Connecting You With AK Athletes Outside the 907

The Alaska Sports Blog is sponsored by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and provides daily updates on local athletes outside the state. The blog was created in 2009 to fill a void of media coverage once Alaskans left the 907 area code. Former Anchorage Daily News sports editor and Alaska Press Club award winner Van Williams has been with the blog since the beginning and written more than 2,800 stories on some 500 Alaska athletes.

Follow us on Twitter @AKsportshall and Facebook.

Click here to read more about Van Williams and the Alaska Sports Blog.

July 24, 2016

Caleb Holley football

Caleb Holley

Caleb Holley of Anchorage caught three passes and scored a touchdown as the Sioux Falls Storm beat the Spokane Empire 55-34 in the Indoor Football League’s United Bowl.

Sioux Falls finished the season with a 17-1 record and won its fifth straight league championship.

Holley, of East High fame, accounted for 46 yards and hauled in a 20-yard score in the fourth quarter to make it a 48-26 game.

The 24-year-old wide receiver caught 23 TDs in 13 games with Sioux Falls.

The Storm went 13-0 when Holley took the field.

July 23, 2016

Sierra Rosenzweig softball

Sierra Rosenzweig

She finished at the top of her class and hit at the top of the lineup for her high school softball team, so it makes sense Sierra Rosenzweig of Anchorage would wind up going to a top notch college.

The all-conference middle infielder and East High valedictorian will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the world’s greatest universities specializing in applied science and engineering.

She wants to be an aerospace engineer and design rockets and airplanes for the likes of Space X and NASA.

“I feel like a lot of people have a dream of being an astronaut as a little kid and then they realize it’s not realistic because it’s really difficult, and I have this opportunity and it can actually happen for me,” Rosenzweig told me.

“I feel like one of the big perks to going there is that you have that stamp on your diploma that says ‘MIT’ and I feel like you could show that to any employer and they would hire you. You could get a job anywhere in the world. That was a big motivation for me.”

The 18-year-old has signed her letter of intent to play softball for MIT, which finished 34-14 overall and finished second in the NCAA D3 New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference.

At East, Rosenzweig was part of an East dynasty that included three state championships and an Alaska record 93-game winning streak.

“She’s a great student but her softball helped to get her in,” East coach Paul Schoenborn told me. “She played second and led off for me all four years. This year she had to move over to short but still hit leadoff. She also hit more home runs this year than anyone expected.”

Rosenzweig said school and softball goes hand in hand.

“I can’t do school without sports. The more I exercise I better I do in school so I figured I’d better play as long as I can. It’s a good balance,” she said. “I definitely focus better on what I do best, math and science, while exercise. It’s good to take a break from sports and do other things like school.”

She graduated high school with a 4.35 GPA.

School came easy, softball did not.

“It took a lot of work,” Rosenzweig said. “I think I am just as critical in softball because it’s a sport you have to focus on. You can’t really slack off.”

July 20, 2016

Damen Bell-Holter basketball

Damen Bell-Holter

Hydaburg’s Damen Bell-Holter has inked a deal with a team in Italy to ensure his fourth professional basketball season.

The 26-year-old announced on social media that he signed with Agrigento of Italy’s second division.

“I’m excited for another opportunity to do what I love for a living while playing in a great league,” he tweeted.

Bell-Holter, of Ketchikan High fame, played his college basketball at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma.

After an all-conference senior season, the 6-foot-9 forward was picked for the Boston Celtics training camp. He eventually played for the Maine Red Claws in the NBA D-League.

Bell-Holter played one season in the D-League in 2013-14 and averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 48 games.

Last season, he played for Lapuan Korikobat in Finland, where he averaged 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Going to Italy is a step up from Finland.

“It’s been an up and down journey for me but I’ve continued to work,” he said. “I will continue to grind and give these young dream chasers someone to follow.

“Small village, big dreams.”

Agrigento made the playoffs last season and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Bologna, which lost to C. de Latte in the league finals.

July 18, 2016

Jonny Homza baseball

Jonny Homza

For a sport steeped in failure, Jonny Homza of Anchorage is enjoying a lot of success on the baseball field.

Two months after winning Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year honors and leading South High School to the ASAA state championship, the smooth shortstop has been named to the 2016 Area Code Games next month in Long Beach, California.

“I’m working really hard and playing the way I know how and that’s all anybody can really do,” he told me. “Baseball is a very humbling sport. I mean, if you fail 7 out of 10 times you’re considered good, so if you get too cocky you’re just setting yourself up for failure.”

