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.

September 18, 2020

Scott Gomez

Nothing seemed to faze Anchorage’s Scott Gomez on the ice. Not even the Stanley Cup playoffs.

As a rookie, he scored a goal in his first NHL playoff game and earned the primary assist in his second Finals game.

By the end, Gomez appeared in the playoffs in 11 of his 16 seasons and grabbed two Stanley Cups, made three Finals appearances and compiled 29 goals and 72 assists for 101 points in 149 playoff games.

He played for seven NHL teams but enjoyed his greatest postseason success with the New Jersey Devils, winning the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003 and making another Finals appearance in 2001.

In the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, he produced 2-3-5 scoring totals as the Devils beat the Anaheim Ducks in seven games.

Gomez, of East High fame, bagged four game-winning goals in the playoffs, including an OT beauty to win Game 4 of a first-round series in 2007.

Gomez was the first Alaska-born player to reach the NHL in 1999 and he retired in 2016 as the state’s all-time leader in games (1,079), goals (181), assists (575) and points (756).

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.

September 16, 2020

Ruthy Hebard (right) defends Alyssa Thomas

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks wrapped up her remarkable rookie season in the WNBA with a playoff loss after the Chicago Sky fell to the Connecticut Sun 94-81 in a single-elimination game.

The 6-foot-4 starting forward played 18 minutes and finished with four points, two rebounds and a blocked shot.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, took on the difficult job of having to defend All-WNBA star Alyssa Thomas, who delivered 28 points and 13 rebounds. Thomas also set a WNBA playoff record with 10 offensive rebounds.

Thomas didn’t do all of her damage against Hebard – there was plenty of blame to go around. Thomas is a strong, aggressive and experienced player who led Connecticut to the WNBA finals last year.

She gives the whole league fits, so this wasn’t on Hebard.

Chicago as a whole struggled, scoring only 11 points in the third quarter and getting only six assists from playmaker Courtney Vandersloot, who became the first player in WNBA history to average 10 assists per game in the COVID-shortened 22-game regular season.

Hebard played a huge role in helping Chicago (13-10) earn the No. 6 seed and earning a playoff appearance. The Sky asked a lot of the rookie after losing frontcourt players Diamond DeShields and Azura Stevens, forcing Hebard to step up her game at an accelerated rate.

Hebard responded by leading the WNBA with a .682 field-goal percentage on 58-of-85 shooting. She also scored a career-high 22 points in the regular-season finale, matching Kelsey Griffin’s Alaska state record set in 2013.

Hebard’s 181 rebounds for the season were the most among the five Alaskans to play in the WNBA and her 125 points as a rookie rank No. 3.

Her career .750 free-throw percentage is also No. 1 among Alaskans.

Hebard was the only player from the University of Oregon’s celebrated draft class that included No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty and No. 2 pick Satou Sabally of the Dallas Wings to lead her team to the WNBA playoffs.

September 14, 2020

After leaving Duke University following his junior season for a career in the NBA, Juneau native and Alaska Sports Hall of Fame inductee Carlos Boozer returned to complete his college degree 19 years later, earning him Alaska Athlete of the Week honors.

Now retired after a long successful professional basketball career, the JDHS Crimson Bears graduate took online classes over the past two summers to complete the three classes needed to earn his Sociology degree.

The Olympian and multi-time NBA All Star said finishing what he starts has always been important, and that he also wanted his parents to be proud of him.

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.

September 13, 2020

Three Alaskans playing defense for the Dickinson State University football team keyed a second-half shutout that carried the Blue Hawks to a 26-14 victory over Dakota State University in South Dakota.

Jayden Heartwell

Aaron Faletoi

Presley Piliati

Defensive linemen Presley Piliati of Anchorage and Aaron Faletoi of Soldotna in addition to defensive back Jayden Heartwell of Anchorage combined for five of the team’s 11 tackles for loss.

The Dickinson D-line was incredibly dominant, holding Dakota State to just 38 yards rushing on 29 carries.

Piliati, of East High fame, is a senior standout on the defense who racked up five tackles on the day.

The 6-foot-1, 285-pounder was named all-league in the North Star Athletic Conference last season after compiling 30 tackles in 10 games, including 5.5 tackles for loss.

Faletoi and Heartwell each made their college debut in this game. The last time they played in a football game they each won state championships – Faletoi with the Soldotna Stars and Heartwell with the South Wolverines.

Faletoi made two tackles against Dakota State, both for loss.

The 6-foot-2 260-pound freshman was a three-time all-state defensive player in Alaska and is already making a different for Dickinson State.

