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.

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November 18, 2019

From California to Utah to North Carolina, Alaskans ran up a storm over the weekend.

Hannah LaFleur

Reigning Mount Marathon Race champion Hannah LaFleur of Seward won the Catalina Half Marathon and placed fourth overall in 1 hour, 37 minutes and 11 seconds. LaFleur received a strong challenge from Californian Evelyne Ruiz (1:37:27) and broke the existing record by more than four minutes.

With snow finally on the ground in Anchorage, you’d imagine two-time Nordic skiing Olympian Holly Brooks would have spent the weekend gliding on the local trails.

Actually, Brooks was in Moab, Utah, where she placed second among women in the 50-mile Dead Horse Ultra running race. Brooks completed the technical race in 8 hours and 4 minutes on Saturday, trailing only Anne Flower of Kentucky (7:43).

The event featured more than 800 finishers in 50-mile, 50-kilometer and 30K events.

Joining Brooks on the trip was Greer Gehler, who placed 18th among women in the 50K in 5 hours. Rhianne Christopherson earned her 50K medal in 6:38 while Valerie Waldron finished in 7:33.

Allan Spangler

Across the country in Hendersonville, N.C., Allan Spangler dominated the Hullabaloo 50K, winning by 25 minutes in 3:50. He also shattered the course record from 2015 by 11 minutes.

Also at Hullabaloo, Nina Schwinghammer placed third among women in 6:07.

Meanwhile, at The North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco, Chad Trammell of Anchorage won Sunday’s Half Marathon by more than a minute in 1:20:35, setting a new course record. Trammell’s victory earned him enough points to qualify for the Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix, an elite Ultra-Trail World Tour event in August 2020. In Saturday’s marquee event, the 50-miler, Cody Priest gradually moved up throughout the race and placed 15th among men in 7:32. In Saturday’s 50K, Mariah Graham placed sixth in 5:46.

Finally, at The Dome in Anchorage on Saturday morning, Aaron Fletcher ran a 5-kilometer time trial in 14 minutes, 9.9 seconds. While at least six Alaskans, including Fletcher, have run faster, the time is believed to be the quickest on Alaskan soil.

November 17, 2019
Alan Busey football

Alan Busey

Anchorage’s Alan Busey found the end zone for the first time in his University of Texas El Paso football career.

It came at the end of the second quarter and was his team’s lone touchdown in a 37-10 loss to UAB during a Conference USA game in Birmingham, Alabama.

Busey, of Service High fame, hauled in an 8-yard score and finished with two catches for 31 yards.

The 6-foot-1 wide receiver has enjoyed a breakout year for UTEP with 15 receptions, 219 yards and one touchdown.

This was his first TD in 22 games at the NCAA D1 level.

Busey is in his second full season with UTEP after transferring from Chabot College in California, where in two years he put up terrific totals of 73 receptions, 1,521 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Arne Ellefson-Carnes cross country

Arne Ellefson-Carnes

Arne Ellefson-Carnes of Juneau earned all-region honors for the St. Olaf College men’s cross-country team in his first year with the team.

The freshman finished 22nd out of 199 finishers at the NCAA D3 Central Region Championships in Waverly, Iowa.

The top 35 runners earned all-region recognition.

Ellefson-Carnes, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, clocked a time of 26:14 in the 8-K race.

St. Olaf placed third in the race with a team score of 108, behind No. 7 Wartburg (52) and No. 19 Carleton (56). The Oles have finished in the top three teams in the regional in 10 out of the last 12 seasons.

November 16, 2019
Spencer Woods wrestling

Spencer Woods

Next stop for Spencer Woods of Kotzebue will be the Olympic Trials.

The Greco-Roman wrestler won a silver medal at 170 pounds at the Bill Farrell Memorial in New York City, securing his bid to the Olympic Trials after finishing as the top American at his weight.

Woods, of Kotzebue High fame, lost the final 6-1 to Ahmed Mohamed of Egypt for his only loss in five matches.

Woods is a former standout at the University of Maryland who now trains at the Northern Michigan University Olympic Training Site.

He will compete at the Olympic Trials April 4-5 in University Park, Pennsylvania.

His road to qualifying didn’t come easy, even though Woods made it look such.

He won four matches by a combined 24-6 score, including a 5-0 win over teammate Jesse Porter in the semifinals.

