BILLINGS — The Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year awards ceremony might have been virtual, but that didn’t dampen the meaning of the occasion.
All 10 nominees, five for the boys award, and five for the girls award, were present at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center on Wednesday night, and all had their moment of glory.
Each was recognized and gave a short introduction about themselves, letting those watching live over the internet know who they were, the sports they played and where they would be attending college. Each had a short highlight video of themselves participating in the sports they excel at, put together by the Billings TV stations, shown.
And in the end, Julius Mims of Billings Skyview and Maddie Albrecht of Billings West were honored as the Midland Roundtable’s athletes of the year in a ceremony presented by AMP.
The other boys finalists were Josh Erbacher, basketball, football, West; Connor Ryan, football, track and field, West; Owen Smith, cross country, track and field, Billings Senior; and Cade Tyson, basketball, West.
“I’m very honored and I never thought I’d be here right now,” Mims said. “From all the hard work and dedication, I got the award.”
Mims was humble in winning.
“It was a very good class and probably a very hard decision,” he said.
The other girls finalists were Maddie’s twin sister Willa Albrecht, basketball, track and field, West; Olivia Moten-Schell, basketball, volleyball, Billings Central; Jordan Roe, soccer, Skyview; and Elena Vandersloot, cross country, track and field, Senior.
“It feels great. I was definitely surprised when they called my name,” Maddie Albrecht said. “I was definitely honored. There are a lot of great athletes who have won it in the past.”
Albrecht said all of the boys and girls nominated for the award had truly remarkable careers.
“I think we all had a chance to win,” she said. “I’ve been to banquets in the past and this was one of the best so far for boys and girls.
“Both in the boys and girls there was no clear-cut winner. Anyone could have won. It was a great class.”
For the first time the ceremony was held in a virtual format, where those interested could watch online on the Midland Roundtable website.
The awards date to 1989. They are presented annually to the best male and female senior athlete from a Billings high school. This year, a new traveling trophy was presented, said Roundtable president Rocky Erickson.
A virtual presentation was done to celebrate the awards due to ongoing social distancing efforts in the fight against the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Normally a banquet room at the Billings Hotel would be full, with 400 to 500 people, and a dinner would be served.
The fact that the ceremony was held virtually did not disappoint either of the winners. They both understood the situation and enjoyed the evening, which honored the 10 athletes’ careers.
“It was a very, very special night,” Mims said. “I’ll remember this night forever.”
“I definitely really appreciate they had the banquet and made it work, especially with everything else being canceled,” Albrecht said. “It was nice to have this.”
Many sporting and social events have either been postponed or canceled in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. The high school spring sports season was one of the casualties.
“It was important for us to honor the 10 individuals who deserved to be honored,” Erickson told those streaming the event, and the finalists and limited officials in attendance.
Mims starred in basketball and track and field for the Falcons and will pursue both sports at North Idaho College. Mims’ half sister, Taylor Mims, won the female award in 2015 while a senior for the Broncs.
Also in 2015, Kendal Manuel of Skyview won the boys award. Manuel was the last Falcon to win until Mims captured the honor.
“The last person to get it from Skyview was Kendal Manuel, who I looked up to a lot,” Mims said. “I wanted to be like him when I was in high school. He was a big inspiration. I am very thankful for this award.”
Maddie Albrecht was a standout in both basketball and track and field for the Golden Bears. She’ll play basketball at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
One of the unique things about being nominated for Albrecht was that her twin sister, Willa, was also up for the award.
“I was thinking both of us would win, or someone else would win, so I was surprised I won,” Maddie Albrecht said. “It was cool to be nominated with her.”
In track, Mims was a three-year letter-winner and was the state champion high jumper in 2019. On the hardwood, he helped the Falcons claim the co-championship at the State AA tourney this season. The all-state player was also selected to the Montana team for the Midland Roundtable all-star basketball series with Wyoming, which was canceled due to the crisis.
Maddie Albrecht earned four letters in basketball and was a two-time all-state selection. Albrecht was a key player as the Bears finished as co-state champions. She was also chosen to represent Montana in the annual all-star basketball series with Wyoming. In track, Albrecht was a three-time letter-winner and was a part of the state champion, record-setting 400-meter relay team in 2018.
Jesse Owens of West and Chrishon Dixon of Central shared the boys award last year. Tiahna Vladic of Senior was the girls winner.
Karli Steiner of Billings Senior was the Kathy Maier Memorial Scholarship winner. The award remembers the “fighting spirit” of Maier and the winner should be “an inspiration to their family, friends and teammates.”
Steiner was an inspiration as she battled back from a broken fibula that ended her volleyball season to sign with Northwest College to play volleyball.