Heartwell recorded three tackles in his first college game, including a tackle for loss. Not bad for a defensive back.

Brenner Furlong football

Brenner Furlong

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound freshman was an all-state safety last season in high school and won kick returner of the year.

Dakota State features junior running back Brenner Furlong of Soldotna. He ran right into that stout Dickinson State defensive line and managed only two yards on eight carries.

Furlong averaged nearly 30 rushing yards a game last season.

September 12, 2020

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks matched an Alaska record for most points scored in a WNBA game and came up huge defensively with a blocked shot inside the final minute of the game to help the Chicago Sky hold off the Dallas Wings 95-88.

The rookie forward poured in a career-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting to match the Alaska record set by Eagle River’s Kelsey Griffin in 2013 with the Connecticut Sun.

Here are the highest scoring WNBA games by an Alaskan:

22 Ruthy Hebard (Fairbanks) Chicago Sky 2020
22 Kelsey Griffin (Eagle River) Connecticut 2013
19 Jessica Moore (Palmer) Indiana 2009
17 Andrea Lloyd (Juneau) Minnesota 1999

Hebard’s 22 points came in her 22nd game. By comparison, Griffin posted her 22-point effort in her 125th game.

On the same night Hebard had her first 20-point game, the 6-foot-4 Alaskan also delivered her first signature defensive moment.

With her team nursing an 89-88 cushion late in the fourth quarter, Hebard blocked Arike Ogunbowale’s driving layup with 22.1 seconds left. She then secured the rebound, which led to free throws for the Sky that helped ice the win.

It was the second blocked shot of the game for the first-round draft pick out of the University of Oregon.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, also grabbed eight rebounds and had career highs in free throws (4) and assists (2) in addition to her scoring.

She scored the first points of the game with a fastbreak layup at the 9:36 mark and scored the final points of the game with a pair of free throws with just 1.8 seconds left.

This was her fifth double-figure scoring night. Her previous career high of 12 points came two weeks ago against Indiana.

For Chicago (12-10), this game was the last of the regular season before the WNBA playoffs begin. The Sky have locked up the No. 6 seed and will play a single-elimination game against the No. 7 seed Connecticut.

The first two rounds of the playoffs feature single-elimination games. The semifinals and finals will be determined by a best-of-five series.

September 11, 2020

Bubacar Touray

Anchorage’s Bubacar Touray, a former Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year in soccer who went on to star in the NWAC and EPLWA, unexpectedly passed away earlier this week in Seattle, Washington. He was only 21.

The Gambian native was a popular player in Alaska as a high school star and then in Washington as a college star, beloved because of his infectious smile and incredible skills.

Better known as Buba, Touray was an easy guy to root for.

“He was a kind, gentle soul. Loving and passionate,” said Alaska ODP coach Barat Killian. “Just sad to see something like this happen to someone so uplifting.”

He was laid to rest yesterday in Lynnwood, Washington, according to a ‘Support For Bubacar Touray’ GoFundMe page that in one day raised more than $18,000 of its $20,000 goal to help the family with unexpected funeral costs.

The rising star’s death sent shock waves throughout the soccer community in Alaska and with former West High teammates.

“He was a good friend,” said Greyson Adams. “He was always great to be around and he touched the lives of so many with his positive energy. We’re all going to miss him a lot.”

At West, Touray racked up 44 goals and 24 assists in 35 games over his junior and senior seasons. In 2017, he scored 25 goals in 17 games and was named Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year.

“He was quick, creative and very great technically,” Adams said. “But I also quickly found out how fun he was to be around. He was one of those people who could make you smile and laugh without even trying. He was always so happy and easy going. He was competitive and he always wanted to get better, and he always pushed me to do the same.”

Tacoma Community College of the NWAC was the only college to offer Touray a scholarship out of high school and he rewarded that team with a historic performance.

In 2018, he bagged a school-record 25 goals – the fifth highest single-season total in conference history.

Touray led the NWAC in goals and points (55), and helped the Titans win the West Region title, compile a 20-1-2 record and capture the NWAC championship.

The 2019 EPLWA champion Washington Premier

In 2019, Touray played in the Evergreen Premier League with Washington Premier. He scored three goals in the regular season and then came up huge in the semifinals of the postseason tournament.

He scored the equalizer in the 39th minute and put his team up 2-1 in the 43rd minute with his second goal of the game to lead the way in a 5-1 win over the Seattle Stars.

Touray started the final and helped his team capture the Ostrovsky Trophy with a 1-0 win over Bellingham United.