Earlier this month, Woods won a gold medal at the Malar Cupen in Sweden. The 2019 U.S. Open runnerup finished with a 5-0 record, beating 2019 European Cadet bronze medalist Simon Borkenhagen of Sweden in the final.

sandin Kidder basketball

Sandin Kidder

Anchorage’s Sandin Kidder had a hand in 15 of her team’s final 27 points as Humboldt State University pulled away from Concordia 67-56 in Irvine, California.

The junior transfer logged a season-high 37 minutes and finished the game with season highs of 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Kidder, of East High fame, made 7-of 13 from the field and now ranks third on her NCAA D2 team with a .518 field-goal percentage.

The 5-foot-9 playmaker transferred to Humboldt State from Grays Harbor Community College, where last year she was fourth at 20.3 points per game and put up huge game scoring nights of 37, 30, 29 and 28 points.

November 15, 2019
Austin Vanderford MMA

Austin Vanderford

Ninilchik’s Austin Vanderford won another MMA fight to push his professional record to 9-0.

The 29-year-old earned a unanimous decision over Russian Grachik Bozinyan at Bellator 234 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Vanderford, of Ninilchik High fame, used a fabulous final-round effort to escape with a win over a fighter who came in with a 10-3 record.

All three judges scored the fight 29-28.

Vanderford was effective early with kicks before he relied on his wrestling background to control the third period and pull out the victory over a tough opponent.

It was his third win by decision. Three other wins have come by submission and another three by knockout.

Before joining the MMA world, Vanderford won a NAIA national championship at Southern Oregon and two state titles in high school in Alaska.

November 14, 2019
Cade Clay trap shooting

Cade Clay

Cade Clay of Haines won a silver medal in a men’s trap shooting event at the Upper Midwest Regional Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska.

He finished second out of 35 shooters after breaking 94 of 100 targets.

Clay, of Haines High fame, was seventh in this tournament a year ago.

He is a member of AlaskaYESS, a state shooting team that competes across the country at regional tournaments.

November 13, 2019
Bethany Carstens basketball

Bethany Carstens

Kenai’s Bethany Carstens earned her first college start in just her second game and responded with her first double-figure scoring night.

The Chicago State University freshman made 4-of-8 and finished with 10 points in an 82-50 loss to Pac-12 opponent Arizona in the windy city.

Carstens, of Nikiski High fame, logged 28 minutes and grabbed two rebounds.

The 5-foot-9 guard is shooting 68% from 3-point range after going 2-for-3 in each of her first two games.

Carstens is the lone Alaska women playing basketball in the WAC.

Christy Marvin’s return to the Ozarks Highland Trail in Arkansas was a resounding success.

Marvin, of Palmer, hiked most of 218-mile trail in seven days with her mother, Beth Virgin, in 2017. When they heard about a new ultramarathon there called the Razorback Running Revival, they figured it would be a fun and different way to experience the renowned trail.

On Nov. 9, Marvin won the women’s division and finished second overall in the “50-mile” race that actually measured 58 miles. She finished in 11 hours and 44 minutes, not far back from overall winner Caleb Ault (11:30).

The race is billed “Hands down, the toughest ultra in Arkansas” and includes technical trail and 9,300 feet of elevation gain.

Among 19 finishers, Marvin was the only female, in part because many racers missed the 50K cutoff time due to the unexpected longer distance, she said.

It’s not the first time Marvin, a two-time winner of the Mount Marathon Race, has finished near the top of the standings, regardless of gender. She placed second overall at the 2018 Kesugi Ridge Traverse and won the 2014 San Diego Trail Marathon outright.

Meanwhile, Beth Virgin, 61, completed the 50K (which measured nearly five miles long) in 10:33, good for eighth among women and 28th of 57 overall.

-By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor

November 12, 2019
Malia Miller soccer

Malia Miller

There are two dozen Alaskans playing soccer in the NWAC, but Malia Miller of Juneau, Abigail Uhart of Anchorage and Jacob Luhrs of Fairbanks proved to be top shelf.

The three stars were selected to the NWAC all-star team.

Miller is a freshman midfielder for Bellevue College and one of the prolific playmakers in the league.

She finished the regular season tied for second in the NWAC with nine assists.

