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.

November 24, 2020

Jo Reid

Countless hours of training to be a two-footed soccer player paid major dividends for Anchorage’s Jo Reid at the American FootGolf League National Championships.

The 45-year-old soccer coach overcame pulled quad injuries to both legs to win the women’s competition by five shots at Brazell’s Creek Golf Course in Georgia.

Reid pulled her right quad during a practice round two days before the tournament started. That forced her to work on her left foot.

“I was a little rusty but I felt good and knew I could still play at a high level and win the title using my non-dominate foot,” she said. “Last year when I would train, I would use two balls and play one ball with my right and one ball with my left to prepare for moments like this.”

This was Reid’s second national title after winning last year in Virginia and marks the fifth straight year she has finished first or second in this event.

“It feels great winning back-to-back titles,” she said. “This year so much has happened and so much has been canceled I wasn’t sure if I was ready physically, but I knew I was ready mentally and super happy to end 2020 on a high note.”

Reid, of East High fame, fired a 54-hole total of 216 to beat Oklahoma’s Laura Parker by five shots. Former professional goalkeeper Anjuli Ladron of Mexico was six shots back.

Reid and Ladron shot identical scores on each of the first two days and were tied for the lead entering the final round. On the last day, though, Reid carded a one-under 70 while Ladron struggled with a five-over 76.

“I had three pretty consistent rounds,” Reid said. “I felt like my drives were long and straight, my approaches were accurate and my putts went in, so when you put all of those things together you usually have good rounds.”

It was hardly a walk in the park, though. Already nursing a sore right quad, she pulled her left quad on the back nine of Day 1.

“At this point, I was really worried that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the tournament as I still had two days left,” she said.

But Reid was determined to finish the tournament, she said, and did everything she could in terms of rest, rehab and recovery to be ready for Day 2.

“I decided to use both of my feet for drives and approaches to not overstrain one leg and pick my shots for my right and my left for each hole,” Reid said. “This strategy worked as I played well and my legs felt good so I knew I could get through one more round.”

Soccer has been a large part of Reid’s entire life and that background makes her a natural fit for footgolf.

“I coach soccer for a living so I’m always kicking a ball,” said Reid, who commits to at least five hours a week specifically to footgolf.

Living in Alaska can be challenging when the golf course is only open six months out of the year, so I make sure to use the winter months to work on my strength, flexibility and mental side of the game,” she said. “When the snow melts I’m ready to go.”

November 23, 2020

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby was named our Alaska Athlete of the Week after an eye-popping performance at the U.S. Open Swimming Championships.

Jacoby turned in a blistering time of 1:07.57 in the 100-meter breaststroke, which now ranks her No. 2 all-time among American girls 15-16 years old, only .52 seconds behind Megan Jendrick’s national record of 1:07.05 set in 2000.

The 16-year-old moved up four spots on the all-time list, bettering her previous PR of 1:08.12 set last year at the USA Swimming National Junior Championships. She finished second among 121 racers in the 100 breaststroke but earned the national title because the only swimmer to beat her was German citizen Anna Elendt, a 19-year-old star from the University of Texas who last year competed at the World Championships.

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.

November 22, 2020

Kelsey Griffin

Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River is still feasting on opponents down under.

In the mist of her ninth season in Australia’s Women’s National Basketball League – and her 11th overall as a pro player – recorded her first double-double of the new season.

This was just her third game after missing the first two because of a back injury.

Griffin posted an 11-point, 11-rebound performance to lead the Canberra Capitals 68-63 win over the Sydney Uni Flames.

The 6-foot-2 forward is a four-time WNBL champion and former league MVP.

Griffin, of Chugiak High fame, has amassed 2,715 career points and 1,612 career rebounds during her years in Australia.

November 20, 2020

Cole Magner

Arguably the greatest wide receiver from Alaska, Cole Magner of Palmer parlayed his time at Bowling Green State University into a professional career in the Arena Football League.

He also signed with the Atlanta Falcons but never played in the NFL. Nevertheless, his impact was undeniable.

Nicknamed ‘Sunshine’ because of his blonde, long locks, Magner was also known for burning defensive backs.

He played for Bowling Green from 2001 to 2004 and scored 27 touchdowns – 20 receiving, five passing, two rushing. He made 215 receptions and amassed 2,828 total yards for his college career.

In 2001, he scored the game-winning two-point conversion on a reserve in a 43-42 victory over Northwestern.

