Connecting You With AK Athletes – For 10 Years Strong!!

For the last 10 years, the Alaska Sports Blog has provided daily updates on local athletes all over the world. The blog was created Aug. 24, 2009 as a way to fill a void of media coverage of Alaska athletes once they left the 907 area code. Former Anchorage Daily News sports editor and Alaska Press Club award winner Van Williams has been with the blog since the beginning and written more than 4,000 stories on over 1,000 Alaskans.

Follow us on Twitter: @AKsportshall, Instagram: alaska_sports_hall, and Facebook.

Click here to read more about Van Williams and the Alaska Sports Blog.

October 26, 2020

Anchorage’s Clair DeGeorge was named Alaska Sports Hall of Fame’s Alaska Athlete of the Week after earning an invite to the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team Evaluation Camp.

The 21-year-old was among 53 players invited – the only one from Alaska. DeGeorge is a senior forward at NCAA D1 Bemidji State University, where she is approaching the school’s top 10 for all-time points and assists.

She grew up playing for the Alaska All-Stars and has been in the USA Hockey player pool since the Under-18 level.

The athlete of the week recipient is selected by a panel each Friday and announced Saturday at 11 a.m. on the Sports Guys on CBS Sports Radio 590AM and 96.7FM.

View past winners here.

October 24, 2020

Lauren Murphy

Facing an unorthodox, unknown newcomer as a late replacement didn’t bother Eagle River’s Lauren Murphy at UFC 254.

She came prepared for anything to happen.

A technical fighter who normally wins with supreme striking skills, Murphy this time got her opponent to tap out after using a wicked rear naked choke in the second round to beat UFC rookie Liliya Shakirova of Uzbekistan at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

This was Murphy’s first submission victory in 18 professional fights.

“At 37 years old, this is the best version of Lauren Murphy we are seeing,” said ESPN MMA commentator Daniel Cormier.

Murphy, of Chugiak High fame, has now won four straight fights to improve to 14-4.

She is 6-4 in the UFC, the world’s biggest and baddest fighting league.

Murphy is ranked No. 4 in the women’s UFC flyweight division and was supposed to face another top-ranked fighter in Cynthia Calvillo, who had to pull out after testing positive for COVID.

The Murphy-Calvillo fight was supposed to catapult the winner to a potential title shot.

Murphy might get one anyway after dispatching Shakirova (8-2) in spectacular fashion.

Murphy ranks No. 2 in UFC history with five wins in the women’s flyweight division.

Murphy looked strong and confident from the start, leading the dance by dictating tempo.

She was always in the middle of the octagon, perpetually pushing her opponent back.

Murphy flashed tight combos and played great defense before taking Shakirova to the ground. Murphy maintained her advantage and then gained position for a choke hold.

Not only did Murphy win, but she took minimal damage. She was unscathed for the most part.

October 23, 2020

Keegan Messing

Girdwood’s Keegan Messing was just happy to be back on the ice.

With the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating schedule ravaged with cancelations and postponements, the season finally kicked off with Skate America in Las Vegas, Nevada.

There were no fans in attendance and many top skaters were unable to attend due to travel restrictions from COVID.

“This was something that was needed,” Messing said.

The Alaskan made the most out of the opportunity, skating to a third-place finish out of 12 men in the short program.

The top three are Americans Nathan Chen (111.17) and Vincent Zhou (99.36), followed by Messing (92.40), who is representing Canada as a dual citizen.

Messing, 28, lives and trains in Alaska.

“Very happy to put out a clean program,” he said after his performance. “I’m just stoked that we were able to have a competition here. I didn’t realize how much I missed having the butterflies in my stomach.”

Messing has won at least a dozen medals since 2010 at the senior level.

He has dedicated this weekend to his Team Canada teammates, who are grounded and unable to travel to the event.

“I want to skate for them,” Messing said.

Skate America wraps up Saturday night with the longer free skate.

The Grand Prix circuit had to be altered to reflect travel restrictions, becoming domestic events open to skaters who live and train in that country.

Next week’s Skate Canada and another event next month in France were cancelled due to COVID. The Grand Prix Finale in China is on hold.

The pandemic didn’t stop the cyclocross season in Anchorage.

A race at Kincaid park on October 17 wrapped up the six-race ArcticCross season, which saw 245 participants complete at least one event.