Miller, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, has scored four goals and is tied for second on Bellevue with 17 points in 17 games.

Abigail Uhart soccer

Abigail Uhart

At one point she registered at least one point in five straight games.

Uhart is a freshman defender for Yakima Valley College and one of the taller players in the league at 6-foot-1.

She utilizes her size, strength and skills to help protect the net.

Led by Uhart, Yakima Valley ranks sixth in the NWAC with a 1.02 goals-against average.

Jacob Luhrs soccer

Jacob Luhrs

Uhart, of Service High fame, has chipped in offensively with 2-1-5 scoring totals in 12 games.

Luhrs is a sophomore defender at North Idaho College and the only member of his team to earn NWAC all-star honors.

He also split time as a midfielder.

He’s a big reason why North Idaho ranked sixth in the NWAC for fewest goals allowed at 1.19 per game.

Luhrs, of West Valley High fame, added one goal and one assist for three points in 17 games.

November 11, 2019
Isaiah Saville hockey

Isaiah Saville

Anchorage’s Isaiah Saville made 29 saves and held the opposition scoreless in the third period to highlight the University of Omaha hockey team’s 5-2 win over Wisconsin.

The freshman goaltender was especially busy in the second period, turning aside 16 of 17 shots.

He improved to 4-2-1 in seven starts for No. 20 Omaha.

Saville, of West High fame, is among the top netminders in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

He leads the league with a .914 save percentage and ranks fourth with a 2.27 goals-against average.

Aislinnn Waite soccer

Aislinnn Waite

Southern Oregon University senior Aislinn Waite of Anchorage was recognized as one of the top women’s soccer players in the Cascade Collegiate Conference.

The midfielder was named second team all-league for the first individual accolades of her career.

Waite, of Service High fame, controlled the middle of the field and collected two goals and three assists in her third season as a starter.

She helped Southern Oregon rank third in the the conference in goals-against average (0.68) in conference play. The Raiders allowed only 3.5 shots per game 3.5 shots over their last eight outings.

November 10, 2019
Kyler Mack hockey

Kyler Mack

Anchorage’s Kyler Mack nearly pulled off back-to-back hat tricks for the University of Providence hockey team during a weekend sweep of Utah Valley.

The sophomore forward bagged three goals in Game 1 and two goals in Game 2.

Providence outscored Utah Valley 24-3 on the weekend.

Mack, of Dimond High fame, has scored six goals in his last six games.

The Providence Argos are an NAIA hockey team in Great Falls, Montana.

Providence also features Alaskans Hunter Borst and Josh Larson of Anchorage.

Qyntyn Pilcher football

Qyntyn Pilcher

The progression of Sierra College quarterback Qyntyn Pilcher of Anchorage took another major step forward as the freshman enjoyed his best day in the pocket against Butte in the California Community College Athletic Association.

He set season highs in yards (204), touchdowns (3), completions (14) and pass attempts (22) to provide Sierra with a bright spot a 42-21 loss.

Pilcher, of West High fame, owns a 7-1 TD-to-INT ratio over his last three games.

In nine games overall, he has completed 50-of-98 passes for 797 yards and 11 touchdowns compared to just three picks.

November 9, 2019
Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks has worn a Team USA jersey in each of the last four summers, but she probably never thought about facing Team USA, let alone defeat Team USA.

Yet that’s what happened when Hebard and No. 1-ranked Oregon handed the American senior national team its first loss to a college team in 20 years after a 93-86 exhibition win in Eugene, Oregon.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, bagged 18 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and one steal in 29 minutes.

The starting 6-foot-4 forward held her own in the paint, sinking 9-of-14 field goals and grabbing four offensive rebounds.

Team USA had a full compliment of WNBA all-stars like Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Nnemkadi Ogwumike and Sylvia Fowles.

Hebard matched up with the 6-foot-6 Fowles and proved to be effective on both ends of the floor.

“Ruthy carries us early in the game,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said.

Hebard enters her senior season poised to break the state scoring mark for NCAA D1 players form Alaska, needing 236 points to break the record of 2,033 points held by Eagle River’s Kelsey Griffin at Nebraska.

Hebard is also back on the preseason watch list for the Katrina McClain Award, which is presented to the nation’s top power forward. She won that award as a sophomore and was a finalist last season.