In 2003, he finished No. 2 in the NCAA with 99 receptions. That same season he posted 13-168-1 totals against Ohio State.

The 6-foot-2 Magner, of Colony High fame, also played basketball for Bowling Green.

In the Arena Football League he bagged 15 touchdowns in two seasons.

In 2007, he caught a touchdown pass in the Arena Bowl with the Columbus Destroyers. In 2008, he tied a franchise record with 13 receptions with the Grand Rapid Rampage.

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.

November 19, 2020

Jordan Foraker

Anchorage’s Jordan Foraker came up clutch for the Utah State University women’s soccer team.

Too bad it came during an exhibition match and not the real NCAA season.

The junior forward buried a second-half goal for the blue team in a 2-1 victory over the white team in Logan, Utah.

Foraker, of South High fame, settled a pass inside the 18-yard line and blasted it into the back of the net.

Last year, she scored one goal in 17 games and was named a Mountain West Scholar Athlete.

November 18, 2020
Alissa Pili basketball

Alissa Pili

The rest of the college basketball world has finally caught on to Anchorage’s Alissa Pili.

After taking the Pac-12 by storm as a freshman, the University of Southern California forward begins her sophomore season on the preseason watch lists for the Naismith Trophy and Katrina McClain Award.

The Naismith nod is a big deal.

The Naismith is to college basketball what the Heisman Trophy is to college football.

Among the 50 women recognized by Naismith, Pili is one of just nine sophomores named to the watch list.

The Katrina McClain Award is given to the game’s top power forward.

The 6-foot standout is coming off a remarkable rookie year in which she won Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors and scored the most points for a USC freshman in 29 years.

Pili, of Dimond High fame, was a four-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week.

She started 30 of 31 games and led USC in scoring (16.3), rebounding (8.0) and double-doubles (11).

Pili posted season highs of 32 points and 17 rebounds.

November 16, 2020

Teenage soccer prodigy Hunter Sulte from Anchorage is our Alaska Athlete of the Week after agreeing to terms on a four-year deal with the Portland Timbers, making him only the 2nd Alaskan to sign a MLS contract.

Sulte, 18, has been a part of the Timbers Academy since 2016 when he left Alaska as a Mears Middle School seventh grader to pursue his dream of playing professional soccer.

The 6-foot-7 senior turned down a scholarship offer from defending NCAA College Cup champion Georgetown University, opting to begin his pro career with the Timbers. Portland plucked him from an ODP camp in Alaska four years ago and put him in the Timbers Academy, which helped accelerate his development.

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.

November 15, 2020

Edefuan Ulofoshio

Anchorage’s Edefuan Ulofoshio was a one-man wrecking crew for the University of Washington defense against Oregon State.

He recorded nine solo tackles, recovered a fumble and broke up four passes, including three in a row on OSU’s final drive in the final moments of the fourth quarter to ice a 27-21 win in Seattle, Washington.

With 10 tackles, the sophomore linebacker recorded double figures for the third time in his Pac-12 career.

Last year he had 12 tackles against Washington State and 11 against Colorado.

Ulofoshio, of South High fame, single-handedly shut down Oregon State’s passing game on its last-ditch attempt to rally from behind.

Three straight times he knocked down passes – on second down, third down and fourth down.

On the final play, he jumped into the air and the pass deflected off his helmet, which led to an interception that ended the threat, and the game.

This was the first game of the season for Washington and started the Jimmy Lake era.

Last year, Ulofoshio played all 13 games and won the Husky Fever 12th Man of the Year Award.

November 14, 2020

Lydia Jacoby

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby made a huge splash at the U.S. Open Swimming Championships in San Antonio, Texas, where she popped a blistering time of 1:07.57 in the 100-meter breaststroke.

Jacoby now ranks No. 2 all-time among American girls 15-16 years old, only .52 seconds behind Megan Jendrick’s national record of 1:07.05 set in 2000.

The 16-year-old moved up four spots on the all-time list, bettering her previous PR of 1:08.12 set last year at the USA Swimming National Junior Championships.

Jacoby has been a member of the Seward Tsunami Swim Club for more than a decade is believed to be the only Alaskan at this weekend U.S. Open.

She finished second among 121 racers in the 100 breaststroke but earned the national title because the only swimmer to beat her was German citizen Anna Elendt, a 19-year-old star from the University of Texas who last year competed at the World Championships.

