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 3,000 stories on over 500 Alaska athletes.

Follow us on Twitter @AKsportshall and Facebook.

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

March 25, 2017

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks collected two rebounds, two free throws and a steal in the final two minutes to help the No. 10 Oregon Ducks beat No. 3 seed Maryland 77-63 in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The 6-foot-4 starting forward finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals in 33 minutes.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, played in Alaska’s March Madness a year ago.

Now she’s part of the NCAA’s March Madness and will face 4-time defending national champion Connecticut.

Yes, that UConn.

The Huskies have won 110 games in a row and redefined the way people look at women’s basketball.

This will be Hebard’s first look at UConn up close and personal.

The freshman has been a key contributor in helping the Ducks reach the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

Hebard leads Oregon in scoring [15.0], rebounding [8.7], field-goal percentage [.593] and steals [49] in 36 games.

March 24, 2017

Paige Blackburn Track and Field

Paige Blackburn

After the best track and field season of her career, Soldotna’s Paige Blackburn earned the right to participate against the country’s best in last year’s Olympic Trials in women’s discus.

And although she didn’t make it to Rio, her efforts were ultimately recognized by the U.S. Air Force when the captain was named its Female Athlete of the Year.

Blackburn, a civil engineer with the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, was in the Air Force World Class Athlete Program member from March 2015 to August 2016 and is considering a run at the 2020 Games.

Last summer, Blackburn scored her Trials qualifying mark in Los Angeles, California, when she threw the discus 200 feet, 8 inches – or 61.16 meters. The Olympic standard is 61 meters.

At the Trials in Eugene, Oregon, she did not advance to the finals after finishing 11th in her qualifying with a best throw of 172-11.

Blackburn, of Soldotna High fame, is also a standout in the javelin and is considering to apply for WCAP again for a chance to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

“To become an elite athlete, your mental game will make or break you,” Blackburn told the Air Force website. “Being in control of your mental state no matter what is thrown at you is absolutely crucial. In an individual sport and in an event that takes only a few seconds to execute, the importance of your mental game is even more escalated.

“This mental hardness is a valuable skill not only on the field, but in the boardroom, in front of your Airmen and in life.”

She holds U.S. Air Force Academy records in the weight throw and standing long jump and was commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduating in 2012.

At the Academy, she was a three-time Academic All-American and was the 2012 Mountain West Conference Field Athlete of the Year.

Before joining WCAP, she earned a master’s degree in structural engineering from the University of Florida. She also was a construction manager and engineering flight chief at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii.

March 23, 2017

Pindo Drammeh basketball

Pindo Drammeh

Pindo Drammeh of Anchorage participated in last year’s Nor Cal Fall Showcase in San Francisco hoping to catch the attention of a coach from a four-year university.

It worked.

The Sierra College sophomore piqued the interest of Clarke University, a NAIA school in Dubuque, Iowa, and now he’s headed there.

Drammeh, of Service High fame, will have two seasons of eligibility remaining with the Clarke Pride basketball team.

His scholarship will provide him a chance to continue his hoops career while learning about his chosen career after college.

“I’m looking to major in athletic training and that’s their bread and butter,” he told me.

The 6-foot-9 center can stretch the floor with his shooting ability and is quick enough on defense to stay in front of guards on pick-and-roll situations.

His game caught the eye of the Clarke coaches.

“They said I really caught their interest because I could run the floor well for a person my size,” Dremmeh said.

The man nicknamed ‘Air Africa’ blocked 52 shots in 58 career games with Sierra of the California Community College Athletic Association.

Known as more of a defensive anchor, he averaged 3.0 points and 3.0 rebounds for his career. As a sophomore, he sank 8-of-14 3-pointers.

“Coming to Sierra was a real culture shock,” Dremmeh said. “Playing in Alaska, there’s no shot clock so the pace of the game is a lot slower.”

The 30-second shot clock used in college helped him pick up the pace.

“It helped me with competition in the sense the game is a lot faster and a lot quicker,” he said. “It helped me develop more of my offensive skills. Coming out of high school I was more of a defensive presence. Now I have developed an overall all-around game.”