Races were held at Kincaid (two), Mirror Lake, Russian Jack, Service High School and Hilltop.

The best four results among the six races counted for the final standings.

In the open men division, Will Ross, who won three races, prevailed with 230 points, followed by Branden Lashua (215) and Jason Lamoreaux (210).

In the open women division, Melanie Beale (230 points) topped Andrea Kettler (210) and Kinsey Loan (173). Megan Chelf, after winning the first women’s open race, sacrificed her chance at the women’s open podium by competing in the men’s open thereafter and placing 10th overall.

Free homemade bike-themed face masks were distributed to all youth participants before the final race and an COVID-19 mitigation plan was adhered to all season.

The division champions were:

Men — Open: Will Ross; Master 40+: Chris Wrobel; Master 55+: Mike Howard; Intermediate: Nicholas Straka; Beginner: Bace Poplawski; Single speed: James Fredrick; Junior Elite: Walker Battreall; Junior: Owen Harth; Pedal Bike: Boden Jetter; Strider: Maddox Neff.

Women — Open: Melanie Beale; Master 40+: Jody Barton; Master 55+: Stephanie Kesler; Intermediate: Sheryl Loan; Beginner: Chelsea Sternicki; Single speed: Natasha Graham; Junior Elite: Dara Stull; Junior: Harriet Levine; Pedal Bike: Svea Kastning; Strider: Signe Kastning.

October 22, 2020

Travante Williams

Anchorage’s Travante Williams put in a full day’s work in half the time, scoring 30 points in just 20 minutes for Sporting Lisbon in a 99-69 blowout win over Maia Basket in the Portuguese League.

The 6-foot-6 forward drained 12-of-18 field goals, including 6-of-10 from 3-point land.

Williams, of Mt. Edgecumbe High fame, reached the 30-plateau for the seventh time in his five-year career in Portugal and Georgia.

His career high is 50 points and he had another game with 48.

Williams has averaged 15.9 points per game in 113 pro games. He’s also a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

A complete package.

It’s a big reason why his teams have combined to go 96-11 in the Portuguese League.

October 21, 2020
Clair DeGeorge hockey

Clair DeGeorge

Clair DeGeorge of Anchorage is headed to the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team Evaluation Camp at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota.

The 21-year-old was among 53 players invited – the only one from Alaska.

DeGeorge is a senior forward at NCAA D1 Bemidji State University, where she is knocking on the door of the school’s top 10 for all-time points and assists.

She grew up playing for the Alaska All-Stars and has been in the USA Hockey player pool since the Under-18 level.

The camp is set for Oct. 25-31 and is part of the process to select the U.S. roster for the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship in Nova Scotia.

Of the 53 invited players, 17 were part of the gold medal-winning 2019 U.S. team and 14 were members of the 2018 gold medal-winning Olympic team.

Last year, DeGeorge was one of six newcomers selected by USA Hockey to compete against Canada in the opening two games of the annual rivalry series.

Clair DeGeorge hockey

DeGeorge has played for U.S. National age-group teams every year since 2016.

In the summer of 2018, she played for the U22 national team that swept Canada in a three-game series.

In the series finale, DeGeorge bagged a goal to highlight a 2-1 victory after she redirected a one-timer on the power play in the final minute of the first period.

At Bemidji State, she owns 23-44-67 scoring totals in 108 games.

Last season, she scored two goals to power a 3-2 upset victory over No. 1 Wisconsin.

Two weeks later, she set a school record with two goals in an 11-second span to spark a 3-1 win over Minnesota State.

October 20, 2020

Derrick Wilson

A promotion to a better league has brought out the best in Anchorage’s Derrick Wilson.

Playing in his first game in the Turkish Basketball First League since leaving Sweden, the point guard orchestrated the offense beautifully as Sigortam beat Ankara 91-75.

Wilson carved up the defense with 18 points and a 9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in a dynamic debut.

He added four rebounds, two steals and a pair of 3-pointers.

Wilson, of East High fame, is a fifth-year pro who has also played previously in Italy and Denmark.

He played college ball at Marquette University and had some of his finest games at the Big East Championship. This summer he played with a Marquette alumni team that won The Basketball Tournament, which carried a $1 million grand prize.

At Marquette, Wilson was a solid floor general and premier perimeter defender who wasn’t asked to score, hence his 3-point career scoring average in 132 games.

