Juneau-Douglas High School students Wesley Brooks and Jesse Stringer only took up snowshoeing about two months ago, but already the two are making their mark in the sport.
Brooks and Stringer are both competing in the snowshoe events for Team Alaska in the Arctic Winter Games this week in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and both Juneau athletes have figured in the ulus. Brooks, a junior, has already won three gold ulus, while Stringer, a sophomore, has completed a matched set of one gold, one silver and one bronze ulu.
On Wednesday, Brooks won two of his gold ulus while Stringer won a gold and a bronze. The two Juneau athletes combined with Allison Lamb and Ann Wood of Anchorage to claim the title in the junior mixed-gender 4x400-meter relay event. Then Brooks swept all three races - the 100 meters, the 400 and the 1,500 - in the junior male combined sprint event, with Stringer getting third place overall based on a points system that combined the times and placements in each of the three races (Anchorage's Sheamus Lamb took second place).
Tuesday, Brooks beat Stringer in the 5-kilometer cross-country snowshoe event. The snowshoe events end today with the 12K cross country race at Mount McIntyre Recreation Area. In the Arctic Winter Games, the contestants have to use snowshoes made from natural materials, so no aluminum or plastic racing snowshoes are allowed.
The two Juneau athletes said it took some time to get adjusted to the snowshoes, especially since the Arctic Winter Games-style snowshoes are bigger than most commercially produced snowshoes. Team Alaska snowshoe coach John Thornley said the snowshoes require more developed quadriceps muscles because of their extra weight, but the extra power the snowshoers develop can help once they return to running without the clunky attachments.
``I thought they were things from hell. I didn't like them at all,'' Stringer told the Anchorage Daily News.
``It was pretty bizarre,'' Brooks said of his first time on snowshoes. ``My calves were aching, and I was horribly sore. I even had trouble going upstairs. But it was a lot of fun.''
While most of the Team Alaska snowshoers tried out for the team in Anchorage, Brooks and Stringer conducted a two-mile time trial at Juneau-Douglas High School that was timed by one of the school's track coaches.
``We knew the times of the kids from Anchorage, so we were racing more against the clock than against each other,'' Brooks said.
Brooks and Stringer aren't the only athletes from Southeast to earn an ulu, although Alpine skier Cory Anderson of Douglas was incorrectly listed as being on Team Alberta North after claiming a silver ulu Wednesday in the juvenile male super-giant slalom event. No results were available for Nick Yankee of Juneau, who was also in the event. Brittany Rohm of Auke Bay, who was also incorrectly listed as being from Team Alberta North, took fourth place in the junior female super-G. Jeffrey Johns of Juneau is one of the Team Alaska coaches for Alpine skiing.
The other athletes from Southeast are involved in team sports which haven't hit their medal rounds yet.
Taryn Kellogg of Ketchikan has led Team Alaska in scoring in it's 3-1 start. Kellog had a 24-point effort Wednesday as Team Alaska claimed a 53-44 victory over Team Northwest Territories. Kendri Cesar of Juneau is also on the team, but no scoring totals were available for her.
Ozell Jamestown of Angoon scored 14 points Wednesday as the Team Alaska junior male basketball team dropped a 68-67 decision to a much older Team Yukon Territory (Team Alaska limits its players to 15 years old, while Team Yukon has some collegeaged players). Jarret Brown of Hoonah and David Jones of Juneau are also on the team, which is 3-2 with both losses to Yukon, and Arne Erickson of Hoonah is one of the coaches.
In the indoor soccer competition, Juneau's Lucas Knowles and Robert Lossett are both on the undefeated junior male Team Alaska squad, which has posted a 3-0 record. Patrick Sullivan of Juneau is on the juvenile male Team Alaska squad, which has a 3-0-1 record, and Alida Bus of Juneau is on the juvenile female team which is 1-2. Kristi West of Douglas serves as sport coordinator for indoor soccer and is on Team Alaska's mission staff.