Connecting You With AK Athletes – For 12 Years Strong!!

Alaska Sports Blog editor and senior writer Van Williams has been the driving force behind the blog since Day 1. A 30-year Alaska sports journalist, he provides comprehensive daily coverage of Alaska athletes from all over the world and serves as one of the state’s premier sports historians. The blog came to life on Aug. 24, 2009, as a way to fill a void of media coverage of Alaska athletes once they left the 907 area code. Nobody tracks Alaska athletes better than Williams, a former Anchorage Daily News sports editor and Alaska Press Club award winner.

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May 18, 2021

Danica Schmidt

Soldotna’s Danica Schmidt has been twice as good as she was a year ago for the Lower Columbia College basketball team.

The sophomore small forward has doubled averages for points, steals and blocked shots while massively improving her rebounding and passing numbers.

She’s also tripled her double-double productivity.

The 5-foot-11 Alaskan is making a strong case for MVP honors for the last undefeated team in the NWAC.

Lower Columbia is 8-0 on the season and sits atop the league’s West Division standings with a 5-0 mark.

Schmidt, of SoHi fame, helped lead Lower Columbia to 21-9 record last season.

This season the Red Devils look to be one of the better teams in the NWAC.

Schmidt has been the leading force.

Here is a look at her improved from her freshman season to her sophomore campaign.

2021 2020
27.2 17.2 Minutes
12.6 5.8 Points
8.8 5.0 Rebounds
2.2 1.6 Assists
2.4 1.1 Steals
1.8 0.4 Blocked Shots

May 17, 2021

Anchorage soccer player Obed Vargas was named Alaskas Athlete of the week after turning in an outstanding professional soccer debut for the Tacoma Defiance of the United Soccer League.

The midfielder started in his first game and at age 15, was the youngest player on the field. He clocked 66 minutes in the 1-1 tie with LA Galaxy 2.

The Defiance is the 2nd team of the Seattle Sounders and competes against other MLS 2 teams.

A former standout for Cook Inlet Soccer Club, Vargas left Alaska at age 13 to play for the Seattle Sounders academy for two seasons before signing professionally with the Defiance on May 7, 2021

“Obed has exceeded expectations since joining the Academy. . . and we’re looking forward to seeing his development on and off the field as he evolves into the professional game,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development Henry Brauner.

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.

May 16, 2021

Jonny Homza

Anchorage’s Jonny Homza has hit home runs in consecutive games for the first time in his four-year pro career.

The starting catcher with the Fort Wayne TinCaps hit a two-run dinger in Friday’s 8-2 loss and a solo shot in Saturday’s 4-3 win.

Homza is batting third or cleanup in the lineup, so he’s a slugger the team counts on to drive the ball into the gap, or over the fence.

Homza now has 10 home runs in 197 career games to make him just the third Alaskan to reach double digits in dingers at the pro level. The other two are Jamar Hill and Cliff Anderson.

He seems to hit his homers in bunches, too; so he might hit another one soon. In 2019, he hit two homers in a three-game stretch with Auckland in the Australian Baseball League. In 2018, he hit two homers in a four-game stretch with the Padres in the Rookie League.

The 21-year-old was a fifth-round MLB draft pick straight out of high school by the San Diego Padres in 2017.

Homza has been nothing short of solid as a pro.

Not only has the infielder-turned-catcher had to adjust to pro pitching, he’s had to learn a new position behind the plate as well.

The fact that he’s the starting catcher and batting in the middle of the lineup is a testament to his skillset and mindset.

May 15, 2021

Brenner Furlong

Galen Brantley III

Soldotna’s Brenner Furlong was named North Star Athletic Association Men’s Outdoor Track Most Valuable Athlete-of-the-Meet.

Furlong accumulated 23 points after winning the 400-meter title, being on two victorious relays and placing second in the 200 to help Dakota State University win the men’s team title at the NSAA Championships.

Dakota State scored 250 points to win by 13 points over runner-up Dickinson State University and Soldotna’s Galen Brantley III, who placed second in the shot put and hit the NAIA National B Standard.

Furlong and Brantley are former SoHi teammates who are both dual-sport athletes in college in track and football. They might be on different teams now, but they remain on the same side when it comes to elevating Alaska.

Furlong, a junior, won the 400 in 49.18 for his first individual win of his NAIA career. He was a two-time state champion in the 400 in Alaska.

His PR of 48.64 set in 2019 ranks No. 6 in Dakota State history.

Furlong placed second in the 200 in 21.74. He also ran third on the winning 4×100 relay team and anchored the winning 4×400 relay team.

Furlong’s 4×100 has already hit the NAIA National B Standard.

Brantley, a freshman, delivered his eighth top-three finish in 12 meets in the shot put.

He uncorked a PR throw of 51 feet, .075 inches to hit the B provisional that determines qualifying for the national championships.

Brantley finished eighth out of 16 competitions in the discus with a throw of 126-08. It was his best mark since late March.

May 13, 2021

Paul Steffensen

Kenai’s Paul Steffensen knocked the door down in his first playoff game with St. Cloud State.

The junior transfer crushed a fourth-inning home run, drove in another run and scored twice to highlight his team’s 6-4 win over the University of Mary in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference first-round postseason series.

The left fielder went 3-for-5 with eight total bases to raise his season batting average to .333 in 33 games.

