Connecting You With AK Athletes Outside the 907

The Alaska Sports Blog provides daily posts on Alaska athletes doing great things at the professional, international and collegiate level outside the state. The blog was created to fill a void of coverage once Alaskans left the 907 area code. Since 2009 former Anchorage Daily News Sports Editor Van Williams has written more than 2,000 stories on over 300 Alaska athletes.

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

July 27, 2014

Damen Bell Holter BasketballMost people pursue traditional jobs after college, but not Conor Spink of Eagle River. He wanted to be a baseball player.

This is the third season the 26-year-old southpaw has pitched in an independent league with the Lincoln Salt Dogs of the American Association after playing at Seattle University.

It’s not the big leagues, but Spink still feels like a million bucks because he’s fulfilling every Little Leaguer’s dream of playing baseball for a living.

“All my friends have 9-to-5s,” Spink told me, “and they are like, ‘if I could be in your position’ traveling around and competing and doing something that I love, even if it’s not super glamourous, they would change places with me in a heartbeat.”

Spink, of Chugiak High fame, isn’t about to get a big head. He can’t afford to get complacent.

The 6-foot-3 lefty has to stay sharp mentally because one misstep can be the difference between a home run and a groundout. And you can’t dwell on the past whether it’s good, bad, or ugly.

“You have to keep a short memory,” he said. “If you do well you can feel good about yourself until midnight or so, then the next day you have to go back out there and perform.”

He wasn’t always this mature.

“In college or when I was younger [after games] it was end of the world or I was flying 10 feet off the ground,” Spink said. “If anything, baseball has taught me to handle failure. It’s never really accepted no matter how many times you blow a game.”

Spink is enjoying his best season with the Saltdogs in his three years as a pro. He had a 26.2-inning scoreless streak at one point coming out of the bullpen. Overall he is 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA in 21 games.

“I feel like I have potential to pitch at the highest level and I’ve been told by scouts and coaches that I just need to be a little more refined, but I know I can pitch.

Spink likes to envision himself coming out of the pen for the New York Yankees one day. “Aim high,” he cracked.

But in reality this year might be his ninth inning.

“Realistically this is probably going to be my last year,” Spink said. “If I don’t get called up I might go play winter ball. You can make good money playing ball in Mexico.”

July 26, 2014

Derrick Wilson BasketballBeing a NCAA D1 athlete definitely has its perks, including the glitz of playing on TV and the glamour of rubbing elbows with influential people.

Marquette basketball player Derrick Wilson of Anchorage recently met with the school’s associate athletic director Jack Harbaugh, a longtime college football coach who is also known for having two sons face off as coaches in a Super Bowl.

Harbaugh, 75, spoke to the team during a break at a team workout.

“He might be the best storyteller I have heard in my lifetime,” Wilson told the school’s website. “I can go on and on about the amount of wisdom he gave to us, but I’ll break down to the five main ingredients to become successful – discipline, attitude, enthusiasm, perseverance and persistence.

“By being great in these five areas every day, individually and as a group, we will help accomplish things that people doubt we can do. He fired us up.”

Wilson, of East High fame, will enter his senior season this fall and is the starting point guard for Marquette. He’s also the first Alaska man to play basketball in the mighty Big East Conference.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder is a durable, defensive dynamo and one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. He stops dribble penetration, clogs passing lanes and plays physical.

He logged a career-high 47 minutes in a double-OT loss to St. John’s in the last game of the 2014 season. He also collected a game-high nine assists and grabbed six rebounds.

Wilson last season set career highs in points [14], assists [10], rebounds [9] and steals [6].

Marquette held two team camps last week as the Golden Eagles look to get back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season.

Wilson is certainly up for the challenge, especially after meeting with Jack Harbaugh.

“The last thing he said to us was, ‘there are two kinds of people in this world, gamers and non-gamers, you choose which one you want to be.’” Wilson said. “Being a gamer is what I am choosing. Being great every day is far from easy, but as Mr. Harbaugh put it, ‘as long as you’re getting one-percent better every day, that’s a successful day.’”