With Team USA, Hebard has won three medals, a gold with the 2019 3×3 U20 team, a silver with the 2017 U19 World Cup squad and a gold with the 2016 U18 national team.

Jordan Nero football

Jordan Nero

Back in the starting lineup for the first time since last year, Wasilla’s Jordan Nero rewarded the College of Idaho with an excellent effort.

The senior linebacker registered seven tackles and intercepted a pass as the No. 6 Coyotes beat No. 24 Montana Western 38-27 in Idaho to stay undefeated and clinch the NAIA Frontier Conference championship.

For the first time since restoring its football program in 2014 — and since 1955 overall — the College of Idaho (9-0) has won a conference title.

With his team trailing 20-17, Nero pulled down his first interception since 2016 that led to a touchdown that gave the Coyotes the lead for good.

Nero, of Colony High fame, has 94 tackles and two picks in 33 career games.

He started the first five games last year before an injury shut down his season.

Ashlynn Burgess basketball

Ashlynn Burgess

Ashlynn Burgess of Eagle River made quite the first impression with the Seattle Pacific University women’s basketball team.

The junior transfer debuted with an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double and was the only player on her team to reach double digits in a 70-54 loss to Humboldt State in Arcata, California.

The 5-foot-10 forward made 8-of-12 field goals, fueled by a half dozen offensive rebounds.

Burgess, of Chugiak High fame, joined the NCAA D2 Falcons after a super successful two seasons at Wenatchee Valley, ending her career as the NWAC school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,138 points.

Last year she was named NWAC Eastern Region player of the year and led Wenatchee Valley to the league championship and was named MVP of the title game.

November 8, 2019
Jeremy Swayman hockey

Jeremy Swayman

Two of the finest college hockey players from Anchorage faced off in Hockey East and even though the game ended in a tie, it was a big win for the state of Alaska.

Jeremy Swayman made 31 saves. Kenny Hausinger earned an assist. And the final was 1-1 so neither player lost.

Swayman, a goaltender at the University of Maine, played beautifully and surrendered only a 5-on-3 goal to lower his goals-against average to 1.98 in nine games this season. That ranks No. 4 in Hockey East.

He increased his save percentage to .945, which ranks No. 2 in Hockey East.

With 34 career wins, Swayman is Alaska’s active wins leader at the NCAA D1 level.

Kenny Hausinger hockey

Kenny Hausinger

Hausinger, a forward at UMass-Lowell, is tied for No. 12 in Hockey East with 10 points in 11 games.

He has racked up four goals and six assists.

Hausinger, of Dimond High fame, is Alaska’s active scoring leader with 36-34-70 totals in 116 games.

Kirsten Watts hockey

Kirsten Watts

Norwich University senior defenseman Kirsten Watts of Chugiak lit the lamp for her first goal in the second women’s hockey game of the season as the Cadets beat UMass-Boston 5-1 in Boston, Massachusetts.

The even-strength goal came 5:39 into the action to give Norwich a 1-0 lead.

Watts, of Chugiak High fame, has 26 career points in 73 games with seven goals and 19 assists.

Her career plus/minus is +60, which means the Cadets dominate when she’s on the ice.

Watts helped Norwich win the 2018 NCAA D3 national championship.

November 7, 2019
Sydney Dray volleyball

Sydney Dray

After helping the Haskell Indian College volleyball team in Kansas make school history last year, Dillingham’s Sydney Dray is ready to do it again.

The 5-foot-6 outside hitter is among the offensive stars looking to take off at the Association of Independent Institutions championships next week in Lincoln, Illinois

Dray, of Dillingham High fame, ranks fifth on her team with 95 kills in 30 matches.

The junior is averaging a career-best 1.74 points per set. She’s added 62 digs and 10 blocks.

Dray owns 332 kills and 338 digs career totals.

She is joined on the Haskell by sister Britney Dray, who is one of the setters.

Both Alaskans were part of the program’s first conference championship last year.

Elizabeth Balsan cross-country running

Elizabeth Balsan

Grand Canyon University senior Elizabeth Balsan of Anchorage turned in her greatest finish in four appearances at the Western Athletic Conference Championships.

She led her NCAA D1 team with an eighth-place effort out of 67 women in the 6-K race in Kansas City, Missouri. Her time was 21:46.7.