Steffensen, of Kenai Central High fame, crushed a solo homer to give St. Cloud a 1-0 lead. His RBI single made it 2-0 in the fifth inning. He tripled and scored to get his team within 4-3 in the seventh inning.

The home run was the 14th of his career, tying him with former Dimond star Sagan Osborne, who hit 14 bombs at Dickinson State over the 2016 to 2017 seasons. Steffensen and Osborne are tied for fifth on the state’s all-time home run list.

Steffensen, who transferred to St. Cloud from D1 Tennessee Tech, has homered in back-to-back games and leads St. Cloud State with seven dingers on the season.

Game 2 is Friday morning, with an if-necessary Game 3 later that night.

May 12, 2021

Philip Wall

Juneau’s Philip Wall extended to four his personal winning streak on the pitching mound for the University of Northwestern-St. Paul baseball team to help him break into the NCAA D3 school’s top-10 for wins.

The senior right-hander threw eight solid innings in his team’s 5-1 triumph Augsburg in Minnesota, giving him 15 career wins to move into a tie for tenth place all-time.

This excellent effort came just a week after his nine-inning complete game performance against Northland when he racked up a career-best nine strikeouts.

Wall, of Thunder Mountain High fame, improved to 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA across his last four appearances.

He also recorded 19 strikeouts in those 29 innings for one of the best ratios of his four-year career with the Eagles.

In the win over Augsburg, he left a 1-1 tie but benefited from his team’s four-run ninth inning breakout.

It was a stark contrast to earlier this season when he seemed to have been snake bitten with a string of tough losses and no decisions. Since the end of March, however, he has shaved a full run off his ERA and rediscovered his winning touch.

He’s gotten there thanks to a career-low 2.72 ERA in 56.1 innings this season.

With the end of his career in sight, Wall looks to finish strong at next week’s conference tournament.

May 11, 2021

Tristen Tolan

The four-time United Collegiate Hockey Conference champions from the Elmira College women’s ice hockey team dominated the end-of-year awards ballots.

Anchorage’s Tristen Tolan and Eagle River’s Bella Hanson were part of an Elmira College record five All-UCHC First Team selections.

Eight different Soaring Eagles received All-UCHC honors, as Elmira claimed four of the five major awards and five of the six spots on the 2021 All-UCHC First Team.

In only 14 games during the abbreviated 2021 season, Tolan established career highs in points (25), goals (14), and game-winning goals (3).

Tolan, of South High fame, was tied for third nationally in goals (14) and goals per game (1.00), and ranked fifth in points and points per game (1.79).

Bella Hanson

Highlighting her six multi-point outings was a career-high five-point effort on four goals and an assist in a blowout victory over Chatham on March 26.

Hanson collected her first-ever All-UCHC accolade in 2021.

The senior was the conference’s third-best scoring defender with eight points, all on assists, and registered 11 blocks.

Hanson, of West High fame, pieced together a five-game point streak that ended with a season-high two assists in the UCHC Championship quarterfinals against Neumann on April 1, the second multi-point game of her career.

May 10, 2021

Anchorage cyclist Sheryl Loan was named the Alaska Athlete of the Week after she placed third in the Bike for Women to continue her astonishing streak of never finishing outside the overall top three in the race.

Loan, who now races in the 60-64 age-group, clocked a time of 24:26, finishing third among the all-female field of 399 cyclists to make it 18 straight races finishing on the podium.

The 10-time Bike for Women champ just missed her own 60-64 age-group record of 23:51.8 set in 2019.

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.

May 9, 2021

DeMarcus Hall-Scriven

DeMarcus Hall-Scriven of Anchorage did a little bit of everything for the Skagit Valley College in a 79-77 win over Edmonds in the NWAC.

He played all 40 minutes and recorded a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

He also handed off five dimes, with his final assist serving up the game-winning 3-pointer with 37 seconds left in the game.

Hall-Scriven, of ACS fame, played big the entire game but he was huge at the end of the first half and beginning of second half.

In the final 3:22 of the second quarter, he collected six points, three rebounds and an assist.

In the first 4:47 of the third quarter he bagged 11 points, including three straight 3-pointers to give his team a 53-46 lead.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard has been his team’s MVP this season, leading his JC squad per game in points (18.4), rebounds (9.3) and assists (3.6).

Hall-Scriven is the reason why Skagit Valley has won seven of the first eight games and sits atop of the NWAC’s North division standings.

May 8, 2021

Lian Lincoln

Anchorage’s Lian Lincoln has been on a tear this season, especially over the last few weeks.

A recent hot streak has elevated the Macalester College baseball player to No. 2 on his team in hitting with a career-high .342 batting average.

The junior outfielder is currently riding a career-best nine-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games with the NCAA D3 team out of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Lincoln, of South High fame, has gone 25-for-73 at the plate this season with one home run and seven RBIs in 23 games.

He hit .216 as a freshman and .333 as a sophomore before COVID canceled the season.

The former Cook Inlet Conference Player of the Year has raised his average 25 points during his hitting streak.

May 7, 2021

Travante Williams

Anchorage’s Travante Williams poured in 28 points for the second time in two weeks, this time leading Sporting Lisbon to a 92-86 win in Game 1 of the best-of-5 semifinals in the Portuguese League playoffs.

The 6-foot-4 swingman drained three 3-pointers and matched his career high with 11 free throws on 12 attempts.