Jacoby, who has already qualified for the 2021 Olympics Trials, owns the Alaska state record and two state titles in the 100-yard breaststroke.

Zach Lester

Zach Lester of Fairbanks beautifully orchestrated the offense en route to arguably his greatest day under center for the Dakota Wesleyan University football team.

The junior quarterback completed 16-of-24 passes for 199 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in a 35-16 victory over Jamestown in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Playing his best in the second half, Lester connected on 11-of-16 throws and guided the Tigers to a pair of touchdowns that sealed the deal.

On a 75-yard scoring drive in the third quarter, he accounted for 60 yards. On an 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, he went 5-for-5 and compiled 53 yards.

Lester, of West Valley High fame, connected on TD passes of 64, 8, 15 and 15 yards and surpassed the 2,500-yard benchmark for his college career.

The 5-foot-9 signal caller had his second-best completion percentage (.667) in 21 career games. Earlier this season against Dordt he went 15-for-21 for a career-best .714 clip.

Last month, he had a season-high 305 passing yards against Morningside.

November 13, 2020

Pam Dreyer

The first Alaskan to play hockey in the Olympics, Eagle River’s Pam Dreyer won a bronze medal with Team USA as a goaltender at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy.

She also owns a silver medal from the 2004 World Championships, making her one of the most decorated Alaska athletes of all-time.

Dreyer, of Chugiak High fame, became a national name at Brown University, where she racked up a 40-23-8 record from 2000 to 2003.

As a sophomore, she led the NCAA with .941 save percentage and seven shutouts.

As a junior, she led Brown to the ECAC Championship and a Frozen Four appearance.

By 2004, she was the No. 1 goalie in the country.

Dreyer was at her best at the 2004 World Championships, where she earned all-tournament recognition and handed Canada its first-ever loss in tournament history with a 26-save performance in Team USA’s 3-1 win.

She finished second in the tournament with a .929 save percentage.

Dreyer tore her rotator cuff at the end of the 2004 while diving to make a save during a game against Canada. She underwent two surgeries and eight months of rehab to get back to the team.

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.

November 12, 2020

Hunter Sulte

The Portland Timbers have tapped into the state of Alaska to secure their goalkeeper of the future.

Teenage prodigy Hunter Sulte of Anchorage has agreed to terms on a four-year deal to make him the first Alaskan to sign a Homegrown Player contract with a Major League Soccer team.

Sulte, 18, has been a part of the Timbers Academy since 2016 when he left Alaska as a Mears Middle School seventh grader to pursue his dream of playing professional soccer.

The 6-foot-7 goalkeeper is a senior at Southridge High School in Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his grandparents. His parents still live in Anchorage and his little sister goes to Dimond.

Sulte turned down a scholarship offer from defending NCAA College Cup champion Georgetown University, opting to begin his pro career with the Timbers.

Portland plucked him from a ODP camp in Alaska four years ago and put him in the Timbers Academy, which helped accelerate his development.

He has represented the club at the U-14, U-16/17 and U-18/19 levels, and made eight of 16 starts during this year’s USL Championships. He also trained with the Timbers before the 2020 season.

“We are very excited to sign an academy player who has shown all the signs and promise of a great future with the Timbers,” Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We feel that this is the best move for him to continue to develop and are invested in Hunter as a player.”

“We look forward to working with Hunter to fulfill his potential at the professional level and be a goalkeeper for the Timbers for many years to come,” said Portland general manager Gavin Wilkinson.

Sulte is believed to be the second player from Alaska to sign an MLS contract.

The first was Ely Allen, who was born in Anchorage but left in middle school for Kent, Washington, where he played for Kentridge High School.

The midfielder then went to the University of Washington from 2004 to 2007 before getting drafted No. 21 overall in 2008 by the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Allen scored 10 goals in 63 career MLS games with Los Angeles, Seattle, D.C. and Minnesota.

Talking with a few Alaska soccer historians, nobody is sure Allen even played club in Alaska.

Meanwhile, Sulte grew up playing for the Cook Inlet Soccer Club and so his signing hit home with the local community.

“Hunter was one of my ’02s at Cook Inlet,” said Matt Froehle. “Good kid.”

Alaska has had at least two other players participate in MLS academies in Jake Stoke and Obed Vargas, both with the Seattle Sounders.

