Two men who’ve long had mountains on their minds were announced Monday as the latest inductees in the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
Mountain runner Bill Spencer, 55, an Olympic skier who 30 years ago set the still-standing record in Alaska’s renown Mount Marathon race in Seward, was inducted along with Vern Tejas, 57, the first climber to complete a solo winter ascent of Mount McKinley.
In the category of great Alaska sports moments, the lastest inductee was the 2002 Top of the World Classic tournament title won by the University of Alaska Fairbanks men’s basketball team, which became the first NCAA Division II men’s team to win an event full of Division I teams, pulling off the upset by downing Wisconsin-Green Bay, Nebraska and Weber State. In the event category, the winner was the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament in Juneau, which celebrated its 66th year in March.
Spencer’s Mount Marathon record of 43 minutes, 23 seconds was set in 1981. It has been approached in recent years but never toppled. The 55-year-old won Mount Marathon eight times, and as a cross-country skier was the only Alaskan to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics. For years, Spencer was the record-holder in the Crow Pass Crossing backcountry marathon from Girdwood to Eagle River, but his record there has been broken. Geoff Roes of Juneau established a new record in 2010.
Spencer later became the head ski coach at the University of Alaska Anchorage and is a talented racer at local orienteering competitions.
Earlier this year, Tejas completed a new world speed record of the Seven Summits, climbing the highest mountain on each of the seven continents within a 134-day period, breaking the old mark by two days. Tejas is the only person to have climbed each of the Seven Summits at least nine times.