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 2,300 stories on over 300 Alaska athletes.

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

March 25, 2015
Killian

Alaska’s famed Mount Marathon race in Seward took a major step forward two years ago when Eric Strabel of Anchorage shattered the race’s 32-year-old course record.

The three-time champ believes the race will evolve even more this summer after world champion Kilian Jornet of Spain announced his plans to run Mount Marathon on July 4.

This is like Sidney Crosby signing with the Aces or Kentucky coming to the Shootout.

Jornet is the world’s undisputed king of the hill in trail running and his presence could take to new heights the level of competition and worldwide exposure.

“It’ll be a milestone for this race,” Strabel told me. “We have had national caliber mountain runners compete, but Kilian brings even a higher level above that. And there are probably millions of people all over the world that follow his endeavors, so many of them will find out what Mt. Marathon is. Everything about the race could take on a new level.”

In 2013, Strabel broke one of the state’s most renowned records when he posted a time of 42 minutes, 55 seconds to shatter Olympic skier Bill Spencer’s iconic mark of 43:21, which was rarely challenged since 1981.

Strabel won Mount Marathon last year by a whopping 67 seconds and was widely considered the favorite to repeat this year.

But now he will have some serious competition in Jornet, who wrote on Facebook yesterday that he was coming back to Alaska; this time to run Mount Marathon.

He was here last year to climb Denali – well, he didn’t climb Mount McKinley as much as he sprinted to the top and back, going up and back down the 20,236-foot peak in 11 hours, 48 minutes.

That’s five hours faster than anyone has ever done it. He holds similar ascent and decent records for the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc in the Alps.

“He can certainly take it up a notch,” Strabel said. “He’s one of the best in the world in the popular Vertical Kilometer races, which climb 1,000 meters on a direct course up a steep mountain, which is similar to Mount Marathon. And his descending skills, according to subjective accounts, are even better.

“But it’s still difficult to pinpoint just how he’ll do on Mount Marathon. We’ll just have to see what he does on race day.”

SKI STRABEL ERIC 4729Strabel, of Colony High fame, won’t give up the No. 1 spot willingly. He has worked his entire life to be in this position, to win the race and to break Spencer’s cherished record. He grew up running Mount Marathon and has blood stains on the rock to prove it.

He takes great pride in representing Alaska. Remember the 2002 NCAA Ski Championships at Kincaid Park? That was when, as a sophomore, he challenged for the 20K freestyle national title and won a silver medal. His performance had the crowd buzzing with electricity like never seen.

It will be no different when the 33-year-old Strabel takes on an elite athlete like the 27-year-old Jornet, a six-time world champion. It could give Mount Marathon an Olympic feel.

“There’s been a lot of speculation for many years of what an athlete like Kilian could do on the mountain. Now we’ll find out,” Strabel said. “I am really excited to test myself with him.

“I’m in the prime of my mountain running and my fitness is getting stronger by the day. I’ve had probably my best winter of training. I am on a good track for July Fourth.”

March 24, 2015

Whitney Williams TennisFreshman Whitney Williams of Anchorage scored nearly half the points for the Abilene Christian University women’s tennis team during a three-meet week on the road.

Abilene Christian beat Tyler Junior College 6-1, lost to Northwestern State 5-2 and lost to Stephen F. Austin 4-3.

In all, Williams scored five of her team’s 11 team points.

The former Alaska state champion went 3-0 in singles and 2-1 in doubles with partner Erin Walker.

Williams, of South High fame, won a second-set 7-6 against Tyler and pulled out a three-set win against Stephen F. Austin.

March 23, 2015

Jesse Cherry running

Jesse Cherry – photo credit Contra Costa Times

Jesse Cherry of Chugiak returned to competitive running over the weekend in grand fashion, winning the marathon at the Oakland Running Festival in California.

The 28-year-old covered the 26.2-mile course in a record time 2 hours, 25 minutes, 14 seconds.

