sr., So., Sr., So.
HIGHLIGHTS: Sweeping the 4×100 and 4×400 relays at state

Bigfork track and field coach Sue Loeffler says the mentality of her women’s sprinters “is just unreal.” This season runners Danika, Chloe, Afton, Coralyn and Lily Tanko (not pictured) carried Bigfork to victory at the Class B track and field state championships not once, but twice. The girls finished first in both the 4×100 and 4×400 relays, an impressive feat. The trio of Chloe, Danika and Afton ran in both races, with Lily as a part of the 4×100 team and Coralyn on the 4×400. The runners swept the relays with a school record 50.19 in the 4×100 and a 4:08.67 in the 4×400. “Qualifying for state was a big thing for us,” Coralyn said. At the divisional meet, the Bigfork sprinters blew past the competition in the 4×400, beating the second place team by 10 seconds. “They believed in themselves and knew they needed guts. And they had guts,” Coach Loeffler said. “I just don’t know how those girls did what they did.” For Chloe, Danika and Afton, winning in the two races was a season-defining moment. “It was cool to go for both the relays and win,” said Chloe, who will be continuing her track career as a sprinter at Carroll College in the fall. As underclassmen, Afton and Danika are looking forward to carrying on their winning streak next season. “We’re graduating two seniors off of both relays,” Danika said, “So hopefully Afton and I can bring it back into state and get on the podium.”

*Lily Tanko was unavailable for photos

Tate Kauffman

SCHOOL: Glacier
CLASS: Senior
HIGHLIGHTS: Class AA state champion in the triple jump.

Tate finished out his high school track and field career with a bang this season, winning the triple jump at the Class AA State Championships in Butte in late May. Although Tate faced tough competition from rival jumpers throughout the meet, he secured his title by three inches on his final jump. That last jump — 45 feet, 6.75 inches — was the best of his career. Tate helped the Wolfpack finish as the meet’s runner-up, earning their fourth track and field trophy of the decade. Winning was “probably the best feeling in the world, running around and hugging everybody,” Tate said, adding that the victory felt especially rewarding because he grasped it on his final turn, as the competition was coming down to the wire. He placed second in the state championships last year, “So it felt good to get up on No. 1.” Tate will be continuing his track and field career in the fall as a jumper for Carroll College. He’s not sure what the next chapter holds, but he’s excited to find out and to keep jumping.

Brooke Zetooney

SCHOOL: Whitefish
CLASS: Sophomore
HIGHLIGHTS: State champion: 100m, 200m, 4×100, 4×400; runner up 400m

As a freshman, Brooke pulled off a stunning upset victory in the 100m at state over decorated teammate Mikenna Ells. Crossing the finish line first gave her a taste for winning that she will not give up. Once, twice, thrice, four times Brooke was the first person across the line at the state meet this year, sweeping the short sprints and running on both of Whitefish’s winning relays. The race that stood out to her the most though was the only one she finished second in, her 59.52 400m. “I achieved everything I’d hoped for, but I wasn’t expecting to do that well in the 400. To be able to PR was just so awesome on top of everything else. Hopefully I can come back and do the same thing next year.” The 48 points Brooke contributed were key to the Bulldogs’ team victory, made even sweeter as the sendoff for coach Kelliann Blackburn. “This was really a last hurrah for Coach B. We wanted to win that for her.”

COLIN wade

SCHOOL: Bigfork
CLASS: Sophomore
HIGHLIGHTS: State golf runner-up

“It was the first tournament when I got third that I realized I could win state,” said Colin, whose initial goal before the season began was improving on last year’s 10th place finish. “I was way more consistent this year and my misses weren’t nearly as far off.” At state Colin had a good overall tournament but saw some issues on the putting green. “That seemed to be my weakness. I wasn’t making bad puts, but they just weren’t going in.” As a rising junior, Colin is looking toward an unusual future for his high school career — next year he will aim to win the Class B title, but as a senior his golf season will swap to the fall when Bigfork moves up to Class A. “I’ll miss the courses in Class B, but with winter as preseason, it’s harder to stay tuned up and it’s almost like starting over again each spring. Playing a whole summer before that senior season will make me so much better.”

Erin wilde

SCHOOL: Whitefish
CLASS: Senior
HIGHLIGHTS: State high jump, 4×100 champion; third place long jump

The final competition of Erin’s high school track career was her signature event: high jump. The only problem was that it came at the end of the second day of the Class A state meet, after she had run two heats of the 4×100 relay (Whitefish won), finished seventh in the triple jump and finished third in the long jump with her hamstring beginning to bug her. “I went in super nervous because my legs were just exhausted. Then I missed my first attempt a 5-02, where I normally feel really good, which just added to it.” Erin finished runner-up in state as a freshman, and fourth as a junior and wanted to end on the highest note possible. After clearing 5-03 and winning the state title, Erin ratcheted up the bar to 5-07¼ to attempt a lifetime best, and while she missed all three attempts, she’s already got her eyes on greater heights next year when she competes for the Griz.

