Big fish, Olympic trials win among Alaska Sports Hall additions

bbragg@adn.comDecember 4, 2012 

— A big fish, a big shock, a big pain and two men who made lasting marks on opposite ends of Alaska are the newest members of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2013 was announced Monday at a press conference, and maybe the biggest news is that the first nonhuman is getting inducted, along with the Soldotna man who caught it.

Les Anderson's world-record king salmon catch was one of two moments selected. Caught on rod-and-reel on a sunny May morning in 1985, the fish weighed in at 97.25 pounds. Twenty-seven years later, the record still stands and the fish is on display at the Soldotna Visitors Center.

The other moment honored is one that sent shock waves through Alaska, especially among runners. In February 2000, after spending the winter training in her home on a treadmill, Chris Clark of Anchorage won the Olympic Trials women's marathon.

A relative unknown outside Alaska, Clark, a working mother, wore a Skinny Raven singlet in a race that attracted a number of well-sponsored professional runners. Ranked 22nd in a field of 209 qualifiers vying for the country's sole berth in the Sydney Olympics marathon, Clark sliced more than seven minutes off her previous best to win the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 33 minutes, 31 seconds -- two minutes ahead of anyone else.

Also selected for induction:

• The Equinox Marathon, the 26.2-mile race in Fairbanks which earlier this year celebrated its 50th anniversary as one of the nation's toughest marathons. A combination of road and trail running, it begins and ends at UAF's Patty Center and includes an ascent and descent of 2,323-foot Ester Dome. "It's punishing," said Hall of Fame executive director Harlow Robinson, a veteran of the race.

• Buck Nystrom, the winningest coach in Alaska high school football who guided two Fairbanks schools to state championships, influenced a generation of coaches and helped scores of players find college teams.

In 1992, he led tiny Eielson to the state title back when all schools participated in a single classification. In 2004, he led North Pole to the large-school state championship. To understand the significance of that, consider that since the first state football championship in 1983, Anchorage's big schools have won every title except five.

Nystrom, who died in 2006, posted a 150-92 record during 31 seasons at Eielson and North Pole. The field in Eielson was named after him.

• Herb Didrickson, a multi-sport star from Sitka whose storied basketball career started in high school during World War II and, thanks to adult league teams, extended into the 1990s. He's a legend at Juneau's Gold Medal basketball tournament, but he also excelled in baseball and track. Mike Seca, a member of the Hall of Fame selection panel, called him "Alaska's Jim Thorpe."

Now a respected Tlingit elder, Didrickson, 86, came from an era before YouTube and copious statistics, so his achievements are mostly anecdotal. According to KCAW radio in Sitka, elders who watched him play basketball called him Chief See Hands, because his hands seemed to "see" the ball. Didrickson was executing the alley-oop-- sometimes as the passer, sometimes as the shooter -- long before the play had a name, according to people who saw him play.

The late Steve Agbaba, a longtime Alaska sports broadcaster, wrote this about Didrickson:

"Herbie Didrickson stood about five feet eleven inches, but had springs in his legs which enabled him to clear the boards with the giants of the game. He had the best hands going ... nobody ever dribbled in the key hole like Herbie ...

"There are other athletes around this state who are highly touted and I am not denying they have accomplished much in the field of sport (but) I'm speaking from my memories and in my opinion, Herbie Didrickson is by far the most exciting athlete I have ever watched in any sport, not just basketball. I could talk all day about this man."

Selections were made by an eight-member committee, plus an online public vote that garnered 1,732 votes. Details for the February induction ceremony will be announced later


Beth Bragg is a member of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame selection committee. Reach her at or call her at 257-4335.



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