As a pro, however, he has looked to be more offensive and owns a 15.4 career scoring average in 86 games. He averaged 23 points per game in Italy, 12.7 in Denmark and 19.8 in Sweden. And so far, 18 in Turkey.

October 19, 2020

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks had her greatest game since joining the Turkish Super League.

The 6-foot-4 rookie forward poured in 12-of-17 shots on her way to scoring a career-high 28 points to go with a career-high 15 rebounds as Nesibe Aydin won 75-58.

She accomplished it all against a Turkish opponent sporting four players with WNBA experience.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, has recorded a double-double in all four of her games in Turkey.

She ranks third in the league in both scoring (25.8) and rebounding (11.8).

Hebard is shooting 66.2 percent and has two teammates in the top 10 in the league in assists per game.

What’s more, she is staying out of foul trouble to assure she stays on the court an average of 36 minutes per game.

October 18, 2020

Anchorage football player Presley Piliati anchored a devastating defense in a 23-3 win that moved Dickinson State University to 5-0 for the first time since 2010.

The senior defensive lineman made a season-high seven tackles and added his first sack of the season to overwhelm Dakota State in the North Star Athletic Association battle.

Piliati, of East High fame, also had a tackle for loss, his third of the season. Four of his seven tackles were unassisted.

The 6-foot-1, 285-pounder ranks sixth on the team with 15 tackles on the season.

The athlete of the week recipient is selected by a panel each Friday and announced Saturday at 11 a.m. on the Sports Guys on CBS Sports Radio 590AM and 96.7FM.

View past winners here.

October 17, 2020

Marshal Chace

Nothing was going to stop Marshal Chace of Fairbanks from scoring his first touchdown of the 2020 college football season.

The senior wide receiver from Presentation College took a short pass over the middle and raced 59 yards to the end zone early in the third quarter of a 21-18 loss to Dakota State in the North Star Athletic Association.

Chace displayed speed, shiftiness and shear grit on the play.

He outran the coverage for 40 yards before cutting back at the 10-yard line to avoid one defender and then peeling off an ankle tackle from another defender at the 5, stretching out his left arm to barely cross the goal line as he fell to the grass.

It was an outstanding effort by the 6-foot-1 Alaskan, exactly what was needed for a Presentation team looking for its first victory of the season.

Chace, of North Pole High fame, finished with three catches for a team-high 75 yards.

This was his fifth career touchdown in 24 games with Presentation, a NAIA school in South Dakota. He hauled in a career-long 60-yard bomb in 2018.

Chace needs only 48 more receiving yards to reach the 1,000-yard milestone.

Jon’uel Fisher

Brenner Furlong football

Brenner Furlong

The Presentation College squad features nine Alaskans on its roster, with Chace and Anchorage’s Jon’uel Fisher making the biggest impact in the game against Dakota State.

Fisher, of Service High fame, matched his season-high with six tackles.

The 5-foot-9 freshman defensive back is tied for sixth on the team with 25 tackles in six games. He also blocked a field goal two weeks ago against Dickinson State.

Dakota State features a couple of Alaskans, most notably Brenner Furlong of Soldotna.

The 6-foot junior running back produced a season-high 47 yards on 13 carries.

Furlong, of Soldotna High fame, is just 19 yards shy of reaching 500 for his career. He also owns three career touchdowns, including one on special teams.

October 16, 2020

Nina Kemppel

Anchorage’s Nina Kemppel was a true trailblazer in every sense of the word, changing the landscape for American cross-country skiing in the 1990s and 2000s.

Back in the day the United States racers rarely cracked the top 30 of World Cup races. But Kemppel changed that when she became the first woman in years to reach the top 20, and then improved on that by breaking into the top 15.

At the 2002 Olympics, in her twilight, she skied to 15th place in the 30K classical race, which was the best Olympic finish in 20 years by an American woman.

Her international ski career spanned 13 years and was highlighted by appearances at four Olympics and six World Championships between 1991 and 2002.

Kemppel, of West High fame, made 119 World Cup starts and won a record 18 U.S. national championships.

At the 1991 World Championships, she led the Team USA 4x5K relay to an eighth-place finish. At the 1994 Olympics, she was part of a relay team that finished 10th.

In 2001, she turned in two individual top-25 finishes at the World Championships for the first and only time.

