Three years ago, Josh Dean had never played an organized game of rugby in his life.
On May 4, the Air Force Academy junior from Juneau became a national champion.
The Zoomies, the nickname used by the Air Force rugby football club team, knocked off Harvard 45-37 during the May 4 title game of the USA Rugby Collegiate National Championships in Palo Alto, Calif. It was Air Force's first men's rugby title since winning two in 1989 and 1990. The victory gave Air Force a sweep, since the Air Force women won their second straight national championship when they beat Penn State 17-15 on May 4.
The highlight of the tournament may have come the day before, when the Zoomies upset 12-time defending champion California 46-28 in the semifinals. It was the Bears their first loss to an American team since 1996. Dean scored a try (rugby's version of a touchdown, worth four points) in the semifinal game.
"That game was amazing," Dean said in a phone interview last week. "It was a great feeling to beat Cal. We played 'em two years ago, when I was a freshman, and they beat us 68-7. It was great to come back and beat them.
"One of the biggest things is a lot of the guys on the team believe in divine intervention. We wanted to play to the glory of God, especially on Saturday."
In Sunday's title match, Dean was held scoreless but he still played a major role in the Air Force offense. Dean's position is similar to a quarterback in rugby. He gets the plays going once the ball comes out from under the scrum.
"Josh had a fantastic championship," Air Force coach Rob Holder wrote in an e-mail message. "He was one of only five players to play the entire two games, and he captained the team in the final."
Dean, a Cadet Second Class business management major, said the Zoomies may have still been on their high after beating California when it came time to play Harvard, a team that was suspended for a time in the late 1990s after breaking a school alcohol policy.
"I didn't score against Harvard, but that one was a lot closer," Dean said. "We were so excited after beating Cal, to have ended their streak. We never trailed (against Harvard), but we were tied at one point late in the game. They're a strong side."
Even after beating Harvard, Dean said the Zoomies were still talking about the win over California.
"It had been seven years since they lost to an American team and they'd been champions for 12 years," Dean said. "It's something else to stop a dynasty like that. When Air Force won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990, they were the last team to beat Cal."
While Air Force won the national title, Dean admitted that another team might have a claim on the crown.
Brigham Young University - whose program counts Juneau-Douglas High School graduate David Shepro as a sophomore hooker/flanker - handed Air Force its only loss of the year, 43-27 on March 28, and finished its regular season with an unbeaten record. BYU did not send its team to the national championships, though, since the school does not allow its sports teams to compete on Sundays and the national title game was on a Sunday.
"Our only loss was to BYU, but I didn't see David at the game," Dean said. "He'll probably say something about it, though. They're a tough team and if they'd been in the tournament, they probably would have done pretty well."
Dean, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, was one of two Alaska players to see action for Air Force. The other was senior Todd Green, a 1999 graduate from Bartlett High School.
When he was in high school, Dean played baseball and football for the JDHS Crimson Bears. He spent a year at Colorado State before transferring to Air Force, and he played third base on CSU's club baseball team.
Even though he's still relatively new to the sport, Dean has been building quite a resume. In addition to his national title, Dean played last September on a USA Rugby Collegiate All-America team that toured South Africa, winning the Doug Edwards Best Tourist Award for his play on the field and his character off the field during the tour. Dean also won the Goff on Rugby/Tullamore Dew Player of the Month Award for September 2002.
In June, Dean and several of his teammates will play in a collegiate all-star tournament. The tournament is similar to one Dean played in last summer, when USA Rugby chose its collegiate all-America team.
"We hope to put a few more guys on the all-America team this year," Dean said, adding that he hopes he can help Air Force repeat next season. "We're losing a lot of seniors - nine of our 15 - so it'll be tough. But we've got guys who can step up and we've got some strong underclassmen."
Replays of the national championship will be shown later this week on College Sports Television, a new network that is only available in Juneau on DirecTV (Channel 610) or by satellite. Air Force's semifinal victory over California will air at 6 p.m. (Alaska time) on Friday, and Air Force's championship victory over Harvard will air at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
TRACK AND FIELD
Marquette University freshman Jodi Jakubek (Ketchikan) finished fifth in the women's 1,500 meters (4 minutes, 47.64 seconds) during the Wisconsin Twilight meet held Saturday at the University of Wisconsin. On May 3, Jakubek took second place in the 5,000 meters (17:23.95) during the Central Collegiate Championships held in Kalamazoo, Mich. That time, a personal record, ranks her fifth in the event in the Conference USA top times list.
