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Helena High’s Jamie Pickens was a back-to-back Class AA girls basketball tournament MVP and Gatorade Player of the year. Pickens was also a back-to-back-to-back all-state hoopster, while helping her Lady Bengal cagers to back-to-back-to-back State championships.

And now, Jamie Pickens is the Independent Record All-Area Girls’ Athlete of the Year.

“My time at Helena High was amazing, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of coaches or girls to go through it with,” said Pickens, who was also named the 406mtsports 2019 Girls’ Athlete of the Year. “Helena has been super supportive to me and continues to be as I am starting my time at U of M. I’m just really thankful and happy for all of it.”

Spikes and blocks

In volleyball, she led the team in kills and blocks her last three seasons, with three straight fourth-place finishes at the state tournament from 2015-17. She also holds the school record for blocks in a match with 12.

Last fall, coach Lindsey Day’s HHS spikers were ranked No. 1 during the season for the first time in eight years. A season highlight occurred at the first crosstown in the Bears’ Den, when both teams were undefeated. The second-ranked Lady Bengals swept the eventual State champion Lady Bruins, 3-0, sparked by Pickens’ 15 kills and 5 blocks.

Helena entered the Class AA Tournament in Bozeman as the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed. The Lady Bengals opened the tourney in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse shutting out Billings Senior, powered by Pickens’ 13 kills.

After a 3-2 loss to Billings West (Jamie spiked 17 kills and posted 8 blocks), HHS was eliminated by the Flathead in 5 sets. Pickens, on the way to her second all-state volleyball citation, produced 15 kills and 10 blocks in the loss to the Bravettes.

HHS hoops all-time leading scorer, rebounder

On the hardcourt, she led the state in scoring and rebounding this year, averaging 17.2 points and 12.3 boards. In the finals of the State Tournament, she fired in 18 points, speared 17 rebounds and pirated 4 steals, in the 55-37 victory over Billings West for the three-peat

Helena’s all-time leading scorer with 1,204 points and rebounder at 852 boards, Pickens owns at least 10 school records. Among those marks are 43 double-doubles.

She is ranked 16th in the nation by ESPN at her position, as well.

“Jamie is a coach’s dream – she is naturally gifted, has a great work ethic, and most importantly, is an amazing role model for the younger generation,” stated HHS head coach Eric Peterson, whose cagers went 63-8 over their final three seasons. “Every coach wishes they will have the opportunity to coach a player of Jam’s magnitude once in their career.

"Players like her don’t come around very often, and I will definitely cherish the time we had together.”

State track runner-up

On the softball diamond, she made all-state second baseman her first three seasons. In 2017, she 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 switched to track and field her senior year, participating in three events she’d never tried before; the shot put, discus and javelin. It took her just three weeks to qualify for the State Track Meet in the shot, when she placed fourth at the Great Falls Optimists Invitational with a toss of 35-feet-10½.

“In the short time that I coached Jamie, I found that she’s a good listener, she loves to compete, and she ups her level to a higher plane,” HHS shot put coach Scott Evans said.

That meet was also her first entry in the javelin – one-third of the way through the season – with a throw of 102-2. But she kept improving, and just five short weeks later at the Class AA Meet in Kalispell, she uncorked a toss of 129-5 and placed State runner-up, just 8 inches shy of another State title.

“Track was a fun experience that I enjoyed a lot,” Pickens recounted. “My coaches Sheila Williams and Scott Evans deserve a lot of the credit. They really took the time to show me the ropes. It was a nice way to end my time at Helena high.”

Williams related that her best javelin “throwers have been volleyball players, the arm motion is similar to the arm swing” on a spike, and that she “had to convince” Pickens to try the event.

“Jamie is so strong and athletic so it was just a matter of trying to teach a very complicated event in a short period of time,” the Lady Bengal skipper said. “I have always wanted to coach Jamie, and it was a joy to have her join the team.”

Williams added that “it would have been amazing to see what could’ve happened,” had Pickens started chucking the spear earlier in her career.

Four-sport all-stater

Among her numerous decorations and records, Pickens tied two of the school’s most presticgious marks, while making history in another category previously unattained.

She shares HHS’ standards of 12 varsity letters (with Kelsey Williams, Callie Kanthack, Shanna Floerchinger and Kamden Hilborn) and nine all-state citations (with Hilborn).

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.

Honorable Mention

Audrey Hofer, Capital; Vanessa Walsh, Helena; Tavia Rooney, Townsend; Odessa Zentz, Helena; Cassie Brisko, Capital; Audrey Bloomquist, Capital

The Process

Athletes from the schools in the Independent Record's coverage area were all considered for Player of the Year. Those athletes were evaluated based on season performance, statistics, intangibles witnessed by the staff, sportsmanship and the importance of each athlete's contribution to his or her team's success.

Curt Synness can be reached at 594-2878 or email curt52synness@gmail.com. He’s also on Twitter @curtsynness_IR

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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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