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2015:  A Year in Review From the High School’s Eyes

Article By: Erin Dringman
Jan 08, 2016

According to Facebook Newsroom, the topics most talked about in the media in 2015 were:

  1. US presidential election
  2. November 13 attacks in Paris
  3. Syrian civil war & refugee crisis
  4. Nepal earthquakes
  5. Greek debt crisis
  6. Marriage equality
  7. Fight against ISIS
  8. Charlie Hebdo attack
  9. Baltimore protests
  10. Charleston shooting & flag debate

While those may have been the most frequented topics on the national or international spectrum, the discussions heard in the hallowed halls of Sweet Grass County High School during the past year generally followed different interests, such as the boys basketball team’s run at a state title, or the new Chromebooks that each student toted under their arms.

It is with awe that I look back over 2015 and all that has happened at SGHS. Students and faculty, give yourselves a round of applause. Attempting to choose a mere 10 things that you have done in the last 12 months has been a trying feat -- you are just too accomplished. Therefore, I cannot fit all of your awesomeness into this list. For more updates on the challenges, changes, and achievements of SGHS, visit our newspaper website,

1. Administration Changes Hands

2015 saw the turning of many tides, among which was the switching of administrative hands at SGHS.

Mr. Kip Ryan had served as principal and athletic director of SGHS for many years. As the 2014-2015 school year came to a close, Mr. Ryan announced his plan to move on in his career. Mr. Ryan is now an assistant director for the Montana High School Association.

It was with heavy hearts and warmest wishes that the SGHS populous bid goodbye to their friend and leader in Mr. Ryan and looked with high expectations to their new principal and athletic director, Mr. Matthew Kleinsasser.

Mr. Kleinsasser applied for the administrative position available at SGHS because it is a larger school than those he was worked for in the past, and he was interested in a change of pace. Mr. Kleinsasser stepped into the big shoes he had to fill in the fall of 2015, happy to be a part of the SGHS and Big Timber community.

Mr. Kleinsasser was educated at MSU Northern and the University of Montana. He was most recently the superintendent of the Rosebud School District, and decided that the “natural progression of education” should lead him on to become a principal.

He has served as an athletic director in the past and feels that it is a routine, enjoyable part of his job. Mr. Kleinsasser hails from Big Sandy, MT. He and his wife, Kaylee, have two daughters named Greeley and Izzy. “The best part of SGHS is the kids I work with,” said Mr. Kleinsasser.

SGHS looks fondly back on their past with Mr. Ryan and eagerly forward to their future with Mr. Kleinsasser.

2. Chromebooks Go One-to-One

SGHS made a big leap in 2015 to keep abreast of technological advancements in education. In July of 2014, the school purchased three sets of thirty Chromebooks. A Chromebook is a thin, internet based miniature laptop owned by Google and run by the Chrome OS operating system. The 2014 purchase cost the school $24,813. After a year with the three sets of Chromebooks, the school’s technology committee made the decision to supply each student with a personal Chromebook to be utilized for school purposes. Juniors and seniors were given older versions of the Chromebooks to be returned at the end of their high school careers. Sophomores and freshmen received more recent Chromebook models and will be allowed to keep them upon graduation. Each student paid a $25 technology use fee at the beginning of the 2015/2016 school year and both students and parents were required to sign a Chromebook use contract. Students are responsible for covering the cost of damaged or lost Chromebooks. The Chromebooks have been used widely throughout SGHS during the year, and many teachers have utilized Google Classroom as a central locale for online assignments.

3. Growth of a Club, an Organization, a Community, and a Garden

The Sweet Grass Community Foundation gave the Big Timber FFA Chapter use of a five acre tract of land adjacent to the high school parking lot. FFA uses the land for raising chickens, planting crops, and providing insight into the agriculture industry for SGHS students. Members of the community have been incredibly supportive of the partnership between SGCF and FFA, with the community gardeners and Roe Construction aiding FFA in their development of the land. In the future, FFA hopes to garner approval to use the land to house 4H animals for kids whose families live in town.