“It was my first race since 2012 and it was nice to do it in my current hometown,” he told me. “It felt great to get out on the roads again.”

The course took runners right through the heart of the city.

“It’s definitely a hilly one,” he said. “The race climbs more than 800 feet. I even had a blister pop mid race when I was going down a long stretch of a downhill.”

The former High Point University standout is an Olympic hopeful eyeing a return trip to the Trials. He competed in the 2012 Trials in Houston and wants to run at the 2016 Trials in Oregon.

Cherry, of Chugiak High fame, needs to run 2:18 to qualifying for the Trials. He will try again June 20 in the Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota.

“That’s a week before my high school reunion, so I guess I have some incentive to qualify so I have some bragging material,” he said with a laugh.

March 22, 2015

Stephen Ferntheil baseball

Stephen Ferntheil

Most catchers don’t run fast enough or hit well enough to bat at the top of the order, but Stephen Ferntheil of Anchorage is different.

He is a bashing backstop.

The 23-year-old sophomore catcher at East Georgia State College is hitting leadoff and batting .371 in 20 games this year. He’s even got three stolen bases.

“I’m not blazing on the base paths, but I’m not slow either,” he told me.

Hitting leadoff has advantages, he said, like seeing more fastballs early in the count.

“It allows me to be more aggressive rather than having to wait for the perfect pitch,” he said. “Pitchers aren’t going to attack a leadoff hitter like they would the three, four hitter in the lineup.”

Ferntheil, of Service High fame, is hitting so well it wouldn’t matter where you put him. Dating back to last season, the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder is hitting .402 in the last 36 games in junior college.

The wear and tear of logging nine innings at the catcher position is so rigorous, so rugged, that most coaches don’t expect much offense. They’d rather a catcher focus on building defensive fundamentals, working with pitchers and learning a hitter’s tendencies.

“My dad said I could be a good defensive catcher, hit .100 and they’d be happy, just because it’s so difficult,” he said.

Ferntheil just makes it look easy. But he’s got here because of hard work.

“You gotta work hard on the field if you want to be a good hitter,” he said. “I spent hours and hours in the cage, hitting off the tee, off my brother. You have to put in work on the field.”

March 20, 2015

Jalil Abdul-Bassit basaketball

Jalil Abdul-Bassit

We’ve got only one Alaska men’s basketball player in the NCAA Tournament this year, but he’s a pretty good one.

Anchorage’s Jalil Abdul-Bassit is a starting guard for the University of Oregon and he chipped in 5 points as the Ducks beat Oklahoma State 79-73 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Nebraska.

The 6-foot-4 senior hit 2-of-3 buckets and extended to six games his streak of making at least one 3-pointer.

The Ducks [26-9] have now won NCAA Tournament games in three straight appearances, matching the school record from Oregon’s first NCAA appearances in 1939, 1945 and 1960.

Jalil Abdul-Bassit, of West High fame, also helped Oregon win last year’s NCAA Tournament opener over BYU.

The Alaskan is averaging a career-best 8.3 points in 33 games.

March 19, 2015

Dalton Chapman basketballEverett Community College pitcher Dalton Chapman of Anchorage recently picked up his first save and later admitted he is growing accustomed to his new reliever role.

“Everybody wants to be a starter, that’s always the dream,” he told me. “But coming in as a closer is nice; it’s like, ‘Hey, you’re our dude. We need you.’ I like being that guy.”

The 6-foot-5 freshman right-hander has made four relief appearances this month. He has a 3.55 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 12.2 innings.

His outings have ranged from an inning to 5.1 innings. The day he got his save he pitched scoreless frames in the seventh, eighth and ninth to preserve a 4-2 win over Vancouver Island.

“Everything was just working. My fielders were making perfect plays,” he said. “I was getting those hitters to roll over or pop out.”

Chapman, of West High fame, has embraced his reliever role because he understands he might have to work his way out of the bullpen to be a starter.