July 22, 2014

David Registe TrackThe greatest long jumper in the history of the University of Alaska Anchorage is going international.

Former NCAA D2 national champion David Registe of Palmer will compete in the Commonwealth Games, the world’s third-largest multi-sports event that dates back to 1930.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games begin this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland, and Registe will compete next Tuesday.

Registe will represent his native Dominica from the Caribbean. He has dual citizenship with the United States.

The 26-year-old has come a long way since getting serious about the long jump as a junior at Colony High School. He was the Alaska state champion in 2005 and 2006.

In 2008, Registe won the NCAA championship. The next year he was an All-American again and won GNAC Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

In 2011, he was named MVP for athletics at the Dominica Sports Awards.

July 21, 2014

Eathyn Manumaleuna FooballReleased by the New York Giants last month, rookie free agent defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna of Anchorage has landed in New England.

The Patriots signed the 25-year-old former BYU standout.

Manumaleuna, of East High fame, originally signed with the Giants shortly after NFL draft. But then the 6-foot-2, 305-pounder was released five weeks later.

A month later New England called.

Manumaleuna played 56 career games at BYU, starting most of them, and finished with 143 total tackles and 5.5 sacks.

July 19, 2014

dylan_baker_baseball_sm1Healthy again after a broken ankle sidelined him for three months, Dylan Baker of Juneau has finally returned to the pitching mound for the Cleveland Indians organization and had immediate success.

The 22-year-old right hander is back in rookie ball in the Arizona League and has stuck out 13 in 5.2 innings over three appearances since his return.

In his last start against the Brewers and was fabulous, throwing three no-hit innings and striking out five of the 10 batters he faced.

The 6-foot-2 flamethrower is a fastball, slider pitcher who has tapped out at 97 mph.

Baker, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, began the 2014 season with at the Class A Advanced level with the Carolina Mudcats. He made one start and tossed six shutout innings before he broke his ankle and went on the DL.

In 2012, Baker was a fifth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians. He was a JC All-American at Western Nevada College.

In his only full season at the pro level with Class-A Lake County, Baker went 7-6 with a 3.63 ERA and 117 strikeouts and 62 walks in 143.2 innings.

July 17, 2014

Lauren Murphy Mixed Martial ArtsThe call she’s been waiting for finally came for Lauren Murphy of Eagle River.

She’s going to the UFC.

The world’s biggest and baddest mixed martial arts league has signed the undefeated bantamweight to a four-fight deal, starting Aug. 16 in Maine against accomplished fighter and former Olympic wrestler Sara McMann.

“I couldn’t be happier with the matchup. It’s a really tough first fight and I’m really excited about that,” Murphy told me. “I’m really glad to get a tough fight right out of the gate.”

The 30-year-old Alaskan has an 8-0 career record as a professional, including a 3-0 mark with Invicta, another pro fighting league.

It was only four years ago that Murphy began fighting for money – now she’s bound for the major leagues of MMA.

“Words can’t even describe how excited I am. Once I found out I was in the UFC, I did the girly jump up and scream, and jumped in my husband’s arms,” she said with a laugh.

“I plan to outwork everyone around me. I’ve tried really hard to push myself passed what I thought was possible. Making the UFC is a big deal but I have to remember I’m just making it to the starting line of the biggest race. There is a lot more hard work ahead of me.”

Murphy, of Chugiak High fame, will face a fighter in McMann who last fought in a title match and lost to UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. McMann, 33, has a 7-1 record, 1-1 in the UFC.

This will be the biggest fight in Murphy’s life.

“I want the tough fights. I want a challenge so when I do well I can look people in the eye and say I went out there and I performed,” she said. “I don’t want to just make the UFC and be content to be there. I want to tear up that division. I want to be successful in the UFC. I want people to remember me and I want to put on great fights, so that means I have to work even harder now and I’m excited to get that process started.”