The 20-year-old eats, sleeps and breaths basketball.

“My coaches encourage me to work on my game a lot, but I didn’t really need the encouragement. That drive to get better, came within myself,” he said. “I work hard at becoming a better shooter or whatever I needed to help reach that next step.”

From Alaska to California to Iowa, Dremmeh has taken him everywhere.

“I want to thank Clarke for just giving me this opportunity to play at the next level. It’s truly a blessing and something I’m thankful for, and playing at this level is going to be really fun. It won’t be much of adjustment. I’m excited to see what’s in store.”

March 22, 2017

Lael Wilcox bikepacking cycling

Lael Wilcox

Add the Baja Divide to the long list of long-distance bike races Anchorage’s Lael Wilcox has conquered.

The 30-year-old clocked the fastest known time on the 1,546-mile Baja Divide route through the backcountry of Mexico.

Wilcox, of East High fame, finished in 11 days, 13 hours, and 2 minutes, arriving in the historic town of San Jose del Cabo to make the end of the challenging, self-supported ride.

Last year, she twice broke the women’s record in the 2,745-mile Tour Divide ultramarathon from Canada to Alaska.

The first time she broke the race record in the Canada-to-Mexico international race she rode her bike from Alaska to the starting line.

The second time she had bronchitis and still broke the record by two days.

The Baja Divide is comprised of mostly unpaved backcountry routes in which riders are challenged by rocky terrain, heat and limited resources.

March 21, 2017

Roderick Scooter Bynum baseball

Scooter Bynum

Scooter Bynum is on a tear.

The Northern Illinois centerfielder from Fairbanks is coming off a super series against Michigan in which he went 7-for-16 at the plate on his way to raising his season average to a season-best .338.

The junior transfer now leads NCAA D1 Huskies with 24 hits, five doubles, two triples, eight extra bases and 12 walks.

“I’m just trying to relax and have fun and win some games,” he told me.

Bynum, of Monroe Catholic High fame, ranks second with a .320 batting average and .480 on-base percentage.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound slugger is the only Northern Illinois player to hit a double, triple and home run this season. He’s also the only one to start all 20 games.

“The power numbers come from my approach more than me swinging hard,” he said. “When I have an approach, and get my pitch I’m effective, but when I’m swinging out of the zone and chasing pitches I tend to strikeout more.”

On the flip side, he also leads the Huskies with 21 strikeouts.

“The game totals also lead to strikeouts. I find myself getting a little fatigued from time to time and having to battle through that,” Bynum said. “I’m just trying to work as hard as I can to not waste my opportunity playing D1 ball.”

Eddie Lewis tennis

Eddie Lewis

Playing in one of the toughest divisions in NCAA D2 tennis, Eddie Lewis of Anchorage is more than holding his own in the Sunshine State Conference.

He’s thriving.

The Eckerd College senior has been especially good in the month of March with a combined 9-2 record in singles and doubles for the NCAA D2 school in Florida.

Lewis, of South High fame, is playing No. 2 singles and has posted a 6-3 record, including 5-1 in March.

His most memorial win of the season came against Florida Southern when he rallied for a 0-6, 6-3, 10-2 victory in an epic comeback.

He’s 4-4 at No. 3 doubles, including a 4-1 mark this month.

March 20, 2017

Rachel White softball

Rachel White

Corban University pitcher Rachel White of Anchorage did yeoman’s work over the weekend.

The right-hander threw eight of 10 innings during Sunday’s doubleheader sweep of Northwest Christian in Eugene, Oregon.

The sophomore pitched three innings of relief in a 14-0 Game 1 win and then tossed a complete game in a 15-3 Game 2 victory. Corban is 20-4 overall.

White, of South High fame, scattered nine hits and had four strikeouts in her first complete game in college.

In doing so she lowered her season ERA to 4.45 in 11 total innings in four appearances this season.

March 19, 2017

Tori Hickel hockey

Tori Hickel

Anchorage’s Tori Hickel capped her remarkable rookie season with Djurgarden with a league championship in Sweden.

