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Tone setters: Octavia and Viennah Meyer hope to help Billings Senior softball back to the top

Octavia and Viennah Meyer.jpg
Posted at 12:41 PM, Apr 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-01 14:41:47-04

BILLINGS — Fierce is likely too strong of a word, so we’ll settle on "spirited" to describe the sisterly competition between Octavia and Viennah Meyer.

Their attempts at one-upmanship extend to just about any activity imaginable, from team practice drills to the more mundane.

Billings Senior softball coach Lisa Shulund can only laugh when she details practice stories involving the twins when the team runs sprinting drills or conditioning training.
 
“They always want to be first,” Shulund said. “They compete against each other, but in a healthy way. You know, I’ll be like, ‘Go catch your sister! Go catch your sister!’ They’ll just try to catch the other one to the point that they’ve just given everything they have.”

That “healthy competition,” as Shulund calls it, extends behind the softball diamond or basketball court, a sport the twins also play at Senior.

Viennah isn’t sure how it’s measured, or if it’s even possible to measure, but she knows for certain when it comes to household chores, she’s the better of the two. Hands down.

“I just do more cleaning than her,” Viennah said in her usual that’s-the-way-it-is style, but with a smile. “Like, I do the dishes better. She doesn’t really do much.”

To her credit, Octavia, the older of the two, concedes the point. But Octavia’s counterpoint is she is the better artist. Though that comes with a caveat.

“I’m not that good at art,” Octavia clarifies with a smile of her own, “but mine’s better than hers.”

It’s all good-natured, of course, but the I’m-not-going-to-fail attitude that the sisters exhibit is what fits exactly within the Broncs softball program.

The Broncs may rarely have the best 1-through-9 lineup, but they often make up for it with determination and grit. It’s a formula that’s helped the program win 10 Class AA state titles, that last of which came in 2022 when Octavia and Viennah were freshmen.

Now juniors, the twins are looked at as the spiritual leaders as the Broncs look to rebound from a 1-2 performance at last year’s state tournament after a fine regular season.

“There’s that competitiveness between them, but I think they also have just an unteachable competitiveness about them that makes them so successful,” Shulund said. “They just go, go, go and they’ll do anything for you. They just want to work hard all the time. They’re not afraid of anything.”

The sisters certainly weren’t afraid when Shulund penciled them into the starting lineup as freshmen. Maybe a bit nervous initially, but not afraid.

Viennah, a shortstop, batted .383 for the state champs, scored 32 runs and drove in 21 all while bopping seven home runs.

Octavia, meanwhile, hit .321 with 25 runs and 22 RBIs despite dealing with a position switch. She was a catcher throughout her youth softball days, but with senior Hollis Baker established behind the plate, Shulund assigned Octavia to hold down first base.

But she donned the catcher’s gear again last season and responded with a .456 average, perhaps because she was more comfortable defensively. Viennah, with another season under belt, upped her average to .388. Viennah also packs surprising power into her 5-foot-4-inch frame: She hit 10 home runs last season, though oddly didn’t have a double or triple.

“You know, they were just kind of an anomaly in the fact that they came in (to the program) at such a high level,” Shulund said. “And sometimes people will have a sophomore slump, but they never had that.

“Their confidence has just gotten better. And not just the skill stuff, but confidence in the team.”

Team is what it all comes down to for the Meyers, who credit older sister Payton, who played for the Broncs and is now a senior at Montana State Billings, as their role model. Octavia and Viennah expressed disappointment in last season’s finish and found it hard to put into words what the freshmen championship season meant to them.

They want to experience that again, at least once in the next two years. That’s why they’ll continue to push each other whenever possible.

“Last year our expectations weren’t reached,” Octavia said. “This year, we have a really good team, so we just need to keep working hard and know what we want out of the state tournament, follow your dreams.”

Viennah said there’s a larger cause to play for as well. Shulund’s husband, Dirk, was diagnosed with a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma in June of 2021, and had surgery to remove tumors at that time. Dirk had a re-occurrence in January of 2023, so the Shulunds have been through a lot.

The players know it and have their coach’s back.

“Especially for what Shulund’s going through, we just have to do everything for her,” Viennah said. “Just know why we’re playing. We’ve got to stay together and do it for her and our seniors.”

 It’d be tough for anyone to one-up that sentiment.