Two runners and a cross-country skier from Anchorage are up for the men’s Pride of Alaska Award after Marko Cheseto, Aaron Fletcher and Gus Schumacher were named finalists by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors.

The Pride of Alaska Award since 2012 has been given to an athlete or athletes, team or coach who have not only excelled in sports in the past year or recent years, but have done so with integrity and sportsmanship and been a positive role model.

Marko Cheseto

Marko Cheseto, Anchorage – The former UAA runner set a world record at the 123rd Boston Marathon for double amputees with a 26.2-mile time of 2 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds. He eclipsed the old record by 28 seconds. Boston was just Cheseto’s second marathon and a significant improvement from his 2:52 debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lost both legs below the knee due to frostbite in 2011.

Gus Schumacher cross-country ski nordic

Gus Schumacher

Gus Schumacher, Anchorage – The cross-country skier made US Ski Team history by becoming the first American male to win an individual Junior World Championship. Schumacher claimed the gold medal in the 10-K individual start classic race in Germany. He also anchored the American team to its second straight relay gold medal. After the season, Schumacher became just the third Alaskan to win the Beck International Trophy – the U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s top award dating to the 1930s.

Aaron Fletcher running marathon

Aaron Fletcher

Aaron Fletcher, Anchorage – Fletcher shattered the race record at the 57th Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks, finishing the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 38 minutes and 14 seconds. The former BYU star runner beat the old record that had stood since 1984 by three minutes. Fletcher also ran in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Here are past winners of the men’s Pride of Alaska Award:
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

This is one of four Directors’ Awards handed out by the seven-person committee that makes up the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors.

Here are finalists for all four awards:
Joe Floyd Award – Milo Griffin, Cristy Hickel, Ed Strabel
Trajan Langdon Award – Israel Hale, Carol Seppilu, Keegan Messing
Women’s Pride of Alaska Award – Ruthy Hebard, Sydnee Kimber, Sadie Maubet Bjornsen
Men’s Pride of Alaska Award – Marko Cheseto, Aaron Fletcher, Gus Schumacher

Directors’ Award winners will be announced June 24.

2020 Men’s Pride of Alaska Award
Also Receiving Votes

Spencer Woods – The Greco-Roman wrestler from Shungnak won a silver medal at 170 pounds at the Bill Farrell Memorial in New York City, securing his bid to the Olympic Trials after finishing as the top American at his weight. Woods also won a gold medal at the Malar Cupen in Sweden. The 2019 U.S. Open runnerup finished with a 5-0 record, beating 2019 European Cadet bronze medalist Simon Borkenhagen of Sweden in the final.

Jeremy Swayman – The University of Maine goaltender from Anchorage won Hockey East Player of the Year honors and finished runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award given to the nation’s top college player. Swayman led the NCAA with 1,099 saves ranked No. 2 in the country with a .939 save percentage. He also won the Walter Brown Award, was named First Team All-American and captured the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s best goalie.

Andrew Kurka – The Palmer native won three of six races at the Para Alpine Skiing World Cup in Russia. In the sit ski downhill competition, the two-time Winter Paralympic Games medalist was first in the downhill, Super-G and giant slalom. This was at least the third time he’s won multiple medals at a world competition.

Sean Rash – A veteran pro bowler from Anchorage, Rash beat four consecutive opponents, including top qualifier Ryan Ciminelli of South Carolina in the championship match, to win the PBA Oklahoma Open for his 15th career title. Rash rolled 10 consecutive strikes in the final to score a 289-234 victory. He managed only three tournament appearances before COVID-19 shut down the season.

Ryan McCarthy – The UAA women’s basketball coach became the all-time victories leader in Seawolf history as UAA went 30-3 and won its fifth straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season title. One of the brightest coaching talents in the NCAA ranks, McCarthy has taken the Alaska Anchorage program to unprecedented heights. The four-time GNAC Coach of the Year has led his hometown program to a 190-34 record in seven seasons and has made the Seawolves annual title contenders.