High school athletes find competition, motivation with 100 Miles Challenge

April 24, 2020

Ava Earl

The cancellation of Alaska high school track and field season due to the COVID-19 pandemic left a void for Ava Earl, Joel Power and many others.

They found a creative way to stay active, engaged with their fellow students, and upbeat by organizing teams for the Healthy Futures 100 Miles in May Challenge, which created a “bonus” month in April that has attracted over 3,000 participants.

“I was not the only one who was bummed not to be able to race track, so I thought this was an awesome idea,” Earl, a junior from Girdwood who attends South Anchorage High School, told the state health department’s Play Every Day blog.

The 100 Miles Challenge is an interactive friendly competition where all activities convert to miles. While social distancing doesn’t allow us to get together with our friends right now, the 100 Miles Challenge has been a great way to stay social online while exercising from a safe distance.

While the challenge was designed with the average person in mind, someone needing some structure and motivation to build healthy daily physical habits, it has also become fertile ground for Alaska’s top athletes, including high schoolers this year.

As of April 24, Earl’s team Ava’s Domination Squad included 37 members and had logged 4,172 miles, second among all teams entered. Earl herself had accumulated 176.5 miles and reached the 100-mile benchmark in just 12 days. She’s logged at least one activity every day — ranging from running, hula hooping, core workouts, walking and Nordic skiing — and on April 18 posted four different activities.

“It’s a good part of my day to just go out and enjoy,” Earl today Play Every Day. “A bonus is I get to spend more time exercising with my family, which I would not be doing otherwise.”

Earl has plenty of company among high school teams and school groups, which have joined from Anchorage, Eagle River, the Mat-Su, Juneau, Girdwood, Hope, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Minto and elsewhere.

Joel Power

Leading all teams in miles accumulated is (Social) Distance Athletes, captained by Joel Power of Service High School. Power, a top skier and runner for the Cougars, is no stranger to rallying school spirit: in February he skied in a cheerleader costume at the East T-Bird Classic.

Power helped rally 26 members to the (Social) Distance Athletes squad, which leads all teams with 4,334 miles. Power has been leading the way with 326 miles, accumulated from an astounding 67 entries that include running, walking, core workouts, bodyweight exercises, road biking, circuit training, hiking, mountain running, Nordic skiing, off-road biking, downhill skiing, dancing and yoga.

Power ranks 18th among all individuals and is believed to be the top-ranked high schooler.

The 100 Miles in May Bonus Challenge has entered its final week, so Ava’s Domination Squad, (Social) Distance Athletes, FXC Gorls led by Kendall Kramer in Fairbanks, Mountain Men led by Eagle River’s Michael Connelly and other teams will be making their final pushes in the good-natured competition that prioritizes participation.

“Our hearts go out to all those high school athletes who had their sports seasons canceled, especially the seniors,” said Healthy Futures and Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Executive Director Harlow Robinson, “It’s been inspiring to see how fired they’ve been to channel their energy into some fun competition.  Huge kudos to Ava, Michael, Joel, Kendall and some of the others who took the lead in getting the word out.”

As of April 24, 3,253 participants from 163 teams had logged more than 198,000 miles of activity.

Healthy Futures hopes the regularly scheduled 100 Miles in May Challenge will be an even bigger success as teams sign up for another month or join anew. All leaderboards and individual statistics will reset on May 1 and run through May 30.

Anyone can register for 100 Miles in May at https://healthyfuturesak.org/get_involved/100milesmay. This is normally a fundraiser for the Healthy Futures program but pledging is optional this year.  As the pandemic continues, Healthy Futures is making it a priority to encourage everyone to stay active and stay social (while maintaining a safe distance).

-By Alaska Sports Blog Contributor Matias Saari