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406mtsports.com, Lee Montana journalists win eight of nine MNA sports writing awards

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GLENDIVE — Journalists from 406mtsports.com and Lee Newspapers won eight of nine possible sports reporting/writing awards and nine overall in the annual Montana Newspaper Association contest for work completed in 2021.

The MNA awards were announced Saturday at the organization's annual conference in Glendive. Four of Lee's five Montana papers and 406mtsports.com compete in the state's largest division.

Missoulian sports editor Bill Speltz took first place in Best Sports & Outdoors Column Writing for his piece "Inspiring with some heavy lifting"; Speltz also took third in general Best Column Writing for "Major event in the land of corn". The Montana Standard's Michael Cast took second in Best Sports & Outdoor Column Writing for "Grumbling up the mountain" and third for "RV gateway to angling adventure".

Victor Flores, who covers Montana State athletics for 406mtsports.com out of Bozeman, was first in Best Sports Story for "Basketball is 'oxygen' for Montana Native Americans. COVID-19 has filled this season with challenges". Flores also took third in Best Sports Story for "NIL opportunities have been a 'touchdown' for Montana State athletes like Troy Andersen".

Jeff Welsch, Lee Montana and 406mtsports.com executive editor, took first in Best Sports Feature Story for "50 years of girls basketball: From concrete floors to a 3,000-point scorer, girls hoops have come a long way in Montana". Welsch also finished second in Best Sports Story for "Final mission for 'old warrior' Don Wetzel: Bring Blackfeet chief logo home" in the Helena Independent-Record.

Billings Gazette senior sports writer Mike Scherting completed the near sweep by finishing third in Best Sports Feature Story for "'Rambo' formation has been 'worst nightmare' for Billings Senior football foes".

Also, now-retired managing editor Perry Backus of the Ravalli Republic — a thrice-weekly Lee paper that competes in a different division — earned a first-place plaque for Best Sports Feature Story for "State champ: Florence-Carlton wrestler wins title in first girls state wrestling tournament".

In addition, Missoulian photographer Ben Allan Smith took first in Best Sports Photo for "Celebrate" and "Gazette photographer Mike Clark took second for "Student Section".

One more Gazette award: first place for Best Sports Page Layout and Design.

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