As our heads are spinning with one year ending and another beginning, it is time to look back in remembrance, humility, praise and wonder at some of the sweaty athletes and situations that graced our Southeastern world.
Many sports stories in 2013 will continue into 2014 and some have carried over from 2012.
Middle school sports (and activities) travel has continued to be a hot topic. All involved want what they perceive to be the best for the students. It is a dicey subject as teachers are overworked, budgets are constrained, parents are upset, athletes are slighted and the economy of Juneau takes a hit when other towns limit their travel here because Juneau teams aren’t traveling.
Injuries hit two major players in the high school ranks as Juneau-Douglas High School senior Kayla Balovich tore her ACL in a volleyball match and missed the rest of the season and the 2013-14 basketball season. She is making progress toward returning to make another run at a Region V and State softball championship in the new year. Thunder Mountain High School junior all-conference guard Sarah Morris tore her ACL in a pickup game just before the start of the current basketball season and will be in rehab, hopefully back in time for track and field.
The much-publicized TMHS football camp incident in which a player was injured by a coach in an unsanctioned boxing match at Gold Beach, Ore., continues into the new year. Court proceedings are scheduled to begin this month.
Some athletes (and students) were excused from games or teams due to violating drug, grade or other school policies or as precautionary measures from possible concussions. These are never fun topics, and the welfare of the student is always a priority. Coaches and school administrators continue working for the betterment of local youth.
Those were a few of the bummer situations. But there were many more monumental achievements in 2013.
For the first time, the state high school swimming championships were held in Juneau on Nov. 8-9, attracting more than 600 athletes, coaches, parents and fans. Just over 300 swimmers competed and the JDHS girls won the team title (by three points over Dimond, 88-85) behind individual wins from Ciera Kelly (100 back) and Dakota Isaak (100 breast) and the 200 free relay team of Kelly, Mia Ruffin, Rielly Walsh, and Isaak. Dimond won the boys title (by three over Sitka, 78-75) and Lynx swimmer Michael Summers was Outstanding Male Swimmer. Thunder Mountain’s Kenny Fox won the 100 fly title. Kodiak’s Tahna Lindquist was Outstanding Female Swimmer. Juneau CPA Max Mertz, athletic director Sandi Wagner and Glacier Swim Club coach Scott Griffith were among the driving forces in getting the event to us.
In December, the first annual Savannah Cayce Southeast Championships were held. In the past this swim meet was the Age Group Championships. Now, when held in Juneau, the meet will honor Cayce, a former Glacier Swim Club and JDHS swimmer who died in an accident on Auke Lake in June 2012.
The JDHS Crimson Bears and North Pole Patriots moved from the 4A football ranks into the Southeast medium school division with TMHS, Ketchikan and Sitka. The Crimson Bears won the Southeast title and played Soldotna in the state championship game Oct. 26. The Bears dropped a 21-point lead against the Stars and lost 56-49 in one of the highest scoring state title games in history. Tears fell and heads hung along the Juneau-Douglas sidelines. “If you don’t get here, you can’t feel what they are feeling,” JDHS coach Rich Sjoroos said. “I have never been prouder of a team than I am of these guys right now.” Helmets lifted and shouts carried from the SOHI side as the Stars took a knee to end the game and sprinted past their fans to topple in a celebratory pile across the field. “I think it lived up to the billing,” Soldotna coach Galen Brantley, Jr. said. “It was two really good football teams, two well-coached football teams, battling it out to the last minute for a state title.”
The JDHS softball girls will move from the large school division to the Southeast medium school league with TMHS, Sitka and Ketchikan. JDHS finished third at the state softball tournament in June. The girls fell to Lathrop 7-6. Lathrop lost the title game to East 10-2. Sitka defeated Ketchikan 7-6 for the small school state championship, its third in a row.
Gastineau Channel Little League Majors All Star Softball manager Scott Balovich was honored as the Western Regional Tournament Manager of the Year in San Bernardino, Calif., during his team’s run in the tourney in July. While the team’s season ended 15-3 against Montana, Balovich’s passion for the game and sportsmanship in high-fiving the opposition when good plays were made against his team impressed the umpires and tournament staff. The honor included throwing out the first pitch in Arizona’s 12-2 championship win over Southern California. He delivered a nice underhand fast pitch to the Arizona catcher… and then he congratulated her. Balovich said, “It is quite an honor, something you never even dream about. I was shocked and overjoyed.”
