Finalists named for Trajan Langdon Award, Joe Floyd Award

May 3, 2021

In a time defined by adversity, the worst brought out the best in the finalists for the Trajan Langdon Award.

The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors has selected finalists for the award that honors leadership, sportsmanship and inspiration.

In the adult category, Alaska School Activities Association executive director Billy Strickland had to make many difficult and impactful decisions for Alaskan student-athletes during COVID.

According to his nomination, Strickland “has worked tirelessly to put kids in a position to participate with safety at its utmost importance, yet finding a way to put kids back on the court or field! He does this ‘with a smile on his face and a song in his heart’ knowing how important sports are to the individual athlete and how important mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is to all Alaska.”

The second finalist is the lead pack of skiers from the Tour of Anchorage cross-country ski race.

The frontrunners in the men’s 50-K race, including eventual winner Tyler Kornfield, got held up by a moose on the Coastal Trail. Each skier scooted past it one-by-one as the entire group waited until everyone was safety beyond the moose before racing resumed.

An example of “super-organic sportsmanship.”

The third finalist is a group of leaders from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Faced with the reality of seeing their college programs eliminated, coach Sparky Anderson helped save UAA Alpine skiing with nonstop effort while Sophie Marie Boggasch (gymnastics coach) and Kathie Bethard (hockey booster club organizer) continue their efforts to save those programs.

The winner will be announced Wednesday, May 5 at 2 p.m. on Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Facebook Live, co-hosted by Alaska News Source and featuring Anchorage sportscaster Patrick Enslow and Hall of Fame Executive Director Harlow Robinson.

Honorable mention went to Fairbanks Ice Dogs junior hockey general manager Rob Proffitt.

In the youth division, the finalists are the West Legion baseball team, the Juneau-Douglas High boys basketball team and Ninilchik High boys basketball team.

The West Eagles scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning to beat Wasilla 3-2 for its first state title since 1977.

Jack Opinsky had the game-winning hit, an emotional moment for him and his father and coach John, who had battled terminal brain cancer throughout the season.

“(Jack) gave me one of the hardest hugs of his life. I will never forget it,” John Opinsky told the Anchorage Daily News.

John passed away only a few months later.

The Juneau hoops team finished with a 16-1 record but had to turn down a state tournament berth due to a Juneau School District policy that prohibited travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were the only qualifying team in the state not allowed to travel and compete for a state championship.

The JDHS team unsuccessfully lobbied for a solution that would have allowed them to compete.

“I am proud of the way they handled themselves with class, dignity, and humility,” coach Robert Casperson said of his players.

The Ninilchik hoops team lost a controversial Peninsula Conference championship game to Lumen Christi 72-71 on a last-second 3-pointer that officials later said should not have counted because of a time clock error.

Ninilchik filed a protest and appealed the ruling to no avail.

Lumen Christi went on to win the state championship while Ninilchik had to stay home.

“We need to keep our chin up. We did the right thing, you boys did the right thing, and be proud of where you are and what you’ve done,” the Ninilchik faculty and staff told the players, according to the Ninilchik principal in an Anchorage Daily News article.

Honorable mention went to the East High boys basketball team, which capped a perfect unbeaten season with a state title.

The winner will be announced Tuesday, May 4 at 2 p.m. on Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Facebook Live, co-hosted by Alaska’s News Source and featuring Anchorage sportscaster Patrick Enslow and Hall of Fame Executive Director Harlow Robinson.

Past Winners
2020: Israel Hale
2019: Andy Beardsely and Larsen Klingel
2018: DaJonee Hale
2017: Damen Bell-Holter
2016: Laci Effenberger
2015: Aliy Zirkle
2014: Marko Cheseto
2013: Paul Tandy
2012: Chugiak High School football team

The Joe Floyd Award is 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. This may be given each year but is for achievement over multiple years with priority given to more recent years.

Here are the finalists as determined by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors.

The first finalist is Richard Knowles, who is credited for “dedicating his life to youth sports.”

Initially he sponsored youth teams in Kodiak, then moved up to coaching them. His passion became softball in Anchorage, and he’s won state titles at East High and coached numerous teams to Little League World Series appearances.

Many of his athletes have earned college scholarships. Said one nominator: “Richard has the uncanny ability to take a group of young ladies with different skill sets and get them to play together as a team. He teaches them that no matter their situation, they can accomplish great things when they work hard, play together, and above all else have fun. It is a gift and both of my girls are better off by having Richard Knowles as their coach and mentor.”

The second finalist is Dr. Charles Scott, who has been a teacher, administrator and leader in the Fairbanks school district for more than 40 years.

He has run the International Karate Association affiliate in Fairbanks since the 1970s and has influenced and mentored thousands of people, of all ages, through his school of martial arts.

Through his career he has also coached wrestling and football and his influence on students is profound.

As a testament of his character, many of the adult members of the dojo now bring their kids, not just to learn about martial arts but to be mentored by such a positive influence. Throughout the pandemic, Scott stayed committed to providing a safe and active place where people can work out, taking special precautions to limit exposure to COVID, and created a live virtual option for those who wanted to take class from their homes.

The last finalist is Richard Shellhorn, who has been involved with school sports in the Cordova area for nearly 50 years as a basketball official and radio voice of high school basketball.

He is a retired educator, commercial fisherman and sportsman hunter.

Honorable mention went to
Erik Largen, Frank Ostanik and Jamie Smith.

Past Winners:
2020: Cristy Hickel
2019: Brush Christiansen
2018: Jim Mahaffey
2017: Ma’o Tosi
2016: Dennis Sorenson
2015: Mike Friess
2014: Dick Mize
2013: Don Dennis
2012: Steve Nerland and Don Winchester