4. SGHS Students Get SMART

Many schools from across Montana competed in the 2015 SMART (Save Money And Resources Today) School’s Challenge, a conservation initiative created by former Lieutenant Governor Angela McLean. Among these high school competitors was SGHS.

SGHS students walked away from the program more cognizant about the importance of recycling, and the school saved a large sum of money via their efforts. When compared to energy costs in 2001, SGHS saved over $28,000 in 2015.

The impressive achievements of the SGHS SMART Club led to their selection as one of four winners of the energy conservation and recycling challenges.

On April 13, Lieutenant Governor McLean visited SGHS. She spoke to the SMART Club about how important their efforts were.

“You folks,” McLean said, “are the future. And that makes me hopeful.”

At the end of her visit, McLean gathered the SMART Club members around her and presented them with the fruit of their efforts: a check for $1,000.

5. SGHS Says Goodbye to the Class of 2015

On May 25, 2015 the senior class walks in cap and gown across the gym floor for the last time as SGHS students. Joe Todisco, the class’s guest speaker, encourages them to keep on pushing despite all obstacles, promising that with determination, they can reach the summit of the hills in front of them and achieve their dreams.

A Year of Superiority in Sports

- The Boys of Ball 
The 2015 boys basketball season was one of the most successful years in recent SGHS history. The Varsity team ended the season with an overall record of 19-7, never losing by more than 10 points. They finished the regular season with a 14-4 record, and entered the District Tournament in Belgrade as the number one seed.

The team swept the 5B District, beating out Jefferson in the championship. They advanced to the Divisional Tournament in Billings. At Divisionals, they received the third place Southern B trophy and earned themselves the title of the first SGHS boys basketball team to make it to state since 2009.

At the State Tournament, the Herders lost in overtime during the first round to Loyola Sacred Heart. The following morning, they competed in a heartbreaking matchup against Rocky Boy. The Herders were jubilant as the game drew to close, convinced that victory was theirs. However, as the final seconds ticked off the clock, a Rocky Boy player threw a half court shot to win the game by one point, ending the Herder season. Though Big Timber lost out of the State Tournament, their opponents in Loyola and Rocky Boy went on to place second and third in the state, respectively.
Young Squad of Lady Herders Grow Up Together 
The girls basketball team for the 2014/15 season was comprised primarily of young players, with only one senior member. The ladies worked together under the tutelage of their coaches, Kip Ryan and Kim Finn, to overcome the odds against them and grow in talent and success throughout the season.

- Swinging Into State 
The varsity golf team swung and putted their way through a successful season, with Billy Miller and Tanna Campbell placing at the State meet.

- Keep Track: Herders PR at State
The weekend of May 23-24 found the qualifying members of the SGHS track team competing in Kalispell at the State Meet. Many Herder tracksters performed well throughout the season, and the State Meet was the pinnacle of high performance for many team members.Both the boys’ and girls’ short relays ran their fastest times. The boys’ short relays consisted of Luke Rech, Mack Coyne, Destan Miller, and Brent Finn. The girls’ short relay was made up of Ashley Gunlikson, Erin Dringman, Hannah Wheeler, and Madelyn Foulk. The girls’ long relay of Elle Terland, Madelyn Foulk, Ashley Gunlikson, and Hannah Wheeler also ran their best time.Brycen Lehman received his unofficial personal record in the discus. Drew Pike placed 8th in boys javelin and Madelyn Foulk 9th in girls javelin.Foulk also ran her fastest long-relay split at the State meet. Hannah Wheeler got her personal record in the 400. Ashley Gunlikson PR’d as well, in the 100 meter hurdles. Destan Miller PR’d in high jump.Destan Miller stood alone as a Herder track team member on the awards podium. Miller placed 4th in long jump and secured himself an All-State title, landing on the SGHS Wall of Fame.

- Served Success
Lady Herders serve themselves a well-deserved helping of wins during the 2015 volleyball season, moving into the District tournament as the #2 seed.

