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.

September 22, 2014

Griffin Toomey FootballHe didn’t score a touchdown, make a tackle or rush the ball, but Griffin Toomey of Anchorage was arguably the player of the game for the Saint John’s football team.

The sophomore punter routinely pinned Concordia deep in its own territory with booming kicks in a 23-14 loss in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener.

Toomey averaged 42 yards on three punts, with each one landing inside the 20-yard line, the benchmark for punting.

He was named MIAC Special Teams Athlete of the Week for his work.

His first punt was downed on Concordia’s 3-yard line. His second rolled out of bounds at the 14 and his third was caught for a fair catch at the 18.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Toomey, of South High fame, leads the MIAC with six punts downed inside the 20 as well as five fair catches. He ranks third with a 36.2 average for Saint John’s [2-0].

September 21, 2014

Julia Rumley TennisJulia Rumley of Anchorage has been unbeatable lately for the Grinnell College tennis team.

The junior has won her last four doubles matches to go with a 4-0 record in singles for the NCAA D3 team in Iowa.

In doubles, a new partner has made all the difference.

After she lost her first four matches, Rumley got a new partner and hasn’t lost. She is 3-0 with her new partner Hannah Cook.

Her perfect singles record has pushed her career record to 25-10. She’s gone 15-3 over her last 18 matches.

Rumley, of East High fame, has gone 27-24 in doubles.

September 20, 2014

Zach Lujan FootballThe good times continue to roll for South Dakota State quarterback Zach Lujan of Anchorage.

The sophomore transfer threw a pair of touchdown passes in a 41-3 victory over Wisconsin-Oshkosh before a home crowd of 13,731 fans at the annual Beef Bowl.

Lujan completed 13-of-19 passes, including scoring strikes of 38 yards [first quarter] and 5 yards [third quarter].

He improved to 3-0 as the starter.

Lujan, of South High fame, has connected on 65-percent clip of his passes in four games. He has six touchdowns and four picks.

He is averaging 188 yards through the air per game.

Kelly Cobb SoccerKelly Cobb of Chugiak is usually the one scoring goals for the Duke University women’s soccer team.

This time, though, she was the one setting up her teammates.

The senior striker collected two helpers in a 3-0 victory at Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener.

Cobb, of Chugiak High fame, set up her first goal just three minutes into the game when she forwarded a pass to Christina Gibbons, who found the net.

Four minutes later her through ball to Imani Dorsey made it 2-0.

Cobb has four goals and two assists in nine games this season.

With 62 career points on 24 goals and 14 assists, she is knocking on the door of Duke’s all-time top 10 scoring list.

September 19, 2014

Kendra Bulawa SoccerWith a record conference winning streak on the line, the Colorado School of Mines women’s soccer team needed a fast start against Colorado State-Pueblo.

And Chugiak’s Kendra Bulawa provided the spark.

The senior defender converted a rebound off a corner kick in the 24th minute for the game’s first goal as Mines won 4-1 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener.

The Orediggers remain 13th in the NCAA D2 record book in consecutive conference wins with 20 and moved into a tie for 15th in consecutive conference games without a loss at 27.

It was the fourth career goal for Bulawa in 50 games. She also has five assists, including one this year in the first game of the season.

The Colorado School of Mines squad is 4-0-1 so far this season and features other Alaskans Sam Zumbro, Alex Susich, Maddie Woodard of Anchorage.

September 18, 2014

Rachel Topf VolleyballWhen State University of New York at Potsdam needed a new setter, the Bears turned to Rachel Topf of Eagle River.

Just a freshman, she has responded like a veteran.

Topf leads the team in assists and is only one of two players to play in all 44 sets this year for the 5-6 Bears entering this weekend’s Oswego Invitational in New York.

The 5-foot-6 starter has racked up 264 assists for an average of six per set. Her season high is 35.

Topf, of Chugiak High fame, has already emerged as one of the team’s best all-around players.

She ranks third in aces [16], third in digs [65] and third in points won [57.5]. She is fourth in blocks [10].

Topf can also get offensive, having smacked five kills in three different matches. What’s more, she has only two attack errors on just 77 total attempts.

September 17, 2014

Silas Talbot Track and FieldTwo-sport star Silas Talbot of Anchorage continues to deliver remarkable results for Dartmouth University.

After a stellar ski season, the senior standout has carried over that success to cross-country running and he nearly won the Dartmouth Invitational in New Hampshire.

Talbot finished second out of 81 runners, just missing a victory in the 8-K race by two seconds. He finished in 24:27 and improved on his 11th-place finish a year ago.

“I’m very happy,” he told me. “This result was significantly better than last year and the fact that I am healthy and had a great summer of training is really promising for the season. I think I am leaps ahead of where I was at this point last year, so hopefully this season holds big things both for myself and the Dartmouth team.”

