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.

August 14, 2020

Janay DeLoach

The greatest track and field athlete in Alaska history, Janay DeLoach of Fairbanks is one of the most successful long jumpers on the planet with four U.S. championships, a Worlds silver medal and an Olympic bronze medal.

At the 2012 London Games, she nabbed the bronze on her fifth and final attempt by the slimmest of margins.

A broken left ankle in 2013 forced her to abandon her traditional takeoff and switch to using her right leg. She still qualified for the World Championships and became the first woman to jump 6.95 meters off either leg.

In 2016, she made another trip to the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.

DeLoach was also a world-class hurdler and often times competed in both the 60-meter hurdles and long jump at the same event. It was called the ‘DeLoach Double.’

At the prestigious Millrose Games, the world’s longest-running indoor track and field meet dating 112 years, she won the long jump in 2013 and the hurdles in 2014 and 2016.

In 2014, DeLoach qualified for Worlds in the hurdles after a second-place finish at the US Championships. That year she also won hurdles races at the Millrose Games and Boston Grand Prix.

At Colorado State University, she racked up five school records and was a 4-time NCAA All-American.

DeLoach, of Eielson High fame, was a 7-time state champion in high school from 2000 to 2003. She won three titles in the 100 meters and four titles in the long jump, an event in which she still holds the Alaska state record of 19 feet, 5 inches.

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.

August 12, 2020

Hatcher Manning

Playing a new position for a new team forced 17-year-old Hatcher Manning of Anchorage to reinvent himself on the soccer field.

The striker-turned-midfielder developed into a more complete player with improved strength and better field vision in his time with the Alaska Timbers of the United Premier Soccer League.

Manning’s growth was on display during last weekend’s two-game series against the Fairbanks Soccer Club as he bagged three goals in back-to-back victories of 2-1 and 3-0 at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.

“It’s been great playing for this team. I’ve gotten more physical. I’ve gotten more confident,” Manning said. “It’s brought my game to a whole new level.”

With the two wins, the Timbers finished the spring season with 16 points on five wins and a tie to clinch the championship in the Last Frontier Division. The Arctic Rush came in second with 11 points.

Manning’s marvelous play in the series earned him national recognition as he was one of four players nominated for UPSL Player of the Week.

“It’s just a nomination, it’s not like it’s an award,” he said. “It does still feel pretty good.”

Manning, of Service High fame, played for a Timbers youth team before the senior team joined the UPSL this season. At tryouts, he was surprised how many current and former college players showed up.

“There was a lot more talent there than I expected. It was tough,” he said.

The UPSL is a development league with teams all over the country. Four Alaska teams in Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Mat-Su Valley were added to the mix this season and excitement was strong.

“We got the best players from Alaska,” Manning said. “I heard somebody refer to it as an all-star league and I think that’s the best description.”

The opportunity to play in the UPSL came at just the right time for high school players like Manning, who had their season wiped away due to COVID.

The Class of 2021 standout was the only junior nominated for Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year. Last year as a sophomore, he was named all-state and led Service with 18 goals.

But he said the UPSL is worlds apart from the CIC.

“It’s a faster game, more physical, a lot better. It took me a while to get used to it, but this experience has made me better as player as a whole,” Manning said. “I’ve gotten a lot better on the field. I’ve become more social off the field, which has kind of been a big deal. It’s benefitted me as a whole.”

August 11, 2020

Wilderness racer Sam Hooper of Denali Park hiked and packrafted  over 150 miles alone on ATV trails, along caribou routes, over tundra, through swamps, and down rivers to win the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic.

The former Denali National Park backcountry ranger struggled with nausea most of the way and was thus only able to consume half of the nine pounds of food he brought. With perpetually sodden feet, he developed severe “trench foot.” To save weight, he carried neither a stove nor a sleeping bag.

He completed the trek from the Jack River near Cantwell to the Sheep Mountain Lodge on the Glenn Highway in 86 hours and 5 minutes.

Hooper, 32, went so fast he finished the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic nearly a day quicker than the next group and 27 hours faster than he and partner Sean Pociuk did the same route in 2019.

The AMWC, founded in 1982, is a low-key, unsupported, human-powered event of 120 to 250 miles through remote and unforgiving terrain. Any rescue is up to the participant to coordinate and a satellite communication device is required. There is no entry fee for the 15-30 participants and no finishers awards.

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.

August 10, 2020

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks continues to cross off major milestones as a rookie in the WNBA.

First game. Check.

First points. Check.

First double-figure scoring performance. Check.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, amassed double digits for the first time after scoring a season-high 11 points for the Chicago Sky in an 89-71 loss to the Seattle Storm.

The 6-foot-4 forward came off the bench to made 5-of-8 field goals and log a season-high 20 minutes in this her eighth game in the world’s premier women’s basketball league.

She also grabbed five rebounds, one shy of her season high.

Hebard has averaged 3.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 11 minutes per game this season.

The former NCAA All-American out of the University of Oregon is just the fifth Alaskan to play in the WNBA.

August 7, 2020
Don Clary

Alaska’s first Olympic runner, Don Clary of Anchorage represented Team USA many times during his career before stepping onto track and field’s biggest stage in 1984.

As a high school senior in 1975, he was part of the U.S. junior team that won the title at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Morocco. Clary placed fifth individually.

In 1980 and 1982, he competed at the International Cross Country Championships.

In 1983, he finished fifth in the 5K at the Pan American Games.

