The talent pool is deep for Alaska high school sports stars, but the cream of the crop always rises to the top.
Three teens in particular have been recognized by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame for displaying winning characteristics in competition and demonstrating championship character in life.
Dimond basketball star Alissa Pili, Service cross-country Skimeister Gus Schumacher and Soldotna football standout Brenner Furlong have been selected among an elite group of finalists as winners of the inaugural Directors’ Youth Awards.
“Alaska has gone several years without any type of statewide, sportswide recognition for outstanding high school-aged athletic achievement,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. “We felt the time was past due to bring this type of award back and we plan to make this an annual tradition.”
Pili was the girls choice and Schumacher the boys pick for the Pride of Alaska Award, and Furlong won the Trajan Langdon Award. The youth awards are an extension of the adult awards that started in 2012.
All of the youth and adult winners will be honored at the annual Alaska Sports Hall of Fame ceremony April 24 at the Anchorage Museum.
The winners were selected by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame board of directors after a public submission process.
“I know I speak for the entire Alaska Sports Hall of Fame board of directors in saying we were blown away by the number of great candidates and inspired by the quality of character as well as the talents of our young athletes from across the state,” said Robinson.
Winners were selected from pools of finalists narrowed down from the original list of nominees. “Our selection panel made some difficult decisions,” said Robinson. “There were dozens of nominees worthy of consideration that did not make the list of finalists.”
Pride of Alaska Youth Award: For Consistent Excellence in Athletic Competition.
GIRLS WINNER: Alissa Pili, Anchorage
A junior at Dimond High, she has earned three volleyball state titles, one wrestling state title, three track and field titles (shot put as a freshman and sophomore, discus as a sophomore and a basketball state title after the Lynx finished the 2017-18 season undefeated and nationally ranked. Alissa, known as a kind and supportive teammate, excels most in basketball, where she was named Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year after both her sophomore and junior seasons.
BOYS WINNER: Gus Schumacher, Anchorage
A senior at Service High who also competes for the Alaska Winter Stars, Gus is a 4.0 student who has competed on both the cross-country running and cross-country ski teams. As a runner, Gus won the state championship in his junior year before sitting out his senior year to focus on skiing. To say that Gus excels in skiing is a vast understatement. He was the highest-ranking junior at the 2018 Nordic national championships and anchored the historic, silver-medal winning U.S. relay team at the World Junior Championships. He was Skimeister at the Alaska state championships for the second time and helped the Cougars to the team title, and he earned two podiums at the 2018 Junior Nationals.
Sydnee Kimber, Mount Edgecumbe: A senior at Mount Edgecumbe, Sydnee became Alaska’s first four-time state champion for girls wrestling, surrendering just three earned points against female opponents in Alaska during that span. She finished her high school wrestling career with 108 wins, with more than 60 against boys. She was twice voted girls Outstanding Wrestler at the state tournament. In 2017, Sydnee won the Junior Fargo Nationals which led to her ranking as the nation’s best female wrestler at 164lbs. Sydnee has signed a letter of intent with McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill. in the fall of 2018. She owns a 3.99 GPA.
Kendall Kramer, Fairbanks: A sophomore at West Valley, Kendall was named Gatorade Alaska Girls’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year and qualified to represent the U.S. in Scandinavian Nations Cup competition in Finland. She also earned three medals at the U.S. Nordic Junior Nationals in Utah in January and earned the Skimeister award as Alaska’s top high school skier.
Thomas Dyment, Bethel: A senior at Bethel High, Thomas is a four-time state wrestling champion with spotless integrity on and off the mat. He is an excellent student and role model. Thomas has volunteered his time and knowledge to help with Bethel’s freestyle club and middle-school wrestlers, and he has also refereed. Thomas leads by example. Thomas was 63-0 his last two seasons and finished his high school career with a 127-7 record while becoming only the 11th Alaskan to win four wrestling state championships.
Arctic Ivanoff, Unalakleet: Arctic is a complete student-athlete – a state champion in Native Youth Olympics and owner of multiple All-State selections in basketball and Mix 6 Volleyball. He combines competitiveness with sportsmanship and academic prowess. Three times an all-state performer in basketball, Arctic will graduate from Unalakleet High School as one of its all-time leading scorers and rebounders.
