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Need some good news? Alaska women shine in sports

Posted: March 24, 2013 - 12:07am

Right now on the political stage, I’m not feeling real good about being an Alaskan. Our constitutional inheritance to “utilize, develop and conserve all natural resources for the maximum benefit of its people” seems to only apply to major international corporations that either want to pollute our waters or drill for more profit with no assurance of putting more oil in the pipeline. Somehow benefiting the people is lost in the rush to benefit corporations; making it feel like we are going backwards on our statehood values. It is in times like this, when I realize it’s best to look elsewhere for some Alaska pride. Fortunately, I did not have to look far or long as it’s been a standout year for Alaska women in North County sports.

Top of the list is cross-county skier Kikkan Randall who teamed up with a Jessica Diggins of Minnesota to give the U.S. its first ever world gold medal in cross-country skiing with Kikkan Randall giving a performance that wowed the sports world. She powered away from the Swedes and Finns, who have owned cross-country skiing for decades, to win by an unheard of 7.8 seconds. For those not familiar with the sport, Nordic ski races are regularly decided by tenths of a second. This was the case when Randall later clinched the cross-country World Cup sprint title by edging Norwegian world champion Marit Bjoergen at the line by 0.07 seconds.

Kikkan Randall has also been an outstanding ambassador for Alaska. According to reporter Craig Medred, of the Alaska Dispatch, “No athlete, aside perhaps from Libby Riddles, Iditarod’s first female champion, has earned the recognition and acclaim for the nation’s coldest, darkest state that Randall’s success has attracted.”

Speaking of the Iditarod, Alaska almost had its third female champion in Aily Zirkle, who gave champion Mitch Seavey an exciting challenge at the end. Seavey, who became the oldest Iditarod champion, eclipsed Zirkle by 23 minutes, the fourth closest finished in Iditarod history. Zirkle’s time is the second fastest by a woman. Her time last year — 9 days, 5 hours, 29 minutes, 10 seconds — is the fastest. “You’re gonna win this thing,” Seavey told the Two Rivers musher as he shook her hand.

Aily Zirkle was one of 13 women that shone in this year’s Iditarod. Dee Dee Jonrowe who is still one of the foremost female dog musher competing in the world today again finished in tenth place. As a result, she now has 16 — count them 16 — top 10 finishes since her first Iditarod in 1980. Furthermore she does this as a cancer survivor. How totally cool is that for a 59 year old woman?

When it comes to shining on Alaska I’ll put up Kikkan Randal, Aily Zirkle and Dee Dee Jonrowe any time. They all speak to my inner Alaska bravado. .. women with stamina.

• Troll is a long-time Alaskan with more than 22 years of experience in fisheries, coastal policy and energy policy. She resides in Douglas.

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