In 1985, Clary won a silver medal at the indoor world championships in Paris in the 3,000 meters.

And then was 1984, when he became Alaska’s first Olympic runner by racing at the Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Clary posted the fourth-fastest qualifying time among the 54 runners in the first round of the 5,000 meters to advance to the Olympic semifinals.

He qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988 and his third-place 5,000 finish in 1984 made him an Olympian.

In college, Clary was a four-time NCAA All-American at the University of Oregon and member of school’s 1977 cross country team that captured the national championship. He was also a Pac-10 champion.

At East High, he won two state cross country titles and in 1975 set a state prep record in the two-mile run that has stood for 45 years.

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.

August 6, 2020

For more than 3 ½ days, Sam Hooper of Denali Park hiked alone on ATV trails, along caribou routes, over tundra and through marshes and swamps. When he wasn’t hiking, he packrafted various creeks and rivers and portaged around rapids when necessary.

Hooper in the 2019 AMWC (Photo by Sean Pociuk)

The former Denali National Park backcountry ranger struggled with nausea most of the way and was thus only able to consume half of the nine pounds of food he brought. With perpetually sodden feet, he developed severe “trench foot.” To save weight, he carried neither a stove nor a sleeping bag. The latter omission compromised the quality of his sleep, which totaled a mere 10 hours on the 150-mile trek from the Jack River near Cantwell to the Sheep Mountain Lodge on the Glenn Highway.

Motivated in part by a pending commitment to dipnet for salmon with wife Jen Johnston — who was waiting for him — Hooper soldiered on, arriving at the lodge shortly after midnight on July 23.

He’d been underway for 86 hours and 5 minutes.

“In contrast with last year, it was generally a pretty miserable experience,” Hooper said by email. “So the faster I went, the sooner I would be with my wife in a nice, warm cabin.”

Hooper, 32, went so fast he finished the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic nearly a day quicker than the next group and 27 hours faster than he and partner Sean Pociuk did the same route in 2019.

The AMWC, founded in 1982, is a low-key, unsupported, human-powered event of 120 to 250 miles through remote and unforgiving terrain. Any rescue is up to the participant to coordinate and a satellite communication device is required. There is no entry fee for the 15-30 participants and no finishers awards.

Hooper had a much different experience in 2019, calling that trip “really fun” although he struggled with knee problems and Pociuk had Achilles tendon issues.

“We were literally hobbling for the last 20-some miles of walking — we each had our own variation of a zombie-like gait,” Hooper said.

Stretching before and during this year’s Classic helped his body hold up better overall, but his persistent sickness took much of the enjoyment away. Attempting to eat just about anything besides salty snacks made him gag — a contrast to 2019, when he ate every last crumb of his food.

“I was afraid that I was going to throw up the food I had carried all that way with no way to recover the calories,” said Hooper, a veteran wilderness traveler — he and Johnston traversed the Alaska Range for 1,000 miles in 2017 — who’d never had severe stomach troubles.

The source of his nausea? “My only guess about the cause what that I was preemptively taking naproxen sodium (aka Aleve) at the max recommended dosage for the first two days,” Hooper said.

Despite the challenges — or perhaps because of them — one gets the impression Hooper will enter the Classic again.

Photo by Sean Pociuk

Hooper attempted to articulate its appeal:

“I imagine it’s not an uncommon experience for solo Classic participants in general, but without someone else to share it with, it almost felt like a strange dream. I’m sure the sleep deprivation didn’t help, but my sense of time and even place felt warped. It underscores what an odd endeavor the Wilderness Classic is: you start at the same time as everyone else, but it’s unlikely you’ll see any of them after the first few hours. The only connection between your experience and theirs is the piece of paper you sign into at the end so that the organizers know you’re safe. There’s no prize, minimal recognition, usually little camaraderie, and often nothing to verify that you even experienced what you think you remember,” Hooper said.

“The only thing that’s left to motivate someone to do it, then, is the chance that the challenge itself leaves some lasting impact, and hopefully not just on your body. I would say that’s the defining characteristic of Wilderness Classic, and I really felt it this time.”

2020 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic

Start: Jack River, 10:15 a.m. on July 20

Finishers (Sheep Mountain Lodge): Sam Hooper, 12:20 a.m. July 23; John Pekar, Brian Pekar and Matt Kupilik, 9:53 p.m. July 23; Jay Cable and Tom Moran, 9:54 a.m. July 24; Abe Meyerhofer, Noah Ripley and Matt Lutz, 10:24 a.m. July 24; Tyndall Ellis, Ben Olwell and Adrian Barniak, 12:17 p.m. July 24; Lee Helzer, Luc Mehl and Alan Rogers, 2:55 p.m. July 24; Curtis Henry and Jacob Buller, 12:47 a.m. July 26.

-By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor

 

August 4, 2020

Jake Heun

Palmer’s Jake Heun loves to fight. It’s his lifestyle and his livelihood.

For the last 10 years, the former University of Hawaii football player has fought professionally in mixed martial arts and traveled the world doing what he loves most.

“Yeah, it’s been a hell of a ride and I feel like it’s just starting to pay dividends,” he told me.

That’s because Heun is finally getting the recognition he deserves for compiling a 15-9 pro record and showcasing a no-fear reputation to fight anybody, anytime, anywhere.

His Twitter bio says he’s even down for a knife fight; surely a joke, but maybe not. Heun definitely has a crazy streak.

You have to be a little crazy – in addition to being incredibly brave and tough – to kick it on the MMA fight scene for a decade.

