For Significant and Lasting Contribution to Alaska through Sports – For a person or group of people who have, over a period of years, made a significant and lasting contribution to sports in Alaska. This contribution could be for a particular sport, for multiple sports, for a particular town or area and for participants or spectators. For achievement over multiple years with priority given to more recent years.
After excelling in basketball and football at Anchorage’s East High School and then the University of Idaho, Ma’o Tosi played three seasons for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League before an injury forced him to retire . He then returned to Anchorage and created a non-profit organization for at-risk youth, AK Pride (Alaskan People Representing Integrity and Diverse Experiences). The program has received national recognition and has helped thousands of youth foster skills and develop self-esteem in sports and the arts. A previous recipient of the Alaska’s Top 40 Under 40 Award continues to be a tireless advocate for youth in Anchorage.
After a prolific career at UAA in the early 1980s, the two-time, first-team All-American began coaching youth hockey in Anchorage. His Bantam team was the first Alaska squad to win a USA Hockey Tier I national championship. He has coached at Dimond High School since 1991 and accumulated more than 500 wins — nearly twice the number of the second-place coach. He has led his team to four state championships and many of his players have gone on to college and professional hockey careers.
For the past quarter century as head coach at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Michael Friess has built the men’s and women’s track and field and cross country programs into national collegiate powerhouses and has raised the popularity and visibility of the university. The numbers are staggering under his tutelage – 17 Coach of the Year honors, 12 league titles, 5 NCAA champions, 62 All- Americans. In the classroom, his athletes have earned nearly 200 academic All-Conference awards. If that wasn’t enough, he also directs the Mayor’s Marathon and Crow Pass Crossing.
Dick Mize came to Alaska to serve at Fort Richardson, discovered biathlon and then competed in the 1960 Olympics. He was a longtime local teacher and principal as well as cross-country running and skiing coach at Dimond High School. A pioneer for Nordic skiing and biathlon in Alaska, he helped design and construct local trails such as Kincaid Park and Hillside. A World Masters ski champion, Mize remains involved in the local ski scene, both as a racer and a volunteer, and can still be spotted on his namesake loop at Kincaid.
Since Don Dennis took over as general manager of the Alaska Goldpanners in 1967 the club has become the most successful team in amateur baseball history. Dennis was also responsible for the development and growth of the entire Alaska Baseball League. Now the team’s chief operating officer, he has faithfully guided the Goldpanners through 50 years of executive operations. Dennis continues to be highly regarded as a mentor and business leader in the Alaskan community and throughout the baseball world.
Steve Nerland and Don Winchester
Together and individually, Steve Nerland and Don Winchester have, over the past 25 years, made significant contributions to Alaska through sports. Together they were the driving force behind the successful effort to obtain funding to design and build a new sports arena at UAA. Individually they lead numerous efforts including building the Dimond High Football Stadium, upgrading the Mulcahy Baseball Park and developing the South Anchorage Baseball Parks.