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Athlete of the Month

By Colin Anderson

Riley Cessna, Senior

Photo Courtesy of Jason Duchow Photography

Sandpoint high school senior Riley Cessna is used to both tough competition and getting through adverse times. Riley started riding horses, camping, hunting, fishing and trapping at a young age. Around 5 she also started playing soccer, basketball and baseball, where she was often the only girl on the team. “One of my favorite memories was playing with the Triple A team the Pirates. With a girl on the team we were definitely the underdogs, but we worked hard and made it to the playoffs, where we won second place and I was awarded Golden Glove of the league,” she recalled.

Riley made the switch to softball in the sixth grade with a goal to one day start for the high school varsity team. By the time her freshman year rolled around, she was excited as ever to be playing high school sports. She had just begun her first few practices with the basketball team when it all came to a grinding halt after tearing her ACL in her very first game. Riley remembers the recovery being difficult, as her body didn’t react well to painkillers, and she started drifting away from friends. She wouldn’t heal in time for softball season and remembers being angry, until her mom stepped in with some tough love to help her snap out of it. “One day she took my crutches and hid them from me, forcing me to walk, and again, after talking to my physical therapist, she started making me ride horses again,” said Riley.

Getting back in the saddle helped Riley remember all the physical activities and sports she cherished, and it motivated her to push hard in her rehabilitation. She worked hard and made the varsity softball team as a sophomore. “That season I played second and short, and had the most bases stolen as well as a lot of fun. That’s when I realized that the comeback is greater than the setback. I also learned what it was truly like to appreciate the ability to be able to play.”

Riley is now focused on her final season as a Bulldog. After COVID-19 wiped out her junior season, she’s cherishing each practice and game, as well as remaining grateful to be part of so many great teams along the way. “All of these coaches taught that one person doesn’t win a game but a team can, and I think that is why I love all of my teams, because we all work so hard and we can rely on each other.”

Riley hopes to continue to either play softball or potentially competitive rodeo events during college. She has yet to determine where she will attend this fall.

Ethan Butler, Junior

Photo Courtesy of Jason Duchow Photography

For Sandpoint High School junior Ethan Butler, the upcoming baseball season couldn’t get here fast enough. As a freshman, Ethan not only made the varsity team but performed well enough to be named to the All-League team. With a great first season under his belt, he was preparing to build on that momentum his sophomore year. Unfortunately, Ethan would suffer a pair of setbacks.

Like others all across the nation, the pandemic wiped out his baseball season, and, if that wasn’t enough, it was discovered that he would need surgery to repair the labrum in his shoulder. “I have been rehabbing the last year, and I am super excited to get to play on the field and have all the hard work pay off,” he said.

Getting back out on the mound is something he’s worked hard for. Rehab isn’t the same as going through normal practices and off-season workouts with his team, but Ethan knows he’s put in the work to put himself in a place to succeed this season.

“One life lesson I have learned while playing sports is that if you work hard in what you are doing, eventually it will pay off,” he said. He’s also excited to see what his team can do this year as they come together as one. “What I like about baseball the most is being able to play it with a good group of guys who all want to accomplish the same goal,” he said of his Bulldog teammates.

While Ethan wraps up a unique junior year, he looks forward to a more normal school routine this fall as a senior. He wants to continue to improve his baseball skills in hopes of attracting the attention of a college that would offer him a scholarship.

As someone who loves to be outdoors and appreciates the surroundings he’s grown up in, Ethan would like to stay in the west for college while pursuing a career that keeps him out of the office. “Some of my career interests are being a wildlife or fisheries biologist. I have always found the outdoors as one of my favorite places, and I want to be able to interact with animals and nature,” he said.

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