“I want to work for it,” he said. “Growing up I always wanted to play baseball at the next level. This is what I live for. I’m having a blast. It’s awesome. I love it here.

“I’m learning more every day how to throw a ball better and what I can do to fix my mechanics. It’s honestly a lot of maturity, living on my own now. It’s a lot different. I’m learning how to be a grown up, basically.”

March 17, 2015

Pauline TufiFacing the top pitching staff in Conference USA is probably a little intimidating for most college softball players.

Then again, most aren’t named Pauline Tufi.

The Louisiana Tech University sophomore homered in three straight games against Florida Atlantic, which entered last weekend’s series with the top team ERA in Conference USA.

Tufi, of West High fame, hit .357 and finished with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs as the Lady Techsters swept a doubleheader from Lyon College and won one of three games against Florida Atlantic.

Rightfully so she was named Conference USA Hitter of the Week.

Tufi will likely give Florida Atlantic pitchers nightmares after hitting a solo homer in Game 1, a grand slam in Game 2 and a three-run shot in Game 3.

On the season the Alaskan is hitting .299 with 7 HRs and 21 RBIs in 23 games.

Jake Ridley baseball

Jake Ridley

Two years ago, Jake Ridley of Anchorage had his high school baseball career end after tearing his ACL in a freak knee injury during a post-game dog pile at home plate.

It’s been a long road to reach home plate again, but the all-star shortstop is back on the field.

The freshman starter at Dawson Community College in Montana enjoyed a 15-for-30 hitting clip last week during a 9-game road trip through Kansas and Nebraska.

Six of his hits went for extra-bases, including his first college home run to right field. He also had five doubles.

“The home run felt great,” he told me. “I didn’t think I got all of it, but I had some help from the wind. It was a fastball, belt high and a little outside.”

Ridley, of Service High fame, missed the college season last year. He learned about Dawson College from high school teammate Conner Melton, a catcher on this year’s team.

The coach took a chance on Ridley and the Alaska infielder is paying off.

“I’d say I’m back to being 100 percent. It took a lot of work to get where I’m at right now as far as health,” he said. “I honestly try to find the good in my injury. By tearing my ACL, it made me work that much harder and it made me want it more.”

March 16, 2015

Alev Kelter soccer

Alev Kelter – photo by Wojie Photography

Eagle River’s Alev Kelter is new to rugby but you can’t deny her growth is tied with the improvement of Team USA.

The Americans reached the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series final for the first time over the weekend, but lost to defending champion New Zealand 50-12 in Georgia.

Kelter started all five games for Team USA and scored on a pair of two-point conversations, comparable to a PAT in football, where she drop-kicked the ball through the goalposts.

She scored against New Zealand in the final and earlier in the tournament scored in a 19-12 win over Russia.

Top-ranked New Zealand edged closer to Olympic qualification after winning its third World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series title at the halfway point of the 2015 series.

The world women’s rugby series began in 2013.

The Kiwis lead the world standings with 60 points, a dozen more than Australia and Canada. The USA is fifth with 36.

Eagle River’s Lorrie Clifford missed the tournament. She played for the national team at the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Dubai but was absent from the roster this weekend.

March 15, 2015

Brad Oleson basketball

Brad Oleson

Barcelona guard Brad Oleson of North Pole recently returned to the lineup and it didn’t take him long to get busy.

The veteran playmaker scored 11 points in an 88-82 win over Fuenlabrada as Barca moved into a tie for third place in the Spanish League at 17-7.

Oleson had missed 10 games with a left ankle injury.

He has eased his way back by playing limited minutes, but the layoff hurt his rhythm because he had missed the majority of his shots in his first four games since coming back.

His struggles from deep is uncharacteristic given his 43 percent career 3-point clip in 236 games played in the tough Spanish League, arguably Europe’s best.

In this game, though, Oleson looked to be back to his old self. The 6-foot-3 guard made both his 3s and attempted a season-high four free-throw attempts.