- Friday Night Lights
The 2015 SGHS Varsity Football team ended their season with a 6-3 overall record. However, they lost a hard fought battle to their conference rival, the Columbus Cougars. The following weekend resulted in a loss against Red Lodge, which, due to the unique system used by the 4B district, dashed the once high playoff hopes for the Herders. Nonetheless, the season was a great one, with a strong coaching staff and a group of players who were a band of brothers on and off the field.

Distance Makes the Legs Grow Stronger
Herder Cross Country runners compete in a challenging, yet fruitful season. At the State meet, five of the ten team members run times that boast personal records. The girls team has enough members to post a team score for the first time in many years, and end up 18th in the Class B State.

7. A Dramatic Finish

During the weekend of January 30-31st, qualifying members of the SGHS Speech and Drama team traveled, under the supervision of coaches Kari Blaylock and Gabby Perkins, to Ennis to compete at the State meet. After two grueling days of competition, the Drama team came home with a 2nd place B/C State trophy. For the drama team, Avery Conner and Ethan Peterson added the most points as they secured themselves a State Championship in their event, Classical Duo. Honey Cranston was the other Drama team member who made the podium, taking home a fifth place medal in Serious Solo. Greta Sanders was a semifinalist in Serious Solo and Kacin Bolinger and Ashton O’Connor were semifinalists in Serious Duo. On the Speech team, Erin Dringman received a second place medal in Impromptu Speaking and Megan Garrard finished in eighth in Original Oratory. The team ended their season of successes when Kari Blaylock was named Drama Coach of the Year for the sixth time.

8. Future Farmers of Big Timber and the Nation

The Big Timber FFA Chapter has had a phenomenal year, with members winning awards left right and center. The chapter was fortunate enough to take a group of six talented members to the 2015 National FFA Convention, held in Louisville, KY on October 28th-30th. The Big Timber FFA members in attendance competed as the Floriculture team, an individual Creed Speaker, and the chapter’s top Greenhand member.

At Nationals, the Floriculture team competed on the first two days of the convention. Their contest included the creation of individual and team floral arrangements, handling of customer complaints, job interviews, and mock scenarios simulated to prepare members to deal with business situations in the real world. The team received a bronze medal overall, aided by team members Makalee Klein, Riley Horigan, and Kelli Mack receiving individual bronze medals and Caitlyn Corso receiving an individual silver medal.

In Creed Speaking, a contest wherein competitors recite the FFA Creed and answer a variety of questions, Madilyn Emter received a bronze medal.

Though Cole Lunceford did not compete in anything at the convention, it was still an invaluable experience for him, as a top Greenhand, to learn about and appreciate what he will work towards in the future.

The convention was home to over 64,000 members and guests who competed in 24 career development events, focused on preparing students for real world jobs and life experiences. “It is the premier youth leadership organization in the country,” said one of Big Timber’s FFA advisors, Casey Lunceford.

9. Honored Musicians
Avery Conner, Ethan Peterson, Kyle Rennie, and Mariah Wood were selected to attend the Missoula All-Star Ensemble and play their instruments with the Griz marching band at a University of Montana home football game.

10. Connie Kunda Remembered
Connie Kunda, a beloved member of the SGHS and Big Timber community passed away after a hard fought battle with breast cancer. The SGHS cheer squad and student body paid tribute to their friend in Connie and will forever treasure her memory as an inspiration to them all. 

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Recent Scores
Football - Oct, 16 2015

Herders - 20
Columbus High School - 27

Football - Oct, 09 2015

Herders - 27
Roundup High School - 22

Football - Oct, 05 2015

Herders - 48
Livingston - 26

Football - Oct, 02 2015

Herders - 36
Joliet - 0

Football - Sep, 25 2015

Herders - 34
SGHS Herders - 21

Football - Sep, 21 2015

Herders - 26
Jefferson Panthers - 40

Football - Sep, 18 2015

Herders - 14
Glasgow Scotties - 0

Football - Sep, 14 2015

Herders - 12
JV Manhattan Tigers - 7

Football - Sep, 08 2015

Herders - 46
Three Forks - 6

Football - Aug, 28 2015

Herders - 21
Whitehall Trojans - 10

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