This past week in Alaska sports featured some excellent performances and exciting finishes at the prep, collegiate and professional levels across the Alaska sports landscape. There were also some athletes with Last Frontier roots that shined Outside. On the prep sports scene, the Grace Christian boys basketball team pulled off one of the most shocking upsets of the young season. On the college scene, the University of Alaska Anchorage gymnastics team hosted a dual meet for the first time since being fully reinstated.
Headlines and highlights
The Grace Christian and Dimond boys varsity basketball teams appeared to be on a collision course in the 2023 Alaska Prep Shootout. They were two of the top teams in their respective divisions heading into the tournament riding multi-game win streaks and their heavyweight bout in the title game didn’t disappoint or lack for excitement.
The Grizzlies outscored the Lynx 21-14 in the final quarter with the last two points securing a 55-54 victory coming from tournament MVP Sloan Lentfer on a pair of clutch free throws. The 6-foot-7 senior center led his team in scoring with 16 points and nearly notched a double-double with eight rebounds. With the win, Grace Christian won its sixth straight game while snapping Dimond’s six-game win streak. It also marked its second consecutive weekend claiming tournament titles after winning the Mt. McKinley Bank Tournament in Fairbanks the previous week.
In prep hockey, the top teams in both Division I and II continued to dominate and remain undefeated into the new year. The Chugiak Mustangs improved their overall record to 12-0-1 and extended their win streak to 11 games in a row with a 10-0 shutout of Service and a 4-1 win over West Valley. The reigning Division II state champion Houston Hawks improved their overall record to 17-0-1 and extended their win streak to 13 consecutive games with a trio of victories last week, two of which came against Monroe Catholic, where they outscored the Rams by a combined margin of 13-2, allowing just one goal in each game.
Scholastic bowling returned from winter break last week with matches on Tuesday and Thursday and through the first eight matches of the 2022-2023 season, Eagle River is the only undefeated team in the boys division at 8-0 with blowout wins over Bettye Davis East and South. In the girls division, Dimond also remains the lone unbeaten at 8-0 after doing the same to Chugiak and West.
The annual Lynx Loppet Invitational hosted by Dimond High took place at Kincaid Park on Friday with the classic and Saturday with the pursuit. The top finishers in the boys and girls divisions produced first-place marks on both days of the event. Not even a 45-second moose delay could stop Service junior Skyler Amy from being the first across the finish line in the boys race while Soldotna sophomore Ariana Cannava bested friendly rival Emily Moss of Kenai Central.
[A moose delay and a friendly ski rivalry renewed at Lynx Loppet Invitational]
Lumen Christi Catholic High School multi-sport standout Emily Ross was named as the 2023 Alaska recipient in the Heisman High School Scholarship competition. Unlike the annual Heisman Memorial Trophy that is awarded to the most outstanding college football player in the country, the Heisman High School Scholarship recognizes and awards the nation’s top seniors who are outstanding scholars as well as athletes.
In addition to playing for the Archangels’ basketball, soccer and volleyball teams, Ross is a 4.0 student who volunteers within her school and community. She will be attending Milwaukee School of Engineering, where she has already been awarded an athletic-academic scholarship and will play basketball and study civil engineering. The National Honor Society and Student Leadership Board member is also under consideration for a Presidential scholarship.
On the college hoops scene, both UAA basketball teams rebounded from tough losses on Thursday with bounce-back wins on Saturday. The men’s team came up short 79-74 against Western Washington on Thursday but got back in the win column Saturday with a 68-59 win over Simon Fraser. The women’s team responded from suffering a 71-47 loss to Central Washington on Thursday with a 68-58 victory Saturday over Northwest Nazarene.
[Inconsistent offense sinks UAA men’s basketball team in loss to Western Washington]
The leading scorers from the past week were junior guard Tyson Gilbert with 30 combined points for the men’s team and sophomore forward Kate Robertson with 18 combined points for the women’s team.
The UAA gymnastics team opened 2023 by hosting West Chester University for a pair of dual meets on Friday and Sunday. Even though the Seawolves fell in both contests, it marked their first competition since being fully reinstated and they are excited for the outlook of not only the season but the program as a whole for years to come now that its fate no longer hangs in the balance.
“This is truly a rebuilding year and I’m really excited to see us progress throughout the next few meets,” Seawolves head coach Marie-Sophie Boggasch said. “That’s kind of the outlook, we’re just building.”
[UAA gymnastics team opens the 2023 season with emotion and gratitude]
A pair of members of the UAA women’s ski team had strong showings at the World University Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., over the past few days. Carmen Nielssen, a Norwegian native, finished sixth overall Monday with a time of 1:43.38 in the Alpine combined events. Her American teammate Ainsley Proffit finished seventh overall with a finish of 1:43.39.
Kwethluk’s Raymond Alexie continued to best elite competition in his sizzling start to the racing season with another strong showing in the 2022-23 Kuskokwim 300 racing season. In the 2023 Bogus Creek 150 on Saturday, the 19-year-old trailed defending champion Pete Kaiser of Bethel by a minute at the halfway checkpoint but would go on to quickly catch up and surpass him on his way to ultimately finishing 27 minutes ahead with a finish time of 16 hours, 7 minutes.
Nic Petit won the Copper Basin 300 over the weekend, edging out Brent Sass for the title of the race that starts and finishes in Glennallen. It was the fifth title for Petit, who has battled Sass before as they finished 1-2 in both 2019 and 2020. Sass got a win himself last season, a year in which he also won the Iditarod. Jessie Holmes finished third, followed by Matt Hall.
