Athletes of the Year

2023 Big Sky Games Athletes of the Year

The Big Sky State Games 2023 Athletes of the Year are Samantha Sheridan of Billings and David Stauffer of Red Lodge. Youth Athlete of the Year is Natalie Rehklau 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.

Samantha Sheridan

Female Athlete of the Year, Samantha Sheridan, began competing in Big Sky State Games Open Water Swimming competition at age 14 and has continued for the last six years. This year, she was the first place female and second overall in the 3,000 meter event. Since 2018, she has earned four Gold medals, one Silver, and one Bronze medal in Open Water Swimming. Additionally, she competed in the 2018 Big Sky State Games Swimming earning one Bronze in the 1650 yard Freestyle and one Gold in the 500 Free.

Sheridan is the fastest female swimmer in the history of Montana in the 1500 meter and 800 meter races as she holds these two Montana State records. Furthermore, Sheridan holds all of the Billings Aquatic Club distance race records from the 400 meter free all the way up to the mile. She has placed 8th and had other top 10 finishes at the USA swimming futures championships. Sheridan swims collegiately on a scholarship for Northern Arizona University while studying engineering.

The hard work and competitive spirit of Samantha Sheridan has allowed her to reach her goals to swim collegiately, break state records and have top finishes in futures, sectional and state championships.

David Stauffer

Male Athlete of the Year, David Stauffer, has been participating in the Big Sky State Games for over 20 years in both Road Race and Track and Field. Stauffer has accumulated a total of 26 medals (Gold 19, Silver 7) and holds four Big Sky State Games Records, which include the half marathon age group of 70-74 in 2023, 5k age groups 65-69 and 70-74 and the 800 meter record in the 65-69 age group. Stauffer started running at age 49 by accident after deciding to walk to get into shape. He started walking on the treadmill and gradually increased to running outside and entering his first race in 1998, the Cherry Blossom 10k.

Stauffer's career was launched in Washington D.C., but Red Lodge has been his home for the last 25 years. A retired free-lance writer, Stauffer keeps himself busy training, running races and volunteering in numerous organizations in Red Lodge. He has served in Red Lodge's city government as a planning board president, city planning director, city council member, and assistant to the mayor. He also competes in local and national races. Stauffer was the 2023 Heart and Sole Run 5K Super Master Winner and runs two marathons each year, one of which is always Chicago, because it draws the worldwide fastest age 40+ runners. In 2019 he was first-place American in male 70-74.

Stauffer has a favorite mantra he recites to himself when he’s running tired and sore: “I run as incentive to keep healthy. I race as incentive to keep running. I compete as incentive to keep racing. And that says it all.”

Natalie Rehklau

The Big Sky State Games Youth Athlete of the Year, Natalie Rehklau, has competed in the Big Sky State Games Cycling Road Race and Time Trial for the last three years and accumulated five Gold medals. This year at age 16, she was the overall female winner in the 40 mile Cycling Road Race and was the third fastest female in the Cycling Time Trial. Rehklau also does Archery where she competed in the 2019 Big Sky State Games and received a Gold medal.

Rehklau has multiple family members that ride and race, but three years ago she decided to try the sport herself. She fell in love with Cycling and continues to get stronger and faster each year by winning local and national events. Rehklau was the U17 USA Cycling Esport National Champion in 2022 and 2023. Also, this year she won the Deschutes Double (200 mile individual time Trial) and finished 5th Baker City Cycling Classic that includes four different stages. Rehklau competes against more experienced and seasoned cyclists, but comes on top of the competition.

It will be exciting to watch Natalie as she continues to make accolades in the sport of Cycling.

