Alaska's top sports figures

Posted: Sunday, January 02, 2000

Here is the Juneau Empire's list of the 50 top sports figures in Alaska.

Athletes were chosen based not only on athletic performance, but on their impact on a sport within Alaska and how that impact translated at an international and/or national level.

The list was compiled by Juneau Empire sports reporter Charles Bingham, a 30-year resident of Alaska who has worked for more than a dozen years as a sports reporter at the Anchorage Times, the Frontiersman (Wasilla) and at Alaska Newspapers Inc., including stints with ANI at the Tundra Drums in Bethel and the Arctic Sounder in Barrow.

1. Tommy Moe, Palmer/Girdwood, Alpine skiing: Moe won the downhill gold medal and a silver in the super-G at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, but few people remember he was a split-second away from another medal in the downhill combined, taking fifth place.

2. Joe Redington Sr., Knik, distance mushing: The Father of the Iditarod, by creating the event and funding it in its first year Redington rekindled interest in sled dog racing in the state. He also ran the race 19 times, finishing as high as fifth place when he was 70 years old.

3. Trajan Langdon, Anchorage, basketball: A rookie guard and first-round

draft pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Langdon is the first Alaskan to play in the NBA. A three-time all-American at Duke, Langdon is the first player from an Alaska high school (East Anchorage) to prosper on a national stage.


4. George Attla, Huslia, sprint mushing: Despite a pronounced limp and stiff right leg from childhood polio, Attla captured 10 Fur Rendezvous World Championships and eight Open North American Championships in a career that spanned four decades.

5. Hilary Lindh, Juneau, Alpine skiing: Lindh closed out her 13-year career on the U.S. Ski Team by winning the World Championship downhill race in 1997. She also won a silver medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics and a bronze medal in the 1996 World Championships.

6. Rick Swenson, Two Rivers, distance mushing: The only five-time champion of the Iditarod, Swenson won the race in three different decades. In 1978 he narrowly missed winning another title as Dick Mackey edged out Swenson by one second in the closest finish in Iditarod history.

7. Susan Butcher, Manley, distance mushing: A four-time champion of the Iditarod, Butcher's three straight titles in the late 1980s led to the popular slogan, ``Alaska, where men are men and women win the Iditarod.'' Her victories helped the race gain national popularity.

8. Mark Schlereth, Anchorage, football: A guard with the Denver Broncos who has been under the surgeon's knife more than 25 times, Schlereth, who attended Service High, is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and has Super Bowl rings from the 1992 Washington Redskins and the 1998 and 1999 Broncos.

9. Audun Endestad, Fairbanks, nordic skiing: A transplanted Norwegian, Endestad has won more national titles (13) than any other cross-country skier in United States history. Endestad swept all four men's races in the 1990 national championships in Anchorage.

10. David Morris, Eagle River, track and field: The former Chugiak High runner broke the U.S. Marathon record two months ago in the Chicago Marathon, posting a time of 2:09:32. He also won the 3,000 meters title at the 1993 NCAA indoor track championships.

11. Nina Kemppel, Anchorage, nordic skiing and mountain running: A three-time Olympian and nine-time U.S. champion, Kemppel swept all five women's races at last year's U.S. Nordic Championships. The former West Anchorage High runner has also claimed five titles in Seward's Mount Marathon race.

12. Roxy Wright Champaine, Fairbanks, sprint mushing: The only woman to win the Fur Rendezvous World Championship men's race, three times, Wright Champaine dominated the women's race with nine victories. She is the daughter of noted sprint musher Gareth Wright, the wife of five-time Fur Rendezvous champ Charlie Champaine and the mother of Yukon Quest champ Ramy Brooks.

13. Scott Gomez, Anchorage, hockey: The leading candidate for this year's Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, the New Jersey Devils forward is the first Hispanic player in the NHL. A former East Anchorage High star, Gomez was a two-time member of Team USA's World Junior Championship hockey team.

14. Andrea Lloyd, Sitka, basketball: A 6-foot-3 forward, Lloyd played on the U.S. gold medal-winning women's basketball team in the 1988 Summer Olympics. She also spent two seasons with the Columbus (Ohio) Quest in the American Basketball League, winning ABL titles each year, plus she was on the University of Texas 1983 NCAA championship team and played several years of pro basketball in Italy.

