(Editor's note: MTN Sports is featuring a Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year finalist nightly leading into this year's awards banquet Wednesday, May 18, at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. Ten graduating seniors (five boys, five girls) in Billings are nominated annually by coaches and activities directors before Roundtable members, a group of longtime sports enthusiasts in Billings, vote on one male and one female winner. In rare instances, the award has been shared.)
BILLINGS - Pick a sport and Billings Senior's Kennedy Venner has likely played it.
Three years of varsity basketball, one in golf and two in soccer. In fact, Venner said she originally had no clue about soccer, which was on the table as great exercise to stay in shape. But she was later thrilled scoring her only career goal against Billings Skyview after tapping in a teammate's free kick.
"I didn't play that much so I was just like, you what, I'm going to go after the ball," Venner recalled to MTN Sports. "The ball just kind of perfectly landed at my feet, the goalie was sprinting out towards me, I kinds of hit the corner and made it. I fell on the ground, kind of slid while I was doing it and everyone lifted me up and I was like, oh my gosh, I think I just scored my first goal."
She'll never forget it.
Of the four varsity sports Venner has played at Senior, softball is the one delivering a full ride to Carroll College. She's a gifted pitcher showcasing a barrage of awards including 2021 Montana Player of the Year, according to her resume. Funny thing is, she didn't love the game early on while stuck playing minor league youth baseball.
"I hated it. I was so bad," she said with a genuine laugh. "There's this picture (where) I'm standing in the outfield just picking a flower. In another one, I'm blowing a piece of bubble gum, just the biggest bubble and I couldn't hit the ball to save my life. I couldn't catch the ball."
Wow, have things changed.
Venner has helped Senior to the State AA championship game twice and would love to exit her high school career next week with the title.
When it comes to dressing up, she'd actually love it if every day was Casual Friday. Venner admits that even prepping for this on-camera interview threw her a curveball.
"(I was) just a little frustrated because I never get ready (like this). I just wear shorts and a t-shirt, and this was actually my first time I've curled my hair probably in a couple years, so..."
So... she says she'll stick to a ponytail and shorts.
Female finalists: Brooke Berry (Skyview), Kaitlin Grossman (West), Mya Hansen (Central), Kennedy Venner (Senior),Jaeden Wolff (West).
Male finalists: Isaiah Claunch (West), Caden Dowler (West), Taco Dowler (West), Drake Rhodes (West), Payton Sanders (Skyview).