The Coca Cola Cup Race Series at Alyeska was contested over the weekend with four days of skiing taking place in relatively soft snow conditions. The U12 women’s development class winner was Samantha Langlie and Finn Pelkola won the U12 men’s development class. Ava Huey and Elizabeth Hutcheson tied for top honors in the U14 women’s development class, while Sammy Stiassny won the U14 men’s development class. The U16/U18 women’s open class winner was Ava Murphy while George von Wichman took the U16/U18 men’s open class.
The 2023 Frosty Bottom Bike Race took place on Saturday at Kincaid Park and saw more than 150 racers embrace the elements and friendly competition. In the long course race, Laura Fox of Anchorage finished well before the rest of the women’s field by more than 27 minutes with a time of 3:08:04. Luke Buth of Fairbanks edged out Eric Flanders of Anchorage by five second 2:43:13 to 2:43:18 on the men’s long course. In the short course women’s race, Kinsey Loan of Eagle River finished nearly a full minute ahead of Jennifer Schmidt of Anchorage in 1:59:37 while Brandon Chiu of Anchorage finished a mere 10 seconds ahead of Ellison Libby, also of Anchorage, 1:45:04 to 1:45:14.
Alaska stars shining Outside
Eagle River’s Vanessa Aniteye of Seattle Pacific University continued her strong start to the indoor track season by shaving two-plus seconds off the fastest NCAA Division II finish in the 800 meters at the Washington Indoor Preview this past Saturday. The Chugiak alum’s time of 2:10.83 bested her nation-leading mark of 2:13.04 that the former sprinter-turned-distance runner clocked in at during the Spokane Invitational last month.
Aniteye wasn’t the only former Mustang track and field star to shine at the Indoor Preview. Emma Nelson, also of Chugiak fame, won the high jump with a mark of 5 feet, 9.25 inches as the Oregon State senior recorded the second-best jump of her career and missing her personal record by less than one inch.
Anchorage’s Alissa Pili continues to dominate and come up clutch for the nationally ranked University of Utah women’s basketball team. Her team-leading 27 points did more than just come one point shy of tying her career-high point total in the Utes’ 80-79 win over No. 14 Arizona in a Pac-12 showdown on Sunday. Pili’s 26th and 27th points came on free throws that ended up being the last two points of the game and secured the victory for her team.
Girdwood’s Keegan Messing won the second national championship of his figure skating career after recording an overall score of 257.78 to earn a gold medal at the Canadian national championships Saturday. The dual citizen had already announced his retirement prior to the event but now the two-time Olympian can add two-time national champion to his illustrious list of career accomplishments.
[Girdwood’s Keegan Messing wins second straight Canadian national figure skating title]
Last week’s results
Dimond 55, Service 23
West 53, Bartlett 49
Chugiak 44, South 39
East 33, Eagle River 17
Ketchikan 53, Bartlett 32
Palmer 37, East 32
Ketchikan 50, East 22
Dimond 66, Service 56
East 82, Eagle River 47
West 65, Bartlett 58
Chugiak 58, Eagle River 48
West 61, Thunder Mountain 55
Dimond 70, ACS 28
Bartlett 61, Service 59
Grace Christian 103, Tikigaq 70
Wasilla 76, Chugiak 71
East 46, Monroe Catholic 39
Grace Christian 60, ACS 50
Dimond 78, Wasilla 64
East 59, Colony 55
East 73, Thunder Mountain 36
Grace Christian 55, Dimond 54
West 24, South 11
Eagle River 35, East 0
Dimond 35, Chugiak 0
Service 31, Bartlett 4
West 30, South 5
Eagle River 29, East 6
Dimond 33, Chugiak 2
Service 29, Bartlett 6
Dimond 33, West 2
Eagle River 28, South 7
East 22, Bartlett 13
Service 35, Chugiak 0
Dimond 31, West 4
Eagle River 33, South 2
East 25, Bartlett 10
Chugiak 29, Service 6
Chugiak 10, Service 0
Houston 9, Tri-Valley 2
West 3, Palmer 1
Dimond 15, Bartlett 0
Chugiak 4, West Valley 1
Houston 5, Monroe Catholic 1
Eagle River 8, Service 6
Houston 8, Monroe Catholic 1
Central Washington 71, UAA 47
UAA 68, Northwest Nazarene 58
Western Washington 79, UAA 74
UAA 68, Sim Fraser 59
West Chester 191, UAA 189.175
West Chester 191.625, UAA 188.725
Three things to watch for this week
Alaska Airlines Classic at West High School
There will high school hoops aplenty in town this week as the 26th Alaska Airlines Classic will take place at West High School this week. There will be a girls round-robin tournament from the Jan.17-19 that will include three Alaska schools and one from out of state. The boys tournament will run from Jan. 19-21 and feature five Alaskan schools and three from the Lower 48. The 2023 O’Brady Invitational will take place at South High School and all eight team participating will be from Alaska and include undefeated West Valley led by 2022 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year for Basketball, Stewart Erhart.
Chugiak v South at Ben Boeke, Friday 4 p.m.
Before the NAHL players take the ice at the Ben Boeke Ice Arena, there will be a Cook Inlet Conference showdown between the undefeated Mustangs and the feisty Wolverines. This will mark the second meeting between the two teams this season with the first resulting in 5-0 victory for Chugiak.
Kenai River Brown Bears vs. Anchorage Wolverines at Ben Boeke, Friday and Saturday 7 p.m.
After 16-day break, the Wolverines will be back home and back in action when they host the Brown Bears for a two-game series this weekend. The season series is tied 3-3 with the last meeting in this underrated rivalry resulting in a resounding 11-3 triumph for Anchorage this weekend’s game could decide who takes the lead with a sweep or remains tied with a split.