Christina Smetana

Carroll’s Christina Smetana tips the ball during a match against Westminster College at the PE Center. Now Christina Eichler, she is among those joining the Helena Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

IR file photo

The Helena Sports Hall of Fame has released the list of members in the Class of 2017.

The class is comprised of 12 individuals, including five contemporary athletes (attended high school fewer than 50 years ago), four Golden athletes (attended high school 50 or more years ago), two coaches and one special category.

There are also 12 teams being inducted, consisting of six contemporary teams and six Golden teams.

The induction ceremony and banquet will take place this summer at the Great Northern Hotel.

Contemporary Athletes

Matt Larson, Capital High (2003), competed in track and field and football for the Bruins, garnering six all-state awards. He was a two-time Divisional and State champion in the 110 high hurdles, and still holds the all-class record in the event, of 14.21 seconds.

Larson was also a two-way All-State football player, helping CHS to an undefeated State championship in 2002. He was named Western Conference Defensive co-MVP, while setting two school grid records, with 14 career interceptions and a season 31.3-yard KOR average.

At the University of Montana, he captured three Big Sky Conference hurdles titles with the Grizzlies track team.

Christina (Smetana) Eichler, Capital High (2006) was the first Lady Bruin to garner 12 varsity letters: four each in volleyball, basketball and softball. She left the school with seven All-State selections -- three in volleyball, and two each in basketball and softball. Her senior year, Smetana garnered first team All-State citations in each sport.

She left the school ranked in the top five in eight categories on the volleyball charts, including records in career kills and blocks.

At Carroll College with the Saints, Smetana was a three-time all-conference selection. As a senior, she led the conference in kills, blocks and hitting percentage, and was named the 2009 Frontier Player of the Year, and an NAIA second team All-American.

Nate Boyd, Helena High (1999), was a seven-time State track champion, winning two 100 titles, two 110 hurdles crowns, one 200 victory, and a pair of 400 relay championships. He is the only athlete in local history to win back-to-back, 100 and 110 hurdles titles.

Boyd finished with no less than eight school records, including State Track Meet career marks of seven total titles, five individual crowns (tie), 74 points scored and 12 all-state medals; six all-state medals and 34 points in a single State Meet; 14.56 seconds in the 110 hurdles; and part of the 400 relay (42.85).

Boyd, who utilized his speed on the gridiron for the Bengals at wide receiver, went on to run collegiate track for Central Arizona Junior College.

Megan (Zanto) Handl, Capital High (2001), was a three-year starter for CHS in volleyball and basketball. As a Lady Bruin spiker, she was a two-time All-Stater at middle blocker, while establishing the pre-2002 team records of 394 season kills and 925 career kills.

On the hard court, her senior year she averaged about 11 points and 11 rebounds per game, while leading Class AA in rebounding average.

At Montana State, Zanto was a three-time All-Big Sky Selection and became only the second in Lady Bobcat history to reach 1,000 kills and 500 blocks. She holds MSU records for career block assists (511) and total blocks (592), and is third all-time in the Big Sky Conference in career blocking average (1.47 per game).

Lonnie Burt, Capital High (1981), earned All-State citations in three different sports: football, wrestling and track and field.

In track, he was the State runner-up in the shot put, with a school record 54-10¾. On the mats, Burt captured the 1981 AA heavyweight championship, upsetting the defending champion and undefeated Gary Albright (Billings West) in the finals. Burt became a three-time Big Sky Conference wrestling runner-up at Montana State.

An honorable mention All-State defensive lineman for the Bruins, he then earned NCAA All-American status with the 1984 national champion MSU Bobcats, prior to playing professionally for the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions.

Golden Athletes

The late Leo “Dutch” Schneider (1910-83), had been a standout basketball player at Helena High in the 1920s, before a 25-year career in the semi-pro City and State Baseball Leagues. One of the state’s best all-around players, he won a pair of league batting titles and pitched several no-hitters, once striking out 20 of a possible 21 batters in a 7-inning no-no.

An avid golfer, Schneider won six Bill Roberts club championships, two Green Meadow CC titles, and one City crown. He was a member of a State championship bowling team.

The late Bob Chilton (1922-2001), was an All-State running back for Helena High’s football team, and a member of the Bengals' 1940 State hockey championship. He played goalie for the semi-pro Helena Vigilantes and Rangers, posting game-highs of 42 and 40 saves.

After losing his right arm in a WWII accident, Chilton learned to play handball with one arm. A fierce competitor, he captured three State doubles open titles, 11 City doubles crowns, and one City singles championship.

Charlotte Sanddal, at 94 years young, has accumulated enough swimming medals -- although she’s given most of them away -- to last two or three lifetimes, and she didn’t even start competing until she was 75.

Sandaal started out winning senior championships at the 2002 Big Sky State Games in Billings, before advancing to the 2007 Worlds Masters Championships in Christ Church, New Zealand. Since went capture age-group, national and world championships in places like Sydney, Australia; Torino, Italy; and Gresham, Oregon.

The late Dick Muffick (1931-1983), had been an All-State javelin thrower in track for Helena High, and a standout Helena Legion and Carroll College baseball catcher. After enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, his Warren Air Force Base (Cheyenne, Wyo.) team won two Western AF titles (1954-55), and the 1955 World Wide Air Force championship.

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Muffick was signed by the New York Yankees, serving as catcher in their farm system for three years and rising to Triple-A, before returning home to play for the Copper League champion East Helena Smelterites.


Rick Thompson, Capital High, established numerous state records during his 22 years as the Lady Bruins head soccer coach, highlighted by his eight Class AA championships. CHS captured five successive crowns from 1996 to 2000, which included 68 consecutive victories (with no ties) -- both state marks -- and three more from 2003-05.

Among Thompson’s other state records include 204 career wins (204-69-45), 119 season points scored, two season points allowed, and 20 State Tournament qualifications.

Mark Samson, Capital High, coached the Bruins from 1997-2003, guiding his gridders to three undefeated State football titles in seven years, in 1999, 2000 and 2002.

Samson’s back-to-back undefeated titles in 1999-2000 tied the AA record of 24 successive victories. His 13-0 mark in 2002 set a new AA standard for most wins in a season.

Samson left the school with a career mark of 67-12, for a school winning percentage record of .850. He went on to a 10-year career at Montana State-Northern, posting a 9-3 record in 2006 and qualifying for the NAIA playoffs.

Special category

Brian Knight is the only native Helenan to become a Major League Baseball umpire. A 1993 Capital High grad and former Helena Sentors legion pitcher, after working his way up through the minor leagues, Knight umpired his first big league game as a substitute in 2001.

From 2001-10, he spent his time between the AAA minors and the majors, before becoming a full-time MLB umpire in 2011. Since then Knight has worked the 2012 All-Star Game, 2013 American League Wild Card Game, two National League Division Series (2014, 2015) and the 2016 ALDS.

Contemporary Teams

The Class of 2017 contemporary teams include the 1982 Helena High boys cross country; the 1983 and 1988 Capital High boys gymnastics; 1986-87 Capital boys golf; and 1987 Helena High boys gymnastics.

Golden Teams

The Golden Teams consist of the 1940 Helena Merchants women's softball; the 1953, 1956-57 Days Plasterers women's softball; and 1966, 1968 Helena Trail Riders national placers.

NOTE: This will be the HSHOF’s ninth class of inductees, and since the charter class of 2003, 109 individuals and 57 teams have been enshrined into the Hall.

Curt Synness is on Twitter @curtsynness_IR and can be reached at


Sports Reporter

Sports Reporter for the Independent Record

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