He is firing at a 91-percent clip at the foul line in 32-of-35 shooting across the last seven games.

Williams, of Mt. Edgecumbe High fame, added four rebounds, four assists in 36 minutes of work.

The Alaskan leads Sporting with a 17.3-point scoring average, but he’s been even better of late, averaging 22.1 points in the last seven games.

The fifth-year pro is seeking his third championship in four seasons in the Portuguese League. He is the reigning MVP and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

The 27-year-old this season has elevated his game to another level. And he’s done it against a bunch of former NCAA D1 players.

At the pro level, that doesn’t matter. The D2 dog in him comes out to take a bite out of the competition.

This season alone has seen him set career highs in rebounds (12) and assists (9) while matching his career high in 3-pointers (7).

He also reached the 30-point benchmark for the seventh time of his career. He had another game with 29, two with 28 and one with 27.

All the while, Williams has nothing but win in Portugal. His teams have compiled an amazing 121-15 record across over the last four years.

May 6, 2021

Jeremiah Wilson

Eagle River track standout Jeremiah Wilson set a school record in the 100 meters at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships as part of an impressive showing for the Colorado Mesa University sophomore.

He ran a 10:59 to set a new all-conditions standard for D2 CMU.

Wilson, of Chugiak High fame, finished fourth in the 100m later posted a time of 22.26, the 10th fastest time in program history. He’s headed to nationals to compete in the 100 meters and as a part of their top-ranked 4×100 team.

Wilson was a key member of Chugiak’s 2019 track and field state championship.

At UC Santa Cruz, Anchorage track standout Nolan Rand anchored both the 4×100 and 4×400 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Maryland.

The freshman sprinter helped the Banana Slugs to a 2nd place finish in both events, finishing 1/20th of a second behind the winner in the 4×100 and just off the 17-year-old school record in the 4×400.

Rand, of Service High fame, also competed in the 100m and 200m. It was the first time UCSC had ever competed outside of California.

May 5, 2021

Dallas Seavey

Dallas Seavey’s five titles in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race are tied for the most of all-time.

When it comes to the Pride of Alaska Award, though, he’s in a class all by himself.

Seavey became the first two-time men’s Pride of Alaska Award winner after a vote by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors.

The dog driver from Willow by way of Seward earned the win in a closely contested vote over fellow finalists Daishen Nix and Jeremy Swayman of Anchorage.

Nix turned pro straight out of high school and led the NBA G League in assists as a rookie.

Swayman has taken the NHL by storm with the Boston Bruins after posting five wins and a shutout in his first seven appearances.

Beating those guys was no easy task, but Seavey has been a winner for his entire life.

A former state champion wrestler in high school, the 34-year-old is now primed to rewrite the Iditarod history book.

He won the 2021 race with an official winning time of 7 days, 14 hours, 8 minutes and 57 seconds for his fifth title, which tied him with Alaska Sports Hall of Famer Rick Swenson for the most wins in the illustrious race’s 50-year history.

The victory marked a triumphant return for Seavey, who took a three-year break from the Iditarod after being penalized, and ultimate cleared of wrongdoing in 2018 by race officials after his dogs tested positive for a banned substance.

Seavey previously won four titles in a five-year span, starting in 2012.

In 2016, Seavey shared the Pride of Alaska Award with the undefeated Soldotna High football team.

This year he stood tall on his own, overcome stiff competition from Nix and Swayman.

Daishen Nix

Nix, 19, is a rising star in the hoops game and is highly likely to be picked in next month’s NBA draft, maybe as early as the first round.

A 6-foot-5 guard from Anchorage, he became the third Alaskan to score 25 points in a G League game, doing so on his 19th birthday in a win for the Ignite.

In 15 games, Nix averaged 8.8 points and 5.3 assists.

As a senior in high school, Nix became the first Alaskan since the Big 3 to earn high school McDonald’s All-American status.

He then decided to skip college and go straight to the pro level in the G League.

Swayman has enjoyed amazing successful in the NHL only months after a sensational final season of college hockey at the University of Maine.

As a junior with the Black Bears, he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and won the Mike Richter Award before signing an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins.

Jeremy Swayman

Swayman started his pro career in the AHL and went 8-1 in nine appearances with the Providence Bruins before getting called up the NHL.

He made memorable NHL debut after turning aside 40 shots in a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers to become just the third Alaska goalie to play in the NHL and the 17th Alaskan to log ice time in the world’s premier hockey league.

In his first seven games, the South High grad went 5-2 with a 1.67 goals against average.

The Pride of Alaska Award dates back to 2012 and is given to an athlete or athletes, team or coach who excelled in sports in the past year or recent years, and did so with integrity and sportsmanship and been a positive role model.

Men’s Pride of Alaska Winners
2021: Dallas Seavey
2020: Gus Schumacher
2019: Keegan Messing
2018: Andrew Kurka
2017: David Norris
2016: Dallas Seavey and Soldotna High Football Team (co-winners)
2015: Erik Flora
2014: Trevor Dunbar and Eric Strabel (co-winners)
2013: Mario Chalmers
2012: Alaska Aces

Rosie Brennan

When Anchorage’s Rosie Brennan won back-to-back World Cup ski races last December it marked a significant day in U.S. Ski Team history as only one other American had ever accomplished the feat.

The one and only Kikkan Randall.

Any time you can follow in the footsteps of a legend, you are in rarified air.

