Big Sky State Games 2016 Athletes of the Year are Mary Owen of Billings and Jim Wright of Shepherd. Youth Athlete of the Year is Colter Barnett of Fort Peck.
The Big Sky State Games Team of the Year is “Team Chase” a Volleyball Team from Billings. These awards are designed to recognize individuals who best personify the ideals of the State Games movement: participation, sportsmanship, effort, and positive attitude.
Female Athlete of the Year
Female Athlete of the Year Mary Owen, from Broadus, has participated in five different Big Sky state Games, winning 3 gold medals and two silver in Road Race. She was the overall winner in the 2016 half marathon this year breaking the women’s 19-24 age group record. Mary loves to run, but had no idea how much of an impact the sport would have on her life.
She graduated from MSU-Billings this past spring, obtaining a degree in health and human performance with a mathematics teaching option, and a nearly perfect GPA. Although being a college athlete and student is a fulltime job, Mary still found time to compete in other running events. She won two Governor Cup Marathons, two Montana Marathons, and she won the Montana Women’s Run 5-mile, and has qualified twice for the Boston Marathon.
Notably, as a cross-country and track athlete for the Yellowjackets for four years, Mary was inducted into the Athletic Honor Society. She was also named an honoree to the GNAC Track & Field All-American team four times—only the eighth woman in GNAC history and the first from MSUB, to have made the list four times.
This past year, Mary shared her love of running with younger athletes by serving as an assistant cross-country and track coach at Skyview High School.
Male Athlete of the Year
Male Athlete of the Year Jim Wright has been armwrestling for more than three decades and he’s not slowing down. Since 2000, Wright, of Shepherd has won 34 Big Sky State Games medals, 22 of them Gold. He is a former World Champion in the Master Class. As a steelworker for Burlington Northern Railroad, he used to travel the state working on BN lines. He started tournaments in whatever Montana town he landed.
In 2014, he competed at the 36th World Armwrestling Championships in Vilnius, Lithuania. He placed second in the left-hand senior masters 165-pound division and finished fourth in the right-hand senior masters 165-pound class.
“I had my mind set on a gold medal, but it didn’t happen,” said the 67-year-old Wright. Instead of a gold, Wright has two medals he can be proud of, countless memories, newfound friendships and all the experience learned and taken in from the trip of a lifetime.
The “Blond Bear,” as he’s been known since his days competing with the Huron College (S.D.) wrestling team, knows he won’t have many more chances competing at the world level, although there could be a few more local and national tourneys. The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Wright is a former state champion wrestler at 138 pounds for Billings Senior in 1967.
On the table, Wright is better left-handed although he is a natural right-hander. He also volunteered for Road Race for over 15 years. Jim Wright is an icon and ambassador for the sport of Armwrestling.
YOUTH ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Colter Barnett is the Big Sky State Games Youth Athlete of the Year. For the past 4 years Colter (12), from Fort Peck, has participated in Ice Hockey, Triathlon and Cycling in the State Games. Colter had a busy finals weekend for the 2016 Big Sky State Games first participating in the 12 mile Cycling Road Race Saturday morning at Pompeys Pillar, then in the evening competing in the Cycling Time Trial at Molt and finally Sunday finishing up with the Youth Triathlon at Lake Elmo. For the past four years he has placed first overall in the youth triathlon. His passion is the Triathlon, but he enjoys the Cycling events where he earned 5 gold medals. In the winter, he is an active Ice Hockey player. He has played in the Big Sky State Games Ice Hockey Competition help in April each year since 2012. He is on a select Ice Hockey team called Montana Thunderblades.
Colter attends Glasgow Middle School where he participates in cross country, track and loves science.
Team of the Year
Team Chase of Big Sky State Games
Team Chase Volleyball Team is the 2016 Big Sky State Games Team of the Year. Team Chase is composed of six high caliber volleyball players. For the third year in a row they have been the champions of the Big Sky State Games Volleyball Co-Ed A Division. Laurie Kelly, volleyball commissioner, stated, “This team is amazing. The competition at the tournament was top notch.”
The team consists of Chase Soennichsen, Dave Williams, Kamber Kelly Brodock, Ahlea Billis, Tess Hellerud, and Yang Yang. Chase has always had a passion to play Volleyball. At age 18 he had the opportunity to play in the Goodwill Games. Dave Williams is originally from Las Vegas where he played volleyball and is finishing his schooling to become a Physician Assistant. Kamber Brodock (Kelly) was a standout athlete at Roundup High School and played in college at MSU-Bozeman. Alhea Billis from Bozeman and Yang Yang from China were All American players at Rocky Mountain College. Tess Hellerud is from Red Lodge and is her second year at Rocky Mountain College.
The Big Sky State Games is a multi-sport Olympic-style festival for Montana residents (and bordering states without State Games) of all ages and abilities. The 31st Annual event included 35 sports and the Soaked Run. Finals were held July 15, 16 and 17 in Billings and surrounding area.
Major sponsors of the Big Sky State Games are Kampgrounds of America, First Interstate Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and Scheels. Wendy’s sponsors Opening Ceremonies.