Sports

July 2021 may have been the hottest month ever for Alaska sports


Hello, August. You have a tough act to follow.

The month of July was about as big as it gets for Alaska sports.

From the pool to the pitch to the track to the octagon to the hardwood, Alaskans made sports news week after week.

Seward teenager Lydia Jacoby was the joy of July, becoming one of Alaska’s greatest athletes during a six-day span at the Tokyo Olympics, where she swam to gold and silver medals for the United States.

But she left room for other stars.

-- July 15: Lauren Murphy, who grew up in Eagle River and started her MMA career at the Alaska Fighting Championships, signed a deal that will make her the first Alaskan to fight for a UFC championship. She’ll face 125-pound world champion Valentina Shevchenko on Sept 25.

-- July 18: Ketchikan’s Isaac Updike broke the 4-minute barrier in the mile with a winning time of 3 minutes, 58.26 seconds at an American Track League meet in Mission Viejo, California. Updike, 29, is the second Alaskan to achieve one of sport’s greatest milestones -- Kodiak’s Trevor Dunbar did it three times; fewer than 600 Americans have broken the 4-minute barrier, according to letsrun.com.

--July 20: Lathrop High graduate and longtime basketball coach Mike Dunlap celebrated an NBA championship as an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks. Only two other Alaskans know how that feels -- point guard Mario Chalmers, a two-time champ with the Miami Heat, and front-office man Trajan Langdon, who picked up a championship ring as a scout for the 2014 champion San Antonio Spurs.

-- July 22: A 15-year-old from Anchorage became the third-youngest player to start a Major League Soccer game. Obed Vargas, who turns 16 on Thursday, started and played 77 minutes for the Seattle Sounders. The Sounders were hurting for players because of injuries, absences and suspensions, and Vargas hasn’t appeared in another game yet.

-- July 26-31: Lydiamania shocked the world and rocked Alaska while thrusting Seward into the world spotlight.

-- July 28-31: They didn’t win medals, but UAF riflery alum Sagen Maddalena captured fifth place in women’s 3-position shooting and Eagle River’s Alev Kelter placed sixth in women’s rugby sevens at the Summer Olympics.

-- July 29: JT Thor, who played JV basketball at West High as a freshman a couple of years ago, was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in the second round of the NBA draft. He’s a 6-foot-9 power forward who spent one season at Auburn University. Daishen Nix of Anchorage gave Alaska another draft prospect but he went undrafted.

A couple of adventurers turned in great achievements too.

Anchorage paraglider Wil Brown’s eight-hour flight in the Copper River Basin provided a sneak preview of what was to come in July. Brown made his flight on June 30 but word didn’t get out until the next day.

Two weeks later bicyclist Lael Wilcox of Anchorage set a fastest known time (FKT) for the 858-mile route that follows the trans-Alaska Pipeline from Deadhorse to Valdez. She made the trip in less than four days.

Elsewhere, Olympic skier Scott Patterson crushed the course record for the Crow Pass Crossing wilderness marathon, and Davis Norris and Hannah Lafleur ruled Mount Marathon in Seward.

Mount Marathon is usually the highlight of Alaska’s summer sports season -- it’s the pride of Seward and one of the state’s most cherished and famous sporting events.

But during the epic month of July 2021, it wasn’t even close to the biggest thing to hit Seward.


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