The 22-year-old out of Northeastern University played a key role in a 4-3 victory over HV 71 W in the championship game of the SDHL, the top league in Europe for women.

Hickel, of Service High fame, was named game MVP as Djurgarden swept the best-of-3 title series and posted a 6-1 playoff record.

Each player from the victorious team was awarded gold helmets.

Hickel missed much of the season after she ruptured the MCL in her knee last October, but then returned for the playoffs and paid immediate dividends.

Djurgarden entered the SDHL playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

Mackenzie Millen hockey

Mackenzie Millen

Mackenzie Millen of Anchorage played an active role in helping the Plattsburg State University of New York women’s hockey team capture its fourth consecutive NCAA D3 national championship.

The top-ranked Cardinals used an overtime goal to beat No. 2 Adrian College 4-3 in the title game in Adrian, Michigan.

Millen, of South High fame, collected the first assist to give Plattsburgh State a 2-1 lead in the third period.

The sophomore forward also garnered two penalties, including two minutes for checking in a high-paced third period that featured four goals.

Plattsburgh State ended the season at 28-1-1 and on a 22-game unbeaten streak.

Millen finished eighth on the team with 18 points in 30 games on a career high seven goals and 11 assists.

Plattsburgh State has won four straight national championships and six overall.

March 18, 2017

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks played hero for the University of Oregon, helping the Ducks earn the school’s first win in the NCAA Tournament since 2005.

The 6-foot-4 freshman and former Alaska player of the year scored the go-ahead bucket with 5.5 seconds left and then blocked a shot attempt at the buzzer to secure No. 10 Oregon’s 71-70 win over No. 7 Temple in the first round in Durham, North Carolina.

“I was kidding Ruthy, this might be the best five seconds of her life,” Ducks coach Kelly Graves said in a postgame press conference.

Oregon will face No. 2 Duke on its home court at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, finished with 23 points – one shy of Oregon’s single-game NCAA Tournament record set by Alison Lang in 1982 against Missouri.

The winning basket was designed for Hebard after a timeout. Graves wanted the ball in her hands.

The play the Ducks dialed up had Hebard involved in a pick-and-roll, where she peeled off a screen wide open and caught the ball near the lane for a runner from about eight feet.

Temple inbounded the ball to speedy guard Feyonda Fitzgerald, who raced coast-to-coast and nearly converted the winning layup if Hebard hadn’t been there to block her layup attempt.

The All-Pac-12 forward said she “just swung my arm and hoped I didn’t foul.”

March 17, 2017

Sagan Osborne baseball

Sagan Osborne

Anchorage’s Sagan Osborne smoked the ball twice to the outfield wall in his first two plate appearances, but the Dickinson State baseball player had no hits to show for it.

But he didn’t hang his head.

Instead, he waited for the pitcher to hang a pitch.

That’s exactly what happened when Osborne went yard in his next at-bat for his career-high fifth home run of the season for the NAIA Blue Hawks of Dickinson, North Dakota.

“My home run was a bit of a relief in that game,” he told me. “I was 0-2 and felt like I had been chasing pitches I shouldn’t, but my coach told me to go in aggressive and look for something up. The pitcher hung a curveball and I got ahold of it.”

Osborne, of Dimond High fame, is enjoying another big year at the plate this year on the heels of a strong junior season.

The third baseman has posted career highs in home runs, batting average [.411], on-base percentage [.463], slugging percentage [.726] and stolen bases [7] in 19 games.

With just two walks in 75 plate appearances, he goes to the plate to hit.

“Early in the year I feel like I don’t walk much because not much scouting happens and I get a lot of first-pitch fastballs,” he said. “Most of the time I’m going to put that ball in play. Once conference season comes around and pitchers are more familiar with me it’ll lead to longer at bats and more walks.”

Osborne has been incredibly effective, driving in 21 runs on 30 hits and scoring 24 runs in 19 games. The decline in his game is doubles total, dropping from 21 to four, in part because he’s hitting more balls out of the park.

