Winter: Seven months in review

By: 
ABE WINTER
Star Columnist

My first seven months and 22 days as a sports reporter with the Star have produced some exciting and entertaining moments. Some so-so.

I started May 1 as a news reporter and while I continue to do news features, much of my time is devoted to sports coverage.

The spring sports season was wrapping up when I arrived, although I was able to do some stories on the Custer County District High School (CCDHS) softball, tennis, and track and field teams. And baseball had started for both the Mavericks and Outlaws.

The latter surprised me because I wasn’t expecting two programs in a city the size of Miles City. More on that next spring.

At my age — I turn 70 next month — I wasn’t expecting to come out of retirement. But covering these sports events keeps me thinking young.

Interviewing young athletes and their coaches is a treat — win or lose.

And I get the feeling that many of them hadn’t been interviewed before. I think they enjoy it.

Plus, one of my best friends is Casel Stengel, who walks more than me. But what else would you expect from a 94-year-old?

There are no pro sports to cover in Custer County, so CCDHS and Miles Community College (MCC) events are the center of attention. Most of the home events are routinely covered and I’m already concerned about Jan. 5 when three basketball games are scheduled — Williston State at MCC in a doubleheader and Billings Central at CCDHS (boys).

But before I worry too much about that scheduling  onflict, let’s review some of the early coverage of my short stay here.

The Bucking Horse Sale, considered Miles City’s biggest event of the year, was truly remarkable. The horse racing, despite a few injuries to jockeys, and the wild horse races were more fun than work. Those guys from Arizona keep winning the wild horse title and were a joy to interview.

I can’t wait for the next one on the third weekend in May.

Working with Gail Shaw and the stock contractors during the Eastern Montana Fair and the PRCA rodeo won’t soon be forgotten. And writing about those downtown murals was a treat.

There was a story about a retiring jeweler named Monty and the Cowboy Cobbler, among many others outside of my sports beat.

The City Council meetings were something I’d never covered before, but it was an OK assignment and I had fun with it. (My favorite was the 27-minute meeting).

No, I haven’t forgotten about 20-year-old Jess Lockwood of Volborg, the reigning PBR champion. That means he’s the best bull rider in the world and earning that extra million for his title was something else, especially with the serious injuries he suffered five weeks before the PBR Finals. Just amazing.

Across the street from the Star are two businesses that I frequent — one owned by Vicki Reisenour Leesburg, who as a high school student was taught by my son in Mandan, North Dakota, and the other owned by Mandi Heinle, who peddles, among many other items, great ice cream.

All those eating places along Haynes Avenue; bad effect on my belly, but oh so good. Plus that Yellowstone place where they make great chicken.

Now, back to sports.

The recent high school football season was tremendous, watching the Cowboys go from 0-2 to 8-2 before having the season end against eventual state Class A champion Columbia Falls. I could be wrong, but those two early losses to Billings Central and Laurel would have been avenged if they’d met again.

Volleyball is one of my favorite sports, especially when played at a high level. For the CCDHS Cowgirls, I saw talent but not so many victories. At times, though, they were sharp, getting that nice pass, set and kill. And I’m going to get Kyra Oakland to teach me that celebration step after serving an ace.

The MCC women’s volleyball team allowed more than a dozen young women – all freshmen – to enjoy college athletics. But freshmen against sophomores proved too much. The exuberance of coach Chase Soennichsen indicates better days ahead.

The current winter sports season has produced a pleasant surprise — the MCC women’s basketball team, which is off to a 13-2 record after closing the pre-Christmas schedule with an 11-game winning streak. If they can be competitive in National Junior College Athletic Association Region IX, mostly against Wyoming teams, it would be a remarkable season for first-year coach Nate Vogel and his roster that includes six players from Europe.

Men’s coach Chase Tait doesn’t have his Pioneers off to a good start in his ninth full season at MCC. With a 5-10 record, he’s hoping for a quick reversal at the defensive end to complement an explosive offense. Good shooting will have to overcome height in the Region IX season.

But before we concentrate on 2018 sports, let’s enjoy the holiday season.

Merry Christmas to all and Happy Hannukah to my friend Bubbles (there are so few of us in this neighborhood).

(Contact Abe Winter at starcity@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)

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