September 10, 2020

Pindo Drammeh

There were times when Anchorage’s Pindo Drammah doubted his dream of playing professional basketball would ever come true.

But whenever uncertainty crept into his mind, the 6-foot-9 center did what any good shot blocker would do: he swatted it away.

Boosted by obsession, optimism and a network of supporters, the Drammeh never gave up on his hoops dream and turned fantasy into reality after he signed a one-year deal with a pro team in Darmstadt, Germany.

“I didn’t always believe that I could go pro and that’s why I’m super thankful for my close friends and family,” he said. “They believed in me before anyone else did and pushed me to be my absolute best, which led to instilling more self-confidence and belief within myself.”

Drammeh joined Revision Sports International and his agent Ronald Howard set up several tryouts for his client in Germany. Drammeh was told he also piqued the interest of a team in Spain.

“This is truly a dream for me,” he said. “First and foremost, I would not have any of these opportunities or abilities without Allah, and for that I’m very grateful and humbled.”

The city of Darmstadt is located about an hour outside of Frankfurt, where Drammeh participated in tryouts for three different teams.

“I played a couple of games in front of coaches and got to meet other players, which helped me build connections in the Frankfurt leagues,” he said.

The 22-year-old rim protector felt like he played well in front of the Darmstadt coach and had a good feeling the team would sign him.

“He had been talking about how much they needed a big,” he said.

Drammeh is best known for his defensive ability under the basket, where he can best use his nearly 7-foot wingspan to block, change and alter shots. Twice in college he blocked four shots in a game.

“Blocking shots and rebounding has always been a big part of my game,” he said. “But I quickly realized that if I wanted to go pro, my offensive game needed a lot of work so that I could genuinely make an impact on both ends of the floor.”

Drammeh recorded 88 blocked shots in 95 college games.

Drammeh, of Service High fame, played 95 career college games from 2015 to 2020 for three different schools. His first two years were at Sierra College in California, his junior season at Clarke University in Iowa and his senior season at William Jessup University in California.

He shot a high percentage (.517) for his career and recorded 88 blocked shots, nearly one rejection per game. He averaged 3.9 points with a career high of 21 and 3.4 rebounds with a high of 13.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best college career, but that only ended up strengthening my mental toughness,” he said. “I’m determined to persevere and overcome any obstacles thrown my way because that’s what a professional athlete does for the sport he loves.”

Off the court, Drammeh is working toward finishing his psychology and business degrees from William Jessup University.

“I’m actually continuing my education online while I play in Germany,” he said.

Drammeh also plans to explore his new surroundings and soak up the awesome experience of living in a different country.

He doesn’t yet speak German but is eager to learn the language and the local way of life.

“I’m most looking forward to learning about the culture here in Germany, trying the traditional foods and building special friendships with my teammates,” Drammeh said. “Besides basketball, traveling and experiencing different cultures is another huge passion of mine. I’m open to going almost anywhere in the European continent.”

September 9, 2020

Despite the pandemic, the Municipality of Anchorage’s wildly popular Tuesday Night Races will proceed with a 52nd season.

This year’s five-event series will be conducted in a virtual format beginning Sept. 15 and concluding Oct. 13 and include new locations.

The courses will be marked starting at 6 p.m. each Tuesday and remain open until 10 p.m. each Thursday.

Upon registration, entrants will receive a course map, a special music playlist for the week and a link to submit their self-recorded time.

Prizes will still be awarded and TNR swag will be hidden on the courses each week.

The schedule is as follows:

Sept. 15 – Kincaid Nordic Stadium

Sept. 22 – Hillside Park

Sept. 29 – Abbott Loop Community Park

October 6 – Russian Jack Chalet

October 13 – Kincaid Jodhpur Trailhead

The entry fees are $2 for youth (17 & under) and $7 for adults. Registration, which begins one week before each event, is available here: https://anc.apm.activecommunities.com/municipalityanchorage/activity/search/detail/6429?onlineSiteId=0&from_original_cui=true 

For more information, visit https://www.muni.org/Departments/parks/Pages/TuesdayNightRaces.aspx or contact Bethlehem Hansen at bethlehem.hansen@anchorageak.gov

September 8, 2020

Scott Patterson of Anchorage shattered his own record at the 8th Kesugi Ridge Traverse to earn Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Alaska Athlete of the Week honors.

The 28-year-old Olympic skier completed the rugged 30-mile course from Little Coal Creek to Byers Lake in Denali State Park in 4 hours, 19 minutes and 39 seconds, knocking more than 18 minutes off the record he set on a rainy and frigid day in 2015.  Race conditions were much better on Saturday — the trail was mostly dry and the weather was warm but not hot — and Patterson took full advantage.