Talbot, of Service High fame, is coming off a ski season in which he finished 11th at the NCAA Championships in March, narrowly missing an All-American finish. In May, he helped the Dartmouth 4x-mile relay team run 16:27, the second-fastest time in New England history.

“In terms of skiing versus running I don’t’ think I am necessarily better in one,” he said. “I strongly believe my success in running is largely due to the hard work I put into skiing and vice versa.”

He is one of the best dual-sport college athletes from Alaska, yet Talbot still surprises himself, like in the Dartmouth Invitational.

“I struggled in the heat during a tempo workout a week before. Now that fall temperatures have moved into New Hampshire I’ve found my stride again and was a bit surprised by the result, “ Talbot said. “My strategy in the race was to hang with the top group as long as possible and this proved easy until a very large hill at 5-K mark. I got dropped from the group but got a second wind at the top and was able to make up ground.”

September 15, 2014

Griffin Toomey FootballTeams that score a lot of points don’t keep their punters busy, yet when Griffith Toomey’s name is called he usually delivers for the Saint John’s University football team.

The Anchorage punter was named to the all-conference team as a freshman last year and he has had a punt downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in 11 of 12 career games at the NCAA D3 school.

Toomey, of South High fame, is averaging 33.7 yards on seven punts in the first two games of the season.

Saint John’s has outscored its first two opponents 58-15.

Last year, Toomey booted a career-best 64-yarder and led the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in punts inside the 20 [14] and fair catches [19].

He gets good air time and he gets it away quick, never having one of his punts blocked in 48 career attempts.

September 14, 2014

Caleb McLaren FootballUniversity of Minnesota Morris quarterback Caleb McLaren of Delta Junction inched closer to etching his name in the record book once again.

Already the NCAA D3 school’s single-game record holder with 412 yards, the second-year starter tossed his 20th career touchdown pass over the weekend and now needs only two more to move into the top five on the all-time list.

McLaren completed 6-of-16 passes for 122 yards and a score in a 44-9 loss to Greenville. He was replaced in the second half.

The Alaskan didn’t play poorly. He didn’t throw an interception and orchestrated the only two scoring drives, both coming in the first half.

With his team trailing 13-0, McLaren he completed a 23-yard scoring strike to make it 13-6 with 1:15 left in the first quarter. It stayed that way after a missed PAT.

Then early in the second quarter he led a 71-yard drive that culminated with a field goal.

Chris Pasquale Cross Country RunningChris Pasquale of Anchorage led the Viterbo University men’s cross country squad to a third-place finish at the inaugural Border Battle Invitational in Wisconsin.

The junior placed seventh out of 80 runners and broke the 28-minute barrier in an 8-K for the first time in his college career.

Pasquale, of Bartlett High fame, clocked a time of 27:37. He was the top runner and the only top-10 finisher for Viterbo, a NAIA school.

His previous PR was 28:00.

September 13, 2014

Aaron Fletcher RunningBrigham Young University’s Aaron Fletcher of Anchorage finished seventh out of 50 runners at the BYU Autumn Classic in Utah.

He covered the four miles in 20:27.

Fletcher, of South High fame, was fourth among BYU runners.

There was only a 10-second gap between the Cougars No. 1 runner and No. 5 runner.

Zach Lujan FootballIt wasn’t his best performance, but Zach Lujan of Anchorage still managed to pick up his first road win and remain undefeated as a starter for the South Dakota State football team.

Alaska’s lone NCAA D1 starting quarterback threw for 162 yards and a touchdown in a 26-6 victory over Southern Utah.

The sophomore transfer completed 13-of-24 passes and threw a pair of interceptions, including one in the red zone.

He tossed an 18-yard score in the second quarter to make it 21-0.

Lujan, of South High fame, is now 2-0 as a starting quarterback. He came on in relief in his first game, a loss at Missouri.

For the season he has completed 46-of-72 passes for 585 yards, four touchdowns and four picks.

September 12, 2014

Allison Leigh VolleyballTaken out of the Quinnipiac starting lineup six days ago, Allison Leigh of Palmer returned and took out any frustration on Fairleigh Dickinson.

The 6-foot-3 middle hitter responded with the best volleyball match of the season in a five-set loss in Rhode Island.

She matched her season high with six kills and set season highs with seven blocks and two aces. She also scored a season high 11.5 points.

Leigh, of Colony High fame, is hitting .186 and is averaging a block a set in eight matches.

Aaliyah Lewis SoccerAaliyah Lewis of Anchorage saw her three-game point streak snapped as Alabama State lost to Georgia Southern 3-0 in a game stopped in the 71st minute because of lightning.

The sophomore striker just ran out of time.

Lewis, of Dimond High fame, has three goals and one assist on the season. She has scored or assisted on every goal Alabama State has netted.