Since going to play pro basketball Spain in 2009, Oleson has amassed 2,920 career points and won a pair of La Liga championships.

Earlier this month he extended his contract with Barcalona to make the Palua Blaugrana his home through the 2017 season.

March 14, 2015

Scooter Bynum baseball

Scooter Bynum

He was so-so for most of the Western Arizona College baseball season, and then Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks heated up to remind everybody why he was so coveted.

The freshman outfielder doubled his batting average with a 12-for-24 clip over a five-game stretch that saw his team go unbeaten.

Bynum, of Monroe Catholic High fame, is now hitting .319 in 27 games and showing off the talent that saw last year’s Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year get drafted in the 18th round by the Cincinnati Reds.

He was only the second Alaska non-pitcher to be a top-20 draft pick. The first was Trajan Langdon in 1994.

Bynum started slowly by his standards, hitting just .257 after his first 21 games at Western Arizona. He definitely picked it up, though.

The 6-foot left-handed hitter collected at least two hits in the next five games to raise his batting average 62 points in less than a week.

In one game against Gateway College, he entered the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning with his team down 6-1. He singled and later scored as part of a three-run inning. Then in the eighth he singled, stole second and scored the tying run in an eventual 7-6 win.

The next day during a doubleheader against Phoenix College he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in Game 1 and 3-for-6 with a double, run and RBI in Game 2.

Garrett Brown BaseballHe didn’t throw a single pitch in each of his first two seasons with the Pacific Lutheran University baseball team.

But now Garrett Brown of Anchorage is pitching like an ace.

Brown continued his tremendous throwing with a 6-inning shutout stint in yesterday’s 2-0 win over Whitworth during NCAA D3 action in Washington.

Brown scattered two hits and three walks while striking out a career-high 10 batters.

The 6-foot-1 right-hander picked up the win to improve to 2-0 this year and lowered his ERA to 3.00 in 24 innings over six games.

Brown, of Service High fame, has allowed only two earned runs over his last 16.1 innings – easily the best stretch of his college career.

His ERA is 1.25 in his last four appearances since Feb. 21.

Brown was a versatile player growing up in Alaska, capable of playing multiple positions. He arrived at PLU as a catcher and infielder but struggled at the plate, hitting just .140 [13-for-93] in his first two years.

The decision was made for him to pitch this year and he’s responded like the comeback player of the year.

March 13, 2015

Pauline Tufi SoftballDouble-threat softball player Pauline Tufi of Anchorage has played a key role in helping Louisiana Tech University start 15-5 this season.

The sophomore slugger is hitting .298 in 20 games with 4 home runs and 12 RBIs.

She hit 4 homers in 52 games last season.

Tufi, of West High fame, leads Louisiana Tech with 13 walks, ranks second with 10 extra-base hits and third with 36 total bases.

Thing is, though, she might be an even better pitcher.

The hard-throwing right-hander is the team’s closer and has 43 strikeouts in 37.2 innings.

She has a 2.23 ERA and a 3-0 record with 4 saves.

Louisiana Tech has won 9 straight games, the longest winning streak since 1994, entering Conference-USA play this weekend.

March 12, 2015

Silas Talbot nordic skiing

Silas Talbot

For the third time in his Dartmouth College ski career, Silas Talbot of Anchorage earned the right to call himself an All-American.

The senior finished eighth in yesterday’s men’s 10K skate race on Day 1 of the NCAA Skiing Championships in New York.

He was a double All-American as a sophomore [9th, skate, 5th classical] and just missed a top-10 result last year when he finished 11th in the skate race.

Talbot crossed the line in 26:24.2, outsprinting a Vermont skier to collect some much-deserved hardware. Top 10 earn All-American status, but only the top 8 get a trophy.

“It was fun out there. It’s definitely my weaker of the two [skate, classical], especially this season,” he told me. “I’ve really struggled to put together many solid freestyle races. I was very, very happy with that result. It was my best result at NCAAs for freestyle, so that was pretty cool.”