Homza will represent the Pacific Northwest for the Kansas City Royals and Arizona Diamondbacks in the Area Code Games. The national event includes the top 200 players divided into eight regional teams.

“It does feel good to get recognized as a player and it’s very exciting to be able to experience all these cool things,” he said.

Players are typically nominated by a scout and then participate in a tryout. Homza was nominated by Tony Wylie of the Alaska Baseball Academy who also works as a scout for the D’backs.

“It was kind of his coming out party,” Wylie said of the tryout. “I kept hearing guys say ‘No way this kid is from Alaska.’”

Homza is the third Alaska player and first position player to be named to the Area Code Games, which date back to the 1980s. The other Alaskans to earn invitations were pitchers Max Karnos and Johnny Meszaros.

“I do think that baseball in Alaska is getting a lot more credibility and is able to produce a lot more talented baseball players, including more position players,” said Homza, who has committed to the University of Hawaii.

July 17, 2016

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks returned to the basketball court and helped the USA Basketball U18 Women’s National Team win the gold medal of the FIBA Americas tournament in Chile.

The Americans beat up Canada 109-62 in today’s championship game.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, came off the bench to play 13 minutes, 25 seconds and earn her first meal from international competition.

She had missed the team’s previous two games, including a semifinal win over Puerto Rice, after getting hit in the head during the second game of pool play.

The 6-foot-4 forward is the first Alaskan to play for the U18 women’s national team.

Hebard scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds.

She averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds in three games.

Up next for the Alaska player of the year is the University of Oregon, where she will begin her freshman year this fall.

July 15, 2016

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard


Fairbanks forward Ruthy Hebard of the USA Basketball U18 Women’s National Team suffered an apparent head injury during Thursday’s 80-59 win over Brazil at the FIBA Americas tournament in Chile.

The 18-year-old starter bound for the University of Oregon was hit in the head, her dad told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

“They’re going to test her one more time to decide if it’s a concussion. If it is, she’s done for the tournament,” he told the newspaper.

“USA Basketball has a first-class medical staff down here, and they’re doing a great job and doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Hebard, of West Valley fame, was coming off a dominating performance in an 117-32 win over Venezuela in which she bagged 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

The 6-foot-4 former Alaska player of the year had started Team USA’s first two games and averaged 6.5 points and 6 rebounds before today’s injury, which was the final game in Pool A for the undefeated Americans before the medal round.

July 14, 2016

 

Leilani Blair softball

Leilani Blair

She stands only 4-foot-11, but Leilani Blair of Anchorage has always come up big on the softball field.

The speedy leadoff hitter won two state championships in high school and was part of a Junior League World Series title with Nunaka Valley.

Now she’s headed to Eastern Kentucky, a NCAA D1 school in the Ohio Valley Conference.

The four-time all-conference selection signed her letter of intent after taking her official visit.

“It seemed like a good fit for me,” she told me.

Blair, of South High fame, is one of the fastest players in Alaska. The right-handed batter runs from home plate to first base in 2.67 seconds.

Blair transferred to South Anchorage High School after helping East Anchorage win the 2013 state title. While at South she was named the team’s most valuable player in 2014, the defensive player of the year in 2015 and helped the Wolverines win their first state title this year.

She was also a member of the Arctic Storm, a competitive travel team that goes to tournaments in the Lower 48. The Eastern Kentucky coaches saw her play at a tournament in Colorado and liked what they saw, even though she didn’t show out.

“One of the things she said she liked about me was that I’m a heads up player,” Blair said. “I know where the next play is going to be.

“She also said I looked bigger on the field. I thought that was funny.”

The assistant coach watched three games before the head coach showed up for two games. She didn’t exactly make a good first impression.

“I played a very bad game. I remember that,” she said. “Not that she didn’t care about my performance, but she knew I was a heads up player. You can’t teach that. You can teach mechanics, but you can’t teach being heads up and knowing what’s going to be next.

At the plate, Blair hit leadoff for both her high school and comp team. She said half the time she reached base she scored.

She played short stop and third base on defense, but doesn’t know if that’s where she will play at Eastern Kentucky.

“They asked me where I saw myself playing and I would like to play some infield, but I think if they train me to be an outfielder I could be a really good outfielder because I have a lot of speed,” Blair said. “I’m open to trying new positions out.”

July 13, 2016

speedgoat1When former Anchorage resident Abbie Rideout checked the projected times at ultrasignup.com in advance of last Saturday’s brutally hard Speedgoat 50-kilometer mountain-running race, she was only the sixth- or seventh-ranked woman.

