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Skylights family: Fighting for No. 22

Skylights present and past come together in support of Charna Ophus Seibert


Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern head women's basketball coach Chris Mouat came up with the idea of using pieces of the former Armory Gymnasium floor, pictured above, to help raise money for treatments for former Skylight great Charna Ophus Seibert. The pieces of the flooring were from the days when Seibert, who hailed from Big Sandy, and wore No. 22, played for the Skylights and helped them win an NAIA national championship.

Chris Mouat has been the head coach of the Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team for 13 seasons, but his passion and pride for the Skylights run much deeper than those years.

Mouat, in his time at MSU-N, has always felt a deep sense of respect and pride for the Skylights' past and its storied history. So when one of the greatest Skylights to ever suit up for Northern, Hall of Famer Charna Ophus Seibert, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Mouat decided not only to reach out to the former Big Sandy great but also to offer support and help any way he could.

That support has morphed into a special tribute to Seibert. Mouat took pieces of the old Armory Gymnasium flooring, which had been the playing floor for Northern basketball from 1957 until it was replaced in 2012, and he had stickers with Seibert's famed No. 22 put on them. He then put those pieces of the floor up for sale for $20, as a way to help raise money for Seibert's treatments as she continues her fight against cancer.

"When I found out Charna was battling cancer again, I wanted our program to do something to help," Mouat said. "I talked to a number of people, and the idea of using pieces of the old floor, the floor that she played on, kind of came to be. So I reached out to her, and started communicating with her. I wanted to get her permission to go forward with this, and after she gave me the go-ahead, we ran with it. Since I posted it that we were doing this, it's really taken off. I've heard from people from all over. People want to help and support her. I just think it's a heartfelt and good cause.

"We had some of these wood pieces from the floor cut up in 2012, by Jordan Bruusema's mom and dad," he added, "so it's very interesting that she (Jordan) also wore number 22 when she played for us. So it's been overwhelming to them that we put these wood pieces they cut up to this use."

The idea certainly means a lot to Seibert as well. She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her husband and her son.

"Chris is such an amazing human being," Seibert said. "He's a kind-hearted person with such a good soul. When he first called me and told me he was doing this, I was shocked and surprised.

"Coach Mouat didn't know me that well, and I only first met him when I was (in Havre) for the Hall of Fame ceremony in 2015. But his sister Amy played at Carroll when I was playing for the Skylights, and he watched me play in those days, so he kind of knew who I was. I have also watched the success he's had over the years at Northern from a distance. And to see what he's done with the program, it makes our (former Skylights') hearts happy. So all that he's doing for me now, it's a really kind gesture. It's very special to me and my family. And it's also helped me reconnect with so many people from the past. It's really brought things full circle for me."

"I grew up watching her play against my sister," Mouat said. "I was very aware of how talented she was, what a special player she was. Charna was an amazing point guard. Look at her assists numbers and that tells you everything you need to know about what type of player she was. That's a record at Northern I don't think will ever be broken.

"And just being a part of this program now, she still has a very strong presence in the history of our program," he continued. "You talk to the people in this community and around our area, she's probably the most recognizable Skylight ever. She was an incredible, special player, and it was always just so much fun to watch her play and compete."

Seibert is without a doubt one of the all-time greats to play at Northern. Not only does she hold the all-time assist record for the Skylights and was a local hero, coming to Northern Montana College from the famed Big Sandy girls basketball program, but she and her Skylights teammates also helped bring the only NAIA basketball national championship to Northern in its storied history.

"Those days are still a huge part of my life," Seibert said. "Those years playing for the Skylights, I have so many special memories. It meant so much to me, having such great teammates, great friends, my family and the community. It was, and still is, so special to me.

"And I think one great thing about our team was, we came together, a bunch of hard-working farm girls from Montana, and we got ourselves to not only play to the best of our abilities, but to believe. As we went forward through the years, we started to believe we could win a national championship. We worked hard to accomplish our goals, but we also believed we could do it. And I think Coach (Mouat) has that same belief. He's that type of coach that can get a team to believe they can accomplish their goals and achieve their dreams."

Charna and her teammates certainly worked and fought hard to achieve their dreams, and it paid off with the 1993 NAIA national championship - a banner that still hangs proudly above the Armory Gymnasium floor.

Now though, Seibert is in another battle, and, Mouat, having watched her play in those incredible Skylight years, not only is doing what he can to help her fight cancer, but he also believes the tenacity and heart she always showed as a Skylight, will help her in the fight she's in today.

"I got to watch the way Charna played the game," Mouat said. "And I think the way she played, the way she was always so determined and the competitive spirit she had as a player, that will help her with the battle she's fighting now.

"And she's such an amazing and positive person," he added. "Her approach to this fight is so positive and uplifting. I have been fortunate to have had many conversations with her in the last few weeks and talking to her has lifted me up every time. She's got such an amazing spirit, and I just want to continue to help her and support her in any way I can."

Support, that's a word that continues to mean so much to Seibert, too. She has that in her husband and young son and, of course, her family, including her parents, who still reside in Big Sandy, as well as her 10 brothers and sisters. She also has close friends, too, and through the cause that Mouat started with the fundraiser, she says she's heard from many different people and it's also helped her reconnect with many former teammates and others from her past.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

A 1992 team photo of the Northern Montana College Skylights, includes the great Charna Ophus Seibert, No. 22. Seibert currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is battling stage 4 cancer.

"What Coach Mouat's doing, it's been very humbling to me," Seibert said. "I have been so blessed to hear from so many people, the support has been so incredible. It means the world to me. And something else that's come out of all of this is the opportunity for prayer. It's given people the opportunity to send love and prayers, and while people may think words don't help, they really do. I feel those graces. I feel that love through prayer and through their graces, and it means so much to me. That spiritual support is very humbling to me, and that has come out of this gesture from Chris."

"Charna is such an incredible person," Mouat said. "She was an incredible talent and an amazing Skylight. And she's still, and will always be, a Skylight. She's meant an awful lot, not only to this program but to this community, for a long time now, and I just wanted to do something to help. I wanted to support her and be there for her in any way we could. This hits very close to home for myself, and the program, and we just want her to know we're behind her all the way, and there for her in every way we can be."

To purchase a piece of the historic Armory Gymnasium floor, people can mail a check to Chris Mouat at P.O. Box 7751, Havre, MT 59501. Or to donate directly, there is an account at Independence Bank named the Charna Seibert Medical Benefit.


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