Forrest Mahlen nordic skiing

Forrest Mahlen

He was joined on the podium by another Alaskan – Montana State University senior Forrest Mahlen of Anchorage placed fifth in 26:09.8 to collect his first All-American trophy.

“He’s really come on strong at the end of this season with a couple top-10 finishes in the West Region, which is very competitive,” Talbot said of Mahlen.

“It’s sweet. This summer I actually got to train with Forrest. We’ve been rivals for a long time, dating back to our high school years and even before that. I’ve grown up racing against Forrest. It’s very encouraging and I think the Alaska pride is certainly there.”

Another Alaskan, UAF’s Logan Hanneman of Fairbanks, was also in the running for a podium finish. The senior was 12th; a year ago in the classic he finished 11th.

“He was having a great race,” Talbot said of Hanneman. “We were even most of the way. Definitely racing with guys I’ve grown up with and raced against, it’s a very cool feeling.”

Stephanie Kirk Cross Country SkiingThe NCAAs continue with more nordic skiing Saturday, with many more Alaskans competing, including Anchorage’s Stephanie Kirk of the University of Vermont.

Kirk was 18th in the women’s 5k skate race, her best career finish in an NCAA freestyle race.

Earlier this week, she was presented with the Elite 89 award as the student-athlete competing in the NCAA Skiing Championships with the best GPA [3.98].She is majoring in exercise and movement science.

March 11, 2015

Hans Roelle Track and FieldEastern Oregon University runner Hans Roelle of Anchorage defended his 1,000-meter title at the NAIA Indoor National Championships in Ohio.

His winning time of 2:25.62 is more than two seconds faster than what he ran to win last year [2:28.38] and just off his school record [2:25.38] set last year.

Much like last year, Roelle, of West High fame, had the fastest qualifying time of the meet in the prelims and then in the finals he used a devastating kick to pull away from the competition over the last 100 meters to win by 1.86 seconds; last year he won by 1.34 seconds.

“This was a very emotional win for Hans, especially as he was defending champion, came into nationals with the fastest seed time and was nursing an Achilles problem,” Eastern Oregon coach Ben Welch told me. “The dominating fashion in which he won says a lot of his character and competitiveness. What a way for an outstanding young man to end his collegiate indoor career.”

Eastern Oregon’s Isaac Updike of Ketchikan also finished his indoor career on a high note, taking fourth in a deep 3,000-meter field that had both last year’s champion and this past fall’s cross country champion.

Updike hung tight with that lead group and came up a bit short in a wild finish after a slow first 2,000 meters. While the overall time was not that fast, the manner it was run was pretty impressive, Welch said.

Updike’s time of 8:30.81 was well off his school record [8:23.70] but his two 1,500 splits were 4:28.8 and 4:02.0 – the latter being the equivalent of a sub 4:20 over 1600 meters.

Calvin Edward of Wasilla ran the 1,200-meter leg of the distance medley relay and Ketchikan’s Lucas Updike, twin brother of Isaac, competed in the 3,000. Never Alaskan advanced to the final.

But Edward became the second-fastest individual to run the opening leg for EOU, behind only Roelle from past years, when he ran 3:06.5 over 1200 meters to hand off right in the thick of things in their preliminary heat.

Gabi Fenumiai basketballThe hunt is over for Gabi Fenumiai. She finally bagged the big one.

The Juneau basketball player helped Peninsula College beat perennial power Lane 85-75 in the Northwest Athletic Conference tournament championship game in Washington.

It was the first NWAC title in Peninsula College history and the first time since she was a little kid that Fenumiai ended the season with a victory.

“I’ve never won a title like this before,” she told me. “I’ve won regions and came close to a state title [in high school] a couples times but was never able to pull off the big one, and now I have.

“I just love my team and my coaches and am so thankful for them.”

Fenumiai, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, averaged 15 points and 10.8 rebounds in four NWAC tournament games.

