BILLINGS — Two athletes who are great friends and one amazing runner received the prestigious Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year awards on Wednesday night at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center.
Billings Senior’s Tiahna Vladic, Billings West’s Jesse Owens and Billings Central’s Chrishon Dixon were honored as the athlete of the year recipients.
It marks the second straight year there were co-winners of the boys award as last year Billings Senior’s Gabe Sulser and Charlie Klepps were honored.
After congratulations and pictures, Dixon hugged his friend Owens and said, “I’m proud of you, man,” as the two embraced in a hug.
Owens and Dixon are longtime friends, so it was fitting they shared the award.
“We always want the best for one another,” Owens said. “We are basically family and it’s special to share this award with him.”
Dixon said he remembers spending many hours at Owens’ house while he was growing up. The two would play video games and found themselves outside playing sports.
“We have known each other since we were six years old,” Dixon said. “To end our careers like this is a blessing from God.”
Vladic said the award was “the cherry on top” of her decorated career for the Broncs.
“I am so grateful for this,” she said. “It was definitely a pleasure to be a part of this.”
The other boys finalists were: Jack Leuthold of Billings Central and Lucas Gibb and Jace Rhodes of Billings West.
“It’s a great honor,” said Dixon. “It was a tossup who it could have been. I’m blessed it was me and Jesse.”
“It was an especially good group. Everyone was so talented in their own sports whether it was swimming or wrestling,” Owens said. “Everyone was talented in their own way and that makes it unique.”
The other girls finalists were: Kola Bad Bear, Tavy Findon and Ellie Ostermiller of Billings Senior and Shayla Montague of Billings West.
“It was loaded, and on the boys’ side, too,” Vladic said of the finalists. “There were so many great athletes in Billings. Whoever won, I was rooting for them either way.
“I was not expecting myself to win; everyone has an equal chance to win. I’m happy I got this chance and I’m super grateful.”
Vladic is a cross country and track and field standout for the Broncs. She was the State AA cross country champion in 2016 and 2018 and the state runner-up in 2017. She was the Montana Gatorade Athlete of the Year in cross country in 2016 and 2018.
Vladic, who will compete in cross country and track and field at Boise State University, won the prestigious Mountain West Classic cross country race three years in a row.
The girls winner last year was Maddie Brockel of West.
In track and field, Vladic was a member of the state-winning 1,600-meter relay team the past two years.
Vladic won the 1,600 at the Midland Roundtable Top 10 track meet and is looking forward to the state meet May 24-25 in Kalispell.
“State track will be awesome,” she said. “I’m excited for that.”
Dixon and Owens were both members of state champion football teams this fall, Owens with the West High Golden Bears and Dixon with the Central Rams.
Owens was all-state at wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner this year and was the Offensive MVP in Class AA. He was also an all-state wide receiver and kick returner as a junior.
Owens, who will play football at Montana, was a four-year starter for the Bears basketball team and a two-time all-state selection.
Dixon was a three-time all-state cornerback and three-time all-conference receiver.
During his senior year, Dixon also helped the Rams win the State A basketball title. He was an all-state selection the past two years. He will play basketball at Montana State Billings.
Like Vladic, Owens said he and Dixon still have work to do this summer. Both were selected to play for the Montana teams in the Midland Roundtable Montana-Wyoming All-Star Basketball Series and the Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl.
“We’re not done yet,” Owens said. “We have to go out and play those all-star games together. It will be a great experience.”
Peyton Lipp of West was honored with the Kathy Maier Memorial Scholarship. The award is given annually to someone who perseveres to overcome adversities in life. Lipp came back from a hip injury that caused her to miss the cross country season and is now participating in track and field.