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Keaton Anderson's final stretch at Billings Senior checked off another box Wednesday.

As is tradition at the school, the Bronc seniors paint a tile with whatever best represents them. The tiles are hung from a ceiling on the third floor.

It's one of the seniors' final acts before they graduate, Sunday in Anderson's case.

Even though the tile painting always occurs at the end of the school year, Anderson said it doesn't feel as if graduation is at hand.

"Not really. It really doesn't feel like (Thursday) is my last day of school," he said Wednesday. "I really feel like I'll come back next week for that last week of school, but I'm not so it's kind of weird.

"Sunday I'll probably realize, like, dang, I'm graduating now. It's crazy."

Before he makes it to Sunday's festivities, Anderson has one more event to get through: State AA track.

Anderson's senior year has been one to remember. After being chosen the Class AA Defensive MVP for the 13-0 state champion Broncs, Anderson has had a strong track season, and has qualified for state in six events for the Broncs. Last week he was also a nominee for the Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year.

For him, the focus is on one thing.

"I kind of just want to end it having fun," Anderson said. "Can't really ask for much more than that."

Anderson leads Class AA with the farthest leap in the long jump, and will compete in the 100-meter dash, 200, high jump and both relays.

Heading to Montana State on a football scholarship, Anderson initially wanted to run track in college after his sophomore year. But after playing football as a junior, his aspirations changed. 

An avid hunter and angler, Anderson mentioned the outdoors scene around Bozeman as an added bonus.

"Every single year, it kills me that I can't hunt as much because of football, but I try to get out as much as I can," he said. "In the summer, I really love fishing. And in the winter, I ski a lot.

"I love the atmosphere, nature and just being out there in God's world. It's awesome."

Having grown up with outdoor activities, Anderson said he's never cared to be cooped up inside. He's not much of a video-game guy, and the extent of his TV watching is with Netflix or sports. 

A college football schedule is full and busy. But Anderson knows he'll for sure have one week where he'll be able to make it out hunting.

"I know the bye week everybody goes hunting," he said with a laugh. "I see a couple players go hunting and got a couple deer, so I was pretty hyped for that."

He'll admit, though, he's a little nervous for college.

"Kind of terrified, not going to lie," he said. "I'm really nervous ... I'm a pretty nervous dude. I always get nervous but I don't let it slow me down."

Judging by his success throughout athletics, you wouldn't know how nervous Anderson was before each event. For him, however, he says it happens frequently.

"I'm always that friend that's always really cautious and nervous about everything," he said. "I try to be laid back. I kind of like it, because nerves help you perform, and the more nervous I am, the better I feel I do."

Though he's signed for the Bobcats, Anderson said the idea of skipping track to get ready for football season never crossed his mind.

"Usually track carries over into football, like sprinting," he said. "I wanted to get faster and I can work on that in track and it will carry over. And after track, I can work on getting bigger. But I always wanted to do track. I just like competing."

In a time where specialization of athletes is ever-present, Anderson's decision is rare. 

And his impact has been substantial.

"I kind of felt like I needed to come back after last year and us taking second at state," Anderson said. "It kind of felt unfinished, so I needed to come back and see how I could do as a senior."

Before he reports to Bobcat football, Anderson plans on an easier summer. He will play in the Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game, but he will also travel to Malibu, British Columbia, for a church camp with Young Life. Anderson traveled with them last year, saying the experience was "awesome."

Anderson is also a twin. His twin sister, Mariah, will be joining him at Montana State next year.

"You have to share a lot, and I'm not a big sharer, but you share everything," he said of life as a twin. "But it's nice that you always have someone there. I like that."

Laughing, he added: "She's going to be an engineer. She's a lot smarter than me."

As for his tile, Anderson's choice to paint what represented him best was simple.

Sports and outdoors. And he'd have it no other way.

"Couldn't be happier," he said. "Pretty happy with what I've been doing so far, so I'll keep doing that."



High School Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for the Billings Gazette.