BILLINGS — The Montana Amateur Athletic Union recently announced its finalists for the 2018 Little Sullivan Award, with a trio of Olympic skiers and college athletes among the men and women nominated for the honor.
The male finalists are Olympic skier Brad Wilson of Butte, MSU Billings men’s basketball player Kendall Denham of Malta, Montana State football player Mac Bignell of Drummond and Montana State track and field athlete Kyle Douglass of Missoula.
The four female finalists are Whitefish skier Maggie Voisin, Washington State volleyball player Taylor Mims of Billings, Missoula skier Darian Stevens and Gonzaga basketball player Jill Barta of Fairfield.
Voisin and Stevens recently concluded their 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeonchang, with Voisin earning a fourth-place finish in the slopestyle skiing competition. The Whitefish teenager climbed as high as third in the standings during the finals, but was bumped from the podium after seven skiers.
Stevens settled for 17th place in the event, missing the cut for the finals.
Barta, the 2017 MontanaSports.com female athlete of the year, continues to set records with the Gonzaga women’s basketball program. The former Montana Gatorade player of the year, who never lost a high school game at Fairfield, was recently named a finalist for the 2018 Cheryl Miller Award, given to the top small forward in women’s college basketball.
Former Billings Senior volleyball star Taylor Mims, Montana’s 2014 Gatorade player of the year, recently completed her junior season with the Cougars. A starter since her freshman season, Mims made the move from the middle to an outside hitter position this season, shining for WSU. Mims tallied a team-high 525 kills this season, good for an average of 4.17 kills per set. She also had 274 digs, second-best on the team, and 95 blocks.
Two-time Olympian Brad Wilson competed in the moguls competition last week in Pyeonchang, but didn’t advance to the finals. The Butte native, who trains in Park City, Utah, finished in 18th overall, two spots better than his No. 20 finish four years ago in Sochi. Wilson has a world championship silver medal in the moguls event, and has finished as high as fourth in the World Cup standings.
Bignell became a Montana State fan favorite during his career with the Bobcats, making the transition from 8-Man Drummond to the FCS. The linebacker led the Bobcats with 93 total tackles last fall, 62 unassisted, including a season-high 14 against Northern Arizona. He added 2.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss for coach Jeff Choate, and tied a program record with his eight career fumbles forced. Bignell ended his career with two straight wins over rival Montana, posting 10 tackles and a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter this season at Bobcat Stadium.
Missoula Sentinel grad Douglass has become a force in the Big Sky Conference throwing events this season, earning the league’s field athlete of the week on two separate occasions. Douglass recently hit a lifetime best of 60-05.25 in the shot put, moving past the 60-foot mark for the first time in his career. The toss vaulted him to third all-time in Montana State history, behind only Scott Steckel and Blake Jackson.
Denham is a former two-time Class B state champion from Malta and has found a home at Montana State University Billings. The Yellowjackets’ senior guard has career highs of 25 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and seven steals. This season, Denham is averaging 11.5 points, three rebounds, 2.7 assists and 0.9 steals per contest. He is also shooting better than 80 percent from the free throw line, while knocking down 41 percent of his 3-point attempts. He was recently honored with the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s academic all-conference honor for the third straight season.
Voting is under way for the 2018 male and female Little Sullivan Award winners and ends April 6. Montana’s version of the award is fashioned after the national AAU Sullivan Award, created in honor of James E. Sullivan, the founder of the Amateur Athletic Union. Montana’s first award was given in the 1950s, and past winners include Patrick Casey, Mike Person, Rachel Semansky and Jordan Sullivan.