An accomplished climber, Kemppel scaled Mount McKinley in 1995 with her father. She also won Mount Marathon in Seward nine times, including a record eight straight from 1996 to 2003.

Friday Flashback is a series created by Alaska Sports Hall of Fame blog editor Van Williams that looks back on great Alaska athletes from the past. To read about other Alaskans featured in this series, click here.

October 14, 2020
Allie Ostrander

Allie Ostrander

A winner at every level, Allie Ostrander of Kenai is changing lanes by going from world-class runner to volunteer coach.

The 13-time NCAA All-American and Millrose Games winner looks to bring a championship culture to Seattle Pacific University.

Ostrander last year moved to Seattle, where she works with the Brooks Running track club. She will focus on the distance runners at SPU while continuing to train for her budding pro career.

“We’re thrilled that an athlete the caliber of Allie Ostrander would reach out and want to give back to the sport,” said Karl Lerum, director of the school’s running program.

“I think Allie is going to give us, as coaches, a fresh perspective. She’ll also be able to model a little bit to our current student-athletes what it takes to be as accomplished of an athlete as she is.”

Ostrander, 23, said she’s always had the ambition to coach and SPU seemed like a good place to start.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes and be involved and learn from a really quality coach,” Ostrander said.

Ostrander, of Kenai High fame, was a college star from 2015 to 2019 at Boise State University, where she became the first woman in NCAA history to win three straight national titles in the steeplechase.

She was also a three-time All-American in cross country and finished second, fourth and sixth, respectively, in three appearances at the NCAA Championships.

Allie Ostrander track and field

Ostrander (left) posted her first victory as a pro at the 113th Millrose Games in New York City.

Ostrander’s resume gives her instant credibility as a coach.

“Not only are they inspired by what she has been able to do, she brings a lot to the coaching side, too,” said SPU coach Chris Reed. “She has plenty to offer as far as instruction and perspective. She is extremely driven, and it’s great to have that presence.”

In 2019, Ostrander posted a PR in the steeplechase at the IAAF World Championships in Qatar.

In early 2020, she posted her first victory as a pro, winning the 3,000 at the 113th Millrose Games in New York City.

“There’s no better way to learn about greatness than to be around people who have done it and are continuing to pursue it,” said Lerum.

October 13, 2020

Kylie Erickson

It takes bravery to stare down booming spikes on the volleyball court, but Valley City State University defensive specialist Kylie Erickson of North Pole has never flinched.

For four years she has provided the Vikings with a steady presence on the back row, although this year she has taken her game to the next level.

The 5-foot-4 senior has a .949 percent serve return percentage to go with a career-best 1.98 digs per set average.

Earlier this year Erickson set a career-high of 21 digs and recently surpassed the 200-dig career milestone.

Erickson, of North Pole High fame, is on pace to crack the century mark in season digs for the first time.

So far, she has compiled 89 digs in 13 matches to increase her career total to 233.

Erickson ranks just outside the top 25 in NAIA D1 with 15 aces. Her next ace be the 50th of her career.

October 12, 2020

Two high school athletes who turned in historic performances share Alaska Athlete of the Week honors.

Anchorage Christian School senior Tristian Merchant ran the fastest ever cross country time for an Alaska high school runner when he clocked 14:41 at the Region III championships in Palmer.

Chugiak High senior Josh Rolston kicked the longest field goal in Alaska high school football history, splitting the uprights on a 56-yard bomb in a loss to the East T-birds.

Both athletes established impressive new Alaska high school standards. Merchant is the first high school cross country to record a sub 15-minute time on Alaskan soil. Rolston’s field goal beat the previous state record of 53 yards set by Chugiak’s Bryan Maley a decade ago.

Merchant’s time ranks 3rd in the nation this year.  He followed up his record-breaking run with a 14:51 effort at the state championship meet, earning him a 3rd straight Division II title. As a junior he finished 13th at the Nike Cross National Championships.

A 2019 All-State kicker, Rolston participated at the Kohl’s National Scholarship Camp this June and came away ranked in the top 50 among 800 players from across the country.

The athlete of the week recipient is selected by a panel each Friday and announced Saturday at 11 a.m. on the Sports Guys on CBS Sports Radio 590AM and 96.7FM.

View past winners here.