Patterson finished nearly 20 minutes ahead of 2nd place finisher Tracen Knopp in one of the first trail races to be held in Alaska during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

September 6, 2020

Sydnee Kimber

Defending national champion Sydnee Kimber of Sitka won’t be back on the wrestling mat this season to defend her title for McKendree University.

With all the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season because of COVID, Kimber has decided to hit pause with two years of eligibility left and focus on her degree in Athletic Training.

“I am planning to redshirt,” she said. “I planned on getting my masters in five years anyways.”

Kimber, of Mt. Edgecumbe fame, is back on campus in Lebanon, Illinois, where she is back in school and working out with her McKendree teammates.

Being a redshirt means she won’t compete, however, it doesn’t mean she won’t still have to participate in preseason conditioning drills.

“Coach calls it pre-pre-preseason when in reality it’s just a way for us to feel the pain a little earlier,” Kimber said with a laugh.

Preseason conditioning is dryland only. No wrestling.

“There’s always hope that we will be back on the mat this semester, but honestly you just never know.”

Until then, the wrestlers are running on the track, going up and down bleachers and executing endless burpees.

“All the fun stuff,” Kimber sarcastically said.

Kimber finished 25-1 with a national championship and All-American honors as a sophomore.

The soon-to-be 20-year-old enjoys staying busy and spent her summer in Sitka working at a fish hatchery. She doesn’t mind manual labor, but at the same time she learned how much she doesn’t want that for a career.

“It definitely makes me glad I’m working on a college degree, so I don’t have to do that kind of job if I don’t want to,” she said.

When she wasn’t working, Kimber spent her free time hiking nearby foothills and riding her mountain bike.

“It was fun to find something else besides wrestling to keep in shape,” she said. “Once I came back to school, I started swimming again as an alternative to just running.”

Not wrestling has given Kimber a new appreciation for her favorite sport.

“I definitely miss it,” she said. “Having the season, having tournaments to look forward to, it makes it a lot easier to want to go workout every day.”

Last season, Kimber put together a sensational sophomore season that included two national titles – one on her own and one with McKendree – and her first All-American recognition.

The 190-pounder claimed her individual title with no drama, shutting out all three opponents and winning two of her three matches by pin. It was a different story at the NCAA D2 National Duals championships, where her victory in the final match of the night clinched the title for McKendree.

The No. 2-ranked Alaskan earned a 10-2 decision over No. 1 Emily Cue of Simon Fraser in the final match of the night, tying the team score at 19-19 and forcing a tiebreaker that awarded the title to McKendree.

“The dual was so close, I knew it was going to come down to that,” Kimber said. “I just knew in my heart that my match was going to determine my team winning and my team losing.”

Kimber finished the season 25-1 and beat the only wrestler to beat her on the season.

“I had to avenge a pretty bad loss at the beginning of the season,” she said. “It was a good comeback.”

Kimber is hoping for wrestling to make a comeback post-COVID.

“The whole wrestling community has faith that we’ll be back on the mat and everything will go back to normal,” she said. “Honestly, I think it’ll be a long time before we can have big tournaments and spectators and normal practices. It’ll be a while before that happens again.”

Even though she plans to redshirt, Kimber still feels for all the wrestlers who are kept in limbo about the status of the season.

“It’s a big bummer for everyone,” Kimber said.

Adapt and overcome: We have some mats that we have access to that aren’t on university property, so we can do get to roll around a little bit there. Nothing university sanctioned. It’s so difficult, taking this opportunity … they won’t get a normal season. It’s a big bummer for everyone.

September 4, 2020

Kris Thorsness

Anchorage’s Kris Thorsness had never rowed a boat before she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in 1979. And when she expressed interest to compete for the college’s women’s team, the so-called experts scoffed.

She was considered too short, too thin, too small. Plus, she was from Alaska and had zero experience.

Thorsness never paid attention to the doubters and went on to become an Alaska trailblazer, winning a national championship with Wisconsin in 1979 and then winning the state’s first Olympic gold medal in 1984.

Thorsness, of West High fame, also competed at the 1988 Olympics and won three silver medals at the world championships with Team USA in 1982, 1983 and 1987.

In some ways, the 5-foot-9, 150-pounder put Alaska on the map in the world of sports as she proved Alaskans belonged on the world stage.

Her success inspired the creation of the Anchorage Rowing Association.

In 2007, Thorsness was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class.

In 2008, she was the co-recipient of USRowing’s Ernestine Bayer Woman of the Year.

In 2018, she was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletics Hall of Fame.