Juneau returned to American Legion baseball play for the first time since 2001.Thanks to the efforts of Midnight Suns Baseball and Andy Macaulay, the Juneau Post 25 team played in the rain and sunshine around the state. The team was funded by Midnight Suns Baseball and sponsored in name only by Auke Bay Post 25. Former Legion great Roger Grummett threw out the first pitch on June 8. The team finished 22-9 and played to the semifinals of the State American Legion Tournament, falling 9-3 to Chugiak and then 5-0 to South. Macaulay was selected Coach of the Year and players Tal Norvell, Kellen Johansen, Tod Baseden and Petrie made the All-State team. Said Macaulay, “I am more glad the players got recognized. That is a really good thing for them for all their hard work. They deserve it. I am proud of our kids and I am, of course, very honored.”
Nunaka Valley Little League junior girls’ softball team, which beat the GCLL in the state tourney in July, were recipients of the 2013 Alaska Sports Hall Of Fame Directors Award.
The Alaska Legislature honored Herb Didrickson, lauding him as a splendid example of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame mission statement and noting he is believed to be one of the finest basketball players seen in the past seven decades. Said Didrickson: “I am honored anytime anyone remembers my name, but I am truly honored with many friends made throughout southeast Alaska. I have loved the sport as a player, as a referee and now as a fan.”
JDHS’ David Dumesnil won the 120-pound Region V wrestling crown and JD Hudson took the 182-pound title.
Didrickson, 85, “The Pride Of Sitka,” is inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame for his basketball prowess.
The Augustus Brown Pool celebrated 40 years Feb. 21. When Augustus George Brown died in 1949, he left Juneau a memorial. It came in gilt-edged securities and real estate, a legacy of over $24,000 that Brown’s will stipulated be “used as a nucleus of a fund to be raised by the Juneau Fire Department for the building of a modern swimming pool in a reasonably accessible part of the town of Juneau. By reasonably accessible, I mean, not far from the business district, not in the residential outskirts and not in Evergreen Bowl. “
The Juneau Ice Cold Labatts women’s hockey team won the Las Vegas Women’s Classic tournament intermediate division championship. The Labatts team, made up of 13 women who play in the Juneau Adult Hockey Association (JAHA) league, competed against teams from Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis and Durango, Colorado.
The Thunder Mountain boys’ basketball team won its first Region V championship 56-52 over cross-town rival JDHS, earning a berth to the state tourney, where the Falcons lost to Colony and to Palmer in double overtime. The TMHS boys has been ranked as high as third to begin the new year. The JDHS girls won the Region V title and placed sixth at state. The 1A/2A Klawock boys’ basketball team won the Region V title and state championship. Most of its key players return this season.
The JDHS cheerleaders won a Region V championship and cheered and stunted their way to the state championship. Jessica Sjoroos and Erica Cruz were selected to the All-State Cheer team.
Houston Laws won the White Mountain 100-mile, finishing first for male runners with a time of 33.4 hours, second overall and 47th among bikers and skiers. Battling exhaustion, nausea and bitter cold, Laws said, “I almost threw up on a guy’s expensive bike, you know, one of those big, fat-tired, expensive bikes.”
The two most dominant post-players in the Southeast Conference were rewarded for a season in which most teams planned their game strategies around containing them. JDHS’ pivot Gabi Fenumiai and Thunder Mountain swing man Sam Jahn were selected to the elite Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches All-Star Team.
Klukwan defeated Kake 63-35 for the 67th Gold Medal Masters Division Championship; Hoonah beat Hydaburg 88-66 for the C Bracket title; Angoon topped Hydaburg 109-99 for the B Championship. Wrangell returned to B bracket play. Hoonah’s Pete Schneeberger received the 2013 GMT Dr. Walter Soboleff Award.
Juneau Ski Club’s Haille J. Jones placed third in the USAA U-14 Alaska State Slalom Championships at Eaglecrest.
