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Havre Daily News' Top Local Sports Stories of 2017

THE DRAMA AND EXCITMENT

 

December 28, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High's Jase Stokes celebrates becoming a four-time wrestling state champion back in February in Billings. Stokes and teammate Parker Filius were both four-time state champs and were part of an incredible year for HHS wrestling.

2017 is about to come to a close. In the world of sports, it will certainly be exciting to see what's in store for the new year.

However, that's a wait and see. We don't know what's going to happen. But what we do know is the last year was another dramatic one in Havre and all over the Hi-Line.

Yes, the last year was filled with more state championships, trophies, personal bests and plenty of exciting games and competitions. In a nutshell, that's Havre and our coverage area every year. No matter how great the previous year was, the next one doesn't seem to disappoint either.

And that's why we know 2018 will be just as exciting as the last year was.

Here's a brief look at the Havre Daily News' top local sports stories from 2017.

T1. Historic Blue Pony Wrestling

The Havre Blue Ponies made all kinds of history on the wrestling mat in 2016-17, especially in February at the All-Class State Tournament in Billings. Inside the Metra, Havre head coach Scott Filius led his Blue Ponies to their fifth consecutive Class A championship, scoring 257.5 points, which blew away the field. Havre had 11 individuals reach the podium at state, including crowning five state champions, a list that included two-time champ Martin Wilkie, as well as senior Dane Flammond, and freshman Quinn Reno, who beat teammate Cameron Pleninger for the 103-pound title.

But, in Billings that night, there were two champions who stood above the rest. Then seniors Parker Filius (145) and Jase Stokes (205) each became Havre's first four-time state champions. Both joined a very prestigious and exclusive club in Billings, by winning their fourth state titles in what has been an incredible run for the Ponies.

In the summer, Scott Filius was also inducted into the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame, capping a remarkable year for HHS wrestling.

T1. Northern National Champs

It was a surreal year for wrestling in Havre all the way around. In March, at the NAIA national tournament in Topeka, Kansas, the Montana State University-Northern Lights, of head coach Tyson Thivierge, crowned not one but two national champions.

Former Chinook star Ben Stroh, who transferred to Northern from the University of Wyoming for his senior year, capped a dominant season with the Lights by winning the 184-pound national title with a 6-5 decision over Campbellsville's Chuck Sharon in the final. Stroh would also be named the NAIA Wrestler of the Year. But the Lights weren't done. Sophomore Brandon Weber also captured a national championship when he beat Lindsey Wilson's Cam Tessari 4-2 in overtime in the 157-pound championship match. Tessari was the top seed in the bracket. Weber would be named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler, while the Lights finished eighth in the team score race.

3. Skylights Remarkable Year/Natlee Faupel

The fourth straight trip to the NAIA national women's tournament was a special one for the Montana State University-Northern Skylights because they got to play in their home state. The national tournament last March, was held at the Billings Metra, and the Skylights took advantage by beating No. 22 Loyola 60-55 in the opening round, and advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years. Northern would fall in a heartbreaker to Vanguard in the Sweet 16, but it was still an incredible season for the Skylights, a season that included a 24-9 overall record, a trip to the Frontier Conference Championship game, Natalee Faupel (1,829 points) becoming Northern's all-time leading scorer and its first two-time First-Team All-American, along with Sierra Richards being named All-American as well.

4. Coaching Change for MSU-N Football

It's been a rough last three years of football at MSU-N, but a new era will begin next fall. With three games left in the 2017 season, then head coach Aaron Christensen resigned. Christensen had been Northern's head coach since 2015, and in that stretch, the Lights won just two games. After an extensive search was conducted, Andrew Rolin was hired Dec. 22 as the fourth head coach of the Lights since the school re-instated football. Rolin was a quarterback for legendary head coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego and has also coached at USD, Washington and San Jose State.

5. T-Birds win the Northern C

It had been 20 years since the Hays-Lodge Pole boys basketball team made history by winning the 1997 Class C state championship. The same held true for the last time an HLP squad hoisted the trophy at the Northern C Divisional Tournament. So it was fitting that, the T-Birds did it again 20 years later, as they beat arch rival Box Elder in the Northern C championship game back in February in Great Falls. HLP, led by Tyson Shambo and Frank Runs Above, would go on to reach the Class C semifinals a week later, and ultimately finish fourth. But, the Northern C championship they won this year will be a special one in the annals of HLP basketball history.

6. Bears Sweep the 9C

For the second straight year, the Box Elder boys and girls were kings and queens of the District 9C. Last February at the HHS gymnasium, the Box Elder girls captured their second straight 9C championship, beating Fort Benton in the championship game. One night later, the Box Elder boys won their fifth straight 9C championship by defeating Hays-Lodge Pole in a thrilling contest. It was head coach Jeremy McDonald's last 9C game, as the coach, who would lead the Bears on to the Northern C title game, and another trip to state, would retire at the end of the season. The Box Elder girls would also come within one game of reaching the state tournament, which capped yet another remarkable year of basketball dominance in the town.

7. Rachel David Runs to Nationals

The Northern cross country program is only three years old, but it already has a national championship caliber runner. Former Havre Blue Pony Rachel David earned All-Conference honors at the Frontier Conference Championships in November, and two weeks later, she was running at the NAIA National Championships in Vancouver, Washington, becoming the first Northern cross country athlete to reach that level. David finished inside the Top 100 at nationals, and still has two more years to compete for the Skylights.

8. HLP Runner Makes History

It was indeed a historic fall on the Hi-Line in the sport of cross country. At the 2017 Montana State Cross Country Meet in Helena, Hays-Lodge Pole's Isaiah Runs Above made some history of his own by winning the Class C boys state championship. Runs Above finished the race in 17:23, and not only did he win a state championship for himself, but he also became the first athlete at HLP to win an individual state championship in any sport.

9. Resurgent Pioneers

It had been six years since Big Sandy experienced playoff football. But after a second-place finish in the Northern Division of Class C Six-Man football this fall, the Pioneers didn't just make the playoffs, they won their first-round game, defeating Richey-Lambert 55-32 in Big Sandy back in October. The Pioneers would fall in the quarterfinals the following Friday night in Bridger, but a young Pioneer squad showed the future of football in Big Sandy is very bright.

10. Longhorns Win a Title

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

MSU-Northern's Natalee Faupel, left, drives the ball during an NAIA national tournament game last March in Billings. In what was an incredible year for the Skylights, Faupel became the school's all-time leading scorer.

The Hi-Line has been a dominant force in Class C girls track and field for years, and in 2017, it was Fort Benton's turn. After winning the 9C and Northern C titles, Fort Benton went to the Class C state meet in May and scored 72 points to easily win their first state championship in 20 years. Kaitlyn Bird and Maddie Thompson also won individual titles for the Longhorns of head coach Brandon Shaw.

Honorable Mention: The Havre High girls basketball team reached their sixth straight Class A state tournament this season; Rose Obunaga became the new head coach of the MSU-Northern volleyball team this past year, after Bill Huebsch resigned back in the spring; After three seasons in Havre, the Glacier Nationals moved to Butte; In individual sports, Havre High produced all-state performances from Jake Sedahl/Nate Korb in tennis, Teagan Fee in golf and Kadia Miller and Austin Jones in cross country; Northern junior Ryan Reeves was named the Frontier Conference Men's Basketball Defensive Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season.

 

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