BILLINGS – A West High speedster and a pair of Senior High Broncs took home Midland Roundtable Male and Female Athlete of the Year honors Wednesday night.
The awards, presented at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center, recognize outstanding athletic performances among athletes from the four Billings high schools.
For the first time ever, this year’s male award was shared between two finalists, both from Billings Senior. Longtime friends Gabe Sulser and Charlie Klepps tied in Roundtable voting.
“When I heard my name I almost passed out, I think,” said Klepps. “My sister was like, ‘You know, you could tie. There’s been a tie once.’ But I was like, there’s no way they’re going to do a tie. But then he’s one of my best friends, so I think it’s cool that we get to be up there together.”
Klepps was dominant in both soccer and wrestling, earning all-state honors in both. In February, he became only the 32nd four-time state champion in Montana wrestling history, earning his latest title at 132 pounds. Klepps was recently honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as Montana’s most outstanding wrestler this season. He also recently accepted a wrestling scholarship to Iowa State.
Sulser was named Montana’s 2017 Gatorade Football Player of the Year after helping Senior to its second straight undefeated season and back-to-back State AA titles. He is a three-time all-state first-team receiver, cornerback and punt returner.
“I expected him to win it, so when they said Billings Senior I was just expecting Charlie Klepps, and when he said ‘and …,’ I was like, ‘Oh gosh, that doesn’t happen very often,'” Sulser said. “But, like you said, it’s crazy. I never even thought about splitting it.”
Sulser won a State AA track and field championship in the 110-meter hurdles as a sophomore. He will attend the University of Montana on a football scholarship.
The only other time two athletes shared the award was in 2011 when Central’s Jackie Elliott and West’s Danielle Muri split female honors.
West’s Maddie Brockel was named this year’s female AOY as a two-sport athlete. She played three years of varsity soccer for the Bears and has been especially dominant in track and field. Brockel has already earned six individual State AA track championships and five more in the relays. She has won the 200 meters all three years and ran the anchor leg on West’s all-class record-setting 400-meter relay teams in 2016 and 2017.
“It’s fun to get dressed up and come be surrounded by a bunch of other great athletes who have gotten us to where we are today,” Brockel said. “It’s definitely a bright moment and one of those moments to look back on as one of those highlights of my high school years.”
Brockel will have a shot at more gold next week at the State AA meet in Great Falls. She will attend Montana State on a track and field scholarship.
Other female finalists were West’s Catherine Follet and Senior’s Raegan Steiner, Courtney Bad Bear and Payton Meyer. Male finalists included Senior’s Nolan Askelson, West’s Joey Moore and Skyview’s Brock Bushfield.
Billings Senior golfer Jalen Wagner was presented with this year’s Kathy Maier Award honoring the year’s most courageous local athlete. Wagner recovered from hardships and injuries to represent Senior’s program. Maier was a former Roundtable member who lost her battle with health issues.
Based in Billings, the Midland Roundtable is a group of highly involved individuals interested in promoting prep and collegiate athletics in the Billings area, according to its website. Since 1947, the Midland Roundtable’s main focus has been devoted to fostering and perpetuating more and better sports. The Athlete of Year Banquet is one of three events sponsored by the active membership annually, along with its Top 10 Track and Field meet and the Montana-Wyoming All-Star Basketball Series each June.
The Midland Roundtable meets for a monthly luncheon which begins at noon on the first Thursday of each month, except for holidays. Each month local coaches, players and/or athletic directors are invited as guest speakers.