State swimming and state wrestling were this past weekend, so, naturally, plenty of record-breaking swimmers and dominant wrestlers are featured on this edition of Prep Athletes of the Week.
Because of that, this week's list is expanded to six finalists. But even that doesn't feel like enough. Between state swimming and state wrestling, there were 18 state champions in the Missoulian's coverage area, not to mention the six state-winning relays.
And, of course, we can't leave out hoops as the regular season is rapidly drawing to an end.
Each week, we nominate an equal number of boys and girls for our “Prep Athletes of the Week.” Readers will be able to vote for one boy and one girl in polls that appear by noon Monday at Missoulian.com. Voting will be open through 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The winners will be published in the Missoulian’s Prep Extra section each Thursday.
Here are this week’s nominees:
In what appears to be a first, two girls from the same high school have been nominated in the same week.
Missoula Hellgate's Katharine Berkoff and Mari Aoki both earned nominations for their stellar individual weekends in Great Falls at the state swim meet. Both of their efforts combined helped secure Hellgate's fifth-straight team victory.
Berkoff, a junior, broke two state records in her two individual events. Berkoff cruised to win the 100 freestyle by more than two seconds. She shattered that record by 1.5 seconds. Berkoff won the 100 backstroke by roughly six seconds and set the record by about half a second. With the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke records under her cap, Berkoff now owns three individual state records. She set the record in the 200 freestyle at state last season.
Aoki, a senior, won her two individual events and broke her already-standing record in the 200 IM. Aoki shaved 0.16 of a second off her 200 IM record and topped the rest of the field by approximately eight seconds. Aoki won the 200 IM at state by a substantial margin in all four years of her high school career. Aoki won the 100 breaststroke as well and beat the second-place finisher by just under a second.
Kalispell Glacier's A.J. Popp also made waves at the state swim meet. The junior won the 200 freestyle by roughly five seconds. She placed second in her second event — the 100 freestyle — to Berkoff. Popp's victory was the first win by a Glacier girl in school history at the state meet and was the first individual win for either gender since Glacier's Jordan Loyda won the boys' 50 freestyle in 2013.
Arlee's Alyssia Vanderburg is hard to stop, as she averages around 25 points per game this season. She had her fifth 30-point game of the season on Thursday — a 32-point outing against Charlo. Vanderburg, a junior, topped 1,100 career points on Saturday after scoring 14 points against Two Eagle River.
Frenchtown's Kylie Willett led the Broncs on back-to-back nights. Willett, a senior, scored 13 in Frenchtown's three-point home win over the Ronan Maidens on Friday. And on Saturday, Willett scored 19 points — among the highest outings by a girl in the Missoulian's coverage area that night.
Morgan Radtke scored 20 points in Drummond's win over Charlo on Saturday. She accounted for nearly half of the Trojans' points in their 49-23 loss on the road at Ennis on Friday. She also scored eight of Drummond's 25 points against Twin Bridges on Tuesday.
Missoula Hellgate's Matthew Fritz's senior season culminated with victory at the state swim meet in Great Falls. Fritz won both the 100 backstroke and the 200 individual medley to help propel the Knights to their fifth-straight state title. Fritz won both events decisively. The second-place finisher in the 200 IM finished four seconds after Fritz and the swimmer who touched the wall second in the 100 backstroke came in roughly two seconds behind Fritz.
Jamie Bouda of Kalispell Flathead had dominant performances in the pool as well. The senior, who didn't compete in high school swimming for the past two seasons, now has two state individual state titles to call his own. The Brave won the 100 breaststroke by nearly two seconds, and shattered the state record in the 50 freestyle. Bouda won the 50 freestyle by a massive one-second margin.
Frenchtown's Riley Gurr won his third state tournament title of his high school career on Saturday after pinning every single opponent he faced last weekend at the state wrestling tournament in Billings. He pinned all four of his challengers in a combined 11 minutes and 45 seconds. In the title bout, Gurr pinned his foe in 4:45 to finish the season at 45-1.
Plains-Hot Springs' Daniel Uli wrestled his way atop the platform on Saturday, winning the B-C 126-pound title bout by a 7-1 decision. Uli, a junior, has wrestled in every state tournament of his career and slowly made his way up the podium. In 2016, he finished sixth. In 2017, he finished third. In 2018, he won and finished the season with a 47-1 record.
It's hard to justify keeping Arlee's Phillip Malatare off the list when he has games like the one he had on Saturday. Malatare scored 37 points on Saturday — the highest point total statewide that day — and added 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Warriors' 93-46 win over Two Eagle River. He paced undefeated Arlee on Thursday as well with 21 points in the Warriors' 83-56 win over Charlo.
Missoula Sentinel's Sam Beighle was nominated last week, but his efforts this week can't be ignored. The Carroll College prospect eclipsed 1,000 career points as a Spartan after scoring 21 in a crosstown game against Big Sky on Thursday. He added five rebounds, four steals and three assists for Sentinel in that game. Beighle yet again hit the 20-point club in a crosstown game against Hellgate on Saturday. The senior scored 22 points in the first half alone and finished the game with 24 points and nine rebounds.