October 11, 2020

Presley Piliati

Anchorage’s Presley Piliati anchored a devastating defense in a 23-3 win that moved Dickinson State University to 5-0 for the first time since 2010.

The senior defensive lineman made a season-high seven tackles and added his first sack of the season to overwhelm Dakota State in the North Star Athletic Association battle.

Piliati, of East High fame, also had a tackle for loss, his third of the season.

Four of his seven tackles were unassisted.

The 6-foot-1, 285-pounder ranks sixth on the team with 15 tackles on the season.

Faletoi and Piliati

Dickinson State has allowed an average of only 12.4 points per game.

That dominating defensive unit includes two other Alaskans in defensive back Jayden Heartwell of Anchorage and defensive lineman Aaron Faletoi of Soldotna.

Heartwell, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound freshman, had two tackles in this game and ranks 10th on the team with a dozen on the year.

Faletoi, a 6-foot-2 260-pound freshman, had one tackle in this game and is tied for 12th on the team with eight tackles.

Faletoi leads Dickinson State with five tackles for loss. He also owns a sack.

October 10, 2020

Riley Howard

Brooke Satathite

Riley Howard of Anchorage helped the Western Colorado University men’s cross country team run away with the team title at the Maverick Invitational in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The senior was among the five top scorers for the Mountaineers, who won the seven-team meet with 25 points. A perfect score is 20.

Howard, of Service High fame, finished 10th out of 87 finishers in the 8-kilometer men’s race.

He posted a PR of 25 minutes, 20 seconds, beating his previous best time by five seconds set last year.

Howard led a contingent of four Alaska runners at the meet.

In the women’s 5-K race, Kenai’s Brooke Satathite placed 27th out of 58 finishers for Western Colorado.

The sophomore made her season debut last week at the UCCS XC Open, where she finished 19th overall and second on her team.

Nate Sanches

Asa Demmert

On the men’s side, Nathan Sanches of Fairbanks finished 59th for Colorado Mesa and Sitka’s Asa Demert was 68th for Fort Lewis.

Sanches, of Lathrop High fame, was making his debut for Colorado Mesa as a UAF transfer. He was eighth on his team.

This was Demert’s first race of his college career.

October 9, 2020

Brett Denton

Anchorage’s Brett Denton had the game of his life on Nov. 18, 2006 when the Boise State University football team called on him to step up and step in for injured All-American running back Ian Johnson.

Denton carried the ball 17 times, rushed for a career-high 125 yards and scored the game’s first two touchdowns in a 49-10 win over Utah State that moved Boise State to 11-0 on the season.

The 5-foot-9, 191-pound Alaskan started the game and scored on runs of 3 and 27 yards, giving him four touchdowns on the season.

Boise State went on to finish 13-0, capped by a stunning 43-42 OT upset win over No. 7 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

Denton, of Dimond High fame, finished second on Boise State with 348 rushing yards. He also made seven receptions for 76 yards.

He played 27 games over his four-year career, producing 492 total yards and five TDs. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

Denton was part of a Boise State program that won 46 games and four straight WAC titles from 2003 to 2006.

Friday Flashback is a series created by Alaska Sports Hall of Fame blog editor Van Williams that looks back on great Alaska athletes from the past. To read about other Alaskans featured in this series, click here.

October 7, 2020

Tristian Merchant

Anchorage’s Tristian Merchant runs like he’s chasing history.

Now history will chase him.

The ACS senior cross-country running star clocked what is believed to be the fastest 5-K time for an Alaska high school runner when he clocked 14:41 at the Region III championships in Palmer.

The record was first reported by Beth Bragg of the Anchorage Daily News.

Merchant’s time bettered his previous PR of 14:45 and crushed his own record at Palmer, where he ran 15:04 last year.

“Tristian is one of those athletes that comes along once in a coaching career,” said ACS track coach Jason Hofacker after Merchant was named Gatorade Alaska Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

“He is consistent, dedicated, coachable, and has great integrity. He pushes all those around him to set their goals higher and work harder to attain them.”

Merchant is also the reigning Gatorade Alaska Cross Country Runner of the Year.

He won the Alaska state title, placed sixth at regionals and finished 13th at the Nike Cross National Championships.

Then he won the 3K indoor race at the University of Washington High School Invitational with a time of 8:31, which ranked No. 5 in the nation.