Her three-goal streak started when she scored in a 1-0 win over South Carolina-Upstate. She assisted on the winning goal in a 1-0 win over North Carolina-Asheville. Then she scored in a 5-1 loss to Presbyterian.

September 10, 2014

Dylan Faber SoccerAnchorage’s Dylan Faber was having his best day in goal until a late goal messed up everything.

The Northeastern University goalkeeper matched his career high with six saves in a 1-0 loss to Old Dominion during NCAA D1 men’s play in Virginia.

It was his first start in four matches this season.

Faber, of West High fame, started 17 games last season and finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association in shutouts [6] and third in save percentage [.779].

The junior made a strong save early in the second half before Old Dominion beat the Alaskan in the 77th minute.

Chelsea Peterson VolleyballChelsea Peterson of Juneau had to wait an extra year to experience what it was like to play college volleyball.

Once on the court, she did what she does best.

The freshman outside hitter slammed seven kills on 14 attempts for a .286 attack percentage as Linfield College beat New Hope in five sets in Oregon.

Peterson was an all-state player at Juneau-Douglas her final two years and signed with UAA, but redshirted last season and transferred to Linfield.

September 9, 2014

Rachel Roelle RunningAlaskans Rachel Roelle and Lucas Updike of Eastern Oregon University each posted cross country victories at the season-opening competition at the Whitman Invitational in Washington.

Anchorage’s Roelle won the women’s 6-K race in 23:36, 10 seconds ahead of the second-place runner. She was one of only two Eastern Oregon runners among the top 14 finishers, so she prevailed on her own.

“Rachel ran an excellent tactical race,” EOU coach Ben Welch told the school’s website.

Roelle, of West High fame, sprinted to the front at the start and stayed with the lead pack of Whitman runners. She looked as if she would drop back near the halfway point, Welch said, but was able to stay strong and eventually pull away for the win over the final 400 meters.

Lucas Updike RunningHer time was 85 seconds faster than her effort at this race last year.

In the men’s race, Ketchikan’s Updike outsprinted an opponent down the stretch to collect the 8-K win by two seconds in 26:29. Like Roelle, Updike jumped to the front and was near the front the entire race.

Anchorage’s Hans Roelle was eighth in 28:04.

September 6, 2014

Zach Lujan FootballZach Lujan of Anchorage has played in just two college football games at South Dakota State and he’s already got a nickname.

Just call him ‘Zach Attack.’

The sophomore quarterback made his first start today and led the Jackrabbits to a 44-18 victory over visiting Cal Poly in the inaugural Dairy Drive game.

Lujan, of South High fame, threw touchdowns in each of the first three quarters and completed 12-of-20 passes for 184 yards. He threw one pick and was sacked once.

His first career touchdown pass went for 36 yards. His other scoring strikes went for 16 and 11 yards. He spread the ball between six receivers.

Lujan threw for 239 yards on 21-of-28 passing against Missouri last week in relief of the injured South Dakota State starter.

Bryan Maley FootballBryan Maley of Eagle River was one of the few bright spots for the Wagner College football team today.

The senior placekicker booted a 21-yard field goal in a 34-3 loss to Florida International in Miami.

Maley, of Chugiak High fame, is now 4-for-5 on field goals for his career. He filled in as a starter for a few games last year, but this year it’s his job to lose.

He made all three PATs last week, making him 10-for-10 for his career. This was his first field goal of the season.

In high school, Maley kicked a state record 53-yarder.

Kelly Cobb SoccerWe all have two feet and last night Kelly Cobb of Chugiak scored goals with each one in a matchup of nationally ranked NCAA women’s soccer teams.

Her two goals propelled No. 21 Duke to a 3-0 win over No. 18 Arkansas in North Carolina.

The senior midfielder capitalized on a sloppy clear in the 61st minute and used her left foot to roof a rocket off the underside of the crossbar. That made it 1-0.

It was her eighth career game winner.

In the 77th minute, Cobb benefitted from a beautiful crossing pass to bury a shot with her right foot to make it 2-0.

Cobb, of Chugiak High fame, has three goals in five matches this year and has 23 goals in her career, which ranks No. 14 on the Duke’s all-time scoring list.

She needs only three more goals to crack the top 10.

This was the third time Cobb had scored two goals in a game.

September 5, 2014

Jenna Arlow VolleyballA player from Alaska is leading the charge for the best volleyball team in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Junior setter Jenna Arlow of Palmer leads the NAIA conference with a career-high 9.6 assists per set. She also leads the league with 316 assists in 33 sets.

Last season she finished third in the KCAC at 8.9 assists per set.

Arlow, of Palmer High fame, had a career-best 51 assists against Avila of Missouri on Aug. 30. She has surpassed the 40-assist mark three times in the last four matches.