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 31, 2020

Ruthy Hebard

Rookie forward Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks collected her first double-double and contributed to a new WNBA record as the Chicago Sky beat the Indiana Fever 100-77 in the Bradenton, Florida.

Teammate Courtney Vandersloot recorded a WNBA record 18 assists, with two of them going to the Alaskan.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, earned her second career start and delivered career highs in minutes (29), points (12), rebounds (11) and blocked shots (2).

The 6-foot-4 former NCAA All-American made 6-of-8 field goals to raise her season shooting percentage to .661 – No. 1 on her team.

Hebard’s previous career high in rebounds was six and her previous career high in points was 11, set three times.

This was also the third time she’s surpassed the 20-minute plateau.

With 87 career points, Hebard needs just 13 more to become the fourth Alaskan to reach the century mark in WNBA scoring.

In his first high school start, quarterback/kicker Jarren Littell of Fairbanks threw four touchdowns to four different receivers in Lathrop High School’s 57-0 win over the West Valley Wolfpack.

Littell completed 8 of 11 for 146 yards and no interceptions. The junior has now thrown a touchdown pass in all three years in a varsity contest.

The Malamute standout was also exceptional with his foot, converting all seven extra point kicks and averaging 53 yards per kickoff.

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 30, 2020

Travante Williams

European league veteran Travante Williams of Anchorage is a relentless defender on the basketball court, continuously hounding ballhandlers and disrupting opponents.

He makes the game uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because he’s used to being uncomfortable, having been on the move so much throughout his life. He attended five high schools, went to four colleges and has played professionally in two foreign countries.

“I took risks and always looked at everything as a challenge,” Williams said. “I learned fast growing up and seen a lot. I grew up around what I didn’t want. Each chapter there’s a new journey where you have to battle something new. I’m still in it.”

Williams, 27, is about to begin his fifth season at the pro level, his fourth in Portugal, where he is the reigning Portuguese League MVP, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time league champion.

Last year with Sporting Lisbon he averaged 17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.2 steals in 19 games before his season was cut short due to the COVID pandemic.

Williams, of Mt. Edgecumbe High and UAF fame, is a self-made superstar who has emerged as one of finest players from Alaska. His path to the pros was unconventional – he wasn’t a 4A player, didn’t play D1 in college and lacked institutional connections.

“I’m truly appreciative of the journey,” Williams said. “I get reminded from time to time and I laugh and get doses of excitement about what I’ve accomplished. This experience has been dope.

“But there’s more. I know it. I want it.”

Believe him. The 6-foot-6 forward has made a living out of proving people wrong by overcoming odds and obstacles that derail most players from ever playing pro ball, let alone carving out a career.

“The physical gets you in the door but the mental keeps you there,” Williams said. “Your environment matters. Your character speaks. It’s a business overall, so your success isn’t necessarily always in your hands.

“But success is what you see it as. You have to decide for yourself what you want. It’s in me, not on me.”

Williams is popular among older Alaska basketball players for what he’s accomplished in the game. Even though his achievements have come a world away, his reputation preceded him with younger players who got to see him up close for the first time during a summer series of elite pickup games in Anchorage.

They saw a world-class defender do his thing, making life uncomfortable for ballhandlers on every possession. It’s almost like he takes it personally when somebody scores on him.

“Being a defender is heart,” Williams said. “Letting go of that fear of embarrassment. Next-play mindset. I want to win. That’s my ball and I need it.”

He plays with urgency, energy and an unrelenting drive, like he has something to lose.

“Running into adversity with basketball and life as a kid helped install this competitor inside me,” Williams said. “Success changes as you continue to climb the ladder.

“Right now, my motivation, what drives me, is the opportunity to create change, break generational curses, financial freedom. Show my family new life. They deserve it.”

Williams doesn’t rest on his reputation, but rather continues to work as if those past achievements never happened. A ferocious appetite keeps him hungry.

Williams has led his teams to a 94-11 record in Portugal.

“When you perform and get recognition and have some success, it’s great for the time being, but all this is really one long championship game,” he said. “To stay focused you can’t look back. Once you get a taste of success you want more.”

Williams spent his first pro season in the country of Georgia, where in 2017 he was named Import of the Year of the Georgian League after averaging a career-best 32.3 points per game and posting his first 50-burger.

He came to Portugal the next year and led Oliveirense to back-to-back Portuguese League championships in 2018 and 2019 before signing with Sporting Lisbon and helping assert Sporting as the top team in 2020 before COVID hit and shut down the season.

In three years in Portugal, his teams have a staggering .895 winning percentage (94-11).