“Tristian Merchant is a model athlete,” said ACS cross country coach Jake Moe. “He works hard and pushes his teammates to be better. He’s become a student of his sport and has found new ways to make himself better.”

October 6, 2020

Ruthy Hebard

New country, new point guard.

Same Ruthy Hebard.

The fabulous Fairbanks forward delivered a dominating performance in her Turkish Super League debut for Nesibe Aydin, pouring in 23 points and 11 rebounds in a 79-60 victory.

The 6-foot-4 post player went 11-of-17 from the field and grabbed five offensive rebounds.

The other team, Adana, featured three players 6-2 or taller and as a group grabbed only two more offensive rebounds than Hebard did by herself.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, added three assists and one steal in logging a team-high 35 minutes.

Not bad for a rookie.

It’s hard to believe she’s still a first-year pro. But it was just three weeks ago that she wrapped up her rookie season in the WNBA with a playoff appearance.

In the WNBA, she played with all-star point guard Courtney Vandersloot. In college at the University of Oregon, she played with all-star point guard Sabrina Ionescu.

In Turkey, she will play with lesser-known teammates outside of fellow WNBA player Shay Peddy of the Phoenix Mercury.

But ‘Get the ball to Ruthy’ translates easily in any language.

As a team Nesibe Aydin dished out 23 assists on 27 field goals, with most of them going to Hebard.

So, in the end, it might not matter who the point guard is in Turkey because early on it looks like her new teammates will find her in the post.

October 5, 2020

North Pole sprint car driver Bill Balog is the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Alaska Athlete of the week after being crowned king of the Interstate Racing Association’s sprint car points series for a record 10th time.

Known as the ‘North Pole Nightmare’, Balog took sole possession of the Upper Midwest racing league all-time record for most series title.  The Alaskan closed out this season in style by winning the 30-lap main event for winged 410s on a lightning quick half-mile dirt track in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

The North Pole High graduate also won championships in 2019, 2017 and an IRA series record seven in a row from 2008 to 2014.

Balog, 40, is believed to be the most successful sprint car driver from Alaska. He grew up racing motorcross and snowmachines before turning his attention to sprint cars in 2000.

The athlete of the week recipient is selected by a panel each Friday and announced Saturday at 11 a.m. on the Sports Guys on CBS Sports Radio 590AM and 96.7FM.

View past winners here.

October 4, 2020

Sean Rash

The wait is finally over for Anchorage’s Sean Rash.

After numerous close calls in the past, the 38-year-old won a World Series of Bowling title for the first time in his 11-year career.

Rash beat top seed EJ Tackett of Indiana 229-215 in the championship match of the WSOB event in Centreville, Virginia.

The Alaskan beat all three opponents in the stepladder finals on the day to secure his 16th career title on the PBA Tour, moving him into a tie for 24th on the all-time list.

“This one felt good,” Rash told pba.com. “Getting to check off that (WSOB) box on my career, to beat the best of the best in the world. That is one I have wanted for a long time.”

Rash, of Dimond High fame, had previously qualified for 15 WSOB TV finals without a win, losing four times in the championship match.

“The depth of the field at the World Series, with the best from so many countries taking part, is why winning means so much,” he said.

Rash’s road to redemption was not smooth as he navigated many obstacles along the way, surviving seven straight elimination games.

In qualifying, he beat Ryan Ciminelli in a one-game roll off to earn the last spot.

In the round of 16, he beat Matt McNiel in Game 5 of the best-of-five series.

In the round of eight, he again needed all five games, this time to defeat Kyle Troup.

In the finals, he was seeded fourth out of five, and won all four of his do-or-die games.

“I was supposed to be wiped out by now but found a way to stay alive,” Rash said.

This was Rash’s fourth title on the year and his second on the 2020 PBA Tour.

October 3, 2020

Josh Rolston

Chugiak High kicker Josh Rolston kicked the longest field goal in Alaska high school football history, splitting the uprights on a 56-yard bomb in a 51-3 loss to the East T-birds.

The all-state senior and reigning Alaska Kicker of the Year beat the previous state record of 53 yards set by Chugiak’s Bryan Maley in 2010.

“I was determined to break the record this year,” Rolston said.

Rolston’s previous longest field goal was 47 yards set last year against Colony.

“I didn’t even realize that it was from 56 yards. I originally thought it was from 48 yards,” he said with a laugh.

Either way, Rolston was calm, cool and collected.