“I couldn’t do it without the support of my friends and family,” Heun said. “Bad times have really revealed who’s there for me and it’s been great.”

As his circle of trust tightens, his reach in the fight game has expanded.

Heun has gone international.

The 32-year-old is currently thriving in Japan’s RIZIN Fighting Federation, where he has flashed his first three-fight winning streak since 2012 to 2013.

“My last fight there was 50,000 fans at Saitama and the card was nuts,” Heun said. “The Japanese fans are the best fans out there. They are knowledgeable and respectful of fighters win lose or draw.

“Win the crowd, win Japan.”

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound brawler has fought for many American promotions such as UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter (Seasons 17 and 19), the World Series of Fighting and the Professional Fighters League and regional promotions.

Heun, of Palmer High fame, said he’s better suited for RIZIN because the structure and rules are different than leagues in the United States.

He prefers fighting in a ring rather than a cage.

“It makes for a more active striking battle,” he said.

He wants to attack a downed opponent and not have the referee interfere.

“It doesn’t allow for a boring grappling match,” he said. “It’s perfect for me.”

Heun celebrates his RIZIN 20 win in Japan

Finally, he prefers a fight to be judged in its entirely as opposed to round by round like in most leagues.

Heun prevailed in two of his first three fights with RIZIN before he re-signed a new four-fight deal. He won his first fight in his new deal on New Year’s Eve and then COVID hit and everything came to a halt.

He is currently living in lockdown in Australia, unable to even enter Japan during the pandemic.

“I have every intention of moving to Japan at some point,” Heun said. “I am working on learning the language and trying to grow my brand there so I can do more than just fight. I love Japan. It really feels like a place I could live.”

August 3, 2020

Jack Opinsky flashed leather and had one of the biggest clutch hits in Alaska baseball memory in on his way to being named our Alaska Athlete of the Week.

The West High School senior  hit a two-run single that provided a 3-2 walk-off victory over Wasilla in the championship game of the Alliance Baseball State Tournament.

In a stunning reversal of fortune, the Eagles scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning capped by Opinsky’s frozen rope into the outfield.

The head coach’s son, Opinsky was named the tournament’s Gold Glove Award winner.  But it was his big hit that gave West High School its first state title since 1977 and gave his father, who is a battling a brain tumor, a “proud dad” moment for the history books.

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.

August 2, 2020

Lyon Kopsack rekindled a family tradition and Christy Marvin joined the 6-winner club on Saturday as Palmer runners dominated the 32nd Matanuska Peak Challenge in their hometown on Saturday.

Kopsack, 24, became the first Palmer man to win since his father Lance in 1998. With a time of 2:59:57, Kopsack snuck in as the third runner ever to break 3 hours in the 14-mile event that includes a grueling 10,000 feet of vertical gain (and the same in descent).

Lyon Kopsack (Photo by Eric Strabel)

Meanwhile, Christy Marvin won her sixth Mat Peak in the last nine years in 3:32:44. The time was the fourth fastest in history and she now holds the top five times ever, including the record 3:26:32 in 2016.

Marvin, 39, joined Braun Kopsack (Lyon’s uncle) and Harlow Robinson as the winningest Mat Peak racers ever with six titles.

“That’s cool. I didn’t know that until you just told me,” said Marvin, adding that with her house just a mile from the trailhead she’s certain to race Mat Peak again.

The race was the first in the Alaska Mountain Runners’ Grand Prix series to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic. The other seven have all been canceled or held virtually.

Mat Peak participants had the option of starting in a group at 9 a.m. or beginning any time between 8 and 9 a.m. The event starts at the Lazy Mountain Trailhead and ascends both Lazy Mountain and Matanuska Peak before returning the same way.

Christy Marvin (Photo by Eric Strabel)

Marvin was working her way up Matanuska Peak when suddenly Meg Inokuma of Palmer came charging down on her return from the summit.

“When she went by I asked ‘You’re racing, right?’ and she said ‘Yeah, 8 a.m. start,” Marvin said.

Having started exactly an hour later, Marvin calculated on the fly that she and Inokuma were just a few minutes apart in elapsed time.

“I better get in gear,” Marvin, who had started somewhat conservatively, told herself.

Inokuma, 40, who recently set the Fastest Known Time for the Chugach 12 Peaks Front Range Linkup, wound up second in 3:37:30, the seventh fastest women’s time in history.

The men’s runner-up was also a Palmer resident. Ben Marvin, Christy’s husband, placed second for the fifth time in 3:04:50.

While Lyon Kopsack has volunteered at Mat Peak in recent years (Lance and Braun Kopsack are the race directors), he had previously only done the race once, finishing fifth in 3:22 as a 15-year-old in 2011.

Kopsack joined Marvin and Eric Strabel in the sub-3-hour club. Marvin ran 2:58 in 2012 while Strabel set the record of 2:55:43 in 2012 and also broke three hours in 2013 and 2016.

More importantly, Lyon restored the winning tradition for the Kopsack family.

“Even Lance, who is not a talker, was so excited,” Christy Marvin said.

Forty-three men and 19 women participated, a slight decline from recent years.

