Two Montana State football players and three Montana State Billings athletes are among the eight finalists for the Montana AAU Little Sullivan award.
Mac Bignell of Drummond and Chad Newell of Billings are joined by Jace Anderson and Nolan Saraceni as male finalists for the award.
MSU Billings’ Alisha Breen and Stormy Siemion are female finalists along with Christina Aragon and Madisen Sechena.
The Little Sullivan Award, fashioned after the national AAU Sullivan Award, is annually given to Montana’s most outstanding amateur male and female athletes. The first award was given in 1955. This year’s banquet is May 6 in Billings.
Anderson, a 2012 graduate of Saco-Whitewater, started all 29 games for the men’s basketball team at Montana State Billings this season. The senior averaged 9.8 points per game, shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range. A four-time academic all-state selection in high school, Anderson is a three-time academic all-conference selection at MSUB.
Bignell is entering his senior season as a linebacker with the Bobcats this fall. He led the team with 97 tackles last season, including 14.5 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks. Bignell, who graduated from Drummond in 2013, broke out in 2015, starting all 11 games and leading the Big Sky Conference in tackles-for-loss and solo tackles per game.
Newell graduated from Billings Senior in 2012 and began his MSU career in 2013 as a special teams ace. He turned into one of the program’s best running backs over the next three seasons, rushing for more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns, which rank third in MSU history. He’s also the all-time rushing leader at Senior, where he accumulated more than 3,100 yards.
Saraceni is also a Billings Senior product, graduating in 2013. After playing behind Newell as an underclassman, Saraceni starred as a senior running back, leading the state in rushing with 1,291 yards in only eight games. He parlayed that into a stellar career at Montana Tech, earning Frontier Conference Player of the Year honors in both 2015 and 2016. As a junior, he set the program record for all-purpose yards with 1,823, leading the nation in total rushing, rushing yards per game and rushing touchdowns.
Aragon will be finishing her freshman year at Stanford this spring after concluding a prolific high school running career at Billings Senior in 2016. Coming from a family of runners, Aragon won 12 Montana Class AA track championships, was a two-time Gatorade track and field athlete of the year and set the state’s all-class records in the 800-, 1,600-, and 3,200-meter runs. In July 2016, Aragon became the first American female runner to medal in the 1,500-meter run at the World Under-20 Track and Field Championships, placing third in the event at Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Breen, a 2013 graduate of Choteau, has had a stellar basketball career at Montana State Billings and was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s preseason player of the year prior to last season. However, she missed the 2016-17 season after suffering a knee injury during a preseason game. Breen started all 32 games for MSUB during the 2015-16 season, averaging a league-leading 17.4 points per game. Her 1,210 career points rank 15th all-time at MSUB.
Sechena is a 2011 graduate of Great Falls CMR and attended Northern Michigan University, where she won four letters in swimming. As a senior in 2014-15, she set numerous schools records, including the pool records in the 50- and 100-meter breast strokes, and twice broke the school record in the 200 breast stroke, including once at the NCAA Championships. Sechena made the Dean’s List all four years, was a three-time individual scholar all-American and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2015.
Siemion, a four-time all-state volleyball selection while at Huntley Project, is a senior at Montana State Billings, posting her best collegiate volleyball season this past year. She was a GNAC all-conference honorable mention selection after starting all 30 matches and ranking sixth in the conference in kills per set, seventh in points and 16th in digs per set. Siemion ranks 10th all-time at MSUB with 952 career digs.
Wrestlers Toby Erickson and Jade Rauser were co-recipients of the 2016 male award, while Montana State basketball star Peyton Ferris won the female award. Past winners are ineligible to receive the award a second time.