“I’m happy with the way I performed and executed the kick,” he said. “I’m not surprised I got the ball that far because I’ve kicked it further in practice but to do it a game was just something else.”

Rolston thought he might get a chance to kick a field goal late in the game. Chugiak had not scored in three games and three quarters this season before his booming boot snapped the scoreless streak.

“My coach Ryan Landers asked me if I needed a timeout and I said I didn’t need one,” Rolston said. “The anticipation is the worst part so I wanted to take it as soon as I could.”

Rolston continues a long line of premier placekickers for the Chugiak football team that dates back two decades.

Here is how the school record has progressed over the years:

47 yards Kyle Schierholt 2004
49 yards Nathan Oliver 2007
53 yards Bryan Maley 2010
56 yards Josh Rolston 2020

“It feels great to continue that legacy of good kickers at Chugiak and hopefully that legacy continues after I graduate,” Rolston said.

In July, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder was invited and participated at the Kohl’s National Scholarship Camp. He came away ranked in the top 50 among 800 players from all over the country.

The touchback king.

He is also a kickoff specialist – crushing the ball 73 yards in the air – as well as a punter.

Rolston is currently looking for a college.

“I love football and I love kicking and to play for four more years would be amazing,” he said. “I’m going to keep reaching out to teams and coaches for an offer to play somewhere. I’m open to going anywhere.”

October 1, 2020

Bill Balog

North Pole’s Bill Balog was crowned king of the Interstate Racing Association’s sprint car points series for a record 10th time, living up to his ‘North Pole Nightmare’ nickname for competitors in the Upper Midwest racing league.

Balog took sole possession of the IRA’s all-time record for most series titles, passing nine-time champion Joe Roe.

The IRA series dates back to 1967 and includes 40-plus events annually in Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and Illinois.

Balog, of North Pole High fame, also won championships in 2019, 2017 and seven in a row from 2008 to 2014, according to the IRA website. Roe was a champion in three different decades and probably considered the IRA’s best driver before Balog came along.

Balog’s seven-straight-titles streak is also a record – the next longest streak is four.

The Alaskan closed out this season in style by winning the 30-lap main event for winged 410s on a lightning quick half-mile dirt track in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

It was his 12th win in 20 features, his highest season win total since his 13 victories in 2017.

He piled up 2,972 points on the year for a 309-point margin of victory. His winning margin was 404 last year.

Balog, 40, is believed to be the most successful sprint car driver from Alaska. He grew up racing motorcross and snowmachines before turning his attention to sprint cars in 2000.

He went from racing on Saturday nights in Fairbanks to racing for a living in the Upper Midwest. The son of a race car driver, Balog first moved to Washington to chase his racing dreams before going to Wisconsin.

In his first season in the IRA, he was named Rookie of the Year. He has dominated the racing series since then, racking up more than 100 wins.

In addition to his IRA success, he owns a 2016 win in the prestigious World of Outlaws series.

September 30, 2020

Lance Coz

Lance Coz, the heart and soul of the Kenai Twins Post 20 American Legion baseball team since 1975, passed away last week at Providence Medical Center due to a heart attack. He was 73.

The tall man was a giant in the Alaska baseball community, developing two Major League Baseball players and building a tremendous Twins program that qualified for the Legion state tournament 43 times in his 45 years with the team.

Kenai has made 35 consecutive appearances at the state tournament since 1986 and won championships in 1991, 1995, 2012 and 2016.

“He was one of a kind,” said Robb Quelland, who had two sons play for Coz in addition to coaching with him.

“I met Lance about 15 years ago. He was bigger than life. He was a tall man. He had that voice. Always had the mustache. He had a presence about him. I was in awe of him.”

Coz was pivotal in getting the Kenai Legion program started in 1975 and served as manager and head coach. His role diminished a little bit recently, but his shadow loomed large.

“Lance was a pillar during his 45 years of leading the Kenai Post 20 Twins,” said Russ Baker, a former coach and current Alaska Legion chairman. “He coached several of the most successful American Legion players that Alaska has produced.”

Alaska has had three players reach the big leagues and two of them, Marshall Boze and Chris Mabeus, played for Coz. Boze in 1988 set the Legion state record with 21 strikeouts and later became the first MLB player from Alaska in 1996.

