Don Wetzel, Sr. emcees the 2016 Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame banquet at MSUB's Petro Theater. (CASEY CONLON / MTN Sports)

BILLINGS – Seventeen individuals and two teams were enshrined into the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame Wednesday night in front of friends and family gathered inside Petro Theater on the campus of Montana State Billings.

Inductees included the state’s all-time leading high school scorer, Kayla Lambert, and western Montana hoops legend JR Camel, and most others couldn’t believe some of the names they were being mentioned with.

“I was just so excited to be able to meet these people,” said Veronica Kempfert, who was a track and field star at Cut Bank as Veronica Peterson in the mid 1980s. “I’ve heard about them over the years and just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, they are such great athletes,’ but never did I ever think I was in that category.

“I was like, ‘Wait, what? And who’s coming? Are you kidding? I’m so excited to meet them!'”

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“It’s nice to get any recognition, let alone something like this with just some incredible athletes,” said Jack Manning, who played on Dartmouth’s undefeated 1970 football team.

“I grew up on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. My dad took me to see Larry Pretty Weasel, who he said was maybe the best basketball player ever in the state of Montana, let alone Indian basketball player.”

“Me being amongst these names, and this group of people, I mean, to me, it’s amazing,” said JR Bremener, who won four straight State C cross country titles at Heart Butte. “I’m just overwhelmed. My dad, I wish he was here to see this, and my grandma. For both of them to see this, it would be, wow.”

Other honorees included:

-Wolf Point’s 1951 state champion point guard and calf roper from the Assiniboine Tribe, Victor Bearskin.

-Hays-Lodgepole Thunderbird basketball phenom, John Kindness.

-Back-to-back state champion in 1974 and 1975 Poplar point guard, Kenny Smoker representing the Assiniboine Nation.

-Salish/Kootenai basketball champion and legend, Louie Incashola.

-Plenty Coups High school’s two-time cross country and track state champion and 1981 state basketball champion from Crow Country, Dana Goes Ahead.

-Browning Indians all-American and two-time cross country champion, Merlin Running Wolf.

-Blackfeet Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Joe Hipp.

-26-titled weightlifting champion from Browning, Charles Farmer.

-All-around Salish/Kootenai athlete that played for Haskell and the University of Montana Grizzlies football team in the late 1930s, Archie MacDonald.

-Groundbreaking Assiniboine rodeo legend with over 47 saddles and hundreds of buckles, Lyle Cochran.

-Legendary track and cross country coach representing Cut Bank and Salish country, Mike Reynolds.

-Whitefish Bulldog and 1950s quarterback, champion javelin thrower, Grizzlies basketball player and Phillies affiliated minor league baseball player, Jim Baker from the Blackfeet Nation.

The Busby Eagles 1971 State C Basketball Team representing the Cheyenne Nation were also inducted, as well as the Lodge Grass Indians 1988, 89, 90 State Champion Boys Basketball teams from the Crow Nation.

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