Brennan’s historic showing in the World Cup propelled her to winning the women’s Pride of Alaska Award.

The Alaska Pacific University cross-country skier was selected by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors in a closely contested vote over fellow finalists in college wrestling national champion Sydnee Kimber of Sitka and UFC flyweight fighter Lauren Murphy of Eagle River.

Brennan wasn’t just a one-weekend wonder as the 32-year-old finished a career-best fourth in the World Cup standings. She posted five top-three finishes – three of them in Switzerland, one in Italy and one in Finland.

Her showing in the the Swiss Alps was most notable after she claimed victories the 1.5-K sprint and 10-K titles on back-to-back days.

This historic accomplishment placed her atop the World Cup overall standings at the time.

All of her previous individual World Cup top-10s came in events that were 10-K or longer.

“It’s wild,” said Brennan after her sprint win. “I have never considered myself a sprinter. So to find myself on the podium in a sprint is something I honestly didn’t even dream of.”

Sydnee Kimber

Brennan became one of only six Americans to win a World Cup race.

She won again the next day to join a very exclusive club with Randall.

“I still am just so excited from yesterday,” said Brennan, a 2018 Olympian. “I didn’t have the best night of sleep.”

Brennan’s season also saw her place sixth overall in the grueling eight-stage Tour de Ski.

Kimber finished her junior season at McKendree University with an 18-0 record and second straight National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championship.

Lauren Murphy

All but one of her matches in the 191-pound weight class ended in a pin or technical fall.

Her national championship also qualified her for the Olympic Trials where she finished in the top eight in the challenge tournament. The 20-year-old will compete for a spot on the Junior World Team in Texas next month.

Murphy is a veteran top-ranked mixed-martial arts fighter who won all three of her UFC fights this year to improve her professional record to 14-4.

The 37-year-old ranks No. 2 in UFC history with five wins in the women’s flyweight division.

Her six UFC wins are tied for first all-time among Alaskans and her ten UFC appearances are second.

Murphy will carry a four-fight win streak going into her next fight in June.

Women’s Pride of Alaska Award
2021: Rosie Brennan
2020: Ruthy Hebard
2019: Caroline Kurgat
2018: Kikkan Randall and Roxie Wright (co-winners)
2017: Morgan Hooe
2016: UAA Women’s Basketball Team and Allie Ostrander (co-winners)
2015: Allie Ostrander
2014: Kikkan Randall
2013: Nunaka Girls Softball Team
2012: UAA Women’s Basketball Team

Richard Knowles

Richard Knowles got his start in coaching in the 1970s in Kodiak with the help of Joe Floyd.

Winning the 2021 Joe Floyd Award has brought his career full circle.

Knowles was selected the award winner by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors over fellow finalists Dr. Charles Scott of Fairbanks and Richard Shellhorn of Cordova.

From one Kodiak guy to another, Knowles winning an award named after his mentor carries special significance.

“Coach Floyd was one of dad’s mentors,” said daughter Darlene ‘Pooky’ Knowles.

The Joe Floyd Award is given to person who has made a significant and lasting contribution to sports in Alaska.

That’s the definition of Knowles, who has dedicated his life to coaching Alaska kids in basketball, baseball and softball for the last 42 years.

Initially he sponsored youth teams in Kodiak before coaching them.

In 1982, he led the Kodiak Little League team to a state championship and then to the West Regional semifinals, where Kodiak lost 7-6 in heartbreaking fashion in the final inning to Kirkland, Washington, which went on snap the five-year winning streak by Taiwanese teams to win the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Kirkland needed a down-to-its-last-out, pinch-hit home run to hold off a Kodiak team that provided the state of Alaska with its first real taste of baseball success in the Lower 48.

By 1989, his passion had shifted to softball in Anchorage, where and won state titles at East High and guided two different teams to Little League World Series appearances in 2009 and 2011.

His Junior League softball teams won state championships in 2014, 2015 and 2017. His teams didn’t only win titles, but many of his athletes have earned college scholarships.

Knowles was nominated for the Joe Floyd Award by nearly 50 people.

“Richard has the uncanny ability to take a group of young ladies with different skill sets and get them to play together as a team,” wrote one of the nominations. “He teaches them that no matter their situation, they can accomplish great things when they work hard, play together, and above all else have fun. It is a gift and both of my girls are better off by having Richard Knowles as their coach and mentor.”

Knowles was a self-taught baseball coach and had some of the best mentors in Kodiak coaching, including Floyd, at Coon Field. He was known for always carrying a copy of the rulebook in his back pocket and would frequently pull it out to prove his point.

Knowles is the first person from Kodiak to win the Joe Floyd Award.

Joe Floyd Award Winners
2021: Richard Knowles
2020: Cristy Hickel
2019: Brush Christiansen
2018: Jim Mahaffey
2017: Ma’o Tosi
2016: Dennis Sorenson
2015: Mike Friess
2014: Dick Mize
2013: Don Dennis
2012: Steve Nerland and Don Winchester

Billy Strickland

In a year defined by hardship, the worst brought out the best in Billy Strickland.

The Alaska School Activities Association executive director was selected by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors as the winner of the 2021 Trajan Langdon Award.

The award honors leadership, sportsmanship and inspiration.

Strickland has had to make many difficult and impactful decisions for Alaska high school student-athletes during a year defined by COVID.

