Somewhere in Rilee Mangun's four-year high school sports career she developed a funny little habit while she's on the basketball court. At any break in the action, she seems to fiddle with one of her pant legs on her shorts.

Mangun even did it last Tuesday at the All-Valley all-star basketball game, even though the shorts now sit at the correct length.

"I guess it's because I used to wear really big, baggy shorts, so I always had to pull them up. When I'd play defense, they'd drag and cover my knees and (trip me up)," Mangun explained.

There's no sense messing with the impulse, as Mangun wore out the opposing defense at the all-star game, scoring a team-best 20 points. After the girls' game she was also co-named the Bitterroot Valley's girls Athlete of the Year.

That's because Mangun isn't just a standout basketball player — she's been a perfect fit for Florence's softball and volleyball programs for four years, too.

Even if the team uniforms didn't always cooperate.


By anyone's account at Florence, Rilee is the only senior girl that's a three-sport athlete at the high school, and she has played volleyball, basketball and softball each season of her high school career. Volleyball coach Christy Duchien thinks the last girl at Florence to pull off the four-year trifecta was since-graduated Autumn Round.

Mangun rarely gets a break between sports too, as the Falcons have gone deep into their respective seasons throughout her career.

For instance, the Florence volleyball team played in the Class B state title game on Nov. 11 last fall and basketball practice started up four days later on Nov. 15.

The Florence girls' basketball team then went to the Class B title game last Saturday. Two days later was the first softball practice.

"I had her as a freshman on the JV volleyball team when I coached that (and in four years) I don't know that I ever (heard her complain) even if she was sick or something was hurting," Duchien said. "...There was one day you could kind of see it in her face that something was off but she just said 'I'm good, I'll find a way.'

"She just has that mental component it takes to be an athlete like that."

It's likely Mangun and Co. will have another long season in softball. The Falcon ballplayers are the two-time defending Class B-C state champs and the Florence softball program has won 10 titles in the last 20 years.

"Our program is very disciplined. When you walk on the field, your headspace is completely focused on softball; it's go time," said Mangun. "Having that mentality: it's softball, softball, softball; everybody is on the same page."

Somehow Mangun is able to fine tune that focus with each new season, and to good effect.

She's been a large part of the three programs' successes. The 5-foot-10 senior was named all-state in basketball this past season for the state runner-up squad, and she was a second-team all-conference middle blocker for a Florence volleyball team that finished 20-2 overall and one win away from a state title.

In the last two-plus years, Mangun and the Falcons have played in two volleyball state championships, a basketball title game and Florence has won two softball state titles.

Between last year's softball season and this year's volleyball and basketball schedule, Florence has a combined 62-9 record.

"It's all the girls. With this group of girls from all three sports, everyone is really dedicated to their sport," Mangun said, deflecting praise to the likes of fellow all-staters Makenna Liles and Danielle Zahn in basketball and Shannon Byrne, Sarah Hopcroft and Halle Christopherson in volleyball.

"It really is all the girls saying, 'Hey, we're going to come together and do this,'" Mangun added. "They're putting in the extra time and extra effort to get to this point and that's why Florence girls athletics have been so successful."

The question becomes, though, how does Rilee keep from wearing down? Along with the three sports, she's been active in 4H four nine years, raising steers for the Western Montana Fair, and she keeps up on her grades at school.

"...I've often wondered how she does it. She's just one of those kids that has a good attitude all the time," Florence basketball coach Duane Zeiler said of Mangun, who committed to play basketball at North Idaho College next fall. "You almost wonder if she's having to work that hard because it comes so easy for her.

"She's always been good in basketball and maybe volleyball didn't come quite as easy for her, but she's always there doing her job. She's consistent all the time."

Softball coach Rob Ralls said he sometimes worries about the wear and tear on Mangun, who's slated as one of Florence's opening day outfielders, though — in true Rilee fashion — she said she'd play anywhere at anytime.

And come Florence's first softball game — whenever that may be, as over a foot of snow still sits on the Falcons' new field — you can bet Mangun will be out there.

"You worry because some kids need a break, but she's handled it, she'll be fine because she's such a great kid and great athlete," Ralls said. "...She grew up the youngest, had two older brothers to beat up on her and she's just a great athlete."


Along with Mangun, the Falcon softball team returns a slew of talented athletes from last year's state championship squad headed into the spring season. Byrne, who teamed up with Mangun in volleyball, was also named all-state in softball. She's joined by fellow returning all-staters Natalie Dulac and Emily Kinnaman.

Byrne will likely see the bulk of the work inside the pitching circle as two-time Montana all-state pitcher Brianna Hoffman graduated last spring.

"I'm feeling good coming into the season because I did a lot of work in the offseason knowing that losing Bri was going to open up (a lot of pitching opportunity)," Byrne said. "As long as the girls have my back, I should be able to do my best."

With six seniors on the softball squad, there's a good chance Florence's best might just mean another state run, and who knows? Maybe it'll mean another championship game for Mangun and the Falcons.

"I was talking to Rilee at state basketball and said, 'You know if (Florence) plays for the state title in softball this year that'll be six (title appearances) in 12 opportunities,'" Florence AD Scott Marsh said. "There's a lot of kids that don't get to play in half of those, even state tournaments let alone state championship games.

"She'll have a ton of memories from it for sure."

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