His next trick? Mastering the Portuguese language.

“I’m the type to immerse myself in unfamiliar positions, but a country is a different animal when there’s a huge communication disconnect,” Williams said. “But it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It can be difficult but rewarding. Because every little experience at the store or wherever you are learning and improving. I’m getting better but it’s time to sharpen my skills and hone in, so that’s next to come.”

August 29, 2020

Scott Patterson shattered his record at the 8th Kesugi Ridge Traverse on Saturday while Christy Marvin celebrated her birthday with another victory in one of the first trail races to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Patterson

Patterson, a 28-year-old Olympic skier from Anchorage, completed the rugged 30-mile course from Little Coal Creek to Byers Lake in Denali State Park in 4 hours, 19 minutes and 39 seconds. That knocked more than 18 minutes off the record he set on a rainy and frigid day in 2015. Race conditions were much better on Saturday — the trail was mostly dry and the weather was warm but not hot — and Patterson took full advantage. When Patterson reached the Ermine Trail Checkpoint in 1:59:37 he had just a 30-second lead on Tracen Knopp, 21, of Wasilla. However, Patterson extended his advantage from there. Knopp finished in a stellar 4:29:18, a 19-minute improvement from Knopp’s run in 2019 and now the second-fastest run in race history.

Placing third was Cody Priest of Anchorage (4:43:32), who edged Knopp for the win by 22 seconds a year earlier.

Christy Marvin

Marvin, meanwhile, turned 40 years old on Friday and proved a day later that she’s still a force in any mountain or trail race she enters. The Palmer native clocked 5:37:06, a time slower than her 2018 record (5:27:36) but still comfortably ahead of runner-up Denali Strabel (5:54:04). Mariah Graham followed in 5:56:44 for third place.  Marvin finished 10th overall.

Sixty runners started the race and all but two finished.

The event’s COVID-19 mitigation plan required that face coverings be worn by participants before and after the race but not during. It also had two separate starts for the first time, with all the men beginning at 9 a.m. and all women setting off 30 minutes later. The post-race barbecue and awards ceremony were canceled.

One other major change was the cancellation of the 15-mile Kesugi Ridge Half Traverse from Little Coal Creek to Ermine Hill, though race organizers hope to bring it back in 2021.

– By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog contributor

August 28, 2020

Cliff Anderson

Kodiak’s Cliff Anderson carried a big bat in 1997 with the Single-A San Bernardino Stampede, clubbing 21 home runs and a state record 40 doubles in 132 games.

The 5-foot-8, 165-pound left-handed hitting third baseman batted .273 and added 79 RBIs, 77 runs and five triples. His 125 hits are tied for the most for an Alaskan in a professional season.

Anderson, of Kodiak High fame, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 39th round of the 1992 MLB Amateur Draft from Chapman University in California.

He played seven seasons of pro ball, twice advancing as far as Triple-A in 1996 and 1998. He’s one of only eight Alaskans to play Triple-A or better.

Anderson is one of Alaska’s greatest hitters of all-time, trailing only Jamar Hill in several offensive categories, including games (635), hits (546), runs (287), home runs (54) and RBIs (293).

In 1996, he played for Single-A San Bernardino, Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Albuquerque. He hit a respectable .253 in 112 career games at the Triple-A level.

Defensively, Anderson played multiple positions at the pro level, ranging from third base to second base to shortstop to the outfield.

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 25, 2020
Greyson Adams soccer

Greyson Adams

In the past, it was easy to see why so many college soccer players from Alaska stayed in the Lower 48 for the summer in search of a competitive league.

But that all changed when the UPSL came to Alaska.

“This gives them a reason to come back,” said Anchorage’s Greyson Adams, who plays at Colorado School of Mines and this summer laced ‘em up for the Alaska Timbers.

“I was really excited about having a competitive league. Me personally I like to come back, so having a competitive scene was super exciting. I think it’s a great start and I think it can get a lot better.”

Adams, of West High fame, leads a wave of elite players helping the UPSL gain its footing in Alaska.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder is a defensive centerpiece for NCAA D2 Colorado School of Mines, where he started 22 games last year as a junior and ranked sixth with 1,990 minutes played.

With Adams anchoring the defense, the Orediggers went 15-4-4 and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

With the Alaska Timbers, he played an instrumental role in helping the team go 5-0-1 and win the Last Frontier division.

“It was interesting being the leader on a team with a bunch of younger guys,” Adams said. “I thought it was pretty cool that I was able to share some of my collegiate experience with some of the guys that aren’t quite there yet.”