-By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor

Preliminary results:

MEN

1) Lyon Kopsack, 2:59:57; 2) Ben Marvin, 3:04:50; 3) Chris Maus, 3:16:36; 4) William Zenker, 3:18:11; 5) Josh Taylor, 3:21:24; 6) Christopher Kirk, 3:24:54; 7) Ali Papillon, 3:31:23; 8) Bodhidharma Gross, 3:47:59; 9) Roman Gross, 3:48:02; 10) Daniel Linnell, 3:48:39; 11) Pyper Dixon, 3:56:35; 12) Kenny Regan, 3:56:47; 13) Charlie Procknow, 3:57:08; 14) Derek Nottingham, 3:58:13; 15) Russell Johanson, 3:59:34; 16) Craig Taylor, 3:59:55; 17) Galen Dossin, 4:02:18; 18) Troy Larson, 4:02:27; 19) Duane Zitta, 4:12:12; 20) Enad Rentek, 4:14:14; 21) Mason Wick, 4:14:35; 22) Ethan Copp, 4:16:36; 23) Greg Michaelson, 4:16:52; 24) James Chiang, 4:20:02; 25) Mark Brady, 4:23:12; 26) Dakota Thompson, 4:26:25; 27) Paul Pletnikoff, 4:29:38; 28) Will Steffe, 4:29:52; 29) Jack Ginter, 4:29:54; 30) Eric Fjelstad, 4:36:09; 31) Josh Hejl, 4:40:50; 32) Tony Demarco, 4:47:34; 33) Andrew Dennis, 4:50:32; 34) Dorian Gross, 4:52:57; 35) Todd Henry, 4:53:36; 36) Alan Abel, 4:55:20; 37) Benjamin Tichner, 4:57:10; 38) Jim Murray, 5:05:38; 39) Nathaniel King, 5:10:12; 40) Jonny Hughes, 5:15:15; 41) John Digiovanni, 5:23:46; 42) Alan Quintero, 5:23:50; 43) Brian Fish, 5:32:03.

WOMEN

1) Christy Marvin, 3:32:34; 2) Meg Inokuma, 3:37:30; 3) Kala Maus, 3:50:14; 4) Shauna Severson, 3:52:05; 5) April McAnly, 4:10:35; 6) Sophie Wright, 4:19:26; 7) Kailyn Mcgrath, 4:23:47; 8) Alejandra Legate, 4:27:10; 9) Emily Evans, 4:27:36; 10) Clare Cook, 4:31:20; 11) Alina Rice, 4:32:17; 12) Melissa Templin, 4:41:06; 13) Brenda Davila, 4:46:00; 14) April Lewis, 4:46:23; 15) Carrie Koso, 4:50:43; 16) Maggie Hejl, 4:51:04; 17) Hannah Lies, 5:07:16; 18) Brienne Keizer, 5:35:21; 19) Leah Legate, 5:41:01.

August 1, 2020

Kenny Hausinger

They played in different leagues for the last four seasons, but now Anchorage brothers Kenny Hausinger and Cam Hausinger are set to reunite in the ECHL.

Both rookie forwards have signed with the Worcester Railers, a minor-league affiliate of the New York Islanders.

Older brother Kenny Hausinger enters his first professional season after wrapping up a four-year career at University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where he accumulated 39 goals and 40 assists for 79 points in 134 games.

He finished in the top four on the Riverhawks in scoring during his last three seasons and won a Hockey East championship in 2016-17.

Prior to college hockey, the 24-year-old spent the 2015-16 season in the United States Hockey League, leading the Des Moines Buccaneers in scoring with 16-32-48 totals in 60 games.

Cam Hausinger

Cam Hausinger, 21, enters his first pro season after spending the last five seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Saskatoon Blades, Kootenay Ice and Red Deer Rebels.

Last season, he served as an alternate captain for the Rebels registering 13-25-38 totals in 61 games along with 84 penalty minutes. From 2015-20, he played 317 games in the WHL and amassed 68-93-161 totals.

July 31, 2020

Jessica Moore

Palmer’s Jessica Moore was a winner at every level of her basketball career and in 2009 almost became the first Alaskan to win championships at the high school, college and professional level.

The Indiana Fever advanced to the best-of-5 WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury, losing 93-86 in a decisive Game 5 that was tied 80-80 late in the fourth quarter. That’s how close Moore was to winning a WNBA title.

Moore, of Colony High fame, was a two-time state champion with the Knights in high school and then went on to win three NCAA championships with the University of Connecticut.

The 6-foot-3 forward/center played nine years in the WNBA – the most among the five Alaskans to lace ‘em up in the premier women’s basketball league.

Moore was a defensive stalwart; strong enough to guard bigger centers in the post and quick enough to defend smaller forwards on the wing. Defense was her calling card and the reason she stretched her pro career to almost a decade.

She came off the bench for the Indiana in 2009 and averaged 5 points and 3 rebounds per game while shooting a career-best 48 percent from the field.

Moore ranks second among Alaskans in the WNBA with 644 points and 450 rebounds in 222 games. Her 22 playoff appearances in No. 1 in state history by a mile.

She reached the Western Conference Finals in 2006 and 2008 with the Los Angeles Sparks, and the 2009 WNBA Finals with Indiana. She also reached the playoffs in 2010 and 2011 with the Connecticut Sun.

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.

July 27, 2020

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks is officially a WNBA player.

The 22-year-old rookie forward made her debut for the Chicago Sky in an 88-86 win over the Las Vegas Aces in Bradenton, Florida.

Hebard came off the bench to play just seven minutes and finish with four points, two rebounds and two fouls. She was 2-of-5 shooting from the floor.