According to his nomination, Strickland “has worked tirelessly to put kids in a position to participate with safety at its utmost importance, yet finding a way to put kids back on the court or field!

“He does this ‘with a smile on his face and a song in his heart’ knowing how important sports are to the individual athlete and how important mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is to all Alaska.”

Other finalists for the award included the lead pack of skiers from the Tour of Anchorage cross-country ski race and the leadership group at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

The frontrunners in the men’s Tour of Anchorage 50-K race, including eventual winner Tyler Kornfield, got held up by a moose on the Coastal Trail. Each skier scooted past it one-by-one as the entire group waited until everyone was safety beyond the moose before racing resumed.

An example of “super-organic sportsmanship.”

At UAA, leaders were faced with the reality of seeing their college programs eliminated, so they stepped up and went to work.

Coach Sparky Anderson helped save UAA alpine skiing with nonstop effort while Sophie Marie Boggasch (gymnastics coach) and Kathie Bethard (hockey booster club organizer) continue their efforts to save those programs.

Trajan Langdon Award Winners
2021: Billy Strickland
2020: Israel Hale
2019: Andy Beardsely and Larsen Klingel (co-winners)
2018: DaJonee Hale
2017: Damen Bell-Holter
2016: Laci Effenberger
2015: Aliy Zirkle
2014: Marko Cheseto
2013: Paul Tandy
2012: Chugiak High School football team

May 4, 2021

Lydia Jacoby

The only unanimous winner among the seven Directors’ Awards handed out this year, Seward swimmer Lydia Jacoby has made everyone a believer.

Jacoby lapped the field in winning the girls Pride of Alaska Youth Award after all eight Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors picked her No. 1 among the three finalists.

It’s easy to see why after the Olympic hopeful made U.S. swimming history in the 100-meter breaststroke and put the rest of the country on notice.

Jacoby injected herself into the Olympic conversation in the event after she popped a blistering time of 1:07.57 at the U.S. Open Championships, the second-fastest time in American history among girls 15 to 16 years old.

Later, a month after turning 17, she lowered her mark to 1:06.38, making her the 14th fastest U.S. woman in the history of the event and putting her in range for the national 17-18-year-old age-group record.

The only swimmer to beat her in a field of professionals was world-record holder Lilly King of Indiana.

Jacoby has qualified for the 2021 Olympic Trials this June in Nebraska and has a shot to become Alaska’s first Olympic swimmer.

The high school junior announced she will swim in college for the University of Texas Longhorns.

Jacoby beat out fellow finalists Amelia ‘Uhila, the Class 4A girls basketball Player of the Year headed to Portland State, and Naomi Bailey, the cross-country running state champion from West Valley headed to UAF.

The Pride of Alaska Youth Award rewards consistent excellence in athletic competition.

Past girls’ winners include sprinter Hailey Williams of Delta Junction in 2020, cross-country skier Kendall Kramer of West Valley in 2019 and basketball player Alissa Pili of Dimond. All three are competing in college today.

The award honors an athlete or team who not only excelled in sports in the past year or recent years but have done so with integrity and sportsmanship so as to be a positive role model for others. Recipients must be in high school or younger at time of selection.

Jacoby is the first swimmer to win the Pride of Alaska Award, which dates back to 2018 for youths and 2012 for adults.

Tristian Merchant

In a close vote that came down to a photo finish, three-time Gatorade Alaska Runner of the Year Tristian Merchant edged recent MLS rookie call up Hunter Sulte to win the boys Pride of Alaska Youth Award.

Merchant prevailed by only a 14-12 count in a vote by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors that was one of the slimmest margins in Directors’ Awards history.

It’s the closest anybody has been to Merchant in the last year.

The Anchorage Christian Schools senior is one of the fastest prep distance runners to come out of Alaska.

He owns what is believed to be the fastest 5-K time for an Alaska high school runner in 14:41 at the Region III championships.

He is one of only four Alaska prep runners to break the 9-minute benchmark in the 3,200 meters.

He wrapped up his high school cross-country career with three straight D2 state titles.

He also won the 3000m at the University of Washington Indoor High School Meet in Seattle.

In college, Merchant will compete in track and cross country at powerhouse Northern Arizona University.

The 19-year-old Sulte over the weekend made his debut in goal with the Portland Timbers to become only the second Alaskan to play Major League Soccer.

At 6-foot-7, he’s the tallest goalkeeper to ever start an MLS match.

The Anchorage native turned pro straight out of high school, turning down a scholarship offer from reigning NCAA champion Georgetown University in favor of a pro contract.

He agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Portland Timbers, making him the first Alaskan to sign a Homegrown Player contract with an MLS team.

Juneau-Douglas two-sport star Cooper Kriegmont was a close third in the voting in an extremely tough and talented group.

The Pride of Alaska Youth Award rewards consistent excellence in athletic competition.

Merchant and Sulte were both worthy of winning the boys title, but Merchant eked it by a nose.

He is the first runner to win the boys youth award that dates back to 2018.

Past winners include wrestlers Hayden Lieb of Bethel and Aeyden Concepcion of South in 2020, basketball and football star Jersey Truesdell of Soldotna in 2019 and cross-country skier and current U.S. Ski Team member Gus Schumacher of Service in 2018.