Jacob Moos, Galena: A senior at Galena High, Jacob is not only a tremendous athlete in cross-country running and track (six-time state champion, Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year) but he excels outside of running too. Jacob was also the starting point guard on the basketball team and medaled several times at the Arctic winter games in snowshoe biathlon events. He is involved in serving the community in a variety of ways. A straight-A student and currently working toward his private pilot’s license, Jacob is mature beyond his years and an outstanding student-athlete.
Derryk Snell, Eagle River: A multi-sport senior at Chugiak High, Derryk scored 38 touchdowns and compiled 2,197 yards to earn 2017 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year while helping the Mustangs to an undefeated regular season. Derryk was an all-state basketball player while helping Chugiak get back to the state tournament for the first time in 12 years. The senior signed a letter of intent to play football at Montana State next year.
Trajan Langdon Youth Award: For Leadership, Sportsmanship and Inspiration
WINNER: Brenner Furlong, Soldotna
A senior at Soldotna High, Brenner serves his community, school and family with exemplarity dedication and rigor. He was Gatorade football Player of the Year in 2016-17, two-time Offensive Player of the Year, 400-meter state champion in track and pays special attention to kids who need extra help, either due to a physical disability or in need of additional support with rides or help studying. Brenner always includes a fellow player who is in a wheel chair due to cerebral palsy, and he consistently mentors younger players, carrying on a tradition in the Stars football program that did not lose a game in his career.
Tatum Bayne, Sitka: A senior at Sitka High, Tatum was a four-year starter in girls basketball (2015 state championship, state runner-up in 2017, 2018). Tatum was the basketball team captain and an all-state selection. But while she has made significant contributions to basketball, softball, volleyball, and track and field teams, she is more highly regarded for her activities away from sports. She is a member of the National Honor Society, maintains exceptional academics and is exemplary in the community. Tatum dedicates significant time to community service and fundraising. She has demonstrated model citizenship with examples such as the time she turned in $300 cash that she found in a hotel drawer while on a team trip, or the extra time she spends with a special needs student.
Simeon Beardon, Anchorage: After his friend, Leroy, was shot and killed by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting, Simeon worked to unite mourners to make a positive impact. Simeon, a senior at East High, helped organized a car wash as a fundraiser for the family to assist with medical and funeral expenses. As a senior captain on the East High basketball team he proposed an idea of “Long Live Leroy” as its motto for the season. Simeon is respected by his peers through his character, charm and charisma.
Brandon Gall, Anchorage: A sophomore at Service High, Brandon has volunteered as a basketball coach at middle-school and youth levels. Last year, Brandon put together a spring league team to help build the Cougars program while it was between coaches. He arranged the players, collected payment, ordered jerseys and even found a coach to oversee the league. He is class president, holds down two jobs (McDonald’s and refereeing in several youth leagues) and gives kids rides to and from practice.
Tobin Karlberg, Anchorage: A senior at Grace Christian, Tobin leads his team with enthusiasm, kindness and good nature toward opposing players and exhibits genuine sportsmanship. His accomplishments as a basketball player are well documented – he’s the Gatorade Player of the Year and headed to UAA on a basketball scholarship after finishing his high school career with over 2,000 points. But Tobin is equally dedicated off the court. During the summer he travels to numerous rural communities where he helps provide program for children and teens. He also serves as a volunteer basketball coach in after-school programs and works with NBC camps throughout the summer.
Grace Miller, Palmer: Grace was born in Guangzhou, China, without her left forearm and adopted by her mother, Kym, at age 3. Miller never let her disability define her, competing on the Palmer High School Nordic ski team before qualifying for the 2018 Paralympic Games in South Korea, where she was one of two Alaskans to participate. Grace plans to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks and continue her skiing career while studying biology.
Duncan Okitkun, Kotlik: Duncan has been a standout athlete for four years at Kotlik High School, starring in Mix 6 volleyball, basketball and Native Youth Olympics. The senior also leads a drumming class at the Kotlik Schools and represented Lower Yukon School District as a student leader during the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. He takes time to talk with elders who are experienced in their fields of practice as well as with other youth he meets. He represented his school at the AASB conference where he was selected to receive a Spirit of Youth Award along with 6 other students from across the state. He is a student representative at the Alaska Whaling Commission and plans to attend UAF in the fall.
The Youth Awards recipients will be honored during an evening that also recognizes adult awards recipients (including Kikkan Randall, Roxy Wright and Andrew Kurka), and inducts the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Individuals Holly Brooks and Virgil Hooe, the Arctic Winter Games (Event), and Dolly Lefever becoming the first American woman to conquer the famed Seven Summits (Moment) will all be honored.