Granted, the rankings are based on past performances and not necessarily indicative of one’s current fitness. But with the likes or Magdalena Boulet and Nikki Kimball entered — both have won the prestigious Western States 100-miler and Boulet ran the women’s marathon at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing — Rideout didn’t consider herself a favorite.

You don’t run the race on paper, though.

Rideout topped not only Boulet and Kimball, but all the women, finishing the punishing event at Utah’s Snowbird Ski Resort in 6 hours, 50 minutes and 41 seconds. She thereby earned one of ultrarunning’s biggest payouts: a $5,000 winner’s prize paid in $100 bills plus an actual goat’s foot trophy.

“I’m still on a crazy runner’s high from winning,” Rideout said by phone Tuesday from Salt Lake City, where she works as a nurse. “I was not expecting to do as well I did.”

Halfway through, Rideout moved into the lead by passing Kelly Wolf of Colorado, who wound up second 23 minutes after Rideout.

The race was run with a temperature in the mid-70s and featured 11,800 feet of climbing, all of it at altitude above 7,600 feet.

“It’s one of those races where you hate the RD (race director) the whole time,” said Rideout, who placed third at Speedgoat in 2015 and won the 2010 Crow Pass Crossing. “It’s hot and it’s long. It’s a mental challenge and a physical challenge.”

Four years ago, Rideout and husband Stephen left Anchorage, where they still own a house in Nunaka Valley. They traveled for a year, lived in Juneau for a year and then moved to Salt Lake City in 2014 so Stephen could attend nursing school.

“The end goal is definitely to head back to Alaska,” said Rideout, 36, who celebrated her 10th wedding anniversary the day before the race. “I miss the people and the wild spaces.”

Rideout loves exploring Utah’s unique geography — she toured a mountain ridge for six hours two days after the race — but doesn’t race much.

“I don’t travel to race,” said Rideout, who will do her longest race yet, the 93-kilometer Tushar Trail Run next month in southern Utah. “I race what’s convenient and local.”

Her current Ultrasignup female ranking at the Tushar Trail Run? Second, narrowly trailing only ultra legend Darcy Piceu.

– By Matias Saari, ASHOF Blog Contributor

 

July 11, 2016

Caleb Holley football

Caleb Holley

When it comes to the Indoor Football League, there’s the Sioux Falls Storm and there’s everything else.

Sioux Falls has won the United Bowl game in each of the last five seasons and is one win away from reaching the league’s championship game once again.

The team is 15-1 this season, including 11-0 with wide receiver Caleb Holley of Anchorage on the field.

“I wouldn’t say I’m the missing piece,” he told me. “This team was already the best team in the league before I came. I’m just doing my part and helping the best way I can.”

Holley, of East High fame, has hauled in a team-best 21 touchdowns on just 40 receptions. He ranks fifth in the IFL in scoring receptions.

“I’ve had a lot of fun contributing to this team and organization,” he said. “Football has always been fun for me. Never lost the most important part of the game and that’s having fun.”

Sioux Falls will play Cedar Rapids in the United Conference championship game on Saturday at home. The team has won 59 straight home games, including the last three conference title games against the Cedar Rapids.

The winner advances to the United Bowl July 23.

Sioux Falls finished the regular season ranked second in the league with a 59.4 scoring average per game.

The Storm makes it look easy, even though it’s not.

“Every team has ups and downs. How you handle the ups and downs determines the character of a team,” Holley said. “Gotta know how to stay positive and motivate yourself and also your teammates.”

After the season, the 25-year-old Alaskan hopes to get a shot at a NFL training camp. He spent the better part of two seasons on the Buffalo Bills practice squad before a leg injury led to him getting waived last summer.

He landed on his feet in the IFL, although he always keeps an eye on that other league that plays on Sundays.

“My goal is to do whatever it takes to get back in the NFL,” Holley said. “I’m doing what I can control and keeping my faith in God.”

July 10, 2016

Chad Nading BaseballChad Nading of Anchorage has played baseball all over the place and switched up his delivery more than once, so he’s paid his dues since turning pro in 2009.

He’s finally enjoying some well deserved success.

Nading is the top option out of the bullpen for the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association, an independent professional baseball league.

The 6-foot-5 right-hander has a team-best 0.58 ERA in 14 games, and the Wingnuts are 12-1 when he pitches.

Nading, of East High fame, has 14 strikeouts in 15.1 innings.

He was drafted out of high school and then again after UNLV.

He later signed with the San Diego Padres organization as a free agent and pitched in the Arizona League.

After a season each in the Frontier and North American Baseball League, Nading pitched for the Ishikawa MillionStars in Japan’s BC League in 2014.