The award honors an athlete or team who not only excelled in sports in the past year or recent years but have done so with integrity and sportsmanship so as to be a positive role model for others. Recipients must be in high school or younger at time of selection.

John Opinsky hugs his son Jack

The West Post 1 Legion team helped head coach John Opinsky walk off the field a winner for the final time.

The Eagles scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning to beat Wasilla 3-2 for its first state title since 1977.

Jack Opinsky had the game-winning hit, an emotional moment for him and his father John, who had battled terminal brain cancer throughout the season.

“(Jack) gave me one of the hardest hugs of his life. I will never forget it,” John Opinsky told the Anchorage Daily News.

Five months later, John Opinsky passed away. He was 52.

Opinsky was survived by wife Cathy and their three sons Jack, Nicko and Jimmy.

“After the last game of the season, John gathered the team and professed his love for his wife, his boys and his team,” Wilson said. “To steal a line from Lou Gehrig, he essentially declared himself ‘the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.’”

Opinsky coached all three of his sons in Little League, and Jack and Nicko played for him in high school and Legion. Both guys were on the 2020 title team, although Nicko missed the second half of the season after getting injured sliding into third base.

At the state tournament, Jack, a shortstop, won the Gold Glove Award and provided a storybook ending to West’s first championship in 43 years.

The West baseball team beat out fellow finalists the Juneau-Douglas boys basketball team and Ninilchik boys basketball team.

Juneau finished with a 16-1 record but had to turn down a state tournament berth due to a Juneau School District policy that prohibited travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Crimson Bears were the only qualifying team in the state not allowed to travel and compete for a state championship.

The JDHS team unsuccessfully lobbied for a solution that would have allowed them to compete.

“I am proud of the way they handled themselves with class, dignity, and humility,” coach Robert Casperson said of his players.

Ninilchik hoops team lost a controversial Peninsula Conference championship game to Lumen Christi 72-71 on a last-second 3-pointer that officials later said should not have counted because of a time clock error.

Ninilchik filed a protest and appealed the ruling to no avail.

Lumen Christi went on to win the state championship while Ninilchik had to stay home.

“We need to keep our chin up. We did the right thing, you boys did the right thing, and be proud of where you are and what you’ve done,” the Nikiski faculty and staff told the players, according to the Nikiski principal in an Anchorage Daily News article.

Trajan Langdon Youth Award honors a youth or group of youths who demonstrated leadership, integrity and sportsmanship during the past year and positively influenced and inspired others to be better sportsmen or sportswomen. Recipient(s) must be in high school or younger at time of selection.

May 3, 2021

In a time defined by adversity, the worst brought out the best in the finalists for the Trajan Langdon Award.

The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors has selected finalists for the award that honors leadership, sportsmanship and inspiration.

In the adult category, Alaska School Activities Association executive director Billy Strickland had to make many difficult and impactful decisions for Alaskan student-athletes during COVID.

According to his nomination, Strickland “has worked tirelessly to put kids in a position to participate with safety at its utmost importance, yet finding a way to put kids back on the court or field! He does this ‘with a smile on his face and a song in his heart’ knowing how important sports are to the individual athlete and how important mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is to all Alaska.”

The second finalist is the lead pack of skiers from the Tour of Anchorage cross-country ski race.

The frontrunners in the men’s 50-K race, including eventual winner Tyler Kornfield, got held up by a moose on the Coastal Trail. Each skier scooted past it one-by-one as the entire group waited until everyone was safety beyond the moose before racing resumed.

An example of “super-organic sportsmanship.”

The third finalist is a group of leaders from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Faced with the reality of seeing their college programs eliminated, coach Sparky Anderson helped save UAA Alpine skiing with nonstop effort while Sophie Marie Boggasch (gymnastics coach) and Kathie Bethard (hockey booster club organizer) continue their efforts to save those programs.

The winner will be announced Wednesday, May 5 at 2 p.m. on Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Facebook Live, co-hosted by Alaska News Source and featuring Anchorage sportscaster Patrick Enslow and Hall of Fame Executive Director Harlow Robinson.

Honorable mention went to Fairbanks Ice Dogs junior hockey general manager Rob Proffitt.

In the youth division, the finalists are the West Legion baseball team, the Juneau-Douglas High boys basketball team and Ninilchik High boys basketball team.

The West Eagles scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning to beat Wasilla 3-2 for its first state title since 1977.

Jack Opinsky had the game-winning hit, an emotional moment for him and his father and coach John, who had battled terminal brain cancer throughout the season.

“(Jack) gave me one of the hardest hugs of his life. I will never forget it,” John Opinsky told the Anchorage Daily News.

John passed away only a few months later.

The Juneau hoops team finished with a 16-1 record but had to turn down a state tournament berth due to a Juneau School District policy that prohibited travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were the only qualifying team in the state not allowed to travel and compete for a state championship.

The JDHS team unsuccessfully lobbied for a solution that would have allowed them to compete.

“I am proud of the way they handled themselves with class, dignity, and humility,” coach Robert Casperson said of his players.

The Ninilchik hoops team lost a controversial Peninsula Conference championship game to Lumen Christi 72-71 on a last-second 3-pointer that officials later said should not have counted because of a time clock error.

Ninilchik filed a protest and appealed the ruling to no avail.

Lumen Christi went on to win the state championship while Ninilchik had to stay home.