Past Winners

*Indicates National Athlete of the Year
Year Name Sport
2022 Female: Klaire Kovatch Track & Field
Male: Dallas Redekopp Table Tennis
Youth: Tucker Rice Swimming
2021 Female: Linda Asleson Billiards
Male: Micah Snodgrass Track & Field
Youth: Paige Gershmel Weightlifting
Team: 406 Lady Warriors Softball
2020 Female: Brenda Rose Cycling
Male: Bob Sager Track & Field
Youth: Taylee Chirrick Track & Field
2019 Female: Lisa Reimer Track & Field
Male: Dr. Gregory Dorow Cycling
Youth: Peter Thompson Swimming
  Team: Wildwood Cloggers Dance
2018 Female: Sharon Harris Road Race, Cycling, and Swimming
Male: Sean Phelps Road Race, Cycling, Triathlon, and Swimming
Youth: Mallory Simons Shooting
  Team: Hack Panthers Curling
2017 Female: Kamber Kelly-Brodock Volleyball
Male: Dave Winslow Bowling
Youth: Hailey Poole Track & Field, Volleyball, and Swimming
  Team: Team Rio Grand Casino/Bud/Pepsi/Midland Implement/Dale Construction Mens Softball
2016 Female: Mary Owen Road Race
Male: Jim Wright Armwrestling
Youth: Colter Barnett Ice Hockey, Triathlon, Cycling
  Team: Team Chase Co-Ed Volleyball
2015 Female: Bobbi Knudsen Basketball
Male: Al Vietz Road Race
Youth: Torie Jamieson Karate
  Team: NAPA Flag Football
2014 Female: Robin Hanel Road Race, Track & Field, Cycling, Triathlon/Duathlon
Male: Brendan Murray 5k Road Race, 10k Road Race
Youth: Shea Esp Swimming, Dance, Volleyball, Track & Field
  Team: Rocky Mountain College Battlin' Bears Adult Volleyball
2013 Female: Jen Reiter 5K Road Race, Biathlon, Triathlon, Volleyball 6-on-6, Volleyball Grass Doubles
Male: Bryan Brosious Triathlon, Road Race, Swimming, Cycling
  Youth: Ethan Harder Swimming, Team Triathlon
  Team: Dinosaurs of Doom Adult Co-Ed Soccer
2012 Female: Anita Rawlinson Road Race, Track and Field, Arm Wrestling and Swimming
  Male: Ken Cottrell Swimming, Cycling 25 mile, Triathlon, Track & Field
  Youth: Megan Sweeney Shooting Rifle Pistol
  Youth: Hayley Moen Track & Field
  Team: Northeast Montana Boys 11th/12th Grade Basketball
2011 Female: Lisa Minnehan Road Race
  Male: Cecil Pegram Cycling, Road Race, Triathlon, Ballroom Dancing
  Youth: Keegan Kampschroer Swimming
2010 Female: Iona Stooky Volleyball
  Male: Steve Mysee Cycling (Mt. Bike & Road Race), Triathlon, 5K Road Race
  Youth: Zach Holmes Archery
  Team: Sure Shank Reception Volleyball
2009 Female: Kristen Holland Fencing & Road Race
  Male: Lorn Welch Dance Sport Ballroom
  Team: GDR Flag Football
2008 Female: Marlene Tetrault Road Race, Tennis, Swimming, Cycling, Triathlon
  Male: Garth Kallevig Handball
  Team: Montana Hoops Girls 9th & 10th Grade Basketball
2007 Female: Denby Gardiner Swimming
  Male: Alan King Road Race, Track & Field
  Team: Karma Flag Football
2006 Female: Sarah Graves Road Race, Cycling, Triathlon, Biathlon, Track & Field
  Male: Bryon Johnson Armwrestling
  Team: Res Gestae "Things Done" Softball
2005 Female: Pat Jaffary Road Race
  Male: Lewis Elliot Road Race, Cycling, Triathlon
  Team: Onyx Soccer
2004 Female: Jen Allen Track & Field
  Male: Duane Cole Road Race
2003 Female: Jennifer Drinkwalter Triathlon, Cycling, Road Race
  Male: Dan Berry Cycling
2002 Female: Renee' Coppock Cycling, Road Race
  Male: Charles Jannings Track & Field
2001 Female: Laura Esp Swimming, Cycling, Road Race, Triathlon
  Male: Tony Banovich Road Race
2000 Female: Kathy Aragon Cycling, Road Race, Track & Field
  Male: Alfred Funk Track & Field
1998 Female: Sue O'Connell Karate
  Male: Trent Hartl Swimming
1997 Female: Cass Bauer Basketball
  Male: Dave Coppock Road Race
1996 Female: Debbie Magilke Road Race
  Male: John Collins Archery
1995 Female: Marjorie McLean Swimming
  Male: Lonn Saunders Shooting
1994 Female: Exel "Ekkie" Wedul Road Race
  Male: Glen Kapitzke Shooting