Sports infuse Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's life.
Palin the hockey mom. Palin the wife of a four-time Iron Dog snowmachine champion. Palin the point guard for Wasilla High's 1982 state championship basketball team. Palin the sportscaster for Channel 2 news, Anchorage's NBC affiliate. Palin the fish slayer. Palin the hunter (and the only candidate on either presidential ticket who can field dress a moose).
Here are a few more sporting tidbits -- and a couple of myth-busters -- about Alaska's first female governor:
True or false: Palin starred for Wasilla's 1982 championship basketball team. Answer: A little of both.
She wasn't a scoring machine for the Warriors -- nine points in three games -- and she didn't hit the winning free throws in any of the games, though some current accounts of that tournament suggest she did.
But she did make some important contributions, and she did so on a bum ankle.
She'd been limping for weeks but played through the pain, former coach Don Teeguarden said.
Late in the championship game against Service, Teeguarden put Palin, then Sarah Heath, on the bench.
"She was running out of gas on it," said Teeguarden, now a girls basketball coach at Colville High, near his home in Addy, Wash. "I took her out to get her off of it. She wasn't moving very well on it. She wasn't thrilled about coming out."
With under a minute to play, Heath reentered the game. She was fouled and went to the free-throw line. Wasilla led by four. With about 30 seconds left, Heath sank a free throw. It was her only point of the game, but it was an important one.
The free throw let the team finally relax, Teeguarden said. Wasilla defeated Service 58-53.
"Remember, those were the days before the 3-point shot," Teeguarden said. "That put us up by five. Everybody exhaled at that point."
Palin was once a sports writer.
"She was the one person I begged not to quit," said Susan Morgan, former managing editor for The Frontiersman, Palin's hometown newspaper. "She wrote stories the right length, her copy was super clean. She was a dream."
In high school, Palin once helped her father, Chuck Heath, dress a moose he shot in the morning before going to his job as a teacher.
"As he was butchering it, he asked me to hold the moose eyeballs because he was going to bring them into the classroom that morning (for a lesson), and I just couldn't do it," Palin told the Daily News last year. "He was really sympathetic."
Palin ran track in high school (hurdles, relays) and cross country.
She is still an avid runner. She ran a sub 4-hour marathon on her first try, the 2005 Humpy's Marathon (3:59:36.8).
At the state hockey tournament that year in Fairbanks, Palin never skipped a workout. In town to watch her son Track play, she left the hotel every morning to run in 30-below temperatures.
Contrary to numerous reports, Palin didn't pick up the "Sarah Barracuda" nickname for her basketball prowess with the Warriors.
"To be honest, I'd never heard that name before," said Jackie Conn, Palin's backcourt mate who now lives in Anchorage. "I don't know if anyone actually called her that."
Teeguarden thinks maybe she picked it up at a basketball camp.
No matter. Barracuda or not, Palin has said that winning the state basketball championship changed her life. The lessons of hard work, teamwork and competitiveness gleaned from sports influenced her leadership style.
"I've heard her say that 'Everything I needed to learn, I learned on a basketball court,' " Teeguarden said. "I say, I'm glad she feels that way. But my perspective is Sarah was going to be Sarah if we won that game or not.
"It's all about opportunities for growth. Wherever you can find them, they're beneficial. For a lot of people, Sarah being one of them, it was the athletic arena."
Find Ron Wilmot online at adn.com/contact/rwilmot or call 907-352-6712.