“We need to keep our chin up. We did the right thing, you boys did the right thing, and be proud of where you are and what you’ve done,” the Ninilchik faculty and staff told the players, according to the Ninilchik principal in an Anchorage Daily News article.

Honorable mention went to the East High boys basketball team, which capped a perfect unbeaten season with a state title.

The winner will be announced Tuesday, May 4 at 2 p.m. on Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Facebook Live, co-hosted by Alaska’s News Source and featuring Anchorage sportscaster Patrick Enslow and Hall of Fame Executive Director Harlow Robinson.

Past Winners
2020: Israel Hale
2019: Andy Beardsely and Larsen Klingel
2018: DaJonee Hale
2017: Damen Bell-Holter
2016: Laci Effenberger
2015: Aliy Zirkle
2014: Marko Cheseto
2013: Paul Tandy
2012: Chugiak High School football team

The Joe Floyd Award is for a person or group of people who have, over a period of years, made a significant and lasting contribution to sports in Alaska.

This contribution could be for a particular sport, for multiple sports, for a particular town or area and for participants or spectators. This may be given each year but is for achievement over multiple years with priority given to more recent years.

Here are the finalists as determined by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors.

The first finalist is Richard Knowles, who is credited for “dedicating his life to youth sports.”

Initially he sponsored youth teams in Kodiak, then moved up to coaching them. His passion became softball in Anchorage, and he’s won state titles at East High and coached numerous teams to Little League World Series appearances.

Many of his athletes have earned college scholarships. Said one nominator: “Richard has the uncanny ability to take a group of young ladies with different skill sets and get them to play together as a team. He teaches them that no matter their situation, they can accomplish great things when they work hard, play together, and above all else have fun. It is a gift and both of my girls are better off by having Richard Knowles as their coach and mentor.”

The second finalist is Dr. Charles Scott, who has been a teacher, administrator and leader in the Fairbanks school district for more than 40 years.

He has run the International Karate Association affiliate in Fairbanks since the 1970s and has influenced and mentored thousands of people, of all ages, through his school of martial arts.

Through his career he has also coached wrestling and football and his influence on students is profound.

As a testament of his character, many of the adult members of the dojo now bring their kids, not just to learn about martial arts but to be mentored by such a positive influence. Throughout the pandemic, Scott stayed committed to providing a safe and active place where people can work out, taking special precautions to limit exposure to COVID, and created a live virtual option for those who wanted to take class from their homes.

The last finalist is Richard Shellhorn, who has been involved with school sports in the Cordova area for nearly 50 years as a basketball official and radio voice of high school basketball.

He is a retired educator, commercial fisherman and sportsman hunter.

Honorable mention went to
Erik Largen, Frank Ostanik and Jamie Smith.

Past Winners:
2020: Cristy Hickel
2019: Brush Christiansen
2018: Jim Mahaffey
2017: Ma’o Tosi
2016: Dennis Sorenson
2015: Mike Friess
2014: Dick Mize
2013: Don Dennis
2012: Steve Nerland and Don Winchester

May 2, 2021

Paul Steffensen

A pair of home runs from Kenai’s Paul Steffensen provided bookends for St. Cloud State’s 13-3 win over Northern State in NCAA D2 baseball.

Steffensen hit a two-run dinger in the first inning to start the scoring and followed up with a solo shot in the seventh inning that ended the scoring.

The Alaska slugger finished 4-for-5 with four runs and five RBIs.

He added an RBI single in the second inning and an RBI double in the third inning.

Steffensen, of Kenai High fame, extended his hitting streak to six games as he raised his season batting average to .317.

He has raised his average 47 points over the last 10 games thanks to a .390 clip (16-for-41).

Ketchikan’s Isaac Updike was named Alaska Athlete of the Week after his stunning upset of the reigning steeplechase national champion at the Oregon Relays at historic Hayward Field in Eugene.

The Alaskan clocked a personal-best 8:17.74 – the world’s fastest 3,000-meter steeplechase time this year and qualified for the Olympic trials.  He shaved seven seconds off his PR and took down reigning U.S. champ Hillary Bor, who was third.

Updike, of Ketchikan High fame instantly inserted himself into the national conversation when it comes to the steeplechase. His time of 8:17.74 is the fastest for an Alaskan and not since Don Clary’s 8:26.8 in 1979 had an Alaskan gone so fast in the event.

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.

May 1, 2021

Daishen Nix

Prep-to-pro basketball star Daishen Nix of Anchorage, record-tying Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey of Seward and NHL rookie-of-the-year candidate Jeremy Swayman have been selected by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors as finalists for the 2021 men’s Pride of Alaska Award.

The competition for the award was stacked as honorable mention included stock car champion Bill Balog, college wrestler Caleb Hopkins, cross-country skiers Luke Jager and Gus Schumacher, college hockey player Nolan Walker, pro basketball player Travante Williams, Olympic Trials wrestling qualifier Spencer Woods.

The winner will be announced Wednesday, May 5 at 2 p.m. on Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Facebook Live, co-hosted by Alaska News Source and featuring Anchorage sportscaster Patrick Enslow and Hall of Fame Executive Director Harlow Robinson.

Nix, 19, is a rising star in the hoops game and is expected to be drafted by the NBA after leading the G League in assists.

A 6-foot-5 guard from Anchorage, he became the third Alaskan to score 25 points in a G League game, doing so on his 19th birthday in a win for the Ignite. In 15 games, Nix averaged 8.8 points and 5.3 assists.