The 6-foot-4 former NCAA All-American at the University of Oregon had a similarly quiet start in her college debut when she came off the bench to score four points.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, is just the fifth Alaskan to play in the WNBA, following in the footsteps of Palmer’s Jessica Moore, Eagle River’s Kelsey Griffin, Juneau’s Andrea Lloyd and Soldotna’s Molly Tuter.

Hebard was picked No. 8 overall in the first round by Chicago in the 2020 draft.

At Oregon, she became just the second Alaska woman ever to record 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. She was a two-time winner of the Katrina McClain Award given to the country’s top power forward.

Anchorage baseball player Leland Wilson was named Alaska Sports Hall of Fame’s Alaska Athlete of the Week after his dominant performance on the first day of the Alliance Baseball League State Tournament.

An 18-year-old left-handed pitcher for the West Eagles, Wilson tossed a 2-hit shutout with 16 strikeouts in a 3-0 win over defending state champion Juneau at Mulcahy Stadium.

Wilson fanned seven in the first three innings and struck out the side in the seventh and final inning. He was five shy of matching the tournament record of 21 strikeouts, recorded by Kenai’s Marshall Boze in a nine-inning game in 1988.

Wilson, the 2020 Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year, is headed to NCAA D1 Texas Tech this fall.

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.

July 24, 2020

Jamar Hill

A combination of power and speed, Anchorage’s Jamar Hill was a dynamic dual threat on the baseball field who rose through the pro ranks to become one of just 12 Alaskans to reach the Double-A level.

A two-time MLB draft pick by the New York Mets, Hill had a 10-year professional career during which he asserted him as the greatest hitter from Alaska, a state better known for pitching.

He is the state’s lone member of the 20-20 club, when in 2004 with the Single-A Capital City Bombers he hit .272 with 26 homers, 89 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 121 games.

Hill, of Bartlett High fame, is the only Alaskan to reach the century mark in home runs, doubles and stolen bases in his career that stretched from 2002 to 2011.

A late-bloomer who was never all-conference in high school, Hill developed into a great player. He put in long hours of sweat and sacrifice. The late Dennis Mattingly of the Anchorage Bucs used to rave about Hill’s work ethic.

In 2007, Hill batted .300 in 58 games with Double-A Binghamton.

By 2008, he was playing independent ball, and in 2009 with the Victoria Seals he hit .292 with 19 bombs and 64 RBIs in 75 games.

Hill finished his career with 891 hits, the most for an Alaskan. Kodiak’s Cliff Anderson ranks No. 2 with 546 hits from 1992 to 1998.

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.

July 23, 2020
Mario Chalmers basketball

Mario Chalmers

If The 5 Tournament is a dress rehearsal for his return to the NBA, Anchorage’s Mario Chalmers looks the part.

The 34-year-old, two-time NBA champion cooked up a 50-burger on Day 3 of the 3-on-3 halfcourt basketball tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Never mind Chef Boyardee, this was Chef Boy-Still-Got-Game.

Chalmers, of Bartlett High fame, knocked down 15 3-pointers on his way to scoring 50 points in Miami’s 119-90 win over Chicago.

The 5 Tournament is stacked with former NBA players competing on six teams (Texas, Sacramento, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, New York) chasing a grand prize of $100,000.

Chalmers played eight seasons with the Miami Heat from 2008 to 2016 before he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. He last played in the league in 2018.

Chalmers has spent the last two seasons in Europe, winning a Greek Cup in 2019 with AEK Athens and winning the Champions League in 2018 with Italy’s Virtus Bologna.

Europe is nice, but the 2008 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player with Kansas would rather be back in the NBA and sees The 5 Tournament as a way to pique the interest of NBA teams. Last summer, he played in the BIG 3.

Even though it’s only 3-on-3, Chalmers has been effective in leading his team to a 2-1 record.

The 6-foot-2 guard has averaged 32 points over three games and remains a threat to score whenever the ball is in his hands.

Chalmers sank 17-of-32 shots and added seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

In the first game, Texas beat Miami 85-82 despite 26 points and 13-for-13 free-throw shooting from Chalmers.

The second game turned out better for Miami, which beat New York 77-69.

Chalmers recorded a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. He also drained a shot from nearly half court to beat the third-quarter buzzer.

July 21, 2020
Jonny Homza baseball

Jonny Homza

The greatest collection of Alaska baseball talent ever assembled on one field will take place at Mulcahy Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when the Legion Legends face off against the Alliance All-Stars.

It’s the best players from the past against the best players from today in a unique two-game series to showcase Alaska baseball.

“I’m excited to play,” said former Service star Jake Ridley. “I have a lot of great memories with the guys on my team. I’m most looking forward to the whole atmosphere of Mulcahy. As far as baseball in Alaska, nothing beats Mulcahy Stadium.”

First pitch each night comes at 6:30 p.m.

There will be five MLB draft picks on the field in Jonny Homza (2017), Corey Madden (2006), Anton Maxwell (2007), Levi Robinson (2002) and Johnny Meszaros. (2013).

Six Gatorade Player of the Year recipients in Leland Wilson (2020), Jacob Woodall (2019), Homza (2016, 2017), Adam Manzer (2011), Maxwell (2003) and Madden (2001).

Adam Manzer baseball

Adam Manzer

You want State Tournament MVPs? There are five; Taylor Reed (2002), Madden (2003), Maxwell (2004), Trevor Harrison (2005) and A.J. Hull (2012).

Four Cook Inlet Conference Players of the Year in Dalton Chapman (2014), Willy Homza (2015), Jonny Homza (2017) and Woodall (2019).