Juneau’s Southeast Alaska Gymnastics Academy (SAGA) took 22 athletes, ages 6-15, to the 2013 Alaska State Gymnastics Championships. The SAGA girls’ team totaled 62 individual medals: 16 gold, 26 silver, and 20 bronze.
TMHS’ Kylie Ibias signed to play basketball with the Columbia Basin C.C. Hawks in Pasco, Wash.
JAHA division champs went to Douglas Huskies (women’s), Mendenhall Wolverines (Tier 40), Island Pub (Tier A), Thane (Tier B) an Rendezvous (Tier C).
The JDIA Capitals captured the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association Atom Year End Tournament over the Whitehorse Atoms.
Andrew “Captain Scurvy” Campbell took first place in the Slush Cup at Eaglecrest. Second place went to Bruce Griggs, third to Lucy Squibb, Biggest Splash came from Hiram Henry, Best Costume was worn by Ron Flint, Crowd Pleaser nod went to Jubal Skaggs, Longest Distance was Dan Ord and Least Distance was obtained by Kemper Hart.
Juneau Ski Club’s U16 won the women’s Eaglecrest Cup for most accumulated world cup points during the 2013 racing season and U18 Joseph Greenough won the men’s cup.
TMHS’ Naomi Welling set the Southeast record in the 300 hurdles during the Region V track and field championships at TMHS with a time of 45.56. The Falcons won both the girls’ and boys’ team titles. Welling would become a freshman phenom at the state meet, winning championships in the long jump (15-6.75), triple jump (33-07.75) and 300 hurdles (46.96). The Falcons boys/girls took the sportsmanship award.
JDHS senior Jackson Lehnhart was chosen the 2013 Gatorade Boys Soccer Player if the Year in Alaska. He was also in consideration for the Gatorade Alaska Baseball Player of the Year. He was selected to the 2013 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) High School Scholar All-America Team.
JDHS boys fell 2-1 in overtime to Colony in the opening game of state soccer tournament and ultimately placed fourth. South defeated Colony for championship.
The TMHS girls won the Southeast title and played in their first state soccer tournament, falling 5-0 to Service and 2-0 to West Valley. Dimond defeated Service for the championship.
Crimson Bears boys finish third at the state baseball tournament, 8-0 over Kodiak with Tanner Petrie getting the win. South defeated Service for the title 15-1. JDHS’ Petrie struck out eight batters in the 6-3 opening win over Colony that included Kyle Gould’s grand slam homerun.
Cody Brunette won the 12.3-mile Swim Around Key West and Kristin Jones placed 19th. The duo swam for the charity Friedreich’s Ataxi Research Alliance (FARA). Jones’ brothers Ryan and Owen are confined to wheelchairs due to the genetic disorder.
Dr. Janice Sheufelt completed the 3,000-mile Race Across America (Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md.) cycling event in a new two-person record time of six days, 22 hours and 29 minutes with race partner Joel Southern in the 50-59 age group.
Former JDHS (2004-07) Crimson Bears guard Talisa Rhea, a current women’s professional player, returned for the Juneau Fast Break Basketball Camp.
JDHS’ Kayla Balovich, Randi Held, Rachelle Roldan and Malin Murray help Anchorage’s Arctic Storm 18U team win the Valley Invitational College Exposure Fast Pitch Tournament in Portland, Ore.
Peninsula College honored JDHS 2011 grads Aubrey Briscoe for soccer and Karli Brakes and Olivia Henderson for basketball at the Pirates annual banquet.
Malakai Nichols, 10, and Camden Erickson, 10, win national age group wrestling titles at the 2013 ASICS/USAQ Kids Freestyle and Greco Roman National Championships in Orem, Utah.
The GCLL Juniors softball team won the state title with a 10-1 win over Anchorages Abbott-O-Rabbit. Juneau swept the series with earlier wins 8-2 and 16-5.
The GCLL Majors baseball team lost to Sitka in championship game 5-1. The GCLL Juniors baseball team lost state series to Abbott-O-Rabbit.
Steven Stobart, 42, of Lewis Center, Ohio, won the Frank Maier Marathon in 2:48:20.