“I’d like to get at least 10 [home runs] on the year and feel like I am capable of doing that,” he said. “I worked a lot on my power this summer and it is showing. I think that has contributed to my lower doubles number because those balls are leaving the yard this year. Also pretty much everyone we play plays me extra deep so balls hit in the gap haven’t been able to fall as often this year.”

March 16, 2017

NeNe Hale basketball

NeNe Hale

NeNe Hale of Anchorage scored the go-ahead basket with just 18 seconds remaining to give Central Methodist University its first-ever win in the NAIA national tournament

Hale iced the victory with a pair of free throws to close out a 52-49 victory over a 23-win Biola team during the first round of the Cramer Bracket in Billings, Montana.

Hale, of Houston High fame, led all scorers with 13 points to go with six rebounds in 35 minutes.

She had six of her team’s seven points in the fourth quarter.

In fact, Alaskans Hale and Jerica Nelson of Kodiak produced every point in the fourth [Nelson added a free throw] and amassed 19 of the team’s 52 points.

Hale is a junior All-American and the team’s leading scorer. Last year she led Central Methodist to the national tournament and scored 24 points in the first round, but the Eagles lost.

She wasn’t having it this year.

When Central Methodist trailed 49-48 with 22 seconds left, the Eagles put the ball in her hands and she went to work off the dribble.

“I thought our kids fought really hard. To get behind at the very end and come back and, of course, DaJonee Hale made the big basket to put us ahead. Then we guarded the basket the way we wanted and got the victory,” coach Mike Davis said in the postgame press conference.
The play was always for Hale.

“We ran a set where the ball was going to come in to Lexie Moe and she would hand off to NeNe. But they defended that, but NeNe has a lot of ability and she made the tough basket and then we secured the win on defense.”

Nelson, of Kodiak High fame, added seven assists and six steals in 36 minutes.

Central Methodist [24-9] and advanced to the second round and will face Lindsey Wilson [31-2] on Friday.

When Najeeby Quinn attempted her first ski mountaineering race in 2012 on borrowed gear, she struggled mightily.

“It was freakin’ horrible, the most humbling thing ever,” Quinn said of the experience in Colorado, where she grew up. “My mom almost beat me in the race.”

Despite the inauspicious start, Quinn, of Anchorage, had a surprising takeaway: she was hooked.

Fast forward five years. Quinn, 37, recently became the first Alaskan to represent the United States at the International Ski Mountaineering Federation World Championships in Italy. She competed in three of five events, helping the U.S. place sixth, its best-ever result.

“The U.S. had a huge impact over there,” said Quinn of the sport long dominated by European nations, adding that a record 23 Americans competed.

Ski mountaineering, or SkiMo, is a popular sport in Europe, drawing professional racers and large crowds. It entails skinning or boot-packing up a mountain and then alpine racing down on minimalist equipment. The sport will be added to the Winter Olympics in 2022.

Quinn qualified for the world championships with strong results in Carbondale, Colo., in January.

Her experience at worlds was mixed, however. In her first event, a two-person team race Feb. 26 in the southern Dolomites town of Alpago, she joined Michela Adrian of Bozeman, Mont., and placed ninth of 14 teams in 3 hours, 27 minutes (the winners from France were 54 minutes faster).

Amid “sketchy” conditions, Quinn was simply happy to come away uninjured. But she lamented struggling to keep up with Adrian.

“Imagine Hatcher Pass with one foot of snow. It was just icy and super steep. You’re descending 5,500 (vertical) feet total over no snow with a ton of exposed rock,” Quinn said. “I was scared about breaking my leg, blowing my knee (out) the entire race.”

Two days later, Quinn took 29th in the uphill-only individual sprint. A highlight was starting next to Emelie Forsberg, a Swedish star who also holds the women’s record at Seward’s Mount Marathon Race.

“It was super hard. I didn’t expect anything,” said Quinn, a top mountain runner and longtime employee at Skinny Raven Sports. “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to vomit so bad after a race.”

Her final race, a three-person relay in better conditions at the Piancavallo venue, was her best. She joined Janelle Smiley and Jessie Young to place a competitive 8th of 10 teams (and less than a minute behind 5th).