July 15, 2014

Kelsey Griffin BasketballShe hadn’t started since June 15, but Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River got the nod tonight and – voilà – the team won.

Griffin scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked a shot as the Connecticut Sun beat Seattle 86-63 in WNBA action.

She made 3-of-4 shots from the field, sank her only 3-point attempt, swished her long free-throw attempt and had a +17 plus-minus rating.

Griffin, of Chugiak High fame, played 24 minutes. The last time she played that much the team also won. In fact, the team is 8-4 when she plays at least 20 minutes.

The 6-foot-2 forward is averaging 4.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in 22 games this summer.

Kelly Cobb SoccerChugiak’s Kelly Cobb will get her second stint to train with a U.S. women’s national soccer team.

The Duke University senior has been invited to train with the Under-23 squad this week in Seattle.

Cobb, of Chugiak High fame, has netted 20 career goals for Duke.

This will be the Alaskan’s first action with the national team since 2012 when she helped the Americans win the gold medal at the U-20 World Cup in Japan.

A 5-foot-9 forward, Cobb led Duke to the 2011 NCAA championship match with 11 goals and nine assists for a career-best 31 points.

July 14, 2014

Lawjen AshmoreLawjen Ashmore of Fairbanks joined an elite group of Alaskans this weekend by helping the U21 USA women’s basketball team win the World Deaf Championships in Turkey.

The 5-foot-7 guard started five of six games for the undefeated Americans, who beat Turkey 62-48 in the gold-medal game.

The world championships featured teams from Argentina, Israel, Turkey, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and the United States.

Ashmore, of West Valley High fame, is a newcomer to the national team.

She plays basketball and runs track at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. She missed the hoops season due to a knee injury but came back to run the 100 meters on the track.

Ashmore is entering her sophomore season this year.

July 13, 2014

Matt Adams Marathon RunnerMatt Adams of Seward returned to the state of Montana and set a record in the Missoula Marathon.

The former Montana State University runner covered the 26.2-mile course in a personal record 2 hours, 20 minutes, breaking the race record by six minutes set last year.

“Pretty surreal, this was my goal but I didn’t expect it to happen, which is kind of contradictory,” he told reporters after the race. “I wanted to win pretty bad but I knew that there was some talent out there.”

Adams said he entered the race with the fifth-fastest qualifying time.

He also said it was good to be back in Montana.

“I love it here. They really get behind their community and it’s such a good vibe,” he said. “There were people sitting out there and in their lawn chairs at 6:30 in the morning just to watch people run by.”

At Montana State, he ran on the track and cross country teams from 2006 to 2010 and earned all-conference honors in the Big Sky in the steeplechase.

July 11, 2014

Damen Bell HoltereDamen Bell-Holter made a dynamite debut in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, pumping in 11 points in a five-minute span in the third quarter for the D-League Selects in an 83-81 loss to New Orleans.

The 6-foot-9 forward out of Hydaburg was showcased at the end of the third quarter when his team turned to him for offense and he delivered to help provide a 67-55 lead.

But he didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Weird.

Bell-Holter recently completed his rookie season in the D-League with the Maine Mad Ants and was picked to play in the Summer League with the select team.

He played in three NBA preseason games last fall with the Boston Celtics but did not score. Before the NBA season began he was released and sent down to the D-League. So he has some experience at this level.

But he’s never played as well as he did tonight.

It didn’t begin well. He entered the game in the second quarter and lost the ball for a turnover. A minute later he committed a foul.

Bell-Holter was probably stewing on the bench because he was red hot when he got back out on the floor at the end of third quarter.

His first two points came at the free-throw line. He got back to the line for two more free throws before he drilled back-to-back 3-pointers on consecutive possessions and added a fifth free throw to complete his scoring line.

July 10, 2014

Andrew Kurka Alpine SkiingBattered and bruised, but not broken, Andrew Kurka of Palmer hasn’t dwelled on the disappointment of his early exit from the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

He’s too busy having fun.

