3 individuals, 1 team earn Director's Awards from Alaska Sports Hall of Fame

Beth Bragg

Youth had its day Wednesday when the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame handed out its annual Director's Awards.

Two of the four awards went to teenagers -- the Nunaka Valley all-star softball team, champions of the 2012 Little League Junior Softball World Series, and 16-year-old Paul Tandy, West High's blind wrestler.

Also honored was Mario Chalmers, the Miami Heat point guard who at age 26 is an NBA champion, the first Alaskan to make that claim.

Representing the old guard was Don Dennis, the longtime general manager of the Fairbanks Goldpanners baseball team since 1967 and an instrumental figure in the Alaska Baseball League.

Created last year, the Director's Awards honor outstanding contributions or achievements. Winners do not become members of the Hall of Fame, but they will be honored along with the Class of 2013 at next month's induction ceremony.

The Nunaka Valley all-stars won the Pride of Alaska Award for females, which honors consistent excellence. Nunaka Valley, which has sent teams to World Series tournaments in three of the last four years, became the first team from Alaska to win a world championship when they captured the title for 12-14-year-olds last summer.

Nunaka Valley won state and district championships en route to the World Series, where it posted a 5-1 record and recored a 6-2 win over Victoria, British Columbia, in the championship game.

"Best feeling in the world," first baseman Morgan Hill said afterwards.

Chalmers, the starting point guard for the Miami Heat, claimed the Pride of Alaska Award for males.

The Bartlett High graduate averaged 9.8 points and 3.5 assists last season and scored 25 points against Oklahoma City in Miami's Game 4 finals victory that put the Heat one win away from the championship. Earlier this season, he tied a team record by hitting 10 3-pointers in a single game.

Tandy, a junior at West, was awarded the Trajan Langdon Award, which recognizes leadership, sportsmanship and inspiration. Born prematurely, Tandy was blinded when he received too much oxygen.

He just wrapped up his second season of wrestling at West, where he owns a 4.0 grade-point average and provides inspiration to teammates and classmates.

"I've always been told I was limited," Tandy said during his sophomore season. "As long as you give it your best and put your heart in it, you can do anything."

Dennis won the Joe Floyd Award for significant and lasting contribution to Alaska sports. His connection with the Goldpanners and the ABL began nearly half a century ago; he was general manager of the team for years and is now the CEO.

Under his guidance, the Goldpanners captured six National Baseball Congress World Series championships and brought future MLB stars like Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield to Fairbanks. He was inducted into the NBC Hall of Fame in 2004.

Winners of the Director's Awards were selected by a six-person committee made up of Hall of Fame president Harlow Robinson and five board members.

They will be honored at the Feb. 26 induction ceremony at the Anchorage Museum, where the Class of 2013 -- chosen by an independent committee of sports reporters and historians -- will be inducted. That class includes Buck Nystrom of Fairbanks, the late football coach for Eielson and North Pole; Herb Didrickson of Sitka, whose storied basketball career started in high school during World War II and, thanks to adult league teams, extended into the 1990s.

Also being inducted is the 50-year-old Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks, Soldotna fisherman Les Anderson's world-record, 97.25-pound king salmon caught in 1985 and Anchorage runner Chris Clark's victory in the 2000 Olympic women's marathon trials.


Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335. She is a member of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame selection panel.