Five Gold Gloves Award winners in Ridley (2012), Parker Johnson (2017), Danny Mascelli (1997), Julito Frazzini (2015) and Jeremy Wylie (2000).

Big Sticks? We got Kyle Madden (1999), Garrett Brown (2012) and Willie Paul (2007).

There are Top Pitcher Award selections Brody Jessee (2019), Nick Nading (2005) and Raleigh Pigg (2016).

Throw in Matson Invitational MVP Ronan Klancher (2015) and State JV Tournament MVP Max Costello (2014).

And, finally, all-state studs Taylor Nerland (2000), Louis Nance (2006), Tommy Koloski (2016), Joe Fitka (2014), Tom Bowe (2014), James Arend (2018) and Alex Alvarez (2019).

Joe Fitka baseball

Joe Fitka

Fitka played at Chicago State University is one of six Alaskans to throw a 9-inning complete game at the NCAA D1 level.

These are some of the biggest names in Alaska baseball dating to the 1990s.

Mascelli, 41, will be among the oldest players on the field.

“At my age, I feel honored to play with all these young players, majority that I have coached or coached against,” said the former Bartlett star. “From when I moved up to Alaska and started playing in 1996, playing with, watching, coaching these players and now to have an all-star game with the different decades is a real cool thing for Alaska baseball.”

The Legion Legends are managed by longtime Alaska Baseball Academy coach Tony Wylie, who selected which former players would participate.

Former South star Parker Johnson hasn’t played in a baseball game since March when COVID stopped his season at Indiana Wesleyan University.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on the field and I think everyone else is too because for most of us it’s been quite a while since we played in a game,” he said. “I think the environment will be laid back but competitive; everyone is just gonna enjoy being back out on the field and playing the game we all share a love for.”

Who is the player most guys are excited to see play in person?

“Well the obvious is Jonny Homza,” Mascelli said.

Homza, 20, was a fifth-round draft pick in 2017 by the San Diego Padres. Taken 138th overall, he is the second-highest draft pick from Alaska.

Homza is playing his best baseball right now. With Class-A Tri-City of the Northwest League, Homza caught a no-hitter and hit a grand slam for his first playoff hit. Then he went to the Australian Baseball League and became the first Auckland Tuatara batter to go 5-for-5 in a game on his way to hitting a career-best .287 in 39 games.

Homza has made a terrific transition from the infield to behind the plate and shown patience and polish at the dish, with his .328 career on-base percentage ranking sixth all-time among Alaskans to play pro ball.

In terms of pitching, the most anticipated player people want to see is 25-year-old rocket right-hander Johnny Meszaros, who throws in the upper 90s. The former MLB draft pick has the makeup of a pro pitcher. Think Gerrit Cole.

Johnny Meszaros

In March, Meszaros flew to Florida and had a successful tryout with the Houston Astros organization. But then COVID hit and shut down everything, leaving Meszaros to have to wait for next year.

Still, even for a guy flirting with a pro career, Meszaros still gets a little giddy when he thinks about being on the field with the greatest collection of Alaska baseball talent every assembled.

“Being on a team with guys you grew up hearing about and playing against is a unique experience I’m happy to be a part of,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing the current all-star players and seeing how they go about the game. It’ll be fun.”

Anchorage basketball player Derrick Wilson helped the Golden Eagles win The Basketball Tournament’s $1 million grand prize, earning Alaska Sports Hall of Fame’s Alaska Athlete of the Week honors.

The team of Marquette alumni bested a 24-team field loaded with former NBA and college players in the winner-take-all tournament in Columbus, Ohio.

Wilson, of East High fame, is coming off a sensational season in Sweden, where he averaged a career-best 19.8 points per game. At Marquette, the 6-foot-1 guard was more of a facilitator and he again played that role with the Golden Eagles.

The Alaskan was on the squad last year that lost the TBT championship game.

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.

July 17, 2020

Matt Way

Arguably the greatest college pitcher to come out of Alaska, Sitka’s Matt Way carved up Pac-10 hitters when he toed the rubber for Washington State University from 2006 to 2009.

A two-time All-Pac-10 performer, the sublime southpaw is the only Alaskan to throw three complete games at the NCAA D1 level and rack up more than 100 strikeouts in a D1 season.

In 2009, he set the Washington State record for single-season strikeouts (124) that still stands today.

He went 8-4 with a 2.43 ERA in 107.1 innings and earned First Team All-Pac-10 honors.

Way, of Sitka High fame, is one of six Alaskans to throw a complete-game effort at the D1 level, but the only one to do it three times.

In 2008, he threw a 6-hitter against San Jose State in an 8-3 win and a 9-hitter against USC in an 8-5 win. In 2009, he tossed a 5-hitter against UCLA in a 7-2 win.

His 13 strikeouts against Washington in 2009 still rank No. 2 in school history. His 239 career Ks is No. 5 all-time.

Way was picked in the fifth round of the MLB draft in 2009 by the Philadelphia Phillies. Being taken 167th overall makes him the fourth-highest draft pick from Alaska.

He played professionally from 2009 to 2014 and made it as far as Single-A. He ranks No. 3 all-time among Alaskans with 30 pro wins and is tied for No. 1 with three shutouts.

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.

July 15, 2020

Derrick Wilson

Anchorage’s Derrick Wilson padded his pocketbook after helping the Golden Eagles Marquette alumni win The Basketball Tournament’s $1 million grand prize.