Quinn strives to keep improving and return to the next world championships in 2019.

In the meantime, she wants to help grow the sport in Alaska, where skimo athletes may not train by “skiing uphill” on skins at resorts, unlike policies at some Lower 48 ski areas that allow the practice.

Quinn is hoping for a solid turnout at Alaska’s first skimo race this Friday night at Alyeska Resort. The St. Patrick’s Day event is a fundraiser for the Alaska Avalanche School.

“Just come out and do it,” Quinn urged.

– By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog contributor

March 15, 2017

Kamaka Hepa basketball

Kamaka Hepa

Just hours after landing in Manila, Philippines, Kamaka Hepa of Barrow took flight on the basketball court.

The 17-year-old had a huge game with 27 points, 13 rebounds, seven blocked shots and five assists for Fil-Am Sports USA, one of four international teams in the competition made up of players with Filipino descent.

Despite his big game, his team lost 80-76 to San Beda.

Hepa was just a few days removed from winning his third high school state title in three years, this time helping Jefferson of Portland, Oregon, win the Class 6A state championship.

He won Alaska Class 3A championships as a freshman and sophomore at Barrow.

Hepa is a nationally ranked forward for the Class of 2018 and has already been offered by more than half of the schools in the Pac-12 among other Power Five conferences.

Mackenzie Everett softball

Mackenzie Everett

Mackenzie Everett of Palmer flirted with perfection on the pitcher’s mound, coming one inning short of throwing a perfect game.

The Coast Guard Academy softball pitcher earned a consolation prize in winning the conference player-of-the-week award.

Everett, of Colony High fame, was honored by the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference after winning three of four starts to begin the NCAA D3 season.

The sophomore starter retired the first 12 batters against Penn State-New Kensington and carried a perfect game into the fifth inning before giving up a leadoff single to the cleanup hitter.

Everett settled for a one-hitter with two strikeouts and no walks in a 17-0 win.

Two days later, she tossed seven strong innings in a 7-1 win over St. Elizabeth.

Everett helped the Coast Guard post a 7-1 record during the week after going 3-1 with a 0.78 ERA, scattering 11 hits and striking out seven. She has a 2.25 ERA on the season and opposing batters are on hitting .194 against her.

She is tied for first in the NEWMAC with three win on the season.

March 13, 2017

Willy Homza baseball

Willy Homza

His team isn’t winning, but Anchorage’s Willy Homza has been winning the one-on-one battle in the box.

The sophomore third baseman has more base hits than strikeouts and owns a .360 on-base percentage for a Brown University team that has started the NCAA D1 season 0-6 after getting swept by Nichols State and Texas A&M in back-to-back weekend series.

In today’s finale against Texas A&M, Homza collected his first career 3-hit game and set the table for his team’s lone run in a 5-1 loss in College Station, Texas.

The No. 2 hitter doubled and later scored to put Brown up 1-0 in the third inning. It was his second straight hit off Aggies starter Mitchell Kilkenny, a former Texas Class 5A Pitcher of the Year from Houston.

“He threw me two changeups and I sat on the second one,” Homza told me. “My first at-bat I got a fastball and got a barrel to it.

“I felt like I was recognizing pitches well right out of the hand.”

He lined out his third at-bat to end the fifth.

In the eighth inning, he singled off a different pitcher to raise his batting average to a career-high .273.

Homza, of South Post 1 fame, has banged out base hits in four of the first six games and is second on the team with nine total bases. He’s the only Brown player to hit a double and a triple this year.

“Extra-base hits are a combination of being stronger and a more aggressive approach,” he said.

Coaches tend to put their best contact hitter in the No. 2 spot, so it’s a role Homza earned behind the scenes. It’s now carrying over to the field.

“I think it’s easier to settle in when I’m consistently playing every game and getting quality ABs,” he said. “I feel like we have a good offensive plan this season.”

March 12, 2017

Da’Zhon Wyche

Da’Zhon Wyche of Anchorage played one of his best games when his team needed it most.