July 8, 2016

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks has represented her high school and her state on the basketball court, but she has quickly realized that playing for Team USA is a totally different deal.

“It’s amazing to wear USA across our chest and we are reminded of what an honor it is,” she told me.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, is in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the USA Basketball U18 women’s national team in preparation for the FIBA Americas Championships, July 13-17 in Valdivia, Chile.

Team USA is in Group A along with Venezuela, Guatemala and Brazil.

Hebard was a 3-time Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year and 2,000-point scorer for West Valley. The 6-foot-4 post player is bound for the University of Oregon in the fall.

She is the first Alaska woman named to the 18U national team.

“There is a sense of pride with the coaches and the girls,” Hebard said. “We talk about bringing home the gold and the challenges we will face along the way.”

The FIBA Americas Championship is held every two years. Team USA won gold in 2014, something the team hopes to do again this year.

“Winning a gold medal would mean the world to me,” Hebard said. “It would be such an honor and a wonderful feeling. Coach has told us there is nothing better than hearing your country’s national anthem and having a gold medal around your neck.”

Team USA is coached by Suzie McConnell-Serio from the University of Pittsburgh. She has bagged five career gold medals as a player and coach. Other coaches bring international and professional experience.

“They are who I want to be,” Hebard said.

She is well on her way.

Hebard is playing post for the national team, the same position she played during tryouts.

“Overall it’s making me a better post player and that is very good for me now and in the long run,” she said. “The girls are funny. I like playing with them. We are getting closer every practice and every day on and off the court.”

The national team has practiced for the last two weeks and faced a boys AAU team and a women’s team from Japan in exhibitions in advance of the FIBA Americas Championships.

“Some of the practices are hard and I don’t do as well, but I am starting to pick up and I am hoping I keep getting better.”

July 7, 2016

Allie Ostrander running

Allie Ostrander

Back racing on the track for the first time in two months, Allie Ostrander of Kenai shrugged off the rust and showed everybody why she is the future of middle distance running in the United States.

The only collegiate runner among the 23 woman in the 5,000 meters at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, advanced to the Sunday’s final after finishing fourth in today’s prelims at Hayward Field.

Her time was 15 minutes, 27.13 seconds.

“It was so much better than I expected. I’m so happy,” she told the media after the race.

Ostrander, of Kenai High fame, finished a terrific freshman season at Boise State University in which she finished second at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in the fall and was named the Mountain West Conference’s indoor track and field athlete of the year in the spring.

At the NCAA indoor championships, she was forced to pull out the 5,000 and prevented from competing in the 3,000 because of a stress fracture. She also missed the entire outdoor track season.

She did not run for two months and only got back at it five weeks ago.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in my fitness,” she said. “But I got back out on the track today and I felt like I did before my injury. It was just such an awesome feeling.”

During her break from running, Ostrander kept busy with different cross-training exercises such as underwater treadmill, aqua jogging, swimming, biking, elliptical and roller skiing.

“I tried to switch it up because it was a lot of monotony,” she said.

Ostrander didn’t expect a lot from herself when she arrived at the Trials and had to psych herself up before the 5,000 prelims.

“You can do this,” she told herself. “They are just people. They are not super humans.

“I was here for a reason.”

Four years ago, Ostrander watched Trevor Dunbar of Kodiak compete in the 5,000 at the Trials.

“I was happy to follow in his footsteps,” she said. “Hopefully I am making Alaska proud.”

July 6, 2016

Conor Spink baseball

Conor Spink

Conor Spink of Eagle River has struggled to get on track with his new team, but lately the left-handed relief pitcher has looked good.

He hadn’t allowed a run in his last six appearances stretching four innings with the Winnipeg Goldeyes until recently, but then he got right back to having a clean sheet.

Spink, of Chugiak High fame, got two outs in working the 12th inning as Winnipeg beat Gary 2-1 in 15 innings.

This is his fifth season in the American Association, an independent professional baseball league.

Spink played his first four seasons with the Lincoln Saltdogs before being traded to the Goldeyes.

He has pitched in 157 career pro games, carving out a 3.98 ERA.

Spink is currently one of only two Alaskans playing pro baseball this season.

July 5, 2016
Isaac Updike track

Isaac Updike

As if qualifying for the finals at the Olympic Trails wasn’t exciting enough for Isaac Updike of Ketchikan, he endured some extra drama before it was official.

The 24-year-old runner finished fifth in the prelims in the 3,000-meter steeplechase to snag the final automatic qualifying berth but had to wait for several hours because of an apparent protest.