There were other aces like Joey Newby, who advanced to Triple-A, and Dennis Machado, a MLB draft pick.

You want hitters? Kenai had memorable sluggers like John Kennedy, A.J. Hull, Jake Darrow and Paul Steffensen.

Kennedy in 1979 set the Legion state tournament record with an .818 batting average. Hull was the 2012 state tournament MVP. Darrow and Steffensen hit .399 and .398, respectively, to finish 1-2 for the batting title in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference in 2018.

Thirty years after playing for Coz, Kennedy came back to coach with him.

“Lance took care of everything for the Twins,” he said. “We had player fees to join the team, but believe me, every player got that money back before the season was over. Players got hats, jackets and food money on every trip.

“We always traveled together JV and varsity on a bus. He believed it was important to travel and stay together. That way the younger players could learn from the older players.”

Coz touched the lives of hundreds of boys from the Kenai Peninsula.

“There weren’t many places that he could walk into in the Kenai/Soldotna area and not see a former player or player’s family,” Quelland said. “We lost count at 750 players he coached.”

He sold the program as a brotherhood and always preached the ‘Twins Way.’

“He would call me out. He would call the players out,” Quelland said. “He always talked about the ones that walked before you. You’re going to carry this on.”

In the beginning, Kenai struggled to get games as a new program on an island more or less. But Coz changed that over time.

“When I played my last year 1979 our team played 15 games that summer, including the three games at the state tournament,” Kennedy said. “When I was the head coach in 2004 and 2005 we played 51 and 55 games, and every team came to Kenai to play.

“That really made playing baseball for us down here on equal playing ground with everyone else.”

Coz battled diabetes and the disease caused him to lose part of his right leg. He wore a prosthetic leg for years. It never slowed him down.

Coz wore a prosthetic leg for years.

He would have crawled over glass to watch the Twins play baseball.

When he broke his prosthetic leg this year, he was forced to use a wheelchair to get around at the state tournament. Nothing was going to stop him from being there for his beloved program.

News of his death devastated the Alaska baseball community. Lots of heavy hearts. Coz will be missed.

“It saddens me to hear of his passing,” said longtime Fairbanks coach Rodney Perdue. “I first met Lance shortly after being stationed in Alaska and my first stint coaching Legion in the late 90s. Since that time, I have always thought of him as the embodiment of American Legion Baseball in Alaska.”

“Very, very sad news,” said longtime Napoleon (OH) River Bandits coach Randy Bachman, who has come to Alaska ten times. “Lance was a good baseball man and a class individual. So sorry to hear the news.”

“One of greatest and most well-regarded baseball men in the state,” said Ken Wooster, a longtime Anchorage coach and umpire. “Always had a kind word and a super competitive team. I am stunned and saddened. Was lucky to call him a friend. He will be missed by so many. Thank you, Coach Coz, for the decades of dedication to the game and your community.”

“He had a way of keeping things simple. Made life a lot easier than it seemed at the moment of high stress,” said Dimond coach Dan Montagna.

“Every year our teams look forward to our Kenai trip because of the great hospitality and by far the best host lunch anyone in the state puts together between double headers,” said longtime Service coach Willie Paul. “Lance has been at the center of all of that and much more since I was first involved with Legion 17 years ago. He was always at the field and made sure everyone was taken care of. He will be greatly missed by anyone that has played or been involved with American Legion baseball in Alaska.”

“Lance was a good friend and always willing to share his knowledge of Legion baseball,” said ALB chairman Russ Baker. “The famous potluck lunches that Lance and the Kenai parents provided to all of the visiting teams will never be the same. Thank you, Coach Coz.”

September 28, 2020

Tessa Lindberg was named Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Alaska Athlete of the Week after she orchestrated a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter to power the West Valley Wolfpack to a 21-20 flag football win over North Pole in Fairbanks.

The senior quarterback found freshman Kameron Bartlett on a deep pass for a touchdown to make the score 20-18. West Valley needed only two points to tie, but head coach Travis Walker went for the win. Lindberg connected with Ellaissa Caguiat on the three-point conversion for the game-winning score.

Lindberg passed for three touchdowns and nearly 150 yards for the game and added 20 yards on the ground.

The athlete of the week recipient is selected by a panel each Friday and announced Saturday at 11 a.m. on the Sports Guys on CBS Sports Radio 590AM and 96.7FM.

View past winners here.