“I feel great. Been staying very busy and spending as much time home as possible. That really helps me with the psychological portion of the sport,” he told me. “I’m barely ever sore anymore; only time is when I’m jumping in cold Alaska lakes.”

The 22-year-old mono-skier is one of the rising stars of American skiing and was a bona fide medal contender in the downhill at the Paralympic Games before an injury during his first training run ended his Olympic-esque experience.

As always the daredevil, Kurka doesn’t necessarily have a slower gear. Even during a training run, he goes all out.

“I went off a jump at way too high of speed and caught well over 100 feet of air, landing at the bottom out of shock, breaking my ski and mono ski,” he said. “I knew I was injured right away. I just got lucky it wasn’t all too serious; just some compression fractures at my upper thoracic level.”

Kurka was partially paralyzed when he was 13 after an accident on his four-wheeler. He never let it limit him.

After the crash, Kurka left the Sochi Games and missed the festive and fun opening ceremonies. He vowed to return to the Paralympics and immediately started a rigorous rehab routine.

“I definitely feel like it put me back a bit and I’m going to have to catch up with my competition,” he said. “But right now I have momentum on my side and I’ve been staying in shape. I’m hoping to turn some heads on my return to the circuit this year.”

Kurka, of Challenge Alaska fame, had a great rookie season with the national team by winning his first downhill World Cup race in Canada and earning a top-five world ranking.

“Everyone knows I’m fast,” he said. “I just need to finish.”

Kurka will join the national team on training trips to Chile next month and Austria in October. He can’t wait.

“I’m ecstatic. When I am on the snow I feel like I’m living for something more and getting a chance to change lives and leave a legacy,” he said. “Pain is just something that comes with hard work. It helps to remind me I’m alive and living for something.”

July 8, 2014

Dunbar, Trevor13Three weeks after setting an Alaska record for the fastest 5,000 meters, Trevor Dunbar of Kodiak bested his own state record in the mile.

The eight-time NCAA All-American posted a personal-best time of 3:57.19 at the Cork City mile in Ireland. He was third out of 15 starters in the mile.

Last year, in Oregon, he became the first Alaskan to break the four-minute barrier in 3:59.06.

Dunbar recently completed his college eligibility at the University of Oregon.

At the NCAA Track and Field Championships in June, he finished third in the 5,000 meters with a state record time of 13:26.9. His time was about a half second ahead of the previous record held by former Olympian Don Clary in 1986.

Two days earlier at the NCAAs he finished fifth in the 10,000 meters in 28:53.81.

Damen Bell HoltereDamen Bell-Holter is going to Vegas hoping to cash in. Unlike most tourists, though, he’s looking to score big on the basketball court.

The 24-year-old from Hydaburg has been named to the NBA D-League squad that will participate in this year’s NBA Summer League stop in Las Vegas from July 11 to 21.

The 6-foot-9 forward is coming off a productive rookie season with the Maine Red Claws, an affiliate with the Boston Celtics. He spent training camp with the Celtics during the preseason before being shipped to the development league.

Last season he started 16 of 48 games with the Red Claws and averaged 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. His season highs were 24 points and 16 rebounds.

Bell-Holter believes a strong showing at the summer league could propel him back to Celtics training camp, or maybe help him gain traction with a Euroleague team.

He won’t be the only person playing for a contract.

“All these guys are in my situation,” he told me. “It’s real competitive. Guys are real hungry because they are playing for something.”

The Vegas summer league is no day at the slots. There could be a serious payout at the end.

“This is a great opportunity to get eyes on you,” Bell-Holter said.

He expects the games to be high scoring and feature lots of run-and-gun action, but he will remain focused on what makes him successful: playing defense, grabbing rebounds and hitting pick-and-pop jumpers.

He will get to know his new teammates on the court, adjusting on the fly. He’s used to it. If he learned anything as a rookie in the D-League, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Bell-Holter prides himself on acting like a professional on and off the court, something he learned during his time with the Celtics. Teams are keen to every move, especially body language. He has learned to keep an even balance.