She’s also calling her own number, notching at least two kills in all 10 matches, including a career-best seven verses Missouri Valley.

Arlow’s attack percentage is .261, 40 points higher than last year.

Sarah Tarver SoccerFour-year starter Sarah Tarver of Juneau has been a dependable defender for the Northern Arizona University women’s soccer team.

But she got a little offensive against UC Riverside, notching her second career assist in a 4-2 loss.

Tarver has started 52 of 61 career games and has collected five goals, two assists for 12 points.

September 4, 2014

Womens VolleyballKelly Musgrave [left] and Miquella Farris [right] of North Pole traveled a long way to play college volleyball.

They went to New York, where they are playing for Jefferson Community College in Watertown.

Farris actually moved to the area with her family because her father, who is in the U.S. Army, was stationed at nearby Fort Drum.

Musgrave wound up following her high school buddy to the East Coast. Ten of the 13 players on the Jefferson CC roster are from New York. Two are from Alaska, one from Hawaii.

Life is different on that side of the country, in more ways than one.

“One of my biggest thing when I moved here was everybody hitting deer [with their vehicles] and, like, being OK after,” Farris told the Watertown Daily Times. “The only thing that gets hit in Alaska is a moose and if you hit a moose, you’re lucky if you’re OK after.”

September 3, 2014

Caleb Holley FootballCaleb Holley’s quest to become the first Alaskan to play wide receiver in the NFL was put on hold when the Buffalo Bills released him in final cuts.

The 6-foot-3 playmaker from Anchorage will stay involved with the Bills, however, after signing with the practice squad.

That means he will get paid – at least $6,300 per week, the NFL minimum for practice players.

Holley, of East High fame, was invited by the Bills to training camp as an undrafted rookie after a stellar showing in mini camp.

Holley played his college ball at East Central, where he broke the school’s 35-year-old receiving record last season with 970 yards and nine touchdowns on 55 catches. He also set the single-game record with 224 yards on 14 receptions.

There are currently two Alaskans in the NFL – North Pole’s Daryn Colledge and Anchorage’s Zack Bowman.

Colledge is a veteran offensive lineman and a Super Bowl champion. He is now with the Miami Dolphins after stops with Arizona and Green Bay.

Colledge has never missed an NFL game in eight seasons, starting 124 of 128.

Bowman is with the New York Giants after six seasons with Chicago. Bowman is a defensive back with 10 career interceptions, including six in one season, the most by any Alaskan.

Another Alaskan, Eathyn Manumaleuna of Anchorage, is a defensive lineman out of BYU who was signed and released by the Giants and Patriots this summer after going undrafted. He is still in the mix as a potential practice squad player down the road.

September 1, 2014

Zach Lujan FootballMost kids daydream of playing college football, but Zach Lujan of Anchorage visualized his gridiron glory.

Then he went out and made it a reality.

The South Dakota State transfer quarterback made a dynamic debut with his new team against the University of Missouri under adverse conditions – facing the nation’s No. 24-ranked team on the road in front of 60,000 people.

The sink-or-swim circumstances would drown most sophomores, but Lujan thrived under the bright lights and was a bright spot in a 38-18 loss.

“My offensive coordinator Eric Eidsness did a great job game planning, getting us ready to play, and we preach here that everybody has to be ready step up to the plate,” Lujan told me. “You never know when you’re number is going to get called. When it is called you have to be ready to step up and accept the challenge, and fortunately I was able to do that.”

Lujan, of South High fame, completed 21-of-28 passes for 239 yards. He threw one interception and completed a pass for a two-point conversion.

“These are the days I’ve been dreaming about since I was 6 years old, so it’s nice to have that dream become a reality and show that I can play at that level,” he said.

We shouldn’t be surprised with Lujan’s performance. Yeah, sure, it was historic to see a college quarterback from Alaska move the ball against an SEC defense. But Lujan has exceled at every level of football and plays with a special confidence.

So when the South Dakota State quarterback got hurt early in the game, Lujan didn’t freak out. He figured it out and made plays.

“I didn’t really have time to think. It was time to play some football,” Lujan said. “I expect nothing but the best for myself, but I want to make sure I don’t come off cocky. I expect myself to perform at that level because that’s what I’ve been trained to do and I’ve been working my whole life for this moment. I just wanted to show everybody that I belonged there and to do it on a national stage in front of 60,000 people was something else. It really meant something to me.”

His performance touched a nerve with his family and friends in Alaska. His cell phone nearly blew up.

“As soon as I got back to the locker room I had 170-plus texts. I can’t even tell you how many Twitter notifications I got, just everybody back home showing support,” he said. “It’s nice having everybody on the home front believing in me. I can’t even express the pride I feel coming from Alaska and being able to play like that.”