Dallas Seavey

As a senior in high school, Nix became the first Alaskan since the Big 3 to earn high school McDonald’s All-American status.

He then decided to skip college and go straight to the pro level in the NBA G League.

Seavey won his fifth Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, tying him with Alaska Sports Hall of Famer Rick Swenson for the most wins in history.

His official winning time was 7 days, 14 hours, 8 minutes and 57 seconds.

Just 34, the victory marked a triumphant return for Seavey, who took a three-year break from the Iditarod after being penalized, and ultimate cleared of wrongdoing in 2018 by race officials after his dogs tested positive for a banned substance.

Seavey previously won four titles in a five-year span, starting in 2012.

Jeremy Swayman

Swayman has taken the NHL by storm after a sensational final season of college hockey at the University of Maine.

As a junior with the Black Bears, the goalie was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and won the Mike Richter Award before signing an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins.

He made memorable NHL debut with the Boston Bruins, turning aside 40 shots in a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers to become the third Alaska goalie to play in the NHL and the 17th Alaskan to log ice time in the world’s premier hockey league.

In his first seven games, the South High grad was 5-2 with a 1.67 goals against average and a shutout.

The Pride of Alaska Award dates back to 2012 and is given to an athlete or athletes, team or coach who excelled in sports in the past year or recent years, and did so with integrity and sportsmanship and been a positive role model.

Past winners
2020: Gus Schumacher
2019: Keegan Messing
2018: Andrew Kurka
2017: David Norris
2016: Dallas Seavey and Soldotna HS Football Team (co-winners)
2015: Erik Flora
2014: Trevor Dunbar and Eric Strabel (co-winners)
2013: Mario Chalmers
2012: Alaska Aces

Rosie Brennan

World Cup ski race champion Rosie Brennan of Anchorage, Olympic Trials wrestling qualifier Sydnee Kimber of Sitka and UFC fighter Lauren Murphy of Eagle River were named by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors as finalists for the 2021 women’s Pride of Alaska Award.

The winner will be announced Wednesday, May 5 at 2 p.m. on Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Facebook Live, co-hosted by Alaska News Source and featuring Anchorage sportscaster Patrick Enslow and Hall of Fame Executive Director Harlow Robinson.

The Pride of Alaska Award dates back to 2012 and is given to an athlete or athletes, team or coach who excelled in sports in the past year or recent years, and did so with integrity and sportsmanship and been a positive role model.

Sydnee Kimber

Earning honorable mention were hockey player Clair DeGeorge, professional basketball players Ruthy Hebard and Kelsey Griffin, U.S. Ski Team veteran Sadie Maubet-Bjornsen and WNBA general manager Talisa Rhea.

Brennan, of APU fame, became only the second American cross-country skier in U.S. Ski Team history to win back-to-back World Cup races after claiming the 1.5K sprint and 10K titles in the Swiss Alps.

This historic accomplishment placed her atop the World Cup overall standings at the time.

Brennan is one of only six Americans and the second Alaskan to win a World Cup race.

She also placed sixth overall in the grueling eight-stage Tour de Ski.

Kimber, of Mt. Edgecumbe High fame, finished her junior season at McKendree University with an 18-0 record and did not allow a point to be scored on her during the entire season before winning her second straight National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championship. All but one of her matches ended in a pin or technical superiority.

Lauren Murphy

Her national championship also qualified her for the Olympic Trials where she finished in the top eight in the challenge tournament.

At 20 years old, she will be competing for a spot on the Junior World Team in Texas this month.

Murphy, of Chugiak High fame, is a veteran top-ranked mixed-martial arts fighter who won all three of her UFC fights this year to improve her professional record to 14-4.

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

Her six UFC wins are tied for first all-time among Alaskans and her ten UFC appearances are second.

Murphy will carry a four-fight win streak going into her next fight in June.

Past winners
2020: Ruthy Hebard
2019: Caroline Kurgat
2018: Kikkan Randall and Roxie Wright (co-winners)
2017: Morgan Hooe
2016: UAA Women’s Basketball Team and Allie Ostrander (co-winners)
2015: Allie Ostrander
2014: Kikkan Randall
2013: Nunaka Girls Softball Team
2012: UAA Women’s Basketball Team

April 30, 2021

Jack Green

Anchorage’s Jack Green scored his first college goal and added another one in the shootout to highlight American University’s first-round win in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament.

After a 3-3 regulation and two scoreless overtime periods, American converted all five penalty kicks in the shootout to beat Jacksonville in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The Eagles have now won eight consecutive first-round games at the NCAA Tournament, with this one being the first since 2004.

Green, of West High fame, rose to the occasion in his first big dance.

The sophomore midfielder converted a beautiful high arching free kick from way outside the box in the 60th minute for his first college goal.

It was a thing of beauty – a highly technical and wonderfully executed set piece by the left footer. Truly, pro level stuff.

In the shootout, Green converted his PK to give American a 4-3 edge. His goal came moments after Jacksonville had failed to convert, so the pressure was really on the Alaskan.

He has a knack for coming up clutch.

Three weeks ago, he assisted on the game-tying goal in the 85th minute to help American salvage a 1-1 tie that clinched a postseason berth in the Patriot League playoffs.

That was his first college point.

American will face No. 1 Clemson in the next round on Sunday afternoon.