Sam Ells

SCHOOL: Glacier
CLASS: Senior
HIGHLIGHTS: Completed the distance triple at the state meet, finishing 1st, 2nd and 2nd in the 1600m, 800m and 3200m.

Sam is the latest iteration of the Flathead Valley’s line of distance running supremacy. At the Class AA state meet he scored 26 for Glacier, racing all three distance events. First up was his favorite event, the 1600m, and when Sam crossed the line in first all he felt was relief. “I wasn’t positive I had it until the last few meters,” Sam said. “I’m really happy to finally get a state championship. It’s been a long time coming.” Sam only lost four of his 18 races this season, including his 1:54.45 runner-up finish in the 800m at the state meet, which broke the Glacier school record. His state championship 4:15.57 1600m was also his third time breaking Glacier’s school record for that event. He now sits sixth on the all-time Montana list, and is looking to follow in the footsteps of Montana greats when he competes for Montana State University next year. “I don’t know what I’ll focus on in college, but that four-minute barrier is definitely on my mind.”

George Bucklin

SCHOOL: Bigfork
CLASS: Senior
HIGHLIGHTS: High jump champion

Watching George arch backwards over a high jump bar jacked up above his head it’s astounding to think that this was the first year he really tried his hand at jumping. “I was mostly a sprinter in high school but wanted to have a fun event for my senior season and high jumping looked fun,” George said. “I went 6-04 in the first meet and figured I should keep going.” Bigfork has a history of producing great high jumpers including last year’s Wyatt Duke, who jumped 6-09. “After every meet I’d call Wyatt and talk it through, and the night before state he called me to hype me up,” George said. At state, George had a scare when he missed two attempts at what should have been an easy clearance at 6-02. “I knew I didn’t want it to end there.” During the last round of jumping, the entire crowd paid attention — they put all events on hold and delayed the national anthem. “You could hear a pin drop, and then the whole stadium began doing a full clap for my jump.” The fervor lifted George over a 6-07 bar and to the top of the podium.

Dylan Zink

SCHOOL: Flathead
CLASS: Senior
HIGHLIGHTS: Runner-up triple jump, long jump

In 50 years of coaching track, the hardest workers stand out the most in coach Dan Hodge’s mind, and Dylan was one of the most dedicated athletes he’s seen. That dedication and work ethic paid off over the last four years. As a freshman, Dylan only competed in the long jump and his season ended at the divisional meet in last place. “To go from last place at that meet to second place at state, that’s a huge improvement over four years,” Dylan said. “Obviously I wanted to win both, but being the only athlete to podium in both was so cool.” Beyond his own competitive drive, Dylan loves the atmosphere that exists with track and field athletes. “I love seeing all the kids out here do well, I’m psyched every time a teammate gets a new best,” he said. “The environment in track and field isn’t as serious as other sports. Everyone’s personalities really shine and you can see genuine reactions to not only people’s own PR’s but their competitors’ successes.”

More Stars


Caleb Bernhardt, Glacier, senior, 2nd 110 hurdles/3rd 300 hurdles 
Jake Turner, Glacier, senior, 5th 400/2nd 4×100 relay/6th 4×400 relay/5th long jump
Connor Sullivan, Glacier, senior, 2nd 4×100 relay/6th 4×400 relay
Xavier Stout, Glacier, junior, 2nd 4×100 relay/6th 4×400 relay
Jackson Hensley, Glacier, junior, 2nd 4×100 relay
Ethan Anderson, Glacier, freshman, 6th 4×400 relay
Trevor Burke, Flathead, junior, 4th 4×400 relay
Wyatt Thompson, Flathead, junior, 4th 4×400 relay
Kesler Hughes, Flathead, senior, 4th 4×400 relay
Brody Thornsberry, Flathead, sophomore, 4th 4×400 relay/4th long jump
Henry Sellards, Glacier, sophomore, 5th shot put
Aiden Krause, Glacier, sophomore, 2nd discus
Reuben Hornby, Glacier, senior, 6th javelin
Carter Bullins, Flathead, sophomore, 3rd triple jump
John Pyron, Glacier, senior, 4th triple jump
Ty Olsen, Glacier, junior, 5th triple jump


Lili Rumsey Eash, Flathead, sophomore, 5th 1600/3rd 3200
Noah Fincher, Glacier, sophomore, 5th place 4×400 relay
Kiera Sullivan, Glacier, sophomore, 5th place 4×400 relay
Bailey Gable, Glacier, sophomore, 5th place 4×400 relay
Sidney Gulick, Glacier, senior, 3rd 300m hurdles/5th 4×400 relay
Kai Johnson, Glacier, sophomore, 3rd shot put
Taliana Miller, Flathead, junior, 4th javelin
Kennedy Moore, Flathead, sophomore, 4th high jump
Rylee Thompson Flathead, sophomore, 3rd triple jump


