First Roundtable winner Gyselman recalls surprise, honor of award

2014-05-20T19:30:00Z 2014-05-21T23:44:03Z First Roundtable winner Gyselman recalls surprise, honor of awardBy GREG RACHAC The Billings Gazette

All those years ago, when she was announced as the Midland Roundtable's first female athlete of the year award winner, Erika Boggio sat in amazement. But only for a moment.

What quickly followed was a sense of accomplishment for being recognized as the best among her peers. And Boggio -- now Erika Gyselman -- earned every bit of it.

“At the time I was pretty surprised that I won,” said the 42-year-old Gyselman. “A lot of my friends were nominated; girls I’d played against for years and respected as athletes. I felt honored to win.”

The first Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year banquet was held on May 3, 1989 at the Sheraton Hotel (now the Crowne Plaza) in downtown Billings. Gyselman, a standout volleyball and basketball player at Senior High, was the girls winner. West’s Travis Orser, a basketball, football and track athlete, garnered the boys award.

At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, the Midland Roundtable will hold its 26th annual banquet at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. But there’s an added twist: The Roundtable will also honor the winners from the past 25 years with a special presentation.

Of the 51 previous winners invited to return, 25 are confirmed to attend, Gyselman among them. Others expected in attendance include Skyview’s Jeff Ellis (1991), Central’s Christy Otte (1994) and West’s John Edwards (1998). Of the previous 13 winners since 2008, eight are scheduled to appear.

Twenty-five years on, Gyselman is married and living in Bozeman. She owns a contract bookkeeping business and balances time between her career and her two sons, aged 12 and 10.

“It’s almost like you blink and before you know it you’re helping your kids do the same things your parents helped you do,” Gyselman said. “Helping them make their dreams come true, whether its sports or school or whatever. You kind of take over where your parents left off.”

The Boggio name was, of course, a household one on the prep sports scene. A 6-footer, she was an all-stater in both volleyball and basketball. She was considered Montana’s premier outside hitter in her junior and senior seasons, and led the Broncs in both scoring and rebounding on the hardwood as a senior.

She is first on a long list of great players to suit up for longtime Senior volleyball coach Jeff Carroll, and helped lay the first brick for a program that’s gone on to win 11 Class AA state championships.

Gyselman won the athlete of the year award in 1989 over fellow nominees Jennifer Hull from Central, Naomi Buckingham from Skyview and Tracy Takala and Stormy Weppler from West.

“I think if I remember, all five of us were two-sport athletes. Most of us were,” Gyselman said. “I know that I excelled in my two sports, but really so did they.

“That was how I spent my entire summers -- hanging out at the gym. A lot of times I would go to the boys open gyms to improve my skills. I always thought I had a great amount of opportunities.

“It’s funny because obviously my high school career is what helped me get to college. And my college career was really super special. But volleyball was never at the forefront until my senior year when (Carroll) said, ‘You really can play.’”

Basketball was Gyselman’s first love, but Carroll helped steer her toward focusing on volleyball instead. So she trusted her coach and went to Portland State (which at that time was a Division II power) and became a two-time All-American, helping the Vikings win a national title in 1992.

These days Gyselman is still very much involved with volleyball. She’s spent time as both a middle school and high school coach, and still plays in rec leagues and women’s tournaments. That competitive itch is what fueled her great high school career and, ultimately, to winning the inaugural athlete of the year award.

“Looking back now I think (the award) is a really good opportunity for people to be recognized in their achievements," Gyselman said. "Sports can take you so far. It opens so many doors to so many aspects of life.”

Gyselman has gone pretty far in 25 years. Now, she and those who came after her will be honored by the Midland Roundtable for the second time.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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