ANCHORAGE - A teenager from Barrow tied a world record in the one-foot high kick at the Native Youth Olympics.
John Miller kicked his way into the record books Saturday with 9 feet, 6 inches at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The one-foot kick is to Native sports what the 100-meter dash is to the Summer Olympics. It's the most glamorous event, possibly the toughest, the one crowds want most to see because competitors rocket high off the ground in an explosion of power and grace.
The 5-foot, 11-inch Miller is the third person to reach 9-6, joining the legendary Brian Randazzo of Anchorage, who did it in 1988 at the Arctic Winter Games, and Jesse Frankson of Point Hope, who did it last year at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.
Saturday's jump shattered the 19-year-old Native Youth Olympics record of 9-2 set by Randazzo. Miller, the defending NYO champion, had never before exceeded 9-2.
In the one-foot high kick, competitors must kick a sealskin ball the size of an orange, suspended overhead, with one foot and land on the same foot without losing their balance.
The enthusiasm for Miller's sky-scraping performance was contagious. There wasn't a person in the building who didn't want him to kick higher and higher. They went crazy when he booted the ball and moaned when he failed to make contact.
Right before his record-tying kick, bare-chested Miller repeatedly lifted his arms above his head, urging the crowd to roar louder.
"I needed them to make noise so I wouldn't think so much," he said. "I couldn't have done it without them."
Officials had to use a ladder to raise the sealskin ball to 9-6, just 6 inches shy of a basketball rim, drawing oohs and ahhs from the fans.
"That's nuts," said Morgan Simpson of Fairbanks, who won the girls one-foot high kick at 7 feet.
Miller missed three tries at 9-7, which would have given him the record outright. He had the necessary height on one effort but missed the ball.
A sophomore at Barrow High, he hopes his vertical leap will help him land a spot on the varsity basketball team.
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