At least 14 athletes and four coaches from Juneau will be part of Team Alaska in the Arctic Winter Games next month. And more Southeast athletes could join them when their teams are announced as early as next week.
The Arctic Winter Games is an athletic and cultural event held every two years across the circumpolar region. The AWG features teams from Alaska, four Canadian provinces and territories, Greenland and two Russian regions.
This year's Arctic Winter Games will take place March 17-23 in two locations -- Nuuk, Greenland, and Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. All of the Juneau athletes selected so far will be competing in Greenland.
"I'm getting excited," said Aaron Larson, one of eight boys volleyball players from Juneau who will compete in Greenland. "I can feel it in the team."
Besides Larson, the other Juneau boys volleyball players are Jesse Blackwell, Bryson Buck, Andrew Croan, Bryan Diebels, Eric Peterson, Collin Reilly and Kyle Thibodeau. The only non-Juneau player on the team is Jason Hemphill of North Pole, and Larson said Hemphill was going to be in Juneau this week to practice with the rest of the squad. Phil McMurray of Juneau will coach Team Alaska.
"We're going overseas and we'll get to experience a new culture," Larson said. "We just want to have fun in Greenland."
In addition to the volleyball team, other Juneau athletes selected for Team Alaska so far will be competing in snowshoeing and indoor soccer.
Monica Daugherty will compete on Team Alaska's juvenile girls indoor soccer team. Other indoor soccer players from Juneau-Douglas are Jamaal Bailey and Dylan Ash on the juvenile boys team (older middle school and younger high school players) and Evan Brinkman on the junior boys team (older high school players).
Bryce Iverson and Tristan Knudson-Lombardo will compete in the boys snowshoeing events, which features five events -- a 10-kilometer and 5K races over cross country trails, plus the 100 meters, 400 meters and 1,500 meters on a snow-covered track.
On the coaching front, Kristi West will serve as the Team Alaska sport coordinator for basketball and indoor soccer, Beth Landvatter will coach the gymnastics team, Jeffrey Johns will coach the alpine skiers and McMurray is coaching the boys volleyball team. Arne Erickson of Hoonah will coach the boys basketball team.
According to West, who serves as the Zach Gordon Youth Center director for the City of Juneau, several other Southeast athletes will be picked for Team Alaska spots when the next batch is announced.
According rosters posted on the Team Alaska Web site, http://www.teamalaska.org/2002/teamselection/, there are still Team Alaska openings in gymnastics, alpine ski, nordic ski, basketball, badminton, Arctic sports, hockey, table tennis and wrestling. West said those roster spots probably won't be announced until next week after the Olympics are over, since Team Alaska chef de mission John Estle has been in Salt Lake City serving as a venue manager for the cross-country skiing competitions.
Juneau is one of four Alaska communities expected to bid to host the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, which is when the event is next scheduled to take place in the state. Besides Juneau-Douglas, the other potential host bids will come from Fairbanks, the Mat-Su Valley (Palmer-Wasilla) and the Kenai Peninsula (Kenai-Soldotna). Fairbanks has hosted the Arctic Winter Games twice, in 1982 and 1988, while the other Alaska communities have never hosted the AWG.