Hailey Ells, Whitefish, sophomore, 4th 100m/2nd 200m/3rd 400m/3rd 300 hurdles/1st 4×100 & 4×400 relay/3rd high jump
Ally Sempf, Columbia Falls, sophomore, 5th 100m/3rd 200m/4th 4×100 relay/3rd 4×400 relay
Isabelle Cooke, Whitefish, sophomore, 4th place 800m/1st 4×400 relay
Maeve Ingelfinger, Whitefish, sophomore, 4th 100m hurdles/6th 300m hurdles
Rachael Wilmot, Whitefish, freshman, 1st 4×100 & 4×400 relay
Emma McAllister, Columbia Falls, sophomore, 4th 4×100 relay/4th pole vault
Hannah Sempf, Columbia Falls, senior, 4th 4×100 relay/3rd 4×400 relay/2nd pole vault. 
Alexis Green, Columbia Falls, senior, 4th 4×100 relay/3rd 4×400 relay place triple jump
Siri Erickson, Columbia Falls, junior, 3rd 4×400 relay
Rebekah Walker, Columbia Falls, senior, 6th pole vault/3rd triple jump


Malaki Simpson, Columbia Falls, sophomore, 4th 100m/5th 4×100 relay/3rd 4×400 relay
Deneb Linton, Whitefish, sophomore, 3rd 3200m
Jace Duval, Columbia Falls, junior, 5th 4×100 relay/3rd 4×400 relay
Adam Schrader, Columbia Falls, junior, 5th 4×100 relay/3rd 4×400 relay
Adler Waters, Columbia Falls, sophomore, 5th 4×100 relay
Bodie Smith, Whitefish, senior, 3rd place 110 hurdles/2nd 300 hurdles/4th 4×400 relay/6th long jump
Finley Sundberg, Columbia Falls, junior, 3rd 4×400 relay
Gabe Lund, Whitefish, senior, 4th 4×400 relay
Barrett Garcia, Whitefish, senior, 4th 4×400 relay
Bryce Dunham, Columbia Falls, junior, 3rd javelin


Jack Jensen, Bigfork, sophomore, 2nd 800m/2nd 1600m/3rd 3200m
Isak Epperly, Bigfork, junior, 4th 110 hurdles
Wyatt Johnson, Bigfork, sophomore, 5th 110 hurdles
Joseph Farrier, Bigfork, junior, 5th 100m/4th 4×100 relay
Trevor Hill,  Bigfork, sophomore, 4th 4×100 relay
Jackson Abney, Bigfork, senior, 4th 4×100 relay
Levi Peterson, Bigfork, junior, 4th 4×100 relay/6th triple jump
Levi Taylor, Bigfork, senior, 3rd shot put
Braeden Guse, Bigfork, senior, 3rd discus


Lily Tanko, Bigfork, senior, 6th 300 hurdles
Emma Pouwers, Bigfork, junior, 4th long jump
Zoey Albert, Bigfork, junior, 2nd javelin
Inga Turner, Bigfork, junior, 3rd 100 hurdles/4th high jump


Sarah Downs, Glacier, 5th place girls doubles
Haven Spear, Glacier, 5th place girls doubles
Harrison Sanders, Glacier, 5th place boys singles
Anyah Cripe, Whitefish 5th place girls singles
Joe Brandt, Whitefish 4th place boys singles
Caden Leonard, Bigfork, 3rd place boys doubles
Blane Barrows, Bigfork, 3rd place boys doubles
Emma Berreth, Bigfork, 5th place girls doubles
Annika Ranson, Bigfork, 5th place girls doubles


Ella Farrell, Glacier, sophomore, 2nd Team All Conference
Kenedie Goudette, Glacier, sophomore, 1st Team All Conference
Sammie Labrum, Glacier, senior, 2nd Team All Conference
Macy Craver, Flathead, senior, 2nd Team All Conference
Layne Vessar, Flathead, sophomore, All Conference Honorable Mention
Alli Keman, Glacier, senior, All Conference Honorable Mention
Emma Cooke, Glacier, sophomore, All Conference Honorable Mention
Maddie Moultray, Columbia Falls, sophomore, All State
Syd Mann, Columbia Falls, junior, All State
Haden Peters, Columbia Falls, sophomore, All State
Haylee Lawrence, Columbia Falls, sophomore, 2nd Team All Conference
Demye Rensel, Columbia Falls, sophomore, 2nd Team All Conference
Aletheia Fisher, Columbia Falls, senior, All Conference Honorable Mention

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