Team Imperial took the Rainball men’s C tournament, Rounders the Men’s D title, Mike’s Custom Printing the Women’s C, Sticks-N-Stones the Women’s D and MAC Bob-OMB Squad the Men’s F championship.
Kevin Sellers set a new Aukeman Sprint Triathlon record with one 1:02:25. Jennifer Wattson finishes in 1:14:53 for the women, roughly two minutes short of record.
The GCLL junior softball all-stars season ended 6-5 to Northern California at the Western Regional.
The Juneau Youth Football League adopted the USA Heads Up Football Program and former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer conducted a safety camp at TMHS and the Wells Fargo Dimond Park Field House.
Treadwell Ice Arena manager Michael Brna described the laboring process of making the Juneau ice the best in the state.
Team Imperial wins the 2013 men’s softball state title.
The Juneau Soccer Club Strikers (mostly 9th graders) take second at Mount Hood Challenge in Oregon. The JSC XtraTuffs (mostly 7th) battled in the Alaska State Cup in Anchorage.
Greg Smith and Tristan Knutson-Lombardo of team Criminally Negligent set a new record in the Nifty Fifty with an overall fastest time of 3:40:17 for the 31.06-mile course. The mark tops Scott Watts’ solo record of 3:54:34.
The JDHS boys and TMHS girls win the Region V cross-country running titles. Riley Moser and Maddie Hall win respective individual titles for Crimson Bears and Falcons.
JDHS’ Ciera Kelly selected by USA Swimming as their Alaska Swimming Board of Delegates Athlete Representative.
TMHS’ Maddie Hall placed third at the state cross-country running championships
The Juneau senior men’s softball team Northern Exposure places 2nd at the 2013 Senior Softball World Championships in Las Vegas.
John Bursell completed the 2013 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii with a time of 10:35:22.
JDHS’ tennis team finished third at the state championships and senior Emma Good was a runner-up in mixed doubles for the third straight year. “I must be a good teammate, I guess,” Good said. “It is kind of funny to be an also-ran again.”
JDHS volleyball team wins the JIVE over Colony 23-25, 25-16 and 25-12.
JDHS senior Demetrius Campos and TMHS junior Ben Jahn earn top football honors. Campos is SEC Offensive Player Of The Year and Top Kick Returner. Jahn selected SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Utility Player if the Year.
JDHS girls win the Region V swim title. Crimson Bears winners: Women’s 200 Free Relay, 100 Medley Relay and 400 Free Relays, Gabi Kito (200 Free), Mia Ruffin(200 IM), Ciera Kelly(100 Fly, 100 Back). Falcons winners: Mens 200 Med Relay, Kenny Fox (200 IM, 100 Fly), Terra Pierce(Diving), Thane O’Brien (100 Back).
TMHS’ Q’On Bear lark wins the 170-pound championship at the Brandon Pilot Invitational.
The Gold Medal Tournament voted to allow a Women’s bracket for the 2014 tourney.
JDHS was winless in the state volleyball championships. South Anchorage topped Dimond for the title and Grace Christian topped Mt. Edgecumbe for the 3A title.
Complete Warrior Academy MMA fighter Christian Rotola defeats Fairbanks’ Frostbite Vale Tudo battler Darren “Death Row” Snow at the Sullivan Arena, helping to promote Juneau’s combat arts fight scene.
Mt. Edgecumbe junior Paul Johanson wins the 298-pound title and Thorne Bay’s Luther Jenson the 152-pound title at the ASAA small school state wrestling championships in Anchorage.
JDHS’ Demetrius Campos is selected to the All-State Football Team.
Empire Cup Top Ten Overall (Place, Name, Representing AGE Group, ECPoints, Gender) finishers: 1 Jeff Gnass 60+ 153 M; 2 Leslie Weaver Daugherty 60+ 147 F; 3 Darla Orbistondo 50-54 144 F; 4 Linda Kruger 60+ 139 F; 5 Myron Davis 35-39 130 M; 6 Connor Norman 11-13 128 M; 7 Bob Hopson 50-54 127 M; 8 Aidan Hopson 11-13 121 M; 9 Becky Bohrer 35-39 114 F; 10 Dan Robinson 45-49 110 M.