The Golden Eagles beat Sideline Cancer 78-73 in the championship game of the 24-team, winner-take-all tournament in Columbus, Ohio.

Wilson, who played for Marquette from 2011 to 2015, contributed one point, one assist and four rebounds in 14 minutes.

The game ended after Travis Diener knocked down a 3-pointer as the Golden Eagles reached the target score, aka, the Elam ending where a game clock is turned off late in the fourth quarter and a target score is set.

The tournament included former NBA players, college alumni and international imports. The players stayed in their own bubble in Columbus because of COVID-19 and all games were played with no fans at Nationwide Arena.

Wilson, of East High fame, is coming off a sensational scoring season in Sweden, where he averaged a career-best 19.8 points per game.

At Marquette, the 6-foot-1 guard was more of a facilitator and he again played that role with the Golden Eagles.

Wilson collected five points and two rebounds in a 79-70 win over Red Scare in the semifinals to help the Golden Eagles return to the title game.

The Alaskan was on the squad last year that lost the TBT championship game.

July 14, 2020

Anchorage golfers Abigail Ante and Mark McMahan are separated by 44 years of age but have this in common: they’re the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Athletes of the Week.

Ante, 15, won the Alaska match-play women’s championship at Palmer Golf Course in her first try after going 2-1 in the round-robin semifinals. Ante then tied for 3rd the next week in the Alaska Women’s Amateur championship won by 17-year-old Elizabeth Kim of Fairbanks.

McMahan, 59, won all five matches to claim the senior men’s title 43 years after making his state amateur debut as a teenager in Fairbanks. He beat Gregg Frost 4 and 3 in the championship match.

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.

July 11, 2020

Derrick Wilson

Anchorage’s Derrick Wilson moved closer to winning his share of a $1 million grand prize after his team moved into the final four of The Basketball Tournament.

The Golden Eagles – a squad comprised of Marquette University alumni – beat Team Brotherly Love 83-76 in the quarterfinals in Columbus, Ohio.

The Basketball Tournament is a 24-team, single-elimination, winner-take-all event with a $1 million payout. It was created in 2014.

The tournament features former NBA players, college alumni and international imports.

The participating players have stayed in their own bubble in Columbus because of COVID-19 and all games are played with no fans at Nationwide Arena.

Wilson, of East High fame, came off the bench to log 11 minutes and grab two rebounds in his team’s win over Brotherly Love out of Philly. The pass-first floor general is known for his defensive prowess.

The 6-foot-1 guard played at Marquette from 2011 to 2015 and owns Alaska’s single-game D1 hoops record with 14 assists.

The Golden Eagles, Marquette University alumni

The Golden Eagles are seeded No. 4 and received a bye in the first round.

In the second round, they beat Team CP3 76-67 with Wilson earning the starting nod and collecting one assist, two rebounds and two blocked shots.

The semifinals are Sunday on ESPN. The $1 million game is Tuesday.

Last year Wilson helped the Golden Eagles reach the TBT title game, losing 66-60 to Carmen’s Crew, which was made up of former Ohio State stars.

The Alaskan is coming off a huge season in Sweden, where he averaged a career-high 19.8 points to go with 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game for Stockholm-based Djurgarden.

The 27-year-old played his first three seasons of pro ball in Denmark.

July 10, 2020

Kaarin Knudson

Anchorage’s Kaarin Knudson was a remarkable runner for the University of Oregon from 1994 to 1999 as she earned eight letters and competed eight times at the NCAA Championships.

A two-time All-American in track and field, she was a seven-time NCAA qualifier for the Ducks and was a member of Oregon’s 1995 Pac-10 championship cross country team.

In 1995, the Ducks won the West Region title and finished fifth at the NCAA Championships.

In 1997, she was an All-American in the 800 meters.

In 1999, she was part of a school record in the distance medley relay and earned All-American honors in the indoor mile.

Knudson, of Dimond High fame, won the 1999 Jackson Award as Oregon’s most outstanding senior woman. She was also a candidate for the NCAA Woman of the Year.

The two-time academic All-American and six-time Pac-10 all-academic honoree graduated from Oregon with a degree in journalism and fine arts in 1999, and then earned her master’s degree in architecture from the UO in 2007.

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.

July 7, 2020
Daekwon Houston and Mier Panoam

Daekwon Houston and Mier Panoam

Eager to get the state’s best basketball players together in the same gym at the same time, Isa Wilson of Anchorage went to work.

He rented a gym, set up a schedule and reached out to players.

Wilson, 24, invited a mix of professionals, college stars and all-state high school kids.

The turnout was a slam dunk.

“All it took to get Alaska buzzing about basketball outside the season was to do a free run and invite the best players,” Wilson told me.

“But, really, it was about just being able to have a cool run, creating something where you’re feeling like you’re getting better every time you get on the court.”

Premier pickup games are nothing new. They have been popping off for decades in Anchorage, with the most popular spots being the Fairview and Spenard rec centers, and The Alaska Club.

Over the years, though, facilities reduced time given to basketball in favor of other user groups willing to pay more money to rent the gym.

As a result, elite players had no consistent time to meet, no summer league to compete.

Isa Wilson

Enter Wilson, who pays for open gym time three nights a week at the Arctic Rec Center to provide a place for elite players to have a regular run.

“It’s a welcome change in comparison,” said Anchorage’s Damon Sherman-Newsome, a former 1,000-point scorer at Colgate University. “It used to be, like, we’d know that day. ‘Hey man, we about to go to the gym.’ It wouldn’t be like every Monday, Wednesday, Friday.”

