Merchant edges Sulte to win boys Pride of Alaska Youth Award

May 4, 2021

Tristian Merchant

In a close vote that came down to a photo finish, three-time Gatorade Alaska Runner of the Year Tristian Merchant edged recent MLS rookie call up Hunter Sulte to win the boys Pride of Alaska Youth Award.

Merchant prevailed by only a 14-12 count in a vote by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors that was one of the slimmest margins in Directors’ Awards history.

It’s the closest anybody has been to Merchant in the last year.

The Anchorage Christian Schools senior is one of the fastest prep distance runners to come out of Alaska.

He owns what is believed to be the fastest 5-K time for an Alaska high school runner in 14:41 at the Region III championships.

He is one of only four Alaska prep runners to break the 9-minute benchmark in the 3,200 meters.

He wrapped up his high school cross-country career with three straight D2 state titles.

He also won the 3000m at the University of Washington Indoor High School Meet in Seattle.

In college, Merchant will compete in track and cross country at powerhouse Northern Arizona University.

The 19-year-old Sulte over the weekend made his debut in goal with the Portland Timbers to become only the second Alaskan to play Major League Soccer.

At 6-foot-7, he’s the tallest goalkeeper to ever start an MLS match.

The Anchorage native turned pro straight out of high school, turning down a scholarship offer from reigning NCAA champion Georgetown University in favor of a pro contract.

He agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Portland Timbers, making him the first Alaskan to sign a Homegrown Player contract with an MLS team.

Juneau-Douglas two-sport star Cooper Kriegmont was a close third in the voting in an extremely tough and talented group.

The Pride of Alaska Youth Award rewards consistent excellence in athletic competition.

Merchant and Sulte were both worthy of winning the boys title, but Merchant eked it by a nose.

He is the first runner to win the boys youth award that dates back to 2018.

Past winners include wrestlers Hayden Lieb of Bethel and Aeyden Concepcion of South in 2020, basketball and football star Jersey Truesdell of Soldotna in 2019 and cross-country skier and current U.S. Ski Team member Gus Schumacher of Service in 2018.

The award honors an athlete or team who not only excelled in sports in the past year or recent years but have done so with integrity and sportsmanship so as to be a positive role model for others. Recipients must be in high school or younger at time of selection.