Portland State University freshman Hilary Young (Juneau-Douglas) finished 14th in the 1,500 meters (4:59.26) during the Oregon Twilight meet held on May 5 at the University of Oregon.
University of Portland freshman Jesse Stringer (Juneau-Douglas) is redshirting this season and hasn't had any new results posted since he ran as an unattached runner at the Willamette Invitational in late March. Last winter, Stringer said he plans to transfer to Western Oregon University so he can run with high school teammate Brian Nowlin (Juneau-Douglas), a freshman who is redshirting this season at WOU.
Pacific Lutheran University senior Breea Mearig, formerly Breea DeSloover (Juneau-Douglas), took second place in the women's 10,000 meters (39:22.04) and fifth in the 5,000 meters (19:04.22) during the Northwest Conference Championships held April 25-26 at PLU's campus in Tacoma, Wash.
Seattle University freshman Meghan Salveson (Juneau-Douglas) finished in 10th place in the women's 1,500 meters (5:21.55) during the Western Open held April 26 at Western Oregon University.
Seattle Pacific University sophomore Breanne Rohm (Juneau-Douglas) is competing for the Falcons this season in the 400 meters, 800 and 4x400 relay, but no results were available for her this season.
Northwest College freshman Elisa Bolling (Ketchikan) finished seventh in the women's 800 meters (2:25.29) and was a member of NWC's first-place team in the 4x800 relay (10:11.70) during the Cascade Conference Championships held May 3 at Southern Oregon University. Bolling also was registered - but didn't compete - in the shot put and javelin events.
Several local athletes are listed on various college rosters, but no recent results are available for them. The list includes Western State College sophomore distance runner Brandy Weston (Juneau-Douglas), Pacific University junior sprinter-middle distance runner Leslie Jeffries (Ketchikan), Lewis & Clark College freshman Lucinda Boyce (Haines resident, graduate of the Gov. Dummer School in South Byfield, Mass.) and Southwestern Oregon Community College freshman sprinter-middle distance runner Matt Mangini (Sitka). Also, Adams State College graduate assistant coach Carl Blackhurst (Haines) is from Southeast Alaska.
After missing 21 games with vertigo and mononucleosis, Belmont University senior third baseman-designated hitter Wade Walter (Juneau-Douglas) returned to action in grand style on April 15, hitting a three-run ninth-inning homer and a triple as he drove in a career-high four runs to lead the Bruins past Austin Peay State 6-5 in 11 innings. "It is pretty good to have Wade Walter back," Belmont coach Dave Jarvis said in the post-game press release. "Those hits were clutch tonight. This is a good one for our team." Walter led Belmont in batting average last year (.352), but was only hitting .258 on March 22 when he was sidelined. Since his return, Walter's batting average has risen to .284 with 21 hits in 74 at bats. In 22 games (21 starts), Walter has four doubles, one triple, one homer, six runs scored and 16 RBIs for the Bruins (26-17 overall, 18-11 in the Atlantic Sun Conference).
University of Dayton freshman right-handed pitcher Dylan Hickey (Juneau-Douglas) threw a complete game on May 7 as the Flyers upset Mid-American Conference leader Ball State University 10-6. Hickey scattered eighth hits in the game while striking out five and walking three for Dayton (16-36 overall, 4-20 in the Atlantic 10 Conference). Hickey leads Dayton in wins with a 5-3 record and has a team-leading 4.86 ERA. Hickey's made 15 appearances (six starts) and thrown two complete games. He has allowed 47 hits and 23 walks in 50 innings with 37 strikeouts. Hickey plans to play for the Anchorage Bucs in the Alaska League this summer.
Arizona State University sophomore catcher Garrett Schoenberger (Juneau-Douglas) made his fourth appearance of the season for the Sun Devils when he struck out as a pinch hitter during ASU's 11-1 victory over California-Irvine on May 6. Schoenberger, who was the only player to make the team as a walk-on during the Fall 2000 tryouts, has no hits in three at bats this season. The Sun Devils are ranked third in the major national polls with a 44-19 overall record (10-5 in the Pac-10).
