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Donovan award photo

Connor Murgel and Jamie Pickens are the 2019 Donovan Award recipients.

HELENA — Helena High’s Connor Murgel and Jamie Pickens are the recipients of the school’s 2019 Pat Donovan Award.

The award is presented annually to Helena’s top senior male and female scholar-athletes. Recipients must have participated in two or more sports all four years, while exhibiting stellar attributes in athletics, academics, character, attendance, sportsmanship, leadership and citizenship.

Donovan, Helena Class of 1971, attended four years of high school in the Capital City. He was a two-time all-American football player at Stanford, prior to playing nine seasons for the NFL Dallas Cowboys, where he attained All-Pro status in 1981.

Murgel earned eight varsity letters; four in basketball, three in track and one in football. In the classroom, he sported a 3.978 grade-point average, missing a perfect straight-A career by one B.

On the hard court, the 5-foot-10 Murgel was a three-year starter, and team co-captain his final two seasons, while helping Helena to back-to-back state tournament qualifications.

He was selected second-team all-conference as a junior, and this year he made the all-state squad, while also garnering honorable mention on the Class AA all-tournament team.

Murgel was also the 2019 Independent Record Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

As a junior, he scored a career-high of 24 points versus Big Sky, and led Helena with 48 3-point field goals and a 10.7 points per game average. This season, Murgel paced the Bengals in scoring during the regular season at 11.4 ppg. He wound up with 664 career points and 127 lifetime 3-pointers.

Murgel played just one season of varsity football — his senior year last fall — but was good enough to make honorable mention all-conference at defensive back. He tied for No. 2 on the team with three interceptions and was fifth in solo tackles with 23.

On the track, he ran the sprints and relays for the Bengals.

Pickens is one of the most decorated female athletes in school history. A two-time Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year (2018-19), she set no less than 10 Helena basketball records, and tied the school's marks for varsity letters (12) and all-state citations (9).

Pickens also became the first Capital City athlete from either school — male or female — to garner all-state honors in four different sports; three each in basketball and softball, two in volleyball, and one in track and field.

In basketball, Helena's 6-foot-2 post player helped sparked three successive state championships, while garnering Class AA Tournament MVP awards her last two seasons.

This past winter, she led the state in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17.2 points and 12.3 boards. Pickens is Helena’s all-time top scorer with 1,204 points and rebounder at 852. She also owns the school’s career mark of 43 double-doubles.

Ranked 16th in the nation by ESPN at her position, she also collected her second straight IR Basketball Player of the Year award this year.

In volleyball, she led the team in kills and blocks her last three seasons, capped off by three straight fourth-place finishes at the state tournament from 2016-18. She also holds the school record for blocks in a match with 12.

On the softball diamond, in 2017 the second baseman helped the team to the program’s first ever state trophy (third place). Last season was arguably was one of her best at the plate batting .435 with 30 base hits.

Pickens, who graduated with a 3.77 GPA, switched to track her senior year, and all she did was place as the AA's runner-up in the javelin — an event she’d never done before — with a toss of 129 feet, 5 inches, just missing her fourth state title by eight inches.

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Curt Synness is on Twitter @curtsynness_IR and can be reached at curt.synness@lee.net or curt52synness@gmail.com

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