Adams had planned to play for a different UPSL team in Anchorage, but when that team didn’t happen, he gravitated toward the Timbers because of his ties with coach Jeremy Johnson.

Johnson works alongside technical director Jo Reid and general manager Danny Reynolds. Together, they give the Timbers some of the most recognizable soccer names in Alaska’s largest city.

“I felt like it was a really good environment,” Adams said. “They kind of let the players dictate how things went in practice. I got a lot of say in the formation and talking about certain players going to certain positions and what we did in practice.

“There are some coaches that don’t really take input, they do what they think is right. But a player’s input is very important because we are the ones on the field. We understand the most out of anyone, really.”

The Timbers are joined in the Last Frontier division by the Arctic Rush, Fairbanks SC and Mat-Su United. The Timers, Rush and United were part of Alaska’s inaugural UPSL season in 2019 and Fairbanks joined in 2020. The league will likely expand again in 2021.

“As more players come back, that’s going to increase the level more and more,” Adams said. “It was tough starting out because a lot of these players were coming from team teams and different settings, and didn’t mesh together; but I think the quality can definitely get there.”

The UPSL needs Alaska’s best players to participate in order for the league to be validated.

“I think it’s super important to have name recognition,” Adams said. “If I see one of my friends who is good at soccer playing in this league and I’m on the fence, I’m going to want to play with them or against them. That’s just my competitive nature.”

He also sees the UPSL playing a key role in reviving soccer in Alaska.

“It’s kind of faded a little bit over the last few years, but I think bringing this competitive edge to Alaska really helped us out,” he said. “As it expands more and we get more competition and more positive feedback it will become more popular.”

August 24, 2020

Five years after playing in the WCHA as a player, Zoe Hickel of Anchorage is going back to coach in the premier college hockey league, earning her Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Athlete of the Week honors.

The 28-year-old former professional player and Team USA gold medalist has joined the coaching staff for the Ohio State University women’s hockey team.

Hickel played at Minnesota Duluth before embarking on a decorated playing career, winning championships in the National Women’s Hockey League with the Boston Pride and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with the Calgary Inferno as well as two World Championship gold medals with Team USA.

Her breakout season came in 2018 when she led the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with 26 assists in 28 games and was named a first-team all-star. She also scored two goals in the league championship game, a 5-2 win over Montreal.

She attended the American Hockey Coaches Association national convention and earned her USA Hockey Level 4 coaching certificate and served as an assistant coach for D1 Merrimack College for the 2015-16 season.

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

View past winners here.

August 22, 2020

Tanner Sorenson

Anchorage’s Tanner Sorenson is headed back to the ECHL after re-signing with the Kalamazoo Wings, where he has played 216 of 284 professional games during his career.

The 27-year-old center was signed to an American Hockey League contract with the Utica Comets for the 2019-20 season, which was shortened prematurely due to concerns with the COVID pandemic. Kalamazoo is Utica’s ECHL affiliate.

He bounced between both teams last year, playing 30 games with Kalamazoo and 12 with Utica.

With the Comets, Sorenson made his AHL debut at the end of November – he added an assist in the game – and had a few separate stints with the team during the season.

With the K-Wings, he bagged 10 goals and 16 assists and has averaged a point per game the last two seasons with the team.

“By now we know what kind of impact Tanner provides to our team,” said Kalamazoo coach Nick Bootland. “He’s a dynamic player who can play all situations and he has a knack for creating something out of nothing, including scoring some unorthodox goals. The next step we’re looking for is for him to step up into more of a leadership role this season.”

Kalamazoo is familiar place for Sorenson, who has skated for a handful of teams over his six seasons as a pro but undoubtedly has had the most success with the K-Wings.

He has scored 77% of his career goals (67 of 87) with Kalamazoo and racked up 81% of his career points (162 of 200).

August 20, 2020

Ruthy Hebard

As a WNBA rookie, Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks has soaked up the expertise and experience of her older teammates like a sponge.

Twelve games in, she has learned a ton about the pro game.

But she has learned even more off the court.

“It’s so cool to see and be surrounded by not only great athletes but great role models,” Hebard said. “It is very inspiring to see moms and leaders and just women who care about making this world a better place.

“I love the WNBA!”

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, has picked up her play over the last six games compared to the first six games. Her minutes are up, her scoring numbers are up and her defensive rating is up.

All while her team, the Chicago Sky, sit atop of the Eastern Conference with an 8-4 record.

Hebard is averaging 4.8 points in 11.7 minutes and shooting .650 from the floor on a 13-for-20 clip over the last half dozen games. She also earned her first start.

