Alaska Sports Hall of Fame welcomes Class of 2015

March 5, 2015

Alaska Sports Hall of Fame LogoDick Mize just wanted a place for kids to ski. John Brown just wanted to play basketball. Michaela Hutchison was just following in her family’s footsteps.

What started as small ideas turned into something big.

Mize, Brown and Hutchison joined Nancy Pease and the Iron Dog to make up the Class of 2015 for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

Those five, plus the recipients of four Directors Awards, were honored Thursday night at the Anchorage Museum.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Mize, the revolutionary designer of nordic ski trails in Anchorage. “The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame is one of those things you look up to, but you don’t think too much about being there yourself until it happens. I’m real honored to be there.”

The evening was a celebration of awesome athletic achievement. Brown was the first Alaskan to win four consecutive high school basketball state titles, and he averaged a double-double in his junior and senior seasons. Hutchison was the first high school girl in the country to beat boys for a wrestling state title. Pease was a magnificent, record-setting mountain runner who collected 20 titles in Mount Marathon, Crow Pass and Bird Ridge.

Mize didn’t set out to be a game changer. He started building trails in 1958 in Arctic Valley and from there took a leading role in developing a maze of ski trails Russian Jack, Kincaid Park and Hillside.

“I just finished my last one here about a year ago when we finished up with the Kincaid Project Group,” Mize said.

Brown was in eighth grade when he watched Ketchikan lose the state championship game and he vowed to lead the Kings back to the top of Alaska basketball. That’s exactly what he did, leading the Kings to titles in 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968.

“All I can say is I loved playing basketball. If I hadn’t won anything, it wouldn’t make a difference,” he said. “I was fortunate in that I played on four great teams in a great program. It’s just a validation of what we accomplished as a group. It was kind of cool.”

Pease stopped running competitively years ago, but she is still the undisputed queen of the mountain. She was untouchable during her reign in the 1980s and 1990s, but nothing was quite like 1990, when she set records at Mount Marathon and Crow Pass and was the overall winner at Bird Ridge, beating the men’s winner by more than 90 seconds.
Pease, Brown and Mize were inducted into the Hall of Fame as individuals, and Hutchison and her 2006 wrestling championship was selected to be enshrined as a moment.

The Iron Dog was honored as an event. The race began in 1984 as a 1,000-mile snowmachine race from Big Lake to Nome. It has since expanded to 2,000 miles, going from Anchorage to Nome to Fairbanks.

“Me and a couple guys sat down and threw a bunch of maps out on the floor and tried to figure out where we’re going to go,” said co-founder Jim Wilke. “We didn’t really have a clear picture at the time, but the theory was we were looking for a route of 1,000 miles give or take.”

Thursday’s event also honored this year’s winners of the Directors Awards:

• The Joe Floyd Award for Significant and Lasting Contribution was given to UAA track and cross country coach Michael Friess.

• The Trajan Langdon Award for Leadership, Sportsmanship and Inspiration went to Two Rivers musher Aliy Zirkle, who has placed second in the last three Iditarods.

• The Pride of Alaska Awards for Consistent Excellence in Athletic Competition (male and female) went to Alaska Pacific University ski coach Erik Flora and Kenai runner Allie Ostrander.