Shasta College freshmen catcher-third baseman Suzanne Parr, shortstop-outfielder Kari Parr, pitcher Nicole Adair and outfielder Krista Staveland (all Juneau-Douglas) ended their first college season on May 6 as the Knights lost 8-1 to West Valley of Saratoga in the finals of the Northern California playoffs. Suzanne Parr had the only RBI for Shasta, which posted a 28-14 overall record on the season. No team stats were available for Shasta.
Linfield College freshman outfielder Zeta Moss (Ketchikan) was on the roster for the Wildcats this season, but had no varsity stats. Moss also played on Linfield's junior varsity volleyball team in the fall.
Shasta College sophomore Chad Walter (Juneau-Douglas) qualified for the California State Junior College Championships (May 1-2 in Pleasant Hill, Calif.) in three events - the 100-yard butterfly, the 50 freestyle and the 100 free. Walter was seeded 16th in the 100 fly, but finished fifth in the event with a personal record time of 53.16 seconds, improving by two seconds. He also had season-best times of 48.89 in the 100 free and 22.44 in the 50 free. Shasta coach Bob Smith wrote in an e-mail that Walter's time in the 100 fly may qualify him for national recognition. "Normally, a fifth place will give him an all-America award. We haven't heard as of yet," Smith wrote. "What I am sure is he was outstanding in the event at the state meet." Smith wrote that Walter "was a great leader for us this season. (He) always set a great example for workouts and meets." Walter plans to transfer to the University of North Dakota this fall. UND was the site of this year's NCAA Division II national championships.
Auburn University junior Derek Gibb (Petersburg graduate, family now lives in Juneau) attended an orientation meeting at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., last week for swimmers representing the United States in international competition this summer. Gibb, who helped the Auburn men's swim team claim the NCAA Division I Championship in late March, will compete at the World University Games on Aug. 21-31 in Daegu, South Korea. Also last week, the Auburn men's and women's swim teams were honored for their national championships at a Govenor's Mansion reception hosted by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley on May 7.
Texas A&M freshman Seva Iwinski (former Juneau resident, graduate of Walker School in Marietta, Ga.) didn't get to finish her No. 6 singles match in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The University of California clinched a victory over Texas A&M before it was done Saturday. Iwinski finished the season with a 16-22 record in singles (including a 4-6 mark in the fall season). She went 11-12 in doubles when paired with Niki Mechem and was 1-5 with other partners. Texas A&M ended the season ranked 28th in the country.
University of Washington sophomore Michael Kohan (Juneau-Douglas) is rowing in the bow seat for the Huskies' women's junior varsity eight crew. Kohan's boat is the top seed in the women's second eight race at this weekend's Pac-10 Championships, which take place Sunday on Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Washington has won the last six Pac-10 titles in the JV eight race. Washington's varsity women are ranked No. 1 in the country. Last Saturday, Washington's women's JV eight boat beat Oregon State by six seconds at a dual meet in Seattle. The women's JV eight crew is expected to race in the NCAA Championships on May 31-June 1 in Indianapolis.
Colby College senior Ellie Boyce (Haines) is rowing in the women's varsity eight boat for her school. Her boat took sixth place in the women's eight grand final at the New England Rowing Championships last weekend, finishing behind several larger schools. Colby took second place at last year's NCAA Division III Championships and Boyce wrote in an e-mail, "our women's team is trying for a first at the Division III NCAA's this year."
Pacific Lutheran University junior Erin Jakubek (Ketchikan) is a member of her school's varsity women's eight crew, which won the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference Championship on April 26 in Lake Stevens, Wash. Other rowers from Southeast at PLU include women's lightweight four rowers Chrystal Aldrighette (Juneau-Douglas) and Sarah Truitt (Ketchikan), women's second varsity eight (JV eight) rower Blaise Bellows (Sitka), and women's novice eight rowers Sharon Maloney (Ketchikan) and Kristen Kuehl (Ketchikan). The women's second eight boat took sixth place, the women's novice eight boat was third and the women's lightweight four was fifth at the NWCRC Championship meet on April 26.
The Juneau Empire's College Corner feature runs about once a month during the school year and is compiled by sports editor Charles Bingham from school Web sites and tips from readers, coaches and parents. If you know of any other college athlete from Southeast Alaska who should be included in the feature, please let us know. You can fax information to 586-3028 (attention Sports), or you can e-mail the information to firstname.lastname@example.org (please do not send text attachments).