Unfortunately, the freshman’s fabulous effort wasn’t enough to save Laramie County from a 101-97 loss to Gillette College in Gillette, Wyoming.

The loss came in the championship game of the Region IX Tournament, where the winner advanced to the NJCAA National Tournament.

The night before on Twitter he called it the biggest game of his life.

Then the 5-foot-8 former Alaska Class 4A Player of the Year delivered the goods with a 29-point, 9-assist, 1-turnover, 33-minute performance.

He converted 10-of-20 fields, including 5-of-11 3-pointers, and 4-of-6 free throws.

Wyche, of West High fame, started all 33 games this season for Laramie County and led the team with 17.2 scoring and 5.6 assist averages.

He made 75 3-pointers at a 39 percent clip. He shot 87 percent from the line.

Nine times he scored 27 points or more in a game.

March 11, 2017

Kamaka Hepa basketball

Kamaka Hepa

First Alaska, now Oregon.

The legacy of Kamaka Hepa continues.

The high school basketball star collected his third state championship in three years after helping the Jefferson Democrats win the Oregon Class 6A title with a 70-67 win over Clackamas.

The 6-foot-9 nationally ranked junior forward and former two-time Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year transferred to Jefferson a year ago, just days after leading the Barrow Whalers to its second consecutive Alaska Class 3A title.

Hepa struggled from the field in tonight’s title tilt, but managed to grab 15 rebounds, block three shots and seal the deal with a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left.

“The hard work that we put before the season and during the season finally paid off,” Hepa told Portland CSN-TV. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world.”

In the state semifinals, he collected 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots in a 63-54 win over the Beaverton Beavers.

Jefferson finished the season 27-1, with its lone loss coming to a team from Washington, D.C.

For his prep career, Hepa’s teams have posted a 75-7 record and won three state titles.

March 10, 2017

Adam Klie basketball

Adam Klie

Adam Klie has home court, but Connor Looney has the hot hand.

The two Alaskans are starting guards for their respective college basketball teams competing at the NCAA D2 West Regional, which tipped off today in San Diego, California.

Anchorage’s Klie and UC San Diego are the No. 1 seeds and tournament hosts while Palmer’s Looney is with No. 2 seed Hawaii Pacific University.

Klie, of Service High fame, flirted with a double-double with 10 points and nine assists in a 94-68 win over Dixie State.

Klie added six rebounds and a blocked shot in 30 minutes of work.

He was named California Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year this season.

Klie averages 14.8 points per game and is three assists why from reaching the 150 benchmark on the year.

UC San Diego [26-5] will face No. 4 Cal Baptist in the regional semifinals on Saturday.

Connor Looney basketball

Connor Looney

Looney, of Palmer High fame, collected 12 points and four assists in as the fourth-ranked Sharks 73-61 win over Sonoma State.

He also made two steals in 33 minutes.

Looney was the Pac West Conference Defense Player of the Year this season.

He’s also averaging 17 points per game.

Hawaii Pacific [29-2] will face No. 6 Chico State in the second semifinal.

March 9, 2017

Two fierce competitors setting new standards and two athletes dedicated to youth mentorship comprise the 2017 Directors’ Awards Class.

The Directors’ Awards recipients will be honored at the annual Alaska Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony and reception on Thursday, April 27 at the Anchorage Museum.

The 2017 winners:

Pride of Alaska Award (female)-For Consistent Excellence in Athletic Competition.   

Morgan Hooe – Hooe, a senior setter from Anchorage, was the heartbeat of the UAA volleyball team that advanced to the NCAA Division II national championship match. Hooe became the first setter in UAA history to be named an All-American in 2015 (a feat she duplicated in 2016) and helped lead the Seawolves to a 61-6 record over her last two seasons. She finished as UAA’s all-time leader in assists with 3,920. Hooe’s reputation as a fierce competitor was displayed during the regional tournament, when she returned from injury and rallied her team to victory. Hooe’s community service and academic achievements reflected the same integrity that she brought to the court.

Pride of Alaska Award (male)–For Consistent Excellence in Athletic Competition.  

