Orange and black reign.
For the first time in the 26-year history of the Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year banquet, Billings Senior athletes swept the awards Wednesday night at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center.
Senior’s Joe Zimmer and Morgan Sulser were crowned with the Athlete of the Year titles.
With their unique background, it was fitting the two were the first to sweep the awards for the Broncs. Zimmer and Sulser each attended Poly Drive Elementary, Lewis and Clark Middle School and Senior High together.
“Well, Joe and I have been going to school since kindergarten together,” Sulser said. “That’s pretty cool (for us to win), with us growing up together. It’s cool to win with an awesome kid like Joe.”
“Senior High had a ton of great athletes this year,” said Zimmer. “I feel blessed and lucky to be a finalist.”
The other boys nominated for the award were Reece Quade (football and wrestling) and Matt Dillon (wrestling and baseball) of Skyview, Zach Wall (soccer and wrestling) of Central and Koby Reyes (wrestling and soccer) of West.
The other girls finalists were Maddy Emerick (soccer) and Jace Henderson (volleyball, basketball and track) of Senior and Allie Lucas (basketball and soccer) and Jenna Marsh (swimming) of Central.
To be eligible for the award, athletes must be a senior at one of the four Billings high schools.
Zimmer was a key contributor for the Billings Royals American Legion baseball club as they claimed the State AA championship each of the past two seasons. He was also an honorable mention all-state quarterback for the Broncs football team this year and will be playing in the Shrine Game. Zimmer also played basketball at Senior and this year was honored with the Pete Lazetich award, the highest honor in the Broncs’ program. When he concludes his career on the diamond with the Royals this summer, Zimmer will play college baseball at Whitman (Wash.) College. Zimmer said he remembers Reyes all the way back to Little Guy Football, called Dillon “a great athlete,” said everyone remembers getting hit by Quade in football and said Wall was an extremely hard-worker.
“I was surprised,” Zimmer said of winning the award. “They said to prepare a speech and I was like, ‘I’m not thinking about winning.’”
Sulser was named the girls Gatorade athlete of the year in track and field last season, when she set the all-class state record in the 100 hurdles with a time of 14.11 seconds. In a remarkable career, she has accumulated five individual state championships in track and been a part of three consecutive team state champions. In soccer, Sulser helped the Broncs win two State AA team titles in 2011 and 2013 and has been selected to play in the Shodair All-Star game this summer. Sulser will continue her athletic endeavors on the track and field team at the University of Montana. Sulser said all of the girls nominated were deserving.
“Not at all,” Sulser said when asked if she thought she might win the award. “There are great athletes in Billings not even nominated. I was honored just to be recognized and a nominee. I’m humbled.”
The banquet marked the 25th anniversary of the event. In recognition of the silver jubilee, the Roundtable invited all past male and female winners of the athlete of the year award to the celebration. The master of ceremonies was Rocky Erickson of the Northern Sports Network. Erickson gave a brief rundown about every former winner whether they were in attendance or not. There were 25 former winners in attendance.
“It was awesome and such a cool presentation Rocky did,” Sulser said, adding her family is good friends with former winner Steven Falls Down (1990) and she competed against former winners Danielle Muri (2011) and Sammy Elliott (2013). “It was cool to go back in time.”
“It was really cool to see all the athletes who returned,” Zimmer said. “It makes you realize how fortunate we are to win and play sports in a great town like Billings.”
Last year, Central athletes swept the awards with Jacob Stanton and Sammy Elliott honored. It was the second time the Rams claimed both honors, along with 1990 when Falls Down and Brittany Schaff were the winners.
West’s Josh Hedge and Sara Bents claimed the awards for the Golden Bears in 2005. Skyview’s Guy Atkins and Rachel Smetanka took top billing in 1992.
The Kathy Maier scholarship award winners were Wilson Brott of West and Alex Chase of Central. AMP sponsored the banquet.