When it was announced that Tanner Sprenkle was a finalist for the annual Midland Roundtable male athlete of the year, I eagerly volunteered to cover the awards banquet.
The likeable Sprenkle, a rare four-time state wrestling champion and the first from Billings Senior to do so, had shined on the mats and even outdone older brothers Trent and Tucker. Working for The Gazette, I’d watched the Sprenkle brothers win eight state championships. Included in the cluster of titles were the four won by Tanner; three at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark and the final one at the Great Falls CMR Fieldhouse, which earned him a standing ovation.
The competition for the Midland Roundtable award was tight with West’s Sesar Bonilla and Lee Hardt, Skyview’s Connor Lebsock and Senior’s Scotty Owens up for the honor. But, I figured if Sprenkle were to win I’d like to be there to interview him as I’d done so many times in the past.
It turns out Sprenkle did win the award and in true Sprenkle style was gracious.
“It’s the best honor ever,” he said. “Scotty Owens, Sesar, Lee and Connor are some of the best athletes. I was blown away I was chosen for this honor.”
Sprenkle wasn’t the only award recipient. The Roundtable honors both the male and female athletes of the year. And on the female side, a historic first was notched.
Billings Central’s Jackie Elliott and Billings West’s Danielle Muri were named co-female athletes of the year by the organization. It was the 23rd annual banquet crowning the Magic City’s best male and female high school athletes. And in the prior 22 years, the Roundtable had never selected co-winners for males or females since first giving out the awards in 1989.
Also up for nomination as female finalists were Jessyka MacDonald and Nicole Rietz of West and Kirstie Thomas of Senior.
“I definitely never saw that coming,” Elliott said. “There are so many great athletes and it is an honor to be nominated and share it with Danielle.”
The neat thing about Elliott and Muri sharing the award was how similar their careers were. Without getting into too many specifics, let’s just say they were both standout soccer and basketball players, who also happened to excel in track and field.
Both were on state champion soccer and basketball teams and both received their sports’ highest individual honor. Elliott was named the Montana Gatorade player of the year in soccer, while Muri won the award in basketball. Both called basketball their true sport loves and are playing it in college — Elliott for Montana State and Muri for North Dakota State.
“It’s the story of our lives,” Muri said of sharing the award with Elliott. “I get along with Jackie so well. She is a phenomenal athlete. It is awesome to share the award with her.”