David Norris – In his first attempt at Seward’s Mount Marathon Race in 2016, Norris broke the record established by Kilian Jornet, regarded as the world’s best mountain runner. Two weeks earlier, Norris set a new standard at the Bird Ridge mountain race. A member of APU’s elite nordic ski team, the Fairbanks native also claimed the largest ski marathon in the country, the American Birkebeiner, by winning a dramatic sprint against six Europeans in 2016. He aspires to qualify for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

Joe Floyd Award–For Significant and Lasting Contribution to Alaska through Sports

Ma’o Tosi – After excelling in basketball and football at Anchorage’s East High School and then at the University of Idaho, Tosi played three seasons for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League before an injury forced an early retirement. He then returned to Anchorage and created a non-profit organization for at-risk youth, AK P.R.I.D.E. (Alaskan People Representing Integrity and Diverse Experiences). The program has received national recognition and has helped thousands of Anchorage youth foster skills and develop self-esteem in sports and the arts.  A recipient of Alaska’s Top 40 Under 40 Award, Tosi remains a tireless advocate for youth in Anchorage.

Trajan Langdon AwardFor Leadership, Sportsmanship and Inspiration. 

Damen Bell HoltereDamen Bell-Holter – A native of Hydaburg and graduate of Ketchikan High School, Bell-Holter played basketball at Oral Roberts University before competing in the National Basketball Association’s Development League. He now competes professionally in Italy. Growing up, Bell-Holter was surrounded by poverty, drug abuse, and other reckless behavior and now speaks to youth about suicide prevention, obesity and other issues. A member of the Haida Nation, Bell-Holter returns to Alaska every summer and mentors children through his Blessed 2 Bless basketball camp, which is steered by the mission to “give back to youth through the game of basketball.”

 

The Directors’ Awards presentations are part of an evening that also includes the induction of Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Individuals Martin Buser, Jeff King and Nicole Johnston, the Fur Rendezvous Sled Dog Race (Event), and Vern Tejas’ Winter Solo Ascent of Denali (Moment) will all be honored.

For additional information about the Directors’ Awards and previous winners visit our Directors’ Awards page . Director’s Award recipients will be recognized on a plaque at the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame gallery at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport.

The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors are Jim Balamaci (President), Jason Metrokin (Vice President), Chris Myers (Treasurer/Secretary), Matt Carle, Chuck Homan, Nina Kemppel, Gina Luckey, Rick Mystrom and Eric Ohlson. Harlow Robinson is the Executive Director.

March 8, 2017
Lexi Biggerstaff Basketball

Lexi Biggerstaff

Everett Community College basketball player Lexi Biggerstaff of Ketchikan has been named all-region in the Northwest Athletic Conference.

The 5-foot-10 freshman forward earned second team honors in the North Region, the only Alaska woman recognized by the NWAC.

She led her team with 38 total steals and ranked second with 298 points and 604 minutes in 25 games.

Biggerstaff, of Ketchikan High fame, has reached double figures 19 times and is averaging 11.9 points per game.

Her season highs on the year were 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

She is shooting 39 percent on the year, but enters the NWAC playoffs riding a 48 percent clip over her last four games.

March 7, 2017

Logan Williams bowling

Logan Williams

Anchorage bowler Logan Williams was part of a star-studded Iowa Central squad that rolled to its first national team title at the NJCAA championships in Cheektowaga, New York.

The 20-year-old sophomore won a national title in doubles and finished second individually to earn him All-American honors for the second straight year.

“It feels amazing considering we took runner-up last year for the team title,” he told me. “The main goal this year was to go win a national title, and we knew we had a good chance going in.

“The doubles title makes it a little sweeter, and finishing runner-up to my doubles partner in all events is pretty cool. My doubles partner is also my roommate.”

Williams, of Bartlett High fame, and Brandon Freese won the doubles title with 1,361 pins. Freese beat Williams by just 21 pins to claim the individual title.

“We’ve been able to bond a lot, which helps to lighten things up on the lanes,” Williams said.

