Basketball, running and skiing sweep annual ASHOF ceremony

March 21, 2014

Notable athletes, coaches, families, and the men and woman who’ve played a crucial roles in creating some of the most memorable sporting moments in Alaska history were packed into the Anchorage Museum Wednesday evening.

The annual Alaska Sports Hall of Fame ceremony gave a tribute to the 2014 Olympians, inducted athletes into the hall of fame and awarded some of the most notable professional competitors to ever come out of the Last Frontier.

Among the list of honorable athletes was the state’s most decorated basketball player, Bartlett High School graduate Mario Chalmers. The 27-year-old point guard currently playing for the Miami Heat was unable to make it to the event due to a prior engagement. On Wednesday, the Heat faced off against the Boston Celtics, losing 101 to 96. Taking his place at the Anchorage event, though, were his parents Ronnie and Almarie Chalmers.

Joining Chalmers as an inductee to the Hall of Fame was another basketball player, only she was of a different generation, when woman were unable to play at a professional level, before the creation of the WNBA. Jeannie Hebert-Truax, dressed in red, said she was both honored and excited to be part of the growing list of now 27 Alaska hall of famers.

The non-profit, which was established in 2008, calls Hebert-Truax “one of Alaska’s greatest high school players.” She first made waves after winning three prep player of the year awards in Alaska from her time at North Pole High School and Monroe Catholic school. She was named a NCAA All-American in 1992 and has since been inductee into the University of Miami Hall of Fame, and has coached the Wasilla High School girls basketball team to four state titles.

“It has been exciting to see where women’s basketball is going,” said Hebert-Truax, adding that women basketball players have picked up their game pace quite a bit since her day on the court. “It is exciting to see that there are opportunities out there for female athletes that weren’t there 20 years ago.” Alaska Hall of Fame director Harlow Robinson said had she played basketball 20 years later she could have “easily continued with a professional career.”

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race event was also inducted into the hall of fame. Created in 1983, the 1,000-mile race could be more challenging than the historic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, depending on who you ask. Running from the Golden Heart City of Fairbanks to Whitehorse, the race is a tribute to the gold rush and the mail carriers who relayed messages by dog team.

U.S. Olympic cross-country skier Kikkan Randall was also in attendance, arriving in Anchorage just 14 hours before the festivities began. Although she was inducted into the hall of fame three years ago, she received another honor Wednesday, the Spirit of Alaska award, which is awarded for “consistent excellence in athletic competition.”

“It was an incredible honor to be inducted three years ago,” said Randall, who recently returned to Alaska after continuous competition out of the country. “It is still funny to be in the middle of my career. I am pumped this year I am actually able to be a part of the ceremony.”

Randall shared the award with two runners, both of whom made strides this year to up the level of Alaska running. “With the men we had two runners with completely different disciplines who both kind of set new standards for running in Alaska. We couldn’t distinguish which one was more deserving, so we chose to award them both,” said Robinson.

Eric Strabel shocked people in the summer of 2013 when he shattered the Mt. Marathon record that had stood strong for 32 years. He flew up and down the mountain in 42 minutes and 55 seconds. The same year Trevor Dunbar, of Kodiak, became the first Alaskan to ever run a mile in less than four minutes.

Double amputee Marko Cheseto, a cross-country runner who formerly raced with the University of Alaska Anchorage, received the Trajan Langdon Award, typically given to a leader or inspiring athlete. The Kenyan runner was a top competitor during his time with UAA, but in 2011 after spending 55 hours outside in Alaska’s winter weather after becoming disoriented, he became an even bigger inspiration to the athletic community. Cheseto, who relied on his legs to take him from village to village in his home country, then through the finish line at national events, had to have both feet amputated. He hopes to compete at the Paralympics in 2016.

Dick Mize took home the Joe Floyd Award for his long lasting contribution to the state through sports. Mize, who was stationed at Ft. Richardson in 1960 was a longtime coach and teacher at Dimond High School. He later helped design trails at Kincaid Park and Hillside.

– From the Alaska Dispatch, by Megan Edge