(Editor's note: BSSG media release)
BILLINGS - The Big Sky State Games 2020 Athletes of the Year are Brenda Rose of Billings and Bob Sager of White Sulpher Springs. Youth Athlete of the Year is Taylee Chirrick of Billings. These awards are designed to recognize individuals who best personify the ideals of the State Games movement: participation, sportsmanship, effort, and positive attitude.
Female Athlete of the Year Brenda Rose's love for cycling began with teaching cycling classes at the Billings YMCA.
Rose stated, “I got into cycling by accident. I was teaching high impact aerobics and running which resulted in a stress fracture in my foot from overuse. In 1996 the YMCA offered to train me in "spinning". I took the training and the rest is history!”
From 2010 to 2020, Rose earned 22 medals, 20 gold and 2 silver, in the Big Sky State Games Cycling Time Trial and Road Race events. She has consistently finished as the first overall female in the time trial, first or second overall in the road race and always first in her age group.
Big Sky State Games Time Trial Cycling Commissioner Chris Cook said, “The bicycle brings out the physical, mental strength and toughness which is at the core of Brenda Rose.”
Rose has been an integral part of organizing the Big Sky State Games Road Race Cycling event for the last eight years as one of the Big Sky State Games Cycling Commissioners. She continues to teach cycling classes at the YMCA and also enjoys riding for charities and ultra-distances. Rose also was a middle school track and cross country coach until 2012 and also served as the race director for the Yellowstone Alpine Klimb Ride. When not on her bike, Brenda is an art teacher at Billings West. Brenda has been teaching for 36 years. Rose loves cycling, competing and always striving to do her best on and off her bike.
Male Athlete of the Year Bob Sager has been in the Big Sky State Games from the start in 1986. He has earned over 40 medals since 2001. Sager broke the (70-74) age group Hammer Throw record in 2020 and also holds two other age group records in that event.
He had good success as an athlete in high school throwing the shot and discuss. On August 6, 1981, he was thrown through the window of his truck in a roll over and was pinned under his truck for 45 minutes. He dug himself out and walked 7 miles for help. During that hike, he made a mental "bucket list" and first on the list was to throw again. Sager has not looked back since. He started lifting, throwing and studying the technique. He has competed in 37 national meets, 14 World championships on 5 continents from Australia, Japan, to Scotland, has 22 national championships and three medals in World Masters Championships.
“The Big Sky Games have always given me a competitive opportunity to see how I was doing as it was usually a month before nationals. I use the Big Sky State Games as a "marker" to see how I am training and I measure myself on the ability to compete and enjoy the sport,” stated Sager.
Sager is a veterinarian, consults for large beef cattle ranches and speaks nationally and internationally on beef production.
“I have been blessed to have had a great career and throwing is a wonderful hobby as it is good for my body, my soul, and my mind. I throw twice weekly on hand made circles and 5 throwing rings that I built,” Sager said. In 2006 Sager even held a national competition at his ranch near Wilsall.
In 2013 he received a new right femur ball prosthesis which allows him to continue his competitive spirit.
Taylee Chirrick is the Big Sky State Games Youth Athlete of the Year. Chirrick began competing in the Big Sky State Games Track and Field when she was 7 years old. In the last eight years, she has accumulated 22 Gold, 9 Silver and one Bronze medal in Track and Field. She also participated in Basketball in 2017, 2018 and 2019 earning two Gold and one Silver medal.
Chirrick holds 1500 meter age group record for ages 8-9, 10-11, and 12-13 age group in the Big Sky State Games. Her record for the 12-13 age group is the fastest of all recorded times of 4:57.97 in the 1500 meter. She also holds the 400 Meter and 800 Meter age group record for ages 10-11.
At the 2017 State Games of America in Grand Rapids, Michigan she brought home the Gold in the 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and Bronze in the long jump. Throughout the years she has also competed in USATF and AAU track meets winning numerous medals.
Chirrick’s running encompasses all lengths from the 100 meters to the 5k. In 2014, she set the record for the 8-9 year olds in the 2 mile Montana Women's Run. Also, she holds the YES Cross Country elementary record for the mile for 4th and 5th grade girls. This year at the Big Sky State Games, she not only competed in Track and Field events on Saturday but ran the 2020 Montana Mile Friday night.
This Fall Chirrick is a freshman at West High School.
The 2020 Osborne Volunteers of the Year are Laurie Kelly, Van Madden, Bob Hogemark and Greg Mohl. The award is named after Tom Osborne and his family; Tom was the Big Sky State Games founder and Executive Director from 1986-1996. It was the vision and volunteer spirit of the Osborne Family that initiated and sustained the early years of the Big Sky State Games. The Osborne Volunteer of the Year award provides the opportunity to reward volunteers who follow through with that same spirit of service, commitment, and enthusiasm for the Big Sky State Games.
Laurie Kelly has served as the the Big Sky State Games Volleyball Commissioner for the last 7 years. Due to the pandemic, all of the Volleyball events were moved to a grass volleyball format and Kelly played an integral role in making the new format work. The 4 v 4 (Quads) grass volleyball tournament encompassed junior high, high school and adult divisions. Along with Kelly, the event could not have happened without the help of Wade Wells, Jenny Moodie, Iona Stookey, Yang Yang and Kamber Kelly.
Big Sky State Games Volleyball Commissioners invited area high school coaches, club coaches and players to participate in practices in advance of the State Games to learn the format.
“We set up the nets, taught the kids how to play ‘fours’ and just let them play,” Kelly said. “They absolutely love it, they just love it.”
Laurie Kelly has been coaching for over 40 years in Montana and served as the Rocky Montain College volleyball head coach for 14 years. The former Roundup High School head coach led the RMC program to six NAIA National Tournaments, including two Elite 8 appearances. Kelly was inducted in the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005. Kelly is very passionate about Volleyball and keeping youth active in our community.
Van Madden has been involved in Shooting Sports since 1960 and involved with the Big Sky State Games for over 20 years. Madden was the Big Sky State Games Skeet Shooting commissioner from 2001-2003. For the last 8 years he has been a key volunteer for the Silhouette events at Billings Rod and Gun Club. Madden is the head target setter at the three day event.
“These events could not run as smooth and timely without Van’s help,” stated Irv Wilke, BSSG Shooting commissioner. Madden is very dedicated to the sport of Shooting. A retired environmental consultant, Madden has served on the Billings Rod & Gun Club board of directors.
Track and Field Commissioners Bob Hogemark and Greg Mohl made many adjustments for the 2020 Big Sky State Games Track and Field event to take place. The event was moved to a new location and the schedule was expanded to three days to allow for more social distancing. To pull off the meet, athletes in the short sprints were assigned in every other lane and blocks were sanitized after each runner. For high jump and pole vault events, each athlete brought their own tarp to cover the pit. This is just a few of the changes that the commissioners implemented to follow the COVID-19 guidelines.
Hogemark has been the Big Sky State Games Track and Field Commissioner for eight years and a volunteer before becoming the Commissioner. He is a mathematics teacher, coach and activities director at Park City High School. Hogemark has been the Park City Track and Field coach for over 25 years. During the spring, he works tireless helping mange many track and field meets in Laurel.
Greg Mohl has been a volunteer with the Big Sky State Games since 2004 focusing his expertise at the Pole Vault event. Mohl has been the Track and Field Commissioner for last seven years. Mohl is an independent Geologist by vocation. He represents USA Track and Field Montana Association in several capacities and has coached in Red Lodge for over 15 years.