The 6-foot sophomore forward scored 9 points and grabbed 8 points despite foul trouble. She grabbed five offensive rebounds and made 4-of-7 shots from the floor.

Peninsula College finished 23-5 and won the Northern Region regular-season title as well as the tournament championship.

“We just have such a special group of talent this year. We made history with each game,” Fenumiai said. “Even if we only made it past the first round we set a new record because Peninsula College had never made it past the first round in the tournament.

“But we weren’t satisfied with that, we were hungry for that title and together, from starters to coaches to managers to the bench, we took the whole thing home.

“There’s no other way I’d want to end my years at PC and there no other people I’d rather share this monumental moment with than the ones I have now.”

Fenumiai was named to the NWAC tournament Second Team.

Anchorage’s Aminata Cole of Southwestern Oregon was named to the First Team after leading her team to the semifinals.

Aminata Cole Basketball

Aminata Cole

The 5-foot-11 sophomore center averaged 18.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots in 28 games this season.

Cole, of Dimond High fame, turned it up a notch in tournament play and posted three double-doubles in four games – 26/20, 22/15 and 23/12.

Cole and Fenumiai are both finished with junior college and have two more years of college eligibility. Look for them to sign with a school soon.

“As of right now I’m not really sure where I will end up nex year,” Cole told me.

March 10, 2015

Tyler Swinton golf

Tyler Swinton

One bad round cost Tyler Swinton of Haines over the weekend as he slipped outside the top 25 at the Corban Spring Invitational at Creekside Golf Club in Oregon.

The Oregon Tech University junior golfer finished the three-day tournament with a 54-hole total of 230, which put him 28th out of 51. He shot 77-80-73.

Swinton, of Haines High fame, is believed to be the only Alaskan playing golf in college this season. He was an all-state basketball player in high school.

This tournament wasn’t indicative of how well he’s played this season.

Swinton has shot par or better five this season, which leads the team. And after the first five tournaments is the only Oregon Tech golfer to register two top-10 finishes, including a fifth-place showing.

His average 18-hole score is 74.5 through 14 rounds.

March 9, 2015

Kari Hancock equestrian

Kari Hancock

Anchorage equestrian rider Kari Hancock of Texas Christian University earned Big 12 Rider of the Month honors for February.

The sophomore posted a 4-0 record during the month in Equitation On The Flat, including two victories away from home.

Hancock, of South High fame, twice earned MVP honors last month and averaged a score of 79.25 in her four Equitation On The Flat competitions.

Aminata Cole basketball

Aminata Cole

Two of the best women’s basketball players in the Northwest Athletic Conference are from Alaska and they are on a collision course to square off in the championship game.

Both players are in action in tonight’s NWAC tournament semifinals, with the winners advancing to Tuesday’s title tilt in Washington.

Southwestern Oregon center Aminata Cole of Anchorage was voted to the Southern Region Defensive Player of the Year and a First Team all-star.

The 5-foot-11 sophomore scored the winning basket in the closing seconds in the first round to secure a 70-69 victory over Bellevue. She sank a driving jumper in the lane to punctuate a 26-point, 20-rebound effort.

The next day she had 22 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocked shots as SW Oregon beat Clark 73-70 to reach the semifinals.

Cole, of Dimond High fame, leads the NWAC with 3.6 blocked shots per game. She ranks second with 10.8 rebounds and third in scoring at 18.9.

Peninsula College is also in the final four, thanks in large part to Northern Region First Team all-star Gabi Fenumiai of Juneau.

Gabi Fenumiai basketballThe 6-foot power forward ranks fourth in the NWAC in field-goal percentage [.585] and sixth with 9.0 rebounds.

Fenumiai, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, highlighted an 81-60 win over Portland in the first round with a 22-point, 17-rebound performance. She made 11-of-14 field goals.

Peninsula beat Highline 69-55 in the next round with Fenumiai amassing 15 points and 6 rebounds.