The Gig Harbor Tides defeat the JDHS girls 34-27 in the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic and the Dimond Lynx defeat the JDHS boys 54-51 for the title. Curtis High School wins the girls title with a 35-18 score over Lathrop.
The year ended again with the 21st annual Holiday Cup Soccer Tournament and new sponsor Marty McKeown (RE/MAX), who sat through the 10 days of 91 soccer games by 400 of Juneau’s finest athletes at the Wells Fargo Dimond Park Field House, and cheerfully invited everyone back next year. The law firm of Dillon and Findley founded the tournament and previously sponsored it for the past 20 years. Kickin’ Elves defeated Reigning Snowballs 4-0 for the Elementary Division Championship. Thunder Muffins defeated Avalanche 6-1 for the Middle School Championship. Silver Santas defeated The Fellowship 6-5 for the Junior Division Championship. The Wolfpack defeated J J Jingles 4-3 in the Senior Division Championship. Ring-A-Ding-Ding (RADD) defeated Santa’s Slayers 5-2 for the Classics Division Championship. The ‘04s defeated the Orcas 6-3 to defend their Masters Division Championship. The tournament is about coming home for the holidays. Juneau does that. It makes you feel at home.
Thanks Marty! And thank you Juneau athletes for another year!
I realize we have overlooked some events and athletes. That reminds me of a boy who went overlooked. One day this past July I discovered his memorial at the Adair-Kennedy baseball field. I would like to share that column with you again, so we all can look back at those we have forgotten this past year and in year’s past.
There once was a boy who loved baseball.
I like to imagine he would want to hit a home run to center field.
I am sure, like many young boys, he would go to the baseball parks in Juneau and press his face against the fences or through the cracks of wood siding or stand shielding his face from the rain or sun to gaze longingly out into his own dreams.
Maybe he would be chewing the leather ties on his glove, in his mind hitting a home run like the bigger lads he idolized.
Maybe his hair was always wild from riding his bike like the wind to reach a park where he knew other lovers of the game were gathering. His glove dangling on the handlebars, a bat balanced on his shoulder, a ball tucked into a jacket pocket.
Maybe he went to every game he could go to, such as those of adult softball, or Little League or high school, or pick-up games at Cope Park or Melvin Park.
Some might remember the young boy as being quiet.
Some know he played baseball because they chose him once or twice for their side in a pick-up game.
“He was always around,” one local said. “We didn’t have much to do then so we played pick-up games. He was a guy who always had a mitt.”
Many did not know him personally as they played in the town and he was from the Valley, living at the Glacier View Trailer Court.
Most do not remember him too well, but remember an event associated with him, an event from Sunday, July 6, 1986.
This young baseball loving boy, age 15, and a friend, age 14, were spending a day riding their bikes on the East Glacier Trail.
I like to imagine they were passing time until a game that night.
They left their bikes and the trail and crossed a creek that fed the AJ Falls just below.
It began as a beautiful day.
I imagine they talked of fireworks from the days before, the parade, of many things including, of course, baseball.
On the return over the creek the boy would slip, fall into the water and be swept over the falls onto the rocks below.
It was about 1:45 p.m.
The young boy’s passion would be crushed in the fall.
An acquaintance of the boy would never again return to the glacier. The boy’s family would move away.
Roughly 328 feet from home plate at Adair Kennedy Field is a place this boy dreamed of.
It is just outside the center field fence, at the base of the flagpole where the United States and Alaska flags are tethered.
It is a concrete block overgrown with weeds.
On the block, a plaque reads:
JOSHUA MCCUISTION III
A BOY WHO LOVED BASEBALL
This young baseball-loving boy would be buried far from center field, at St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Beach, N.D. Some say it is just across the aisle from the rest of his family, with one plot empty beside him for his mother.
The spot left behind in center field takes my breath away.
It is a spot few know of. His legacy of how fragile life can be, forgotten.
It has become wrought with moss, wild flowers and other growth. It is passed and ignored daily by people enjoying a day at the ball game or walking their dog or strolling hand-in-hand.
It is a place that a young boy would love to have hit a home run.
A boy who loved baseball.