November 11, 2020

Nearly half of the US Cross Country Ski Team is from Alaska.

Ten of the 23 athletes – five men and five women – were named to the three-tier squad that will open the World Cup season later this month in Finland.

Another Alaskan, Chris Grover of Anchorage, serves as program director for the US Cross Country Ski Team.

“Needless to say, this year was the most atypical season of preparation that the cross country team has had, with athletes mainly training at home in their smaller club groups,” Grover said.

“Given this limitation, it’s impressive to see the level of fitness that many athletes have attained this fall, smashing personal records on time trials and local events. I have no doubt that when the team gets their snow-feet underneath them this winter, they will have some extraordinary results.”

Sadie Maubet Bjornsen cross-country skiing

Sadie Maubet Bjornsen

Leading the way is the women’s A Team, which consists of Anchorage’s Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, Rosie Brennan and Hailey Swirbul. All three are part of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Center.

Maubet Bjornsen is a two-time Olympian who racked up career-best third- and fourth-place finishes on this same Finland course in the 2019 season opener. A week later in Lillehammer, Norway, Maubet Bjornsen helped the Team USA 4x5K earn a silver medal.

The men’s B Team features Anchorage’s Gus Schumacher, Scott Patterson and Logan Hanneman. Schumacher’s club is the Alaska Winter Stars and Patterson and Hanneman are with APU.

Schumacher, of Service High fame, made US Ski Team history in March when he became the first American male to win an individual Junior World Championship. He also anchored the American relay team to a gold medal and was named winner of the Beck International Trophy.

Gus Schumacher Cross-Country Skiing

Gus Schumacher

The Development Team features Kendall Kramer of Fairbanks and Anchorage’s Luke Jager, Hunter Wonders and Hannah Halvorsen.

Kramer, of West Valley High fame, was on the team last year and earned a breakout fourth-place finish at the World Junior Nordic Ski Championships.

Jager, of West High fame, helped make US Ski Team history with the country’s first gold medal in the U20 men’s 4x5K relay at the World Junior Championships.

Jager, Wonders and Halvorsen all ski club with APU.

November 9, 2020

Anchorage native Jack Bartlett set national powerlifting records for his age and weight.

A former Mears Middle School and Bowman Elementary student now living in Bend, Oregon, the 16-year-old lifted 578lbs in the squat and 314lbs in the bench press competing in the 125kg class.

The junior only recently got into competitive weight lifting with motivation from his football coach.

Bartlett took two Oregon state powerlifting titles earlier 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.

November 8, 2020

Derrick Wilson

Derrick Wilson of Anchorage continues to be a difference maker for his new team in the Turkish Basketball League.

The 6-foot-1 starting guard ranks among the league leaders in points, assists and steals to help Sigortam start the season 4-0.

It is the only undefeated team in the league.

Sigortam’s average margin of victory is just 5.5 points, including a two-point victory in Round 3 and one-point victory in Round 4.

Wilson, of East High fame, ranks No. 3 in points (20.4), assists (6.3) and steals (2.5) per game.

He leads his team with 35.8 minutes per game, showcasing his coach’s trust to keep him on the floor for as long as possible.

In last week’s 80-79 win over Akhisar, the Alaskan scored 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He also went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.

The former University of Marquette star added five rebounds, five assists and one steal.

November 6, 2020

Austin Vanderford

Austin Vanderford of Ninilchik got the win he wanted – he just didn’t win the way he wanted.

The fourth-year pro scored a unanimous decision victory over Brazil’s Vinicius De Jesus at the Bellator 251 main card at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Vanderford won 30-26, 30-27, 30-27 on the judges’ scorecard.

“Man, honestly, I wanted to get that finish so bad,” he said. “I feel like I need to finish guys like that. No disrespect to him, but I had him in spots and I need to get the finish there.”

Vanderford, of Ninilchik High fame, improved to 10-0 for his career and 4-0 in the Bellator middleweight division.

This was his first fight in a full year, in large part because in September he tested positive for COVID and had to pull out of Bellator 246.

“I’m really thankful to be back and I’m excited to get back in, honestly,” Vanderford said with a laugh.

At Bellator 251, he was supposed to fight Chris Curtis, but Curtis had to pull out after testing positive for COVID. De Jesus (9-4) filled in as a late replacement.

After the fighters felt each other out a bit at the beginning, Vanderford took control for good and finished the first round pinning De Jesus to the fence and pounding him with blows.

