One man climbed the highest mountains and traveled across wildernesses. Another scampered faster than others to summits of races around the state. A group of young men chose the top of the world to make their mark.
Yet they were not greater accomplishments, and may even have paled, under Juneau’s inductee among the class of 2012’s Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Anchorage Museum Auditorium on Tuesday night.
Video biographies, portrait unveilings, and acknowledgements by the Class of 2012 inductees were featured as each category was announced.
“It is humbling to be here,” Juneau Lion’s Club Gold Medal Tournament president Steve Brandner said in his acceptance speech, graciously telling of the tourney’s meaning.
“This is an incredible honor for the Juneau Lion’s Club who, in 19 days will start the 66th Annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament. The tournament is an event sponsored by the Lions Club but it wouldn’t be an event without the community, the players, the fans that come and make it so.”
Brandner then called Senator Albert Kookesh, representing Angoon, Herb Didrickson, representing Sitka, and Johan Dybdahl, representing Hoonah, to join him at the podium.
Didrickson played in the very first Gold Medal Tournament in 1947, Dybdahl played in many and currently coaches the Hoonah team, and Kookesh was an ambassador as a player and still pushes for younger players and women to be represented in the event.
“These three gentlemen have over 140 years of gold medal tournament experience combined,” Brandner said. “These are all three gold medal hall of fame members, they are what makes the event what it is. They have such heart, they represent the communities of Sitka, Angoon and Hoonah, and so many other communities that come together to make this a cultural event as well as a basketball tournament.”
Bill Spencer, a marathon runner, and Vern Tejas, a marathon mountaineer, were inducted for individual accomplishments.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks men’s basketball team of 2002 was inducted as the “Moment” category for their upset victory in that seasons Top Of The World Classic.
The Gold Medal Basketball Tournament, the event induction at the ceremony, was measured not in heights attained, or peaks crossed, or giants vanquished; but in the ghosts that played there, that sat there, and that traveled there; and the young boys and girls that will play there for their respective communities just like their great-grandparents did before them.
A video presentation of the tournament mentioned that a women’s team planned their pregnancies around the event so they could compete; it showed youngsters running the length of the floor with huge banners of their town; it depicted cultural dances and athlete’s soaring to the rim.
“It is from the heart that communities go to extreme lengths to fundraise for their teams to attend Gold Medal,” Brandner said. “They came from communities in fishing boats through ice fields, sleeping in the holds so the entire team could travel. They fundraise months before the tournament begins. They have so many stories. I encourage you all to talk to them after. They are the communities of Hydaburg, Klukwan, Kake, Metlakatla, Haines, and Klawock… there are so many, forgive me if I have missed some…”
The night also included the first annual Directors Awards’ presentations, they are:
The Joe Floyd Award, named in honor of the Kodiak coach and administrator who spent 60 years improving Alaska sports, represented an individual(s) for significant and lasting contributions to Alaska through sports.
Joe Floyd was present to give his namesake honor to Steve Nerland, responsible for many baseball fields in Anchorage and numerous committees, and Don Winchester, a guru in research and assembling and updating the Alaska Sports Activities Association historical data.
The Trajan Langdon Award, named after the East High School and Duke University hoops star who is known for leadership, sportsmanship and inspiration, was given, via Langdon’s video presentation, to the Chugiak High School Football Team.
The team was noted for their extraordinary amount of class, compassion and sportsmanship when they had to forfeit four games due to an administrative error that allowed an ineligible player to compete. The forfeits took them out of the state playoffs but the offending teammate was included in all team functions and activities.
The Pride of Alaska Awards, given to a female and male nominees for consistent excellence in athletic competition, went to the UAA Women’s Basketball team for winning over 80 percent of their games since the fall of 2006. The team currently has a nation-best 76 consecutive weeks in the NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll. The second PAA went to the Alaska Aces hockey team for, not only their athletic success as a professional club, but for the numerous annual fundraisers supporting military, local charities and people throughout the state of Alaska.
After the induction Joe Floyd, who runs the annual Joe Floyd Christmas Classic Basketball tournament in Kodiak, said the Gold Medal Tournament was a big reason he started his town’s hoops classic.
“I happened to be in Juneau one year on business,” Floyd said. “I watched a couple games and knew I had to have some of that magic for Kodiak. I patterned what we do after that night.”