Kake’s Michelle Martin began writing letters to the Juneau Lions Club in 1998, pushing for a women’s bracket in the annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament.
Her dedication and fundraising came to fruition as the Premiere Women’s Bracket joined the Mighty B and Legendary C brackets in the popular tourney in 1999, lasting until 2007. Today, thanks to efforts that include a proposal written by Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Carmaleeda Estrada, the women will again be considered for admittance into play.
“I am not saying that we should get a chance to play just because we are women,” Estrada said. “While there is definitely the issue of equality here, that is not the reason. There are some very talented women in our communities who could add some real entertainment value to this tournament, and even give some of these men a run for their money. And that is what this tourney is about, providing entertainment value to the community.”
The proposal has been reviewed by an exploratory committee including JLC Vice President’s (and tournament co-chairs) Louise Kadinger, Geny Del Rosario and Greg Inderland, along with three club members selected by JLC President Ed Hotch. Those include Steve Brandner, Joyce Kitka and Sasha Soboleff.
“The comments and recommendations of the committee will be sent to all members, hopefully in advance of our regularly scheduled meeting on Monday,” JLC membership chair Ted Burke said on Thursday. “Then it will be brought up as an agenda item and we will move forward smartly.”
The committee will write a response to the proposal that will be presented in the general Lions Club meeting at noon today in the Prospector Hotel, and will be voted on by JLC members in good standing.
“Lack of attendance was a problem when the women were part of the tournament,” Steve Brandner said. “The Gold Medal Tournament is a fundraiser. The point of it is to raise funds so we can give out our scholarships. If people don’t come to watch, it doesn’t make any money. It is a business designed to make money. We are constantly looking to see what will bring us the biggest dividends for that week.”
If the women make the tourney, the B and C brackets may be scaled back to eight teams and the masters would have four. Those details are contained in the proposal.
“We have received many letters of support from organizations, teams and individuals that want the women back,” Brandner said. “If we do a trial run again, we will be keeping track of those who pledged support and will be developing indicators as to whether it is successful or not. I would love to see it work, but it has to come from a business standpoint. We all would. Those expressing support have got to show up and support it.”
If the women’s bracket is a go, the Gold Medal selection committee will choose who will fill the various brackets.
Issues that caused the tourney to go away included length of championship day, lack of attendance, poor sportsmanship and lack of cooperation, according to a Lion’s Club member who wished to remain anonymous.
Those reasons, however, can be viewed at times in other brackets along with good competition.
“We should not get to play because we are women,” Estrada said “We should get to play because we are talented.”
“This committee has been working on some unbelievable ways to make this work and it will impact part of the men’s side,” added Ted Burke. “The idea is a fair, equal opportunity for everyone to play in the Gold Medal Tournament.”
In 1999, the women’s teams included Kake, Juneau, Angoon and Klawock. The Klawock team topped Juneau 84-70 to win the inaugural title. Klawock repeated as champions in 2000 with a 67-40 win over Sitka in the title game of the New Millennial Women’s Bracket. Klawock three-peated with a 70-53 win over Yakutat.
In 2002, the middle school division was added after Dzantik’I Heeni Middle School’s Greg Brown brought the idea to the tournament board. Ed and Janice Hotch ran that portion of the tourney. DHMS, Floyd Dryden, Kake, Hoonah, Angoon and Metlakatla participated. Women’s teams participated from Klawock, Ketchikan, Haines, Angoon, Juneau and Kake. Klawock won their fourth straight title with a 68-63 win over Juneau, avenging an earlier 64-60 loss in the tourney.
Middle school girls were added in 2003. HoopTime A won, as did the Hoonah boys. Klawock’s run of titles ended in the women’s bracket as MVP Kacy Lockhart led Juneau to a 60-59 win with late free throws.
In the final women’s year of 2007, teams participated from Metlakatla, Sitka, Petersburg and Juneau.
For a brief history of the women’s teams in Gold Medal go to www.juneauempire.com/sports.
In 1999 the women’s teams included Kake LAB Flying Service, Juneau Lynden Transport Angoon Kwaan and Klawock Prince of Wales Women. The POW women topped Juneau 84-70 for that inaugural title.