“Waiting was hard,” Updike told me. “I didn’t mean to have any contact with the other guy but it just ended up happening. I would have filed a complaint as well if it had happened to me.”

The steeple is already a wild event, with runners forced to clear hurdles and water jump, but the final lap was crazy as two runners fell and then Updike had to muscle past and then outsprint another runner to the finish line.

He was as lucky as he was good. Had those guys not fallen, had he not fought for positioning, he would not have qualified.

“Once I started to see guys fall, I just thought ‘I can’t let them pass me now that they have fallen,’” Updike said. “Everyone talks about how open the steeple is until you get over the last barrier and that second heat sure proved that statement to be correct.”

Updike clocked a time of 8 minutes, 37.14 seconds to advance to Friday’s finals at historic Heyward Field in Eugene, Oregon. The finals feature 14 runners and will be broadcast by NBC Sports. The top three punch their ticket to Rio.

“I think qualifying in general is going to be memorable,” he said. “With that said, I don’t think I will forget that I essentially elbowed that guy as I passed him.”

With the Olympics on the line, Updike’s winning instinct took over.

At Eastern Oregon University, he was a four-time NAIA All-American in the steeple. He won a national championship in 2013 and finished second as a senior in 2015.

After college he moved to Eugene and took a part-time job in the shoe department at Dick’s Sporting Goods. He also joined Team Run Eugene, an elite training group.

The results were fast and furious.

Now he’s one race away from going to the Olympics.

“I am really happy with my decision to try and continue running after college,” Updike said. “I think even without this happy ending I would still be saying the same thing. I have made a lot of big jumps this year and hopefully I can carry that momentum into this fall for training and cross country.”

July 2, 2016

Janay DeLoach track

Janay DeLoach

She goes left, she goes right and now Janay DeLoach of Fairbanks is going back to the Olympics in the long jump.

Four years after qualifying for the London Games on her left leg, DeLoach today qualified for the Rio Games on her right leg in thrilling fashion at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

The 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and 2016 Alaska Sports Hall of Fame inductee punched her ticket back to the biggest stage for track and field after finishing third in the women’s final with a fabulous final jump.

Sitting in seventh place before her final attempt, she leapfrogged three competitors with a mark of 22 feet, 9 inches to secure the last spot on Team USA.

“I knew I had it in me and when push comes to shove I have trained for this for a very long time, even though I switched legs,” she told me. “When I got on the runway I just told myself, ‘Calm down. You got this. You just do what you’ve been training to do and you can get the job done.’

“And then I prayed, ‘Please, God, let me make this.’”

DeLoach, of Eielson High fame, was forced to change her tradition takeoff leg after breaking her left foot in 2013. She had two surgeries in 2014 before finally abandoning the left leg that made her a star.

Qualifying for different Olympics on different legs is something that just doesn’t happen.

Pushed by passion and fueled by faith, she has made the seemingly impossible a reality.

“I did it again, and it felt just as good today as it did back in 2012,” DeLoach said.

Trials winner Brittney Reece [23-11 3/4] and second place Tianna Bartoletta [23-0 1/2] round out Team USA.

In 2012, Reece won the gold and DeLoach won the bronze.

For DeLoach, her focus will now change to her second event at the Trials, the 100-meter hurdles. Qualifying begins Thursday.

When she switched legs in the long jump, the transition was made easier by the fact that she jumped off her right leg in the hurdles.

Now it’s just a matter of using the right technique for the right event.

“Sometimes I would hurdle my way down the runway and jump like hurdler instead of jump like a jumper,” DeLoach said with a laugh. “It goes well together. It’s very strong leg and I know I can count on it.”

July 1, 2016

Jordan Clarke track and field

Jordan Clarke

Anchorage’s Jordan Clarke sat in medal contention after qualifying but then faded to finish ninth in the men’s shot put at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

The former NCAA champion from Arizona State never found his form in three attempts as his best toss of 65 feet, 7 1/2 inches was way behind the medal pack.

The top three finishers qualified for this summer’s Rio Olympics – Ryan Crouser, Joe Kovacs and Darrell Hill.

Clarke, of Bartlett High fame, had a mark of 67-6 3/4 with his only attempt in qualifying to sit in third place.

That result would meet the Olympic standard in some countries.

But he was born in the USA, which has set the standard in the shot put.

The 25-year-old entered the Olympic Trials as the No. 5-ranked American.

Clarke is one of five Alaskans competing at the Trials for track and field.

June 30, 2016

Allie-Ostrander-2_fullEven though she qualified in January, Allie Ostrander of Kenai was unsure whether she’d participate in the upcoming U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials.