As a team, Iowa Central accumulated a total score of 13,536 – almost 200 more than second-place Highlands of Kansas.

Williams finished with a season average of 194.

“I’ve always been pretty good at bowling, but with the hours of practice at school I’ve gotten a lot better,” he said. “We practice five days a week, plus additional time I put in myself. Coach Laura Hall has helped me a lot here, working on timing and tempo with my footwork.”

Williams isn’t sure where he will continue his bowling career after junior college but as of now Robert Morris University is his top choice.

March 6, 2017

Jalon McCullough basketball

Jalon McCullough

Coming off last year’s redshirt season, Jalon McCullough of Fairbanks knew he had to hit the ground running with Peninsula College.

He flirted with a triple-double in the first game and never looked back.

The 5-foot-10 guard pieced together a sensational season that saw him earn all-region honors in the Northwest Athletic Conference as well as being named
North Region Freshman of the Year.

“I just kept going from the get go, learning from teammates ahead of me so when it was my time I knew I would be ready,” he told me.

McCullough, of Monroe Catholic High fame, was the only Alaska men’s player to earn all-region recognition.

He ranked second on Peninsula in scoring [11.9], assists [3.7], 3-pointers [56] and 3-point shooting percentage [.440].

Peninsula [18-8] made the NWAC playoffs after finishing second in the region with a 9-5 league record.

This will be McCullough’s first playoff game in college, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have playoff experience. At Monroe Catholic, he won three state championships under coach Frank Ostanik.

“Playing for Coach O prepared me well for college basketball, teaching me really what it takes to make it to the next level,” McCullough said. “I also had teammates like David Stepovich, Tyler Wells and Scooter Bynum killing me every day in practice to make me the player I am today.”

March 5, 2017

Shayden Gooman-Ranion football

Shayden Gooman-Ranion

Shayden Gooman-Ranion is from Anchorage with family roots in Hawaii, but he’ll always have love for Texas.

That’s because although he represented Alaska at the National Underclassmen Combine & Showcase, he ended up playing for Texas in the Texas vs World Senior Football Classic.

From there, he landed an offer from the University of Saint Mary, an NAIA school in Leavenworth, Kansas.

“They offered me an academic scholarship and sports scholarship, and also have family that go to the university,” he told me.

Gooman-Ranion, of Bartlett High fame, was on the winning side but didn’t come away unscathed.

“The only downfall from the game was that I injured my left shoulder, then needed to have surgery because I had torn my labrum,” he said.

Still, the experience and exposure paid off in the end.

“It made me hungry for improvement and I know for a fact that I am faster and stronger now than before,” Gooman-Ranion said.

The 5-foot-9, 215-pound linebacker is at his best against the run, where he can use his power and quickness to contain the edge at the line of scrimmage.

“I’m always around the ball,” he said.

He’s not just about the pigskin, though. His decision is just as much as school as sports.

“I wanted to major in nursing but then discovered that there was an athletic management major, and I chose that because I can relate more to that field of work,” Gooman-Ranion said.

March 4, 2017

Roderick Scooter Bynum baseball

Scooter Bynum

Back-to-back two-hit games helped Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks raise his batting average 56 points in one day for the Northern Illinois University baseball team.

The junior transfer went a combined 4-for-9 at the plate in a doubleheader loss to Southern Illinois during NCAA D1 play in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Three of his four hits went for extra bases, including his first double and triple, in this his ninth and tenth game with the Huskies.

Bynum, of Monroe Catholic High fame, raised his season average to .278 and extended his hitting streak to five games.

The starting centerfielder has reached base in all 10 games this season.

Bynum leads Northern Illinois in runs [7], walks [7] and triples [1] while ranking second in total bases [14] and on-base percentage [.422].

A former Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year in both baseball and basketball his senior year of high school, he was drafted in the MLB when the Cincinnati Reds picked him in the 16th round.

Bynum is one of only two non-pitchers from Alaska to be drafted in the first 20 rounds.

Last season at Arizona Western College, he set career highs in batting average [.351], slugging percentage [.551], doubles [12], triples [5] and home runs [5] in 51 games.