2002 in review: A year of Crimson Bear championships

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

For the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears, the year 2002 might as well be called "that championship season."

Four Juneau teams earned state titles during 2002, while two other teams took second place in their state tournaments and another was third.

The year also saw former Juneau-Douglas High School basketball player reach the pinnacle of his sport when he was drafted by the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, while JDHS graduate Joe Tompkins competed in the 2002 Winter Paralympics as a disabled alpine skier, the Olympic Torch Relay visited town and 30 Southeast athletes competed in the 2002 Arctic Winter Games.

There was also some tragedy this year, as two prominent local runners died - one during competition and one in a kayaking accident.

Here is a quick review of the sports year that was for Juneau in 2002.

Four titles for JDHS

The championship season took awhile to get going for Juneau-Douglas High School, as the Crimson Bears didn't earn their first state titles of the year until the final sports of the 2001-02 school year held their respective tournaments.

But once the championship season started, the titles came in droves.

Juneau won two titles on a rainy June 1. The baseball team claimed its first state crown with a 9-3 victory over Lathrop in Palmer, and then a couple of hours later the softball team rallied to beat two-time defending champion Service 6-4 in the if-necessary game of its tournament in Anchorage to claim its second state title in four years.

The Crimson Bears had to wait through a couple of rain delays to win their championships, but the weather seemed to be an omen for the two Juneau teams that won titles on June 1.

For the baseball team, it was Juneau's first title in three tries since the Alaska School Activities Association created an official state tournament in 2000. The Crimson Bears beat 2000 state champion East Anchorage 5-4 in the first round.

Pitcher-outfielder Dylan Hickey, shortstop Joe Ayers and pitcher-infielder Nick Wolf made the all-tourney team.

"It's awesome, we've been working for this forever," said Ayers, who earned a scholarship to play baseball at Stanford in the 2003-04 school year.

Meanwhile, the Juneau softball team was working overtime in its tournament, as the Crimson Bears missed their scheduled flight home when they had to play an if-necessary game following a 3-1 loss to Service in the scheduled championship game of the double-elimination tourney. Earlier in the tournament, Juneau blanked North Pole 12-0, beat Service 5-1 and beat Chugiak 5-3 to advance to the title game.

"This is awesome," Juneau shortstop Kari Parr said, almost in unison with her twin sister, catcher Suzanne Parr. "This is definitely the best ending."

"It's emotional," Suzanne Parr added. "It's a sweet ending to our four years."

The Parr twins both earned spots on the all-tournament team, as did pitcher Rae Walker, outfielder Krista Staveland and first baseman-outfielder Danielle Larson. The Parr twins and Walker all played key roles as freshmen in Juneau's first state championship team.

Juneau won two more state titles in November, as the boys swim team tied with Soldotna to share the state championship on Nov. 9 and the volleyball team completed an undefeated season by beating Bartlett in four games on Nov. 16.

The Crimson Bears hadn't won a state swim title since 1984, when the boys won their last crown (the last Juneau girls state title came in 1983). And the 2002 state meet came down to the final event.

Sophomore Paul Hughes had individual titles in the 200 individual medley (earning all-America consideration with his time) and the 100 breaststroke.

"Our whole team did great," said Hughes, who was named the male swimmer of the year by the Alaska Swimming Coaches Association. "It's nice ending it up like that. I think our whole performances keyed on that first relay."

The meet came down to the final event, as Juneau needed to finish at least second to win the meet outright and third to tie Soldotna for the title, with the top-seeded Stars expected to win the 400 free relay that closes the meet. Juneau was seeded sixth, but the team of junior Kirk Fishel, junior Tyler Hennon, sophomore Q Smythe and Hughes was able to move up to third place to earn a share of the team title as the Crimson Bears and the Stars both finished with 77 team points.

The next weekend, Juneau's undefeated volleyball team claimed its first state title with a 15-7, 15-9, 12-15, 15-10 victory over Bartlett in the Class 4A state tournament. The Crimson Bears concluded the season with a 20-0 overall record, and they went 100-6 in all games including those from round-robin pool-play in tournaments.

"The undefeated part was definitely a plus," Juneau middle blocker Amy Neussl said. "Our goal was to win state. This is our first-ever. We're in the book."

Neussl, setter Callan Janowiec, outside hitter Kelly Baxter and outside hitter Julie Heard all made the all-tournament team for Juneau.

While four JDHS teams won state titles, two others came close to joining them.

