Itís time, once again, to nominate the best prep athletes in the region for the Daily Inter Lakeís Athlete of the Year. The 12 finalists are the collection of athletes in the running for the top spot for boys and girls.
Theyíre not the only athletes that were up for consideration. In fact, it took some considerable culling to get the list that small. But, for space reasons, we canít run 30 finalists and list all their accomplishments without the sports section reading like a phone book.
With that in mind, we had to cut back a field of boys athletes that included individual state champions and leaders of team state titles. We cut back multi-sport champions and future Division I athletes.
Thereís a list on my desk of girls that led their teams to titles and best-ever finishes while piling up more goals, points scored and defensive stats than most of their peers.
Thatís not easy.
And, like any list, you could always compile it differently.
Columbia Falls won so much in nearly every sport this season that leaving only two athletes on this list feels criminal. Thereís no representatives from Polson, despite some impressive athletes, and Bigfork and Whitefish probably deserve more than one each.
There were too many winners to include them all.
But, with only 12 spots, the athletes that did make the cut are some of the most impressive that have ever competed in the region.
There are record setters who obliterated marks held for decades, then decided to do so again the next time they had the chance. There are career winners who put aside personal marks for team gain. There are multi-sport superstars who carried their teams to unseen heights.
All the kids, as youíll read, had marvelous seasons and are worthy of being singled out as Athlete of the Year.
However, we can only choose one boy and one girl.
Thatís where we need your help.
The hard work of narrowing down the list to finalists is over. Weíre letting the readers help decide who should be the big winners.
So, read up on each of the candidates. Then let us know who you think should win.
Send us an email (itís at the bottom of the column) or comment online. Use social media. Send us a letter. If you see me in the wild, warn me first, but then let me know who you think should win.
It was a long year with a lot of winning from a lot of teams. That makes for a lot of fun throughout the year, but a lot harder to narrow down who did it best.
So, have your take. It may be the final vote toward picking a winner.
Joseph Terry is a sports reporter and columnist who has worked at the Daily Inter Lake since 2012. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 406-758-4463.