“I got my jab working,” he said. “I need to straight out my right hand a little bit. I’m pretty sure I broke it midway through the first. It was hard to get a grip, but I went out and got the job down.”

Vanderford, 30, came out swinging in the second round and almost immediately landed two lefts and an overhand right before executing a double-leg takedown.

In the third round, Vanderford used a ground-and-pound strategy to wear down his opponent and show off his celebrated wrestling background.

He was a NAIA national champion and two-time All-American at Southern Oregon University. He also won two high school state titles in Alaska.

He can always fall back on his ground game, but he doesn’t want to be known as a wrestler.

“I’m a fighter,” he said.

This fighter continues to climb the Bellator ranks in the middleweight division, earning more respect with each win.

He isn’t talking title shot.

Yet.

“I still think I got a lot of room to grow to get to that point. When I fight for the title, I want people to know that I deserve this,” Vanderford said.

He believes his trainers at American Top Team will prepare him to take that next step.

“I’ve got some really great guys in my corner. They are going to take me to the next level, for sure,” he said.

MMA wins by notable Alaska fighters
16 Cody McKenzie Cordova
15 Jake Heun Palmer
14 Lauren Murphy Eagle River
13 Jared Cannonier Anchorage
13 Doug Evans Anchorage
10 Austin Vanderford Ninilchik

November 2, 2020

Dimond High School’s Skyler Coleman and East High School’s Ja’Sem Atonio were named co-winners of the Alaska Athlete of the Week award after leading their respective football teams to championship seasons.

Atonio put on a brilliant passing display in leading the Thunderbirds to a district championship and perfect 7-0 record with a 41-0 victory over Bartlett. The senior quarterback completed 15 of 20 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns, showing off pinpoint accuracy and impressive arm strength in connecting with both the deep ball and short passing game.

The dynamic Coleman rushed for 104 yards, and caught three passes for 43 yards and a touchdown in Dimond’s 22-0 victory over West Anchorage to earn a district championship.  The senior also threw a touchdown pass and played safety on defense and is on special teams.  The previous night Coleman led the Lynx to a come-from-behind victory over #1 seed South High by racking up over 100 total yards and also completing both of her passes.

Coleman and Atonio were respectively named the girls and boys CIC offensive players of the year.

“Skyler is an amazing athlete and teammate,” said Dimond head coach Kathleen Navarre. “She gives 100% every day in practice and in games.”

Due to Covid-19 there were no state championship football games this year.

“Whether someone wants to call them state champs, region champs, district champs….they’re just champs” East head coach Jeff Trotter said of his Thunderbird squad after the 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.

November 1, 2020

Marshal Chace

Marshal Chace of Fairbanks has left an indelible mark on the Presentation College football program.

The third-year wide receiver moved to No. 7 in all-time receiving yards for the NAIA team after amassing 75 yards in a 13-6 loss to Waldorf in South Dakota.

The 6-foot-1 wideout now has 1,045 receiving yards, passing Jerome Mayfield (1,042) on the all-time list. He needs 187 to move to sixth.

Chace, of North Pole High fame, caught seven passes for an average of 10.7 yards per reception against Waldorf. His 75 yards matched a season high.

In 26 career games, he has caught 89 passes and five touchdowns.

October 31, 2020

Presley Piliati

Presley Piliati of Anchorage racked up six tackles and two sacks to spearhead the Dickinson State University defense in a 26-14 win over Valley City State in North Dakota.

Dickinson State improved to 8-0 and clinched the North Star Athletic Association championship for a sixth straight year.

Piliati, of East High fame, single-handedly disrupted the opposing offense to force punts on three different drives.

In the first quarter, he recorded a sack on 3rd-and-7.

In the second quarter, he foiled first down with a tackle for loss that made it 2nd-and-14.

In the fourth quarter, he made another tackle for loss that forced a 2nd-and-13.

His ability to break through the offensive line and disturb Dakota State’s rhythm proved to be huge factor in helping Dickinson State maintain its perfect season.

Piliati has recorded 27 tackles in seven games. He has seven tackles for loss and three sacks.

October 30, 2020

Rocky Klever

Anchorage’s Rocky Klever seemed to make Alaska history every time he took the field in the NFL.

He was the state’s first draft pick, the first to play in the league and the first to score a touchdown. He was also the first to appear in a playoff game.

