Dixon, Owens, Vladic named Billings athletes of the year

BILLINGS – Billings Senior’s Tiahna Vladic outraced four other female finalists to earn 2019 Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year honors Wednesday night while, for the second straight year, a tie was declared for the boys. Billings Central’s Chrishon Dixon and West High’s Jesse Owens shared this year’s male award.

The organization’s first male tie was last May when longtime friends Gabe Sulser and Charlie Klepps — both from Billings Senior — were dead even in Roundtable voting.

The awards, presented at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center, recognize outstanding athletic performances among athletes from the four Billings high schools.

Vladic stands out as the only Montana Gatorade award winner on the list. She owns two of them, taking cross country’s top honor as a sophomore and again last fall after winning her second State AA title. The latest in a line of great Bronc distance runners, Vladic has all-state credentials in both track and cross country. She’ll have a shot at more gold next week at the State AA track and field meet and plans to run both sports at Boise State this fall.

“Super grateful, a little overwhelmed with so many people here,” Vladic said of winning. “But I’m definitely grateful for the experience and being able to win. Fun to hang out with the other athletes since most of them go to Senior with me. It was super fun, I’m super excited.”

Owens has a football scholarship with the Montana Grizzlies and was a three-year starter for the Bears. He earned Class AA offensive MVP honors at receiver and helped West win last year’s Class AA state championship on the gridiron. Owens also showcases four varsity letters in basketball, including a pair of all-state awards.

The meaning of sharing this year’s award carried extra weight after growing up together.

“Our dads have been buddies for along time,” Owens said afterward. “And then growing up together, he used to live in California, so when he’d come back to Billings I’d be like, ‘What are you doing?’ It would be like, ‘I’m coming over,’ and it was like, ‘Alright, I’m ready for you.”

Dixon helped Central earn Class A state championships in both football and basketball during his senior campaign. One of his most notable accolades was an appearance in an April issue of Sports Illustrated. Tiger Woods graced the cover after his improbable Masters win. Dixon was inside among SI’s Faces in the Crowd feature. He’s chosen to play college basketball for Mick Durham just a few blocks from Central at MSU Billings.

“We’ve known each other since we were six years old, so to have this award with him is an amazing feeling because we’ve been playing since we were kids,” Dixon said.

Male finalists also included Central’s Jack Leuthold, plus Lucas Gibb and Jace Rhodes from West. Other female finalists were West’s Shayla Montague, along with Ellie Ostermiller, Kola Bad Bear and Tavy Findon all from Senior.

West runner Peyton Lipp won the Kathy Maier Award for resilience in her comeback from injuries.

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.

Scott Breen

Scott Breen

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