That’s because Ostrander, a freshman phenom at Boise State University, only recently overcame a stress fracture that sidelined her for the collegiate outdoor track season.

“I just wanted to make sure I was prepared to run against that level of competition and not have it set me back for the (college) cross country season,” Ostrander said Thursday by phone from Boise, Idaho.

Ostrander, 19, has only been running steadily for four weeks now, but several strong recent workouts confirmed she’s ready for the women’s 5,000 meter semifinals on July 7 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. She made the decision with coach Corey Ihmels.

“I’m so thankful to be running again,” Ostrander said.

Ostrander is the only collegian in the 24-runner field, and her qualifying time of 15 minutes, 21.85 seconds ranks 12th.

The top 16 runners in the semifinals advance to the 5,000-meter finals on July 10. Only the first three qualify for the Summer Olympics in Brazil this August.

Ostrander goes into the Trials with no expectations. “I have no time or place in mind,” she said.

After a magical summer and fall of 2015 that saw her finish second at Mount Marathon (while breaking Nancy Pease’s iconic record), win the World Junior Mountains Running Championships in Wales and place second at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, Ostrander experienced adversity during Boise State’s indoor track season this past winter. She initially felt knee pain but it was misdiagnosed as tendonitis so she kept training. The symptoms worsened and when Ostrander finally got an x-ray she learned of an anterior tibial stress fracture that was six weeks old.

Ostrander’s indoor track season included her Olympic Trials qualifying run on Jan. 29 at the University of Washington Invitational. But her season ended in disappointment when she stepped off the track March 11 during the 5,000-meter national championship race and did not finish. She also was unable to start the 3,000-meter final.

To heal, Ostrander needed five weeks until she could run without taking walk breaks. In all, she missed about two months of quality training.

The cause of the overuse injury?

“I was getting a little bit greedy building up a little too fast,” Ostrander said.

But now Ostrander is healthy and making big gains in fitness every week. Though she’d prefer to have more preparation time, she is grateful for the opportunity to run the Trials.

“I am so excited. It will be an awesome experience no matter where I finish,” Ostrander said.

However, Ostrander is bummed the Trials conflict with the Mount Marathon Race on July 4. She’ll have to skip Mount Marathon but plans to race there again in 2017. She won the junior event six straight years before recording a dynamic senior women’s debut in 2015.

After the Olympic Trials, Ostrander will return to Alaska for a lengthy visit. “I’m just itching to go on a lot of hiking trips,” she said.

On July 29, Ostrander will receive a Pride of Alaska Award at the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame’s 10-Year Celebration for the second straight year.

– By Matias Saari, ASHOF Blog Contributor

June 29, 2016

Molly Templin rowing

Molly Templin

Anchorage’s Molly Templin of the University of Portland rowing team has been nominated as a 2016 NCAA Women of the Year.

The recent college graduate earned All-West Coast Conference honors this spring as a senior and helped lead the Pilots to a fourth-place finish at the WCC Championships.

She was also named a Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association National Scholar Athlete for three consecutive seasons and earned WCC All-Academic Team honors with a 3.88 GPA. She graduated with a BS in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Neuroscience.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the nomination,” Templin told me. “I poured myself into the team for four years I was at the University of Portland, so it is awesome to have that [commitment] be recognized.”

Templin, of Service High fame, was a four-year varsity rower and a two-time captain. Her team’s fourth-place finish at the WCC Championships was the best showing in program history.

“It’s very exciting, but doesn’t really feel real. Rowing is such a team sport; it’s hard for just one person to stand out, so I was surprised t be nominated out of the others from different sports in my school and my conference.”

Templin didn’t begin rowing until she got to college. In Anchorage, she grew up running cross country, playing volleyball and participating in track and field.

“My favorite part about rowing is absolutely the team aspect,” she said. “There is something beautiful about being in a boat with eight other people, moving completely in sync, and knowing that every other person that is sitting in front of or behind you is also working as hard as they can to get you across the finish line.”

The NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee will narrow the top 30 honorees down to nine finalists in September.

June 28, 2016

Levi Thomet running

Levi Thomet

Levi Thomet of Kodiak was involved in a crazy four-man photo finish in the 10,000-meter run at the USATF Junior National Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Clovis, California.

The bad news was he missed a bronze medal by one-hundredth of a second.

Thomas Polland Iowa State 30:46.04
Colin Burke UCLA 30:46.25
Zachary Dale Illinois 30:46.72
Levi Thomet Unattached 30:46.73

The good news is that the future Oregon Duck beat the 31-minute standard for the World Junior Championships.

“I wanted that standard above all else,” Thomet told milesplit.com.