Led by the Alaskan, Grand Canyon raced to its best team finish of third place with a school-record 88 points, breaking the old record by 17 points.

The previous top WAC finish was fifth, accomplished in 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Balsan, of ACS fame, earned All-WAC honors for the first time. She just missed the mark last year at 11th. She was 23rd in 2017 and 35th in 2016.

November 6, 2019
Parker Kizer football

Parker Kizer

In a game that featured more than 1,000 yards of offense and 100 points, it figured Palmer’s Parker Kizer would factor into the shootout.

Even as a running quarterback, the 6-foot sophomore amassed a career-high 318 total yards for Luther College in a 60-40 loss to Buena Vista in Storm Lake, Iowa.

Kizer, of Colony High fame, rushed for 197 yards and threw for 121 yards on 12-of-19 attempts.

He ad 25 carries and scored on touchdowns of 68, 1 and 8 yards.

Luther’s point total was its highest of the year as the Norse racked up 503 yards of total offense.

Kizer ranks third in the American Rivers Conference with 577 yards and sixth with six rushing TDs.

Josh Cummings football

Josh Cummings

Josh Cummings of Fairbanks continues to be a wrecking ball in the red zone for the Western Colorado University football team.

The bruising back scored a pair of touchdowns in a 42-21 victory over Black Hills State in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Cummings, of West Valley High fame, has scored all seven of his TDs from inside the 10-yard line.

His seven scores are tops among Western Colorado ball carriers and rank No. 1 among the Alaskans playing college football this year.

The 205-pounder averages 4.3 yards on 69 carries for 294 yards. His longest run is 30 yards.

November 5, 2019
Alissa Pili basketball

Alissa Pili

Awesome Alissa Pili of Anchorage rose to the occasion in a big way.

Making her college debut with the University of Southern California, the 6-foot freshman logged a game-high 35 minutes and collected her first double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Pili, of Dimond High fame, made 8-of-12 shots as the Trojans beat Cal State Northridge 69-53 in the season opener in California.

All eight of her field goals came in the post and she had two 3-point plays.

She was also a force at the end of the first, third and fourth quarters, handing off an assist on a 3-pointer to end the first and scoring buckets at the end of third and fourth.

The starting forward posted a game-high 26-point efficiency rating.

Pili owns the Alaska Class 4A scoring record with 2,614 points.

Taylor Turney is the new king of obstacle course racing in Alaska.

Turney, a 2013 graduate of Anchorage’s Service High School, wrapped up the 2019 Spartan Elite US Mountain Series in third place after taking eighth in the series-finale Saturday in New Jersey.

Turney follows in the footsteps of Matt Novakovich, who first put Alaskans on the obstacle-course racing map, and Chad Trammell, who excelled for several years before re-focusing on running-specific competitions.

Saturday’s nine-mile race included 3,000 feet of climbing on technical terrain and even some bushwhacking and took Turney 1 hour and 32 minutes.

“I love Spartan races for the rugged terrain and added challenge of completing obstacles,” said Turney, 25. “Training for these events encourages building a variety of skills from running to strength, to climbing which makes training incredibly fun!”

Obstacles vary from grip-based climbing rigs, to carrying sandbags and throwing spears.

Turney followed his mountain success with two races on Sunday — a sprint event and a Spartan Trail race. He placed second in each of them.

“I seem to have a habit of racing better on the second day for East Coast races,” Turney said by text.

Since May, Turney also competed at mountain series events in Montana, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado and British Columbia, finishing as high as second and never lower than 14th to achieve his series podium result, which earned him $800.

His Spartan racing profile includes 14 results in the top 5 in 29 races since 2015. He placed 18th at the 2018 Spartan World Championships and 23rd in 2019 in Lake Tahoe, Calif.

A big part of Turney’s success comes from his running ability: he possesses the speed and technical trail skills to excel in running races on a variety of surfaces and distances. This also helped him post the fastest downhill at the 2019 Mount Marathon Race, as he charged down the 3,000-foot mountain in 10 minutes and 1 second, just one second off the fastest known descent in history. Turney passed 15 runners on the descent and placed 18th overall.

Turney will take on a new challenge on Dec. 14, when he travels to Central California for his first Spartan Ultra race, a 50-kilometer course with 60 obstacles.

– By Alaska Sports Blog contributor Matias Saari