In tonight’s semifinals, SW Oregon plays Lane and Peninsula takes on Umpqua.

March 8, 2015
Laci Effenberger basketball

Laci Effenberger

Despite having seven career knee surgeries, Ketchikan’s Laci Effenberger is still strong enough to carry a team.

The 5-foot-7 junior guard doubled her scoring average during the CCAA tournament as the Cal State East Bay women’s basketball team won two games before losing to the No. 1 seed in the championship game.

They were the first postseason wins for any Cal State East Bay athletic program in the five years since the school joined the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

Effenberger’s fingerprints were all over the historic feat.

She pumped in a season-high 17 points in the first round as East Bay upset No. 3 Cal Poly Pomona 75-70. Then in the semifinals she scored all 10 of her points in the second half as East Bay upset No. 2 Humboldt State 73-67.

She scored 9 points in the title game, a 76-57 loss to Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Effenberger averaged 12 points in the tournament, twice her 6.2 average in the regular season.

The 22-year-old shooter has a reputation for carrying a team in a tournament. Last year with Clackamas Community College she broke two NWAC tournament records for most points in a game [42] and tournament [112] as her team went 3-1.

March 7, 2015

Tyler Thompson BaseballAnchorage’s Tyler Thompson continues to tear the cover off the baseball for Pacific Lutheran University.

The junior third baseman banged out three more hits in a 14-2 victory over Willamette in NCAA D3 action.

Thompson, of Dimond High fame, is now hitting .351 with six doubles and a home run in 14 games.

He leads PLU with 20 hits and ranks second with 13 RBIs and 11 runs. His slugging is .509 percentage.

Garrett Brown BaseballStarting pitcher Garrett Brown of Anchorage picked up his first win of the season for PLU.

The right-hander threw six strong innings, scattering seven hits and a walk. He fanned five.

Brown, of Service High fame, had come out of the bullpen in his last two outings. This was his third start.

He has a 4.00 ERA in 18 innings with a 13-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Scooter BynumScooter Bynum of Fairbanks had two hits, two RBIs and a stolen base for the Western Arizona College baseball team in a 6-4 win over Gateway Community College.

The former Alaska player of the year is hitting .257 in 22 games.

The freshman outfielder has been a table setter most of the season, leading the team with 18 runs and ranking third with a .442 on-base percentage.

This time he supplied the muscle with his first two-RBI college game. He has 9 RBIs overall.

Bynum, of Monroe-Catholic High fame, leads Western Arizona with 7 stolen bases. He’s been caught only once.

March 6, 2015

Andrew Kurka SkiingParalympian Andrew Kurka of Palmer took home a bronze medal in the super-G sitting competition at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Canada.

He finished just .91 seconds behind winner Corey Peters of New Zealand and .12 seconds behind France’s Frederic Francois in second.

His podium finish comes a little more than three months after he broke his femur in a skiing accident and only a month after returning to the snow.

“It feels great,” he told me. “I was just excited to get back on the snow three weeks ago after breaking my femur and having surgery in November. Especially after my crash in Sochi breaking my back, I haven’t been on snow as much as I would like.

“I raced at US Nationals just 10 days after being back on snow and managed three championship titles and two silvers. I was honestly planning on being conservative coming into the world championships.”

The 22-year-old has had success on this course before, claiming downhill gold at the 2014 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in Panorama.

“I have a great history here,” he said. “I haven’t been on snow that long so didn’t want to push another injury. The fact I managed a medal makes me a super happy camper.”

March 5, 2015

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

What started as small ideas turned into something big.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 4, 2015

Jessica Todd Track and FieldUC Colorado Springs senior runner Jessica Todd just missed winning a medal but settled for a school record at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference indoor championships in Colorado.

Her 4×400-meter relay team finished fourth with an altitude-adjusted time of 3:56.39, beating the previous record by a second and a half.

Todd, of Dimond High fame, also ran a PR in the individual 400 run in 59.14.