This was his first-ever 10K on a track. The former Kodiak High star graduated in 2015 and then spent the last year in Germany.

“I’ve been doing a lot of 10Ks by myself,” he said. “I’m happy overall. It was nice to get back to some competition with these guys, especially on this national stage.”

Thomet brought an aggressive, attacking game plan and led the first half of the race. He had one thing in mind: pushing the pace.

“I wanted to take it out fast,” he said. “My plan was to keep it rolling until the last mile; keep accelerating and try to drop those guys on me. It worked a little bit but not quite how I was hoping.

“That last lap was every man for himself. The l00 was a dead sprint.”

In Germany, Thomet went alone on training runs. When he did enter a race, it was more of the same.

“I was either leading by a lot or these professionals would come in from Belgium and Ethiopia and take it out and kill it and I was by myself again.”

His greatest challenge in Germany was learning the language.

“At first I was dead in the water. I couldn’t speak to people,” he said. “I kept practicing and it came eventually. The last two months were key in learning the language.”

Thomet will be a freshman this fall at the University of Oregon.

He is most looking forward to training with a bunch of thoroughbreds.

“There will be a lot of guys faster than me and I love that,” Thomet said. “It helps you get faster because you’re always pushing yourself in workouts more than you would by yourself.”

June 27, 2016

Malia Lyken

Malia Lyken

Recent high school graduate Malia Lyken of Anchorage wouldn’t mind playing college soccer in Alaska, but there isn’t a team.

She found the next best thing to home at Northern Arizona University.

“The town of Flagstaff is amazing, and just like Anchorage,” she told me. “I love the sports facilities and the team, especially the coaches. Everyone seems so welcoming. I know it’s not going to be Anchorage but they make it feel like a home away from home.”

Lyken, of Dimond High fame, won Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year honors as a senior and was selected for the U19 Women’s National Team training camp in California.

In her final year at Dimond she collected 25 goals and 20 assists and led the undefeated Lynx to the state championship to cap an 18-0 season. She also played with the Cook Inlet Soccer Club.

Even though Lyken is a bona fide goal scorer she isn’t selfish with the ball.

“I would say I’m better at passing because I see the field really well and I know when to play it and how it needs to be served,” she said.

Lyken will likely play outside forward at NAU, although her all-around ability allows the coaching staff flexibility to move her around on the field. She realizes that she will have to prove herself all over again.

“I’m expecting a whole lot of changes in this transition and I look at it as a clean sheet,” she said. “I also think I’ll learn a lot of things and become a better athlete and person.”

At NAU she will join forces again with fellow club Velocity ’97 teammate and fellow Anchorage all-star Haleigh Van Allen, who was a college freshman this year after winning 2015 Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year honors at Service.

“I always looked up to her and respected her as a player and a person” Lyken said. “We have talked about NAU a couple times and I just asked her how the season was going and if she was enjoying it.”

She will find out soon enough.

Lyken is grateful for her experiences in Alaska that got her ready for the next step, but perhaps the best preparation was attending the national team training camp.

“That was an amazing experience,” she said. “I got to be with the top players in my age group and even older girls. I was working with some of the best coaches and being able to learn from them on how I can improve my game. It was awesome.”

June 26, 2016

Lorenzo FroehleIt might sound like a cliché, but Lorenzo Froehle of Anchorage takes it to heart when he said he plays every soccer game like it’s his last.

“You have to go out there every game and put it on the line. You can’t hold anything back,” he told me. “You never know who is watching.”

Like maybe college coaches.

The 18-year-old all-conference midfielder at Bartlett High is one of the top playmakers in the state and an integral part of the recent resurgence of the Golden Bears, who become state contenders for the first time in 15 years.

His skills didn’t go unnoticed.

The dynamic playmaker with strong passing and dribbling skills signed his letter of intent with Manhattan College of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

“It’s such a unique opportunity to go to school in New York City and play Division 1 soccer, which has always been a longtime dream of mine,” he said. “I couldn’t pass it up. The coach down there is great and I feel he can get the best out of me and help me grow as a student and an athlete. It was such a great mix of everything.”

Froehle picked Manhattan over his second choice, Marist College, another D1 in New York.

“New York City is something that’s always been on my mind when thinking about college, seeing new things and meeting as many people as I can to experience different cultures,” he said. “New York seems like one of the best places to do that.”

He is the son of Matt Froehle, a former Bartlett star who went on to play at Saint John’s University, a D3 school in Minnesota, and then professionally in the minor leagues.

Matt coaches his son, but never pushed the idea of him following in his footsteps.

