NYO competition held in White Mountain
The Native Youth Olympics season is the finale of western Alaska’s high school and junior high sports.
After a year of serious competition that doesn’t always have a lot of camaraderie involved, teams come together in contests that are no less serious but happen in the spirit of encouragement, mentoring and support.
The Bering Strait School District held it’s season-ending meet in White Mountain, known for it’s beautiful ski trails and annual biathlons. There are few sites that offer the all-around hosting and hospitality for a large event and it didn’t disappoint. Thirteen of the BSSD Schools sent teams who squeezed in wherever they could in the small school. The energy was high, with ten events scheduled for both boys and girls over the two days.
Opening night saw the parade of teams come in to be welcomed by the audience and each other. The Indian Stick Pull was the single event as it involves a lot of Crisco and slippery sticks flying around, which requires floor coverings and rolls of paper towel. This unique event is the great equalizer where smaller athletes seem to have some advantage with strong hand strength and better grip sizes often giving them matches against much larger competitors.
Celeste Katcheak of Stebbins had one of the most dominant performances in memory in winning her second consecutive championship, tying the District record. Shishmaref’s Ed Kokeok showed quickly that he’d be a difference-maker in his inaugural NYO experience as he defeated teammate and former stick pull champion Kenneth Stevenson.
The second day started early and the specialists and those who were participating in all events stepped up for the Alaskan High Kick. Eighth grader Elaina Anawrok of Unalakleet pulled the first shocker in winning in her first year. Veteran Earl Annogiyuk of Savoonga asserted himself winning the boys division.
Scissor Broad Jump is a fun event that most NYO athletes will at least attempt. It is not considered as “dangerous” as some of the high kicks yet is explosive and audience-friendly. Annogiyuk came back for a second gold medal and 2018 Most Outstanding Female Athlete Allie Ivanoff leapt to her first championship.
The abdominal straining Kneel Jump was up next and Ivanoff easily outdistanced the girl’s field. Elim’s Jacob Brouillette followed up his 2018 title with another.
The crazy balancing event, One Hand Reach, brought out the best for Annogiyuk again and Teller’s Lauryn Garnie.
The Two-Foot High Kick displayed another newcomer, Adrian Pleasant of Unalakleet, who came out flying and out-kicked all competitors to win. Allie Ivanoff took home another gold in the girls competition.
Wednesday evening started with the only event that is not a solo event. The Wrist Carry involves three athletes: two carriers and one being carried. It is probably the most painful event as the person being carried is dangling from their wrist while being carried around a circular path. St. Michael’s Patricia Washington, carried by Alvin Washington and Earl Annogiyuk, regained her championship after a year hiatus and, in a slight upset since he’s physically larger than most Wrist Carry contestants, Annogiyuk grabbed first place with Braden Koonooka and Derek Seppilu Jr. carrying him.
One of the high profile events, One Foot High Kick, completed the night session and Unalakleet’s Ivanoff and Pleasant repeated their earlier wins and took home more gold.
The final morning always starts with the primary strength event, Eskimo Stick Pull. It’s another event where the early matches are often almost comical as burly upperclassmen toy with much smaller junior high athletes who are doing it to participate and experience the event. By the end, though, the two 2018 champions from Savoonga served notice that they were still the strongest as Myra Seppilu and Derek Seppilu Jr. defeated the field to advance to State.
Finally the Seal Hop commenced in an endurance race more with yourself than anyone else. It’s a matter of will and willingness to endure pain. In a remarkable display of versatility Ivanoff completed her career with a fifth championship. St. Michael’s Alvin Washington repeated his 2018 win for the boy’s title.
In the end, Annogiyuk winning four gold medals and Ivanoff winning five gold medals emerged with the “Most Outstanding Athlete” awards. The former also was selected for the “Most Inspirational/ Spirit” trophy. The Unalakleet Wolfpack dominated the event for the team title, Shishmaref nabbed the Team Academic Award and the Teller Aklaqs were selected for “Team Sportsmanship.”
All champions advanced to the State NYO Championship, to be held next weekend in Anchorage.