Alaska sports notebook: Anchorage’s Hahni Johnson takes beach volleyball title and Petersburg music teacher raises money for students with Boston Marathon run

Anchorage native Hahni Johnson is making an impact at the University of Colorado Mesa with not one, but two volleyball programs.

Johnson, who is on Mavericks indoor and beach teams, helped the latter to a Division II title at the American Volleyball Coaches Association Small College Championships on April 16 at Hickory Point Beach in Tavares, Florida.

Colorado Mesa defeated University of Tampa in the semifinals and Spring Hill College in the finals to earn the title. Johnson earned All-American honors along with teammate Savannah Spitzer.

The former Dimond volleyball standout won Gatorade Player of the Year twice with the Lynx before hitting the collegiate level.

Petersburg music teacher raises funds as part of Boston Marathon experience

Charlie O’Brien’s 2022 Boston Marathon run checked a lot of boxes on his to-do list.

O’Brien, the Petersburg music teacher, raised $3,000 for his band students, helping pay for travel expenses to the ASAA Spring Music Festival.

O’Brien the runner finished the marathon in an impressive 3 hours, 16 minutes, 22 seconds, in front of friends and family in Boston. O’Brien earned his Masters of Music at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and knew the reverence both runners and locals have for the race.

“My parents were in the crowd and friends from college,” he said. “Just being familiar with the city made it that much more special.”

O’Brien started teaching in Petersburg in November and has quickly formed a connection with his students.

“I knew early on they were a special group,” he said.

O’Brien asked some close friends and family to contribute to a GoFundMe associated with his race. His fundraiser to help accommodate travel expenses for students to travel to the Region V Music Festival in Juneau in early April raised $3,000.

“One of my goals was to make it possible for everyone to travel with no financial barriers in the way for them to participate,” O’Brien said. “I just think it’s something everyone has to be a part of.”

O’Brien qualified for Boston with his time at the Milwaukee Marathon last year. His 3:04.49 was just 11 seconds faster than the cutoff of 3:05.

“The more you get into long-distance running the more you get into the races, which are essentially what you work for and work towards,” he said. “It’s considered one of the most if not the most famous marathon in the entire world. The history, course, crowd everything it means to qualify to run the race.”

He started training with a running group, The Alpine Runners, while teaching in Illinois previous to taking the job in Alaska.

“I didn’t really know what it meant,” he said. “I showed up and was able to hold my own and be a part of that group and they accepted me and that’s how I learned a lot about the races like Boston.”

And in Petersburg, he and a group of friends and fellow teachers trained with early morning runs on nearby Mitkof Island.

“That group was the driving force behind my training and my supporters and cheerleaders and best friends,” he said.

O’Brien hopes to run the Chicago Marathon in the fall.

“Having a race in mind just helps focus your training and brings a higher level of purpose,” he said.

Former Alaska tennis champ takes pickleball title

Former Alaska tennis champ Tony Webb has moved from the state after 30 years in the Last Frontier. Webb has also found a new competitive racket sport to pursue.

Webb, a former 45 and Over Alaska state tennis champion, won the 80 and Over gold medal at the U.S. Open Pickleball championships in Naples, Florda on Sunday.

Webb went 4-0 and beat the Minnesota senior champion Jim Cohen, 11-1, 10-12, 11-9 to win the title. Webb said he started playing pickleball eight years ago after decades on the Alaska sports scene, most notably as a tennis champion.

Now a resident of Florida, Webb lived in Alaska from 1968 to 1998.

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.