BILLINGS — The coronavirus pandemic was not going to stop this celebration. 

For the 32nd consecutive year, but for the first time in a virtual award ceremony setting instead of a banquet, the Midland Roundtable will present the annual Athlete of the Year award to the best high school boys and girls senior athlete in the city of Billings on Wednesday. 

Boys finalists are Josh Erbacher, basketball, football, Billings West; Julius Mims, basketball, track and field, Billings Skyview; Connor Ryan, football, track and field, West; Owen Smith, cross country, track and field, Billings Senior; and Cade Tyson, basketball, West.

Girls finalists are Maddie Albrecht, basketball, track and field, West; 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.

While gatherings are limited during phase one of Gov. Steve Bullock's reopening of the state, and with crowds of 400 to 500 people the usual at the Athlete of the Year celebration at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center, this year the event is not open to the public. The finalists and Midland Roundtable officials will attend. 

The ceremony, sponsored by AMP, will start at 7 p.m. and will be available to stream on the Midland Roundtable's website (www.midlandroundtable.com).

One positive that will come with streaming the event is it will give more people the chance to watch, Roundtable president Rocky Erickson said.

"This gives the opportunity for the grandparents and different people who live in other states to watch it as well," Erickson said. 

While Erickson said it is "disappointing" parents will not be able to be at the ceremony, he said it is an honor for the Roundtable to honor the 10 finalists and the two ultimate award winners. Canceling wasn't an option, he said.

The ceremony will be "short and sweet", he said. Each of the finalists will be introduced and have a chance to speak, and the winners will be announced. The traditional video highlights for each athlete will be shown.

"We will honor the people that deserve this recognition and this will be the best way to do it," Erickson said.

Last year, the female winner was Tiahna Vladic of Senior. Jesse Owens of West and Chrishon Dixon of Central shared the boys award. 

Boys nominees

Josh Erbacher, Billings West

Football: A three-year letterman, all-state and all-conference during junior and senior seasons. Member of the 2018 State AA title team. Set record for most career passing yards in school history and compiled a 23-3 record as a starter. Chosen for Shrine Game and Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl between Montana and North Dakota.

Basketball: Lettered three years. Second-team pick on all-conference and all-state teams.

College: Football at Rocky Mountain College.

Julius Mims, Billings Skyview

Track: A three-year letter winner. State champion high jumper in 2019, three-time all-state competitor.

Basketball: Member of the 2020 State AA co-championship team. First-team all-state and all-conference. Selected to Montana-Wyoming All-Star Basketball Series. Falcons' MVP and Mr. Defense this past season.

College: Basketball and track at North Idaho College.

Connor Ryan, Billings West

Football: Lettered three years, member of 2018 State AA championship team. As a senior, first-team all-state as a safety and wide receiver and second-team as a kick returner. Honorable mention all-state as a junior.

Basketball: Lettered two years.

Track: Received three varsity letters and was state champion in the 400-meter relay as an junior. Placed in the 100- and 200-meters and a big part of West's runner-up team at state. Ran the 100 meters in 10.90 seconds.

College: Football at Montana State.

Owen Smith, Billings Senior

Cross country: Lettered four years. Won City Meet and is school's 5K record-holder with a clocking of 15 minutes, 27 seconds. All-state with a 10th-place finish at state. Senior's team placed second or third at state from 2016-18.

Track: All-state in 2019, with top four finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200 at state.

College: Cross country and track at Montana State.

Cade Tyson, Billings West

Basketball: A four-year letter winner, first-team all-state and all-conference as a senior. Helped West compile a 19-3 record. Was chosen for Midland Roundtable Montana-Wyoming All-Star Basketball Series. As a junior, West finished third at state. Recognized as a second-team all-state and all-conference performer.

College: Basketball at Rocky Mountain College.

Girls nominees

Maddie Albrecht, Billings West

Basketball: A four-year letter winner, first-team all-state choice in 2019 and 2020. Played on 2020 State AA co-championship team. Academic all-state recognition all four years of high school.

Track: Three-time letter winner in track. All-state in 2018-19. State champion in the 400-meter relay in 2017-18. All-class record set in 2018. State runner-up as a team in 2019. State placer in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

College: Basketball at Lehigh.

Willa Albrecht, Billings West

Basketball: A four-year letter winner, first-team all-state in 2019 and 2020. Played on 2020 State AA co-championship team. Academic all-state recognition all four years of high school.

Track: Earned three letters. All-state in 2018-19. State champion in the 400-meter relay in 2017-18. All-class record set in 2018. State runner-up as a team in 2019. State placer in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

College: Basketball at Montana.

Olivia Moten-Schell, Billings Central

Basketball: A four-year letter winner, four-time first-team all-state and all-conference. Part of 2020 Class A co-championship team. Chosen for the Montana-Wyoming All-Star Basketball Series. Received academic all-state recognition.

Volleyball: A four-year letter winner, four-time first-team all-state and all-conference selection. Played on state title teams in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Also finished second twice. Wound up with 1,605 career kills. Received academic all-state recognition.

College: Undecided.

Jordan Roe, Billings Skyview

Soccer: A four-year letter winner. All-state first-team from 2017-19. Key member of 2018 State AA championship team. State runner-up in 2019. Gatorade Player of the Year winner in 2018. Finished career with 48 goals and 43 assists.

College: Soccer at Montana State Billings.

Elena Vandersloot, Billings Senior

Cross country: USATF Montana Cross Country Athlete of the Year, placed in the top five in every 2019 meet, including winning Billings City Meet and second at Mountain West Classic. All-state from 2017-19 and  team captain in 2019.

Track: First-place finishes in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter indoor races at Bozeman All-Comers Championships in 2020. Placed seventh in the 1,600 at the International Simplot Games.

College: Cross country and track at Montana State.

The finalists' biographical information was provided by the Midland Roundtable. Bill Bighaus of 406mtsports.com contributed to this report. 

Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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