“I was fortunate enough when I was with Boston to hang out with veterans like Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass, guys I still keep in contact with,” he said. “I got to be around them and it was good because they showed me how to be a pro.”

July 7, 2014

Jake Heun Mixed Martial ArtsIt didn’t necessarily go down the way he wanted, but a win is a win and Jake Heun of Anchorage will take it.

The 26-year-old scored a unanimous decision over Kendrick Miree of Georgia in a light heavyweight mixed martial arts bout during the World Series of Fighting 11 card in Daytona Beach, Fla.

All three judges scored the fight 29-28 for Alaska’s ‘Honey Bear.’

“Going the distance is never my plan, but I’m always ready for it to happen,” Heun told me.

Heun, of Palmer High fame, improved to 6-3 as a professional fighter. This was his second win by decision.

Heun controlled the tempo fight and landed nearly twice as many strikes [88 to 46] as his opponent.

“I feel like my cardio won me this fight,” he said.

July 6, 2014

Kelsey Griffin BasketballThe Connecticut Sun play basketball like the stock market, winning six in a row and then losing four straight.

They got back on track with a 78-76 victory over Tulsa, needing a late bucket to seal the deal. Afterwards one of the veteran Connecticut players called out her teammates, demanding more focus.

She wasn’t talking about Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River.

Alaska’s greatest women’s basketball player is having another strong season in the WNBA and is on page to average career highs in rebounds and blocked shots despite her shooting struggles.

Griffin, of Chugiak High fame, is averaging 4.8 points in 18 games this season but shooting only .308 from the field; she came into the season firing at a .388 clip.

Nonetheless, the 6-foot-2 forward has managed to average a career-best 5.8 rebounds this year in addition to having 13 blocked shots, putting her on pace to better last year’s total of 23.

What’s more, the Connecticut Sun improved to 6-0 since June 7 when Griffin plays at least 20 minutes. She played 25 against Tulsa, the first time in five games she hit that mark; oddly enough the team lost all four when she didn’t.

Griffin scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds, blocked a shot and dished off an assist in the win. She also took nine shots, her most attempts in six weeks.

With a 9-10 record near the halfway point of the season, the Sun still have time to regain a playoff spot. Just as long as Griffin hits her magical minutes mark, the team should hit its.

July 3, 2014

Jake Heun Mixed Martial ArtsProfessional mixed-martial arts fighter Jake Heun of Anchorage will return to the octagon Saturday for the first time in almost a year.

He won’t be rusty, though.

The 26-year-old former University of Hawaii football player is in the best shape of his life after a grueling two-month training camp in preparation for his debut with the World Series of Fighting, which will be televised on NBC.

Alaska’s ‘Honey Bear’ will face Kendrick ‘Big Problem’ Miree of Georgia in a light heavyweight preliminary bout on the WSOF 11 card in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“I’m feeling good,” he told me. “I put in a long camp because I haven’t had a fight in a long time. I’ve been [in Florida] for the past eight weeks. Camp went really well. I’m just excited to finally fight so I can drink some beer and be a regular person again.”

Heun, of Palmer High fame, has won five of his first eight pro MMA fights.

He has prepared for this fight by cleaning up his ground game and working on his ju-jitsu skills. Last time out he lost by submission. He doesn’t want to get caught again.

Miree has a background in wrestling and has won three of his five fights via an arm bar, forcing his opponent into submission.

Heun is a standup striker who prefers to exchange blows. At the same time, though, he’s not one dimensional either.

“If the striking stuff doesn’t go my direction, there are other routes I can take,” he said. “I’d prefer to stand up and throw kicks and punches and to end it real quick.

“People don’t pay to watch guys wrestle. People want to see blood, man.”

Heun talks like he fights – straightforward. He doesn’t hide from who he is, or what he does for a living.

