Member Profiles

Member Profile: Chrysti Smith



Age: 59

BCBSMT Member since 2011

What’s one of Chrysti’s favorite absurd words?  Pulchritude. You’ll have to look it up in the dictionary to discover the story behind this word.

Words, Broncs and Motorcycles

Poplar, Montana—headquarters of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation—captures an annual rainfall that barely breaks 12 inches. Brief thunder storms bring relief to the arid climate, and biting winter winds create the iconic environment for northeastern Montana’s rolling prairies, endless wheat fields and grazing cattle.

Chrysti Smith spent the salad days of her childhood in rural Roosevelt County. She tackled the usual kid chores and roamed a rural habitat near Poplar. “We had a lot of freedom,” she said. “We’d be out for hours riding our horses, sometimes taking them for a swim in the river, and enjoying the friends who, like me, loved to ride the range.”

Chrysti took some chances, too. She rode horses that hadn’t been ridden, got bucked off. She rode her 1965 Honda 150 Dream street bike on dirt jumps, got bucked off. And at 17, Chrysti began to learn the story of words by reading the dictionary and got hooked.

Dictionaries in hand, Chrysti headed to Montana State University and earned a degree in sociology/anthropology. But on her way to graduate school, she got bucked off of her anthropological career path and got back to studying words.

In 1990, inspired by American poet John Ciardi’s explanations of words and their origins on National Public Radio, Chrysti started a similar program on MSU’s radio station, KGLT. Now for two minutes every day, she continues as a professional narrator plumbing the depths of dictionaries, obscure, arcane and pedestrian, to craft word and phrase histories for her radio audience.

Growing up on the plains of Poplar, riding broncs and motorcycles and getting hooked on reading the dictionary is a story about taking chances. Getting bucked off and getting back on worked out for pretty well for Chrysti the Wordsmith.

Member Profile: Matthew Smeltzer


Small Business Owner: Competitive Timing

Age: 39

BCBSMT small group insurance:

2 years

What does he do in his time off? He camps and hikes with his wife, Eleanor, and their daughters, Olive and Ruth.

Time Machine

Time is an illusion, said Albert Einstein.

Matthew Smeltzer may disagree. He’s a genius when it comes to time. He’s managed real time for travelers to the sixteenth part of an hour and recorded hundreds of thousands of minutes to 1/100 of a second for time-addicted athletes.

Matthew, a tech nerd, developed his addiction to tracking time in the competitive business of renting cars. In a work environment full of urgency, “I fell in love with the electronic spreadsheet,” he said. Using a popular software system, he manipulated rows and columns of dates and places and managed numerous employees, fleets of vehicles, multitudes of travel plans and time.

Matthew traveled to Montana’s Flathead Valley, landing in Whitefish where he could satisfy his other addiction—running. For an ultrarunner, there’s no better place to satisfy the urge to turn your legs than on Big Mountain trails just down the street from Glacier National Park.

In this vibrant mountain community, he merged his passion for running with his compulsion for tracking time. “I wanted to organize races with the help of a running club to raise money for local nonprofits,” he said. From elite athletes to weekend warriors, timing is everything; there’s family time, work time, workout time and, for many, a faster time.

Matthew is chief techy and founder of Competitive Timing, a leading race timing company that touts “accurate results every time.” Along with his league of five time trackers, Matthew continues to use a popular software system to manage rows and columns of data for fleets of runners chasing nanoseconds. “We love what we do,” he said, “and we still get time to run every day.”

It’s no illusion—time flies when you’re having fun.

Member Profile: Guy Nordahl


Professional Bull Rider

Age: 23

BCBSMT member for most of his life

Guy’s wife, Bethany, is studying to become a physical therapist

Eight seconds

Clear your head, rosin your rope, take a tight wrap and give a nod to the cowboy at the gate. He’ll pop it wide open so you can attempt an 8-second ride atop a twisting, spinning, rocking 1,800-pound bovine tornado who’s determined to buck you off in less time.

Guy Nordahl’s bull-riding career started like a lot of young buckaroos—hanging on to the back of a running sheep. Mutton-busting was his first step. Riding steers followed. Next step, bulls. At 17, Guy qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals in Bozeman where he met horn to cheek with Psycho, a dark grey, born-to-buck bull.

Riding hand roped tight, free hand balancing the act, Guy made the 8-second mark, winning the day’s first go round, but Psycho left a life-long impression. Ready to bust loose from a winning effort, Guy got hung up. His hand, wrapped tight to keep him on, wouldn’t let him off. Psycho took Guy for another ride, hoofed his face once, then again, sending him to the hospital where surgeons repaired his shattered eye socket, cheekbone and jaw.

So what keeps Guy getting back on for another 8-second ride?

At 23, Guy believes one of the best things a cowboy can do is surround himself with those who strive for excellence and are good people. “It makes me a better rider and I love the challenge. Riding bulls takes courage and builds character,” he said. “It’s a good life. I’ve made good friends, learned a lot about people, and about myself. “

Guy’s learned a lot in 8 seconds.

Member Profile: Mary Lachenbruch


Associate Benefits Manager

Montana University System

Age: 51

BCBSMT member since 1968

Mary plans to run 2,016 miles in 2016

Lifestyle Twirl

It takes determination and confidence to become a national champion baton twirler. When Mary Lachenbruch found out she had a life-threatening illness a few years ago, she tapped into the same strength she used in 1979 to achieve her twirler title. Not only did she overcome the illness, she became a wellness advocate and developed a passion for running—accruing 2,015 miles in 2015.

In 2011, Mary became critically ill after years of poor health. Diagnosed with several chronic diseases, including obesity and severe obstructive sleep apnea, she shared an unbelievable prognosis with her family and friends—she may not survive. But it didn’t take long for everyone to realize that Mary would not only survive but thrive.

How did she do it?

“I took responsibility for my own health,” she said. “I joined our workplace wellness and disease management programs and made getting healthier a family affair. I started walking and walking and then running with my brother. My son also started the wellness journey with me and together we lost over 200 pounds.”

Because of Mary’s commitment to a healthier lifestyle, she no longer takes medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Her new highs come from running—running her first half marathon in 2014, her second in 2015 at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana’s Governor’s Cup, followed by her first marathon in Missoula, where she beat her goal of six hours with a time of 4 hours and 54 minutes.

As a kid, Mary practiced twirling her baton for hours each day. As an adult she practices running several hours a week. Both have proven to make her a champion of health and fitness.