It is now.

Premier players have packed the gym. The roster is a who’s who of Alaska all-stars from the past, present and future.

“These are people the kids look up to,” Wilson said.

You got current pros in the house like Travante Williams (Portugal), Jalil Abdul-Bassit (Australia, NBA G League) and Devon Bookert (NBA G League).

And former pros like DaJonee Hale (Germany) and Damon Sherman-Newsome (Spain).

“When you got pros, more people will come out,” Wilson said.

A bunch of current college stars are showing up as well, including Alissa Pili, Tobin Karlberg, Jeremiah Bailey, Tennae Voliva, Da’Zhon Wyche, Jahnna Hajdukovich, Kamaka Hepa and Jaron Williams.

Rising stars Isaiah Moses, Mier Panoam, Colton Spencer, Benito Carter and Chasity Horn are there to make a name for themselves.

You even got blasts from the past like Desmond Johnson, Laura Ingham, Levi Auble and Antonio Wyche on the court.

“You see the names coming out,” Wilson said. “That’s gonna make any real hooper want to come and play because you’re playing against better competition and you’re playing against people that are better than you or at the same level.”

The action is competitive but not cutthroat. There is a shot clock. The first game is to 12, then it goes to 9 after that. Winner’s stay on the court.

This is an elite game, so players must be invited to lace ‘em up.

“No knock to anybody else, but we had to make it invite only,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t make sense for everybody coming out and trying to play. They can’t be playing against just anybody.”

Jhayde Zamora

Dondres McMorris

Wilson has partnered with former West High teammates Jhayde Zamora and Dondres McMorris of Get Better Daily. GBD showcases the players by posting videos on social media labeled #GBDLateNightRuns.

Big 3: Wilson (15), Zamora (4) and McMorris (10) as West seniors in 2014.

“You can’t come up there and get your ass busted because you’re going to hear about it,” Wilson said with a laugh.

The game can humble anyone.

It can also provide teachable moments. One of the aspects that’s different about these pickups games compared to others in the past is the influx of younger players. That’s by design.

Wilson comes from a family with a legacy of investing in the local hoops community. His uncle Louis Wilson started the SWEAT Camp in the 1990s and his grandma Dolores Waldron ran the Alaska Basketball Development Program for 20 years.

Zamora and McMorris are involved with young players today through GBD training and player development.

Having a few younger players mixed in with older players is something Sherman-Newsome wished had happened when he was at Bartlett.

“When I was in high school there wasn’t many opportunities for me to play with the best college guys,” said Sherman-Newsome, now 27. “I think the main thing for me that’s cool is they get to see what it looks like in person.”

July 6, 2020

At long last, Aaron Thrasher won the Kenai 250 bike race and among his rewards is being named the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Athlete of the Week for July 3.

Thrasher, of Anchorage, claimed the self-supported event June 26-28 in 26 hours, 43 minutes.

The race covers about 265 miles, much of it on singletrack trails, and climbs 30,000 feet of elevation. It travels from Hope to Seward and back on routes including the Resurrection Pass, Russian Lakes, Lost Lake and Johnson Pass trails as well as some paved roads that connect them.

Thrasher’s breakthrough came after he tied for second place in both 2019 and 2017 and took third in 2018.

Thrasher pedaled 1 hour, 40 minutes faster than runner-up Dustin Eroh of Anchorage. Renowned ultracyclist Lael Wilcox was the fastest woman and placed fourth overall in 1:06:16 in the 8th edition of the event, which was organized by Michael Braun.

Thrasher’s time was 41 minutes faster than the Charles DiMarzio’s record from 2019. However, the Kenai 250 website results does not list Thrasher as the new record-holder, perhaps because the 2020 course was slightly modified due a closure of the Meridian Lake Trail Area. Likewise, Wilcox’s time was more than six hours faster than Corrie Smith’s 2019 record of 1:12:32.

Wilcox, an ASHOF Athlete of the Week for May 29, reported that the first day featured wet conditions but day two was sunny, warm and dry.

“My biggest challenges were trying to ride wet, slippery roots & rocks and I got super sleepy twice,” Wilcox said on Facebook. “It was too wet and cold to nap, so I just pedaled through.”

This year’s edition featured a record 21 finishers while 10 others dropped out.

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.

July 3, 2020

Anton Maxwell

Anchorage’s Anton Maxwell was simply sensational as a sophomore with the Oregon State University baseball team.

The left-handed pitcher posted an 11-1 record in 17 appearances in 2005 as the No. 3 starter for the Pac-12 power that advanced to the College World Series.

Maxwell, of East High fame, struck out 69 batters in 95.1 innings and finished with a 4.33 ERA.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound southpaw threw a 1-hit complete-game effort in an 8-1 win over Washington State. At the time, he was just the second Alaskan to throw a 9-inning complete game at the NCAA D1 level.

He also carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Cal-Davis in another win.

Maxwell’s 11 wins are the most for an Alaskan at the D1 level.

He played for Oregon State from 2005 to 2007 and compiled a 17-5 record and 4.26 ERA in 46 career appearances. He racked up 114 strikeouts over 156.1 innings.

In 2007, Maxwell went 3-1 in 19 appearances (mostly in relief) and had a sparkling 2.36 ERA in 26.2 innings of work.

He was drafted by the MLB that year in the 31st round by the Texas Rangers and played two seasons in Single-A with Spokane and Clinton.

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.