He fights, and he has to have confidence he will win.

“You don’t want to overlook your opponent but at the same time if confidence is an issue you’re probably in the wrong game,” he said with a laugh. “There are other, safer things for you to do if you want to doubt yourself a little bit. This is definitely not one of them.”

July 2, 2014

Eric Flora Cross Country SkiingErik Flora of Anchorage made a little history when he was named U.S. Olympic Committee 2013 National Coach of the Year.

He is the first cross-country coach to win the award that dates back to 1996, but the fourth coach with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

The Alaska Pacific University coach’s fingerprints were all over Team USA at the world championships, with four of the 13 American skiers coming from APU.

The other finalists were gymnastics coach Aimee Boorman and diving coach Adam Soldati.

Flora helped many skiers reach new heights, including Alaska Sports Hall of Famer Kikkan Randall, who won this country’s first world championship gold medal in nordic skiing and led the U.S. women’s team to its first relay podium finish in World Cup history.

He also aided in breakthrough seasons by Alaskans Sadie Bjorsen and Erik Bjornsen as well as SuperTour champion Rosie Brennan.

Flora was also recognized as the 2013 U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Coach of the Year and the 2013 USSA International Cross-Country Coach of the Year.

Daryn ColledgeIf the Miami Dolphins wanted to clean up the image of its offensive line, they scored a touchdown with veteran guard Daryn Colledge of North Pole.

The ninth-year blocker is steady as a rock, playing in all 128 games of his NFL career. His streak of playing in consecutive games dates back to his days at Boise State University, so he’s as tough as he is durable.

Colledge is also a class act: funny, professional, humble.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder had spent the past three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Before that he spent five seasons with the Green Bay Packers, where he won a Super Bowl title and played for current Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.

Colledge’s 128-game consecutive games streak is the longest among NFL guards.

The 32-year-old should stabilize a young offensive line for Miami, which revamped its O-line with fresh faces after dumping a couple troubled players who had several off-the-field problems last season. Colledge will help bring things back to normal.

June 30, 2014

Brittany Bomar GolfWe don’t have many professional golfers coming out of Alaska, but Brittany Bomar of Anchorage is one of the few.

So that makes her one of the greatest.

The 25-year-old turned pro in 2011 and played her first two seasons in Australia. Now this is her second season on the Canadian Women’s Tour.

Bomar made her 2014 debut at the Legends on the Niagara’s Battlefield Course in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where she struggled with a two-day total of 173.

June 28, 2014

Conor Spink BaseballConor Spink of Eagle River continues to provide remarkable relief pitching for the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association.

The 26-year-old southpaw recorded five outs over the seventh and eighth innings in an 8-6 victory over Wichita in independent pro ball in Nebraska.

Spink, of Chugiak High fame, earned his fourth hold of the season as the team’s primary setup man. He allowed just one hit and struck out two of the six batters he faced.

The lefty lowered his ERA to 0.45 in 19.2 innings over 14 appearances. His record is 3-0.

He has been especially lights out over the last two weeks, retiring 21 of the last 22 batters over the last five games.

Spink’s current scoreless streak is 6.2 innings.

June 26, 2014

Brad Oleson BasketballBrad Oleson of North Pole has always had a knack for making big plays in big moments. He doesn’t shrink under pressure.

He proved it yet again in Game 4 of the Spanish League Finals, dishing an assist on the go-ahead basket and sealing the deal with free throws in the final minute of Barcelona’s 83-81 win over Real Madrid.

The victory ended the best-of-5 series and secured Barcelona’s Spanish League championship, the second for Oleson in six years in La Liga, the country’s top division.

The 31-year-old guard pumped in 10 points and one assist, which game when he fed a teammate for the go-ahead 3-pointer with 21 seconds to make it 79-76.

Later, he iced the victory with two free throws with eight seconds left and had the ball in his hands when the clock ran out, setting off a Barcelona celebration.

He averaged 11.7 points in four Finals games.

