Approximately two dozen Juneau youths took to the University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center gymnasium Friday night for the Native Youth Olympics Tradition Games.
It was the first of two days of friendly competition among middle and high school students in a sport that up until this year was only practiced at the elementary school level in town.
Juneau-Douglas High School football team members Bubba Stults and Derrick Roberts were there. But many competitors had no sports background and attended the after-school practices that started in November through word of mouth.
JDHS freshman Guo Zhong Maas joined the group through an invitation from his friend Arthur McVey.
“He came in here because he was really good at the seal hop,” Maas said. “I’ve never participated in any school activities so I’m like, ‘might as well go out of my comfort zone and do this thing with him.’”
Maas had just got done shaking hands with a lineup of boys after topping out in the one-foot high kick at 72 inches. The contest requires contestants, either from a standing or running start, to strike a suspended ball with one foot. Athletes must land on their kicking foot.
The 15-year-old Maas successfully completed kicks at 56, 60, 64 and 68 inches, his long black hair slashing over his face with each leap.
“As soon as (the ball) was at least my height, I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s scary,’” Maas said.
Only three competitors remained once the ball height reached 90 inches: Thunder Mountain High School’s Matthew Quinto, Josh Sweakley, and Erik Whisenant.
Sweakley and Quinto advanced to the next height, 92 inches (7 feet, 8 inches). After missing by mere inches, Sweakley came up well short on his last jump, giving Quinto the opportunity to win, which he did after just two attempts.
“I like climbing and jumping and being high up,” Quinto said. “Even though I’m afraid of heights I just like the adrenaline of it.”
He said the jump was one inch off his personal best of 93 inches (7 feet, 9 inches).
It was Quinto’s second gold medal of the day. Quinto won first in the kneel jump — a drastically different jumping method from the one-foot high kick — in which contestants jump up and forward from a kneeling position.
Quinto bested the rest of the competition with a 43.5 inch (3 feet, 7.5 inches) jump. Fellow TMHS student Joseph Dundore came in third place at 39.75 inches.
But right after the kneel jump, it was Dundore standing atop the podium in the wrist carry. The junior was the second to go in the wrist carry and crushed his personal record by 49 feet. Dundore rounded one loop around the gym and didn’t crash down until his was rounding the third turn of the second lap, which gave him a 251 feet, 2.5 inches score.
“I told myself, ‘I could keep doing this. I got this. I can make it. At least go one more foot,’ and after I made that foot, ‘Go another foot,’ that’s how I was thinking the whole time,” Dundore said.
Dundore, 17, said his friend invited him out to NYO and he was hooked after only two practices. His only previous extracurricular activities at high school were Drama/Debate/Forensics and a few theater productions.
Only six girls competed on Friday.
Sisters Rayna Tuckwood, a sixth grader at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, and Skylar Tuckwood, a seventh grader, each won individual events.
The younger Tuckwood made it an astounding 186 feet, 4.5 inches in the wrist carry. Rayna Tuckwood’s older sister, Sadie Tuckwood, won first place in the event at the 2016 NYO state competition with a carry of 453 feet.
In the one-foot high kick, Skylar Tuckwood overcame the tough competition of Trinity Jackson (68 inches), Kalila Arreole (56 inches) to claim first with a 76-inch jump.
The 2018 NYO Games are April 26-28 at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. Nine students from JDHS and TMHS are on the travel roster, according to coach Kyle Worl.
The Eskimo stick pull, scissor broad jump, two-foot high kick, one-hand reach, Alaskan high kick and seal hop took place Saturday afternoon, after print deadline.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.