15. Don Clary, Anchorage, track and field: The only Alaska runner to compete in the Olympics (1984 in Los Angeles), Clary advanced to the semifinals of the 5,000 meters. Clary, who attended East Anchorage High, was also a member of Oregon's 1977 NCAA champion team and a three-time all-American.

16. Rocky Klever, Anchorage, football: The first Alaskan to make it in the NFL, Klever averaged 11.2 yards per catch as a tight end with the New York Jets from 1982 to 1988. Klever was quarterback at West Anchorage High, then was a multi-position threat at the University of Montana where he also served as the team's punter and occasional fullback.

17. Chuck White, Anchorage, basketball: In his 34-year career as coach of East Anchorage High, White led the East boys basketball team to 14 state championships and occasional rankings in USA Today's national Top 25. He retired after East beat Lathrop 48-45 to win the state title in March.

18. Jay Hakkinen, Kasilof, biathlon: The former Skyview High cross-country skier and runner was the first American to win a World Junior championship in the sport that combines skiing and riflery. A 1998 Olympian, Hakkinen holds two of the three best finishes ever posted by an American in World Cup or World Championship events.

19. Carl Huntington, Galena, mushing: One of the few mushers to successfully compete in both sprint and distance mushing, Huntington won the 1973 Fur Rendezvous World Championship, the 1974 Iditarod and the 1978 Fur Rendezvous title.

20. Reggie Tongue, Fairbanks, football: A starting safety with the Kansas City Chiefs, the former Lathrop High running back and Oregon State cornerback tied an NCAA record in 1996 when he returned three interceptions for touchdowns in one game.

21. Carol Pickett, Fairbanks, Native sports: A longtime competitor in the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, Pickett won the Denali Award as Alaska's Sportsperson of the Year in 1989.

22. Carlos Boozer, Juneau, basketball: After leading the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears to two state championships and twice being named the state's high school basketball player of the year, Boozer is now starting as a freshman center at Duke where he's already been named ACC freshman of the week and ESPN's college player of the week.

23. Kris Thorsness, Anchorage, rowing: The first Alaskan to win an Olympic gold medal, Thorsness was a member of the U.S. women's eight crew in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The former West Anchorage High student didn't start rowing until she went to the University of Wisconsin.

24. Rosey Fletcher, Girdwood, snowboarding: A member of the 1998 U.S. Olympic team when snowboarding debuted in the Olympics, Fletcher is a three-time winner of World Cup races.

25. Bill Spencer, Indian, mountain running and nordic skiing: Spencer's course record in Seward's Mount Marathon has not been seriously threatened since he set it in 1981, and Spencer has eight titles in the race. He also holds the course record in the 28-mile Crow Pass Crossing, with four titles, and was a 1988 Olympian in cross-country skiing.

26. Jeff King, Denali Park, distance mushing: A three-time winner of the Iditarod, King has also won the Yukon Quest once and the Kuskokwim 300 four times.

27. Brian Randazzo, Anchorage, Native sports: The most dominant male athlete of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, the Native Youth Olympics and the Arctic Winter Games in the 1980s and 90s. Randazzo came back from a serious knee injury to win gold medals in the 1996 AWG and the 1997 and 1999 WEIO high kick events.

28. Martin Buser, Big Lake, distance mushing: A three-time winner of the Iditarod, the transplanted Swiss has also won the Copper Basin 300, the Klondike 300 and the Kuskokwim 300.

29. Travis Hall, Kenai, football: A starting defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, Hall played in last year's Super Bowl and recently signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract extension. Hall played football, hockey and wrestled at Kenai Central High School.

30. Brian Swanson, Eagle River, hockey: A former Chugiak High star, Swanson was a two-time finalist for the Hobey Baker Award while at Colorado College, a member of Team USA in the 1996 World Junior Championships and a first-round draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers in 1999.

31. Vernon Tejas, Anchorage, mountain climbing: Tejas is one of the world's few climbers to bag the Seven Summits (the highest peak on each continent) and in March 1988 became the first person to complete a solo winter ascent of Mount McKinley.