Oleson, of North Pole, scored double figures in Games 2, 3 and 4 – the first time all season he reached double digits in three consecutive games. Dude is clutch.

Oleson won his first La Liga title in 2010 with Caja Laboral. In 2007, he won a Spanish League second division title with Rosalia. As a rookie in 2005, he won a USBL championship with Dodge City.

June 25, 2014

Janay DeLoach Soukup2For her whole career, from winning state in Alaska to winning a bronze medal at the Olympics, Janay DeLoach Soukup of Fairbanks has used her left foot for takeoff in the long jump.

But she’ll use her other foot when she looks to defend her national title at this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento.

Her new look isn’t by choice.

The 28-year-old is still hampered by a nagging left ankle injury that prevents her from exploding off that foot, forcing her to use her right foot. So basically now she has to do the opposite of everything she has practiced for the last decade.

“I’m getting back to basics all over again,” she told me.

DeLoach Soukup has hardly been the same. No surprise, no shame. What she is doing is like LeBron James shooting a jumper with his left hand or Phil Mickelson swinging a right-handed golf club.

Yet DeLoach Soukup musters the courage to compete; she made her 2014 debut at last month’s Prefontaine Classic and finished seventh with her worst mark since 2009. She was ranked No. 2 in the world a year ago.

“I’m really rusty,” she said with a laugh. “But I really, truly believe that I can be just as good jumping off my right side. If not I wouldn’t waste my time or affect my self-esteem not jumping so far.”

She will also run the 100-meter hurdles at this week’s national championships, looking to duplicate her indoor season success in the 60-meter hurdles when she won the Millrose Games and placed fifth at the IAAF World Championships in Poland.

DeLoach Soukup, of Eielson High fame, said she feels no pain in her left ankle when she runs the hurdles, only when she takes off during the long jump. She first suffered the injury at last year’s national championships.

Since then she has practiced jumping off her right foot, a technique she will continue after her left foot heals because she wants to combat setbacks in the future.

“I might as well just in case,” she said.

Still, it hasn’t been easy. Her timing is off and her technique is foreign. She has struggled to find her rhythm.

“Just trying to coordinate my body in opposite direction after I have the habit of going the other direction is really difficult,” she said. “Things have definitely started out slow.”

Even on half a leg, though, DeLoach Soukup is better than most.

June 24, 2014

Brad Oleson BasketballHe’s so close he can smell it.

North Pole’s Brad Oleson inched closer to winning his second career Spanish League championship, helping Barcelona beat Real Madrid 94-79 in Game 3 of the Finals.

Barcelona leads the best-of-5 series 2-1.

Oleson, of UAF fame, poured in 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He added three assists, including an alley-oop pass in the final moments to add the exclamation point.

The 6-foot-3 guard has made 13-for-21 [.619%] field goals in the Finals, including 7-of-12 threes.

With 17 points in Game 2, Oleson has now reached double figures in consecutive games for only the third time this season.

Game 4 is Thursday.

June 22, 2014

Janice-SheufeltAfter riding her bike literally across America, you figured Janice Sheufelt of Juneau would be exhausted.

But apparently she was just getting started.

The 47-year-old pulled away on the final day of the 33rd annual Race Across America, winning the women’s solo division in 11 days, 18 hours, 2 minutes.

Sheufelt finished about 180 miles ahead of her nearest competitor. She had led by 150 miles a day earlier.

The Race Across America covers 3,020 miles from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md.

Earlier in the race Sheufelt had spent part of a day in the hospital with altitude sickness while crossing the Colorado Rockies. She lost her lead but regained in a day or so.

Sheufelt is no stranger to the Race Across America or ultra-endurance cycling.

She won a 508-mile race through Death Valley in California a couple years ago and last year in the Race Across America she teamed with Joel Sothern to set a 2-person record in the 50-59 mixed age group with a time of 6 days, 21 hours, 48 minutes.

She is part Tlingit and frequently rides using her totem/tem name of Wooshketaan.