The Juneau boys basketball team lost 77-64 to Bartlett on March 23, as the Crimson Bears could never overcome the 16-3 run the Golden Bears used to open the game. Curtis Lane and Sterling Henderson both led Juneau with 11 points and Joe Ayers added 10 in the title game.

On May 25, the nationally ranked Juneau boys soccer team fell short in its attempt to win a second straight state title, falling 1-0 to Dimond in a rematch of the 2001 championship game.

Juneau midfielder Robert Lossett, who now plays NCAA Division I soccer at the University of Charlotte, won two player of the year awards for Alaska (one from Gatorade and one from Adidas). Despite the title-game loss, Juneau didn't fall out of the national Student Sports Spring Soccer Fab 50 Rankings and wound up 47th. Juneau is the first Alaska team to crack the Student Sports rankings.

In other state tournaments in 2002, the Juneau girls soccer team took third place, the girls cross-country running team finished fourth, the girls swim team finished fifth, the girls basketball team tied for seventh place, the boys cross-country running team finished seventh, the girls track team finished ninth and the boys track team was 13th. Due to changing season schedules, Juneau didn't compete in a state wrestling tournament in 2002.

The championship season also extended into Juneau's youth sport leagues, as five of six Gastineau Channel Little League teams to go to state won their respective state titles (three in softball and two in baseball) and three of six Juneau Soccer Club teams claimed state crowns.

Boozer goes to the NBA

Carlos Boozer Jr., a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, became the second Alaskan to play in the NBA and the third to be drafted when he was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft on June 26 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made him the 35th pick overall.

Boozer, a 6-foot-8 power forward-center, left Duke University following his junior year, one where he earned third-team all-America honors. Boozer was initially disappointed about not being picked in the first round of the NBA Draft, but he said he planned to use the second-round slight as motivation.

"I feel great. I'm doing terrific. I'm really excited," Boozer said when reached after the draft. "It's a great opportunity, even though I was disappointed at first. ... It may be a blessing in disguise for me."

Even though the Cavaliers (6-27) have struggled so far this season, Boozer has been one of the few bright spots in Cleveland. He's started 12 of the 32 games he's played and is averaging 8.7 points and 5.7 rebounds a game. Boozer has posted eight double-doubles with a season-high of 26 points against Chicago on Dec. 4 and a season-high of 14 rebounds against Boston on Dec. 21.

Tompkins goes for the gold

Monoskier Joe Tompkins of Juneau, a member of the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team for the past five years, finally got to live out his dream on March 9-10, when he competed in the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tompkins finished sixth in his disability classification in both the downhill and Super G races, but Tompkins said he was just happy living out his dream. He is competing this winter as he plans to make an attempt at the 2006 Paralympics.

Torch lights up town

The Olympic Torch Relay made its first-ever appearance on Alaska soil Jan. 24 as it traveled the country prior to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

On a snowy day, about 50 runners carried the torch on a circuitous route through town that ended at Centennial Hall. A highlight of the journey was the torch's transit across the downtown harbor in a Tlingit canoe paddled by members of the Tlingit Warriors and SEARHC canoe teams.

Juneau goes to/for the Arctic Winter Games

Southeast Alaska sent 31 athletes to the 2002 Arctic Winter Games in March, helping Team Alaska easily claim the overall team title in the final ulu count. The 2002 AWG were the first to be split between two locations - with Nuuk, Greenland, and Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, sharing hosting duties.

Juneau also decided to submit a bid to host the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, which is the next time an Alaska community gets to host the biannual competition for regions north of the 60th parallel. Juneau is competing against Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula for the right to host the games.

End of the line

Two prominent Juneau runners won't be seen on local trails after both passed away in 2002.

Wes Coyner, 74, collapsed and died at the 2002 USA Duathlon National Championship and Team USA World Duathlon Qualifier on July 14 in Carlsbad, Calif. Coyner was nearing the finish line when he suffered a heart attack. Even though he'd only been competing in duathlons for four years, Coyner was a three-time national age group champion and had represented Team USA in four world championship events.

The local running community also lost Tom Casey, 35, who lived in Juneau during the summer while attending graduate school at Yale University during the school year. Casey, a political science teaching assistant at Yale, was kayaking along the coast of Long Island Sound on Nov. 8 when heavy seas swamped his kayak.

Both runners have had races named for them for the 2003 Southeast Road Runners club season - a False Outer Point Duathlon for Coyner and the Mount Juneau Ridge Run for Casey.

Charles Bingham and Andrew Krueger of the Juneau Empire sports desk would like to thank all Southeast athletes and fans for a great year in local sports, and we look forward to continued success in 2003. Contact us at sports@juneauempire.com.

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