32. Megan Gerety, Anchorage, Alpine skiing: A three-time Olympian, Gerety took fifth place in the 1996 World Championships downhill race and is a two-time U.S. downhill champion.

33. Jeannie Hebert, Fairbanks, basketball: Now the girls coach at Wasilla High, Hebert was twice the state's player of the year at Monroe Catholic before heading to the University of Miami. Hebert holds the career assists record at Miami with 694.

34. Molly Tuter, Soldotna, basketball: After leading Soldotna High to a state title in 1992, Tuter went on to become Arizona State's third-leading scorer. She is now an assistant coach at UCLA.

35. Marshall Boze, Kenai, baseball: In 1996, Boze became the first Alaskan to reach the major leagues when he made a brief stint as a relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.

36. Steve MacSwain, Anchorage, hockey: One of the first Alaska players to make it on the national scene, MacSwain starred at the University of Minnesota, played for Team USA in the World Championships and has played professionally in five different countries. He is currently a player-coach with the Anchorage Aces.

37. Libby Riddles, Knik, distance mushing: With her brave venture into a freezing blizzard, Riddles became the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985, drawing a lot of national attention to the race.

38. Shane Bonham, Fairbanks, football: Currently a defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts, Bonham has been to the playoffs in all six years of his NFL career that includes stints with the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers. A former Lathrop High player, Bonham played at the University of Tennessee.

39. Diana Jessie, Anchorage, volleyball and basketball: The former Bartlett High star was a member of Hawaii's 1987 NCAA Division I championship volleyball team. She is also a former state player of the year in basketball.

40. Tom Neville, Fairbanks, football and wrestling: Before he had a decade-long NFL career as an offensive lineman for five different teams, Neville was a two-time state wrestling champion as a heavyweight at Eielson High.

41. Kristi (Klinnert) Waythomas, Kodiak, running: Now a teacher in Anchorage, the Kodiak High star was the first person to win four straight individual state titles in cross-country running. She also was an NCAA all-American in both track and cross country at Northern Arizona, and twice has competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials.

42. Sydne Vogel, Anchorage, figure skating: A graduate of East Anchorage High, Vogel won the U.S. Junior National title in 1995, the World Junior championship in 1996 and took fourth place in the U.S. Senior Nationals in 1996.

43. Tom Roth, Anchorage, swimming: The former Bartlett High swimmer won the 1986 NCAA Division II national title in the 100-yard backstroke while at Cal State-Bakersfield and earned all-American honors in 10 different events from 1983-86.

44. Judy Rabinowitz, Fairbanks, nordic skiing and swimming: Now a resident of Juneau, the former West Valley High athlete quit the Harvard swim team to join the U.S. Ski Team in 1980. Rabinowitz won three U.S. cross-country ski titles and posted some of the best American finishes ever on the World Cup circuit.

45. Butch Lincoln, Kotzebue, basketball: The former Kotzebue High star, an Inupiat, became the first Eskimo to earn a college scholarship for basketball where he eventually started as point guard for the University of Alaska Anchorage.

46. John Brown, Ketchikan, basketball: Now the boys coach at Ketchikan High, Brown was the first player in the state to play on four straight high school state champion basketball teams.

47. Nicole (Johnson) Johnston, Nome, Native sports: The winner of 14 titles in the two-foot high kick at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, Johnston has won over 60 gold medals in WEIO, Arctic Winter Games and Native Youth Olympics events.

48. Doug Herron, Anchorage, track and field: When he was a senior at Bartlett High in 1985, Herron posted the country's fifth-best time ever (to that time) in the 800 meters. Later, at the University of Arizona, he won the Pac-10 title in the event.

49. Joe Tompkins, Juneau, disabled Alpine skiing: A member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, Tompkins won a gold medal last month in the first official Disabled World Cup ski event.

50. Tony Turner, Anchorage, basketball: A former Bartlett High star, Turner ranks fifth all-time in scoring at the University of Alaska Anchorage and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1980 and played for the Anchorage Northern Knights in the Continental Basketball Association.

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