Drafted in the ninth round in 1982 as a running back, Klever was switched to tight end and spent all five seasons with New York Jets.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder started 25 of 65 games and caught 46 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns.

In 1984, he scored his first touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Ken O’Brien in the first quarter of a 30-20 loss to the New England Patriots.

In 1985, he scored two TDs and had a career-best 183 receiving yards.

In 1986, he started 11 of 16 games.

He made playoff appearances in 1985 and 1986.

In college, Klever played at the University of Montana and left as the all-time leading rusher with 2,228 yards, a record that stood for nearly 30 years until another Alaska standout Yohance Humphery broke the mark in 2000.

At West High, he led the Eagles to a state title in 1975. He was named all-state at quarterback as a junior and senior.

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 29, 2020

Bret Congdon

Anchorage’s Bret Congdon this weekend will return to the pool with the University of Colorado Mesa women’s swim team for the first time since March, when COVID shut down the sports world.

The last seven months have felt like a roller coaster ride due to the pandemic, but she has done her best to manage her emotions.

“This year is so upside down,” Congdon said. “I feel like every athlete is impacted.”

Her sophomore season has already been delayed nearly a month and her anxiety is growing about the uncertainty looming over the rest of the season.

Getting back in the water, however, has provided her some sense of normalcy.

Even if the new normal is different.

“We all get tested,” Congdon said. “We have to limit the amount of people we have in the pool. If you’re not swimming you have a mask on. We spread out. It is possible to conduct it safely.”

Congdon, of West High fame, is coming off a fabulous freshman season in which she was a five-time champion at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships and part of a CSCAA honorable mention All-American relay team.

She was a member of the Colorado Mesa 200-yard freestyle relay team that qualified for the NCAA D2 Championships but wasn’t able to compete after the meet was canceled on Day 2 due to the COVID outbreak.

“It was like having your whole world blow up,” she said. “You had people who were crying, parents who were crying. You had seniors who hadn’t been able to race their last race. It was awful.”

The scene of swimmers standing outside the arena still in their warmups, stunned and sobbing, has haunted Congdon.

“Finishing up the school year was tough and then just coming into this year, it’s crazy knowing that everything can be ripped away instantaneously,” she said.

She is excited for Colorado Mesa to open the season Saturday against Western Colorado and feels safe based on the protective measures taken by school officials.

“The university has been doing a really good job of maintaining symptoms for people,” she said. “Every day before you step into a university building you have to sign this symptoms tracker and if anything is red flagged, you can’t come into the building and you have to go get tested. It’s a really nice set-up with the contact tracing and everything like that.”

With COVID cases on the rise nationwide, there are fears college sports could suffer more setbacks in the future.

To counter the uncertainty, the NCAA approved a blanket waiver for all 2020 fall athletes, allowing athletes to treat this year as a training year.

“No matter what happens this year I’m still going to have four full years of collegiate swimming,” Congdon said.

October 28, 2020

Victor Rodriguez

The UFC is taking a chance on Soldotna’s Victor Rodriguez.

The 28-year-old Alaskan was called on to fill in as an emergency substitute against Adrian Yanez for UFC Vegas 12 on Halloween.

Both UFC newcomers bring four-fight win streaks into the fight.

Rodriguez (7-2) is believed to be the sixth Alaskan to fight in the UFC, the greatest mixed martial arts league in the world.

Yanez (11-3) is a Texas-based fighter out of the Contender Series.

Most UFC fights for Alaskans
11 Jared Cannonier (Anchorage)
10 Lauren Murphy (Eagle River)
6 Cody McKenzie (Cordova)
5 Gina Mazany (Anchorage)
2 Doug Evans (Anchorage)

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 25, 2020

Keegan Messing

Girdwood’s Keegan Messing used a strong performance on the final day of Skate America to maintain his third-place position and claim the bronze medal in the first event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating season.

This was his second medal in Grand Prix competition and the 13th of his 10-year career in the senior division.

The 28-year-old finished with a total of 266.42 points following his free skate portion of the two-day competition in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I am absolutely stoked to put those performances out there and leave with a medal,” Messing said. “I’m on top of the world right now.”

In 2018, he earned his first Grand Prix medal after claiming second at Skate America.

Messing is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. He lives and trains in Anchorage, but has competed for Team Canada since 2014 and represented Canada at the 2018 Olympics.

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.