“Big scholarships were something that seemed so far away in the early days, something I didn’t let myself think about too much,” his dad told me. “My wife, Lida, and I just tried to help Lorenzo enjoy the process of growing up, learning the game and becoming a good person.

“It’s been a priority of ours to help our children make the most of their gifts, whatever they may be, and share them as broadly as possible. That process has been a reward in itself. Him earning the opportunity to play at the top level in college is a real bonus.”

June 25, 2016

Isaac Updike track

Isaac Updike

After running the race of his life in the steeplechase last month, Isaac Updike of Ketchikan qualified for the Olympic Trials.

He called it a dream come true.

But the truth is Updike has always excelled in the steeplechase and seems to post his best times against better competition.

“Mentally I’m just trying to not overthink the race,” he told me.

The steeplechase at the Olympic Trials will take place July 4 in Eugene, Oregon.

“I know I can go out there contend for a spot in the finals, so it’s just a matter of staying calm and trusting you fitness is where it needs to be on that day,” he said.

Updike, of Ketchikan High fame, was a four-time NAIA All-American in the steeplechase and won the 2013 national championship for Eastern Oregon University before graduating last year.

He is currently training with Team Run Eugene.

He has benefitted greatly, slicing 16 seconds off his previous best 5-K time and 12 seconds off his previous best steeple time.

“Training is going good,” Updike said. “Only have a couple more workouts before the prelims on the 4th. Nothing the volume heavy, just focusing on staying sharp and keeping the intensity up to avoid being flat in a few weeks.

“Workouts are just a mixture of distances and paces. Usually it’ll be half and half with hurdles, alternating race pace [over hurdles] and a bump quicker on flat sections.”

June 23, 2016

HarlowAnchorage runners Harlow Robinson and Matias Saari broke the record in the 12 Peaks Challenge, a grueling, roughly 36-mile trek along the dozen highest summits in the Chugach Mountains above Anchorage.

The two friends set out on their adventure at 5:17 a.m. Wednesday morning and finished at 3:27 a.m. this morning, climbing some 25,000 vertical feet in the process.

“Never again,” Robinson was quoted as saying afterwards.

Robinson and Saari completed the entire route in 22 hours, 10 minutes, although they could have gone faster.

“The guys had some grizzly bear encounters that diverted the route in the final hours coming off Temptation going through Snow Hawk valley,” Christie Haupert reported in a mass email.

Temptation is the final summit in the 12 Peaks Challenge.

“Feeling high and nearly accomplished, the guys were disheartened when bear sightings required them to change course,” she wrote. “This pushed them about an hour later than they would have otherwise finished.”

Matias Saari cross country running

Matias Saari

Saari is a former winner of Mount Marathon in Seward as well as the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks.

Robinson is also an accomplished runner, with victories in the Matanuska Peak Challenge and Crow Pass Crossing marathon.

The previous record for the 12 Peaks Challenge, according to stockalpine.com, was held by J.T. Lindholm, who posted a time of 22 hours, 40 minutes in 2008.

In 2010, Robinson missed the record by only two minutes.

The mountains covered in the race are part of a chain of 35 summits, with the 12 highest peaks representing a tremendous test for elite athletes.

Here is a list of the mountains in the 12 Peak Challenge:

Mount Williwaw 5,445
Temptation Peak 5,383
Tanaina Peak 5,358
The Ramp 5,240
Tikishla Peak 5,230
West Tanaina Peak 5,200
O’Malley Peak 5,150
Koktoya Peak 5,148
Hidden Peak 5,105
North Suicide Peak 5,065
Avalanche Mountain 5,050
Suicide Peak 5,005

“Temptation, while a grueling climb, proved to be the most fun descent,” wrote Haupert, Saari’s partner. “Both said Temptation is really the crux. They were both feeling good topping out on Tikishla, but getting over the beast that is Temptation really took it out of them.

“Yet another reason to rebrand the event as ‘11 Peaks Challenge!’”

June 21, 2016

shryockMatt Shryock of Anchorage was the second-fastest American finisher at the 13th World Mountain Running Association Long Distance Mountain Running Championships over the weekend in Slovenia.

He placed 15th among 69 male finishers on the challenging 42-kilometer race. His time was 4 hours, 1 minute, 28 seconds.

Italian runners went 1-2 with the winner’s time clocked at 3:44.52.

Shryock was in the top 10 after the first 14 kilometers.

His splits were 1:24:29 after 14K, 2:20:41 after 27K and 3:30:27 after 33K.

This was the second straight year the Alaskan has represented Team USA at the WMRA Long Distance Mountain Running Championships.