Klawock’s Jean Jackson was the MVP. All-Tourney members were Stacy Skan, Lucy Jones and Tami Wahto from Juneau, Angoon’s Jaeleen Kookesh and Klawock’s Christina Hamilton. Second team choices were Juneau’s Christal Tompkins, Kake’s Michelle Friday and Shawna Orozco, and Angoon’s Brenda Jack and Denise Starr-Jack. Klawock’s Ellen Hannon was voted Best Defensive Player and Juneau’s Mary Tagaban won the Sportsmanship Award.
Klawock repeated as champions in 2000 with a 67-40 win over Sitka Daughters of the American Legion in the title game of the New Millennial Women’s Bracket. Other teams included Yakutat ANS, Hoonah Ladies, Angoon Kwaan and Juneau D.K. Mining. MVP went to Klawock’s Hannon and teammate Joyce Moore was Best Defender. Yakutat’s Violet Sensmeier won Sportsmanship. All-Tourney members included Starr-Jack (ANG), Shauna Murray, Jones (JNU), Tina Almenzor, Jackson, Louise Wollcott (KLW), Stephanie Miller, Karen Krupa, Rachel Franceschini (SIT) and Jean Rahloff (YAK).
In 2001 the same six teams returned and Klawock three-peated with a 70-53 win over Yakutat and Jackson won her second MVP honor and Best Defender.
In 2002 the middle school division was added after Dzantik’I Heeni’s Greg Brown brought the idea to the tournament board. Ed and Janice Hotch ran that portion of the tourney. DHMS, Floyd Dryden, Kake, Hoonah, Angoon and Metlakatla participated. Women’s teams included Klawock, Ketchikan Indian Counsel, Haines Merchants, Angoon Kwaan, Juneau’s Lynden Transport and Kake LAB. Klawock won their fourth straight title with a 68-63 win over Juneau, avenging an earlier 64-60 loss in the tourney. Jackson won her third MVP, Juneau’s Kacy Davidson was Best Defender and Tompkins was Sportsmanship winner. All-Tourney members included Jonna Adams (Kake), Sara Swinton (HNS), Hannon, Wollcott (KLW), and Rena Balzer (JNU).
Middle school girls were added in 2003 and HoopTime A won as did the Hoonah boys. Klawock’s run of titles ended in the women’s bracket as MVP Kacy Lockhart led Lynden to a 60-59 win with late free throws. Teammate Heather Clark was Best Defender and Leilani Finau (KIC) won Sportsmanship. All-Tourney were Balzer, Kara Lindley (JNU), Almenzar, Hannon, Jackson (KLW), Krupa (SIT), Adams (Kake), and Sensmeier (YAK).
In 2004 the tourney went to an alternating rotation of small villages and large communities because there was a concern that teams were ruling the court. Angoon topped Kake 75-56 behind MVP Meagan Gleason and defensive teammate Sara Demmert and Sportswoman Amber Jamestown for the title. All-Tourney included Vanessa Anniskett (MET), Carmen Estrada (ANG), Friday, Adams, Violet Anderson, Dawn Jackson (Kake), Sarah Barry, Marie Collins (HNH), and Sensmeier (YAK). Teams were Angoon Kwaan, Kake, Metlakatla, T&H Spirit, Huna ANS, Yakutat ANS, and Kake KWBA.
“What we noticed, however, was that the same women played on both the large and small community teams,” a JLC member said. “This became the same issue we always have with the men’s players.”
In 2005 Juneau2, Prince of Wales, Juneau Imperial, Sitka2, and Sitka The Cellar competed.
In 2006 Ketchikan, Yakutat, Angoon, Kake LAB, Petersburg, Juneau Imperial, Metlakatla Git’ Taquan and Hoonah played. Metlakatla topped Juneau Imperial 69-60 for the title behind MVP Stephanie Smiley. All-Tourney included Gleason (ANG), Samantha Johnson (YAK), Mandie Whitethorn, Jennifer Johnson (PSG), Finau, Christy Williams (KTN), Lockhart, Lucy Potter (JNU), and Talia Marsden, Vera James (MET).
In the final women’s year of 2007 teams included Metlakatla, Sitka, Petersburg and Juneau.