“I am more confident in the offense I am getting used to playing with my new teammates and that helps a lot,” she said. “I have a great point guard and great players around me who can all score.”

Chicago point guard Courtney Vandersloot ranks No. 5 all-time in WNBA history in assists and in a recent 84-82 win over Las Vegas she became the first WNBA player to record 15 points, 15 assists and 6 rebounds in a game.

The Sky are fourth in the league in scoring at 85.9 points per game.

Hebard can score with the best of them; at the University of Oregon she racked up 2,368 career points – the most for a player from Alaska – and set an NCAA record by making 33 consecutive field goals.

“The WNBA is definitely more physical compared to college, so I am learning to hit first if that makes sense,” she said. “I think I’m just becoming more and more physical and aggressive. I know offense starts with defense and I can control how hard I work.”

Hebard has earned a plus-9 rating in each of the last two games (both wins) and has been in plus territory for four straight games, an indicator of her productivity on both sides of the ball.

Hebard, 22, is just the fifth Alaskan to play in the WNBA.

August 19, 2020
Trajan Langdon basketball

Trajan Langdon

In need of a good luck charm, the New Orleans Pelicans will turn to the Alaskan Assassin.

General manager Trajan Langdon of Anchorage will represent the franchise virtually at Thursday’s NBA Draft Lottery on ESPN.

The Pelicans have just a 1.2% chance of moving up to the No. 1 pick among the 14 NBA teams in the draft lottery.

Last year, New Orleans won the lottery and drafted Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick.

Langdon, of East High fame, joined the Pelicans’ front office in 2019 after spending three years as the assistant general manager of the Brooklyn Nets.

He played in the NBA from 1999 to 2002 before leaving for the Euroleague, where he earned All-Decade honors with CSKA Moscow.

From the back court to the front office, Langdon has been a winner at every step of his hoops career.

The future is bright for the Pelicans with a talented roster stacked with the likes of Williamson, Brandon Ingram, JJ Redick, Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday.

Adding another piece to the puzzle will be key, and New Orleans hopes Langdon’s virtual presence will help improve their chances. The odds of the franchise reaching the top four are only 5.7%.

August 17, 2020

Alaska Timbers soccer standout Hatcher Manning bagged three goals in back-to-back victories of 2-1 and 3-0 over the Fairbanks Soccer Club to clinch the United Premier Soccer League Last Frontier Division championship.

Playing mostly against older players, the 17-year old Service High School senior’s stellar play from the midfield over the weekend earned him national recognition as he was one of four players nominated for UPSL Player of the Week.

Manning, of Service High fame, played for a Timbers youth team before the senior team joined the UPSL this season, 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.

He 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.

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 15, 2020

Zoe Hickel

Five years after playing in the WCHA as a player, Zoe Hickel of Anchorage is going back to coach in the premier college hockey league.

The former University of Minnesota Duluth star who went on to play professionally for five seasons is coming back to the college game after joining the coaching staff for the Ohio State University women’s hockey team.

Hickel enjoyed a decorated playing career, winning titles in the NWHL with the Boston Pride and the CWHL with the Calgary Inferno as well as two World Championship golds with Team USA.

She played last season with her sister Tori in Sweden, where she led her team in scoring and served as strength coach and ran on-ice skill sessions for senior and junior level teams.

She attended the American Hockey Coaches Association national convention and earned her USA Hockey Level 4 coaching certificate and served as an assistant coach for NCAA D1 Merrimack College for the 2015-16 season.

Coming back to the WCHA as a coach is a big deal for Hickel.

“I am honored to be joining the women’s hockey program at Ohio State,” she said. “I am at a perfect place in my life to use the experience and cultures I’ve absorbed over the years of elite play, coaching and world travel to give that back to our team and to embrace the opportunity to help make a difference in this next generation.”

Hickel, of Service High fame, racked up 45-47-92 scoring totals in 135 games for Minnesota Duluth from 2011-2015.

From 2015 to 2017 she played in the NWHL for the Boston Pride and Connecticut Whale, accumulating 7-8-15 totals in 31 games.

She had a breakout season in 2017-18 when she piled up 12-26-38 totals in 28 games in the CWHL with the Kunlun Red Star, earning first-team all-star honors and winning the league title.

Hickel led the CWHL in assists and scored two goals in the league championship game, a 5-2 win over Montreal.

“When hiring a coach you need to look at the complete package,” said Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall. “Yes, the Xs and Os matter, but they only consume a small fraction of the everyday coaching of these young women. We are developing them to be strong-minded women for life after hockey. There was no one better for this then Zoe Hickel.”

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 and excitement was off the charts.

“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.”