The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame announced the winners of its annual Pride of Alaska awards this week, and among the eight honorees for 2023 were a pair of star basketball athletes from Anchorage who dominated at their respective levels of competition.
Alissa Pili won the Pride of Alaska women’s award after the 6-foot-2 forward led the University of Utah women’s basketball team to the Sweet 16, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and was voted second-team All-America pick by both the Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. The former Dimond High standout averaged 20 points per game, had a shooting percentage of 59.1 and scored a combined 61 points in her first two NCAA Tournament games.
Sayvia Sellers took top honors in the Pride of Alaska girls division after the Naismith All-American was named Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year for the second year in a row and led the Anchorage Christian School Lions to a sixth straight state title. She finished her high school career with a perfect 79-0 record against Alaskan competition and broke Pili’s prep career scoring record of 2,614 points with 2,651.
Jeremy Swayman won the Pride of Alaska men’s division after the 24-year-old goaltender for the Boston Bruins made the NHL’s All-Rookie Team, establishing himself as one of the best netminders in state history. As of March 24, he has compiled an impressive 21-6-4 record with a 2.24 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
Finnigan Donley won the Pride of Alaska boys division after he surprised himself when he qualified for the World Junior Alpine Championships in Austria. The 17-year-old from Anchorage placed 13th and was the top American in the super-G. Last month, he dominated the U18 U.S. Junior National Championships in New Hampshire. Donley won gold in the downhill, gold in the super-G, bronze in the slalom and sixth in the giant slalom, which made him the U18 national champion in runaway fashion after finishing second overall at the event.
Vanessa Aniteye of Eagle River won the Trajan Langdon Award adult division after she capped off her illustrious collegiate track and field career with an NCAA Division II indoor championship for Seattle Pacific University. She won the 800 finals by two-tenths of a second with a personal-best time of 2:06.84. She did so after taking a break from competition when she became a mother. Aniteye finished her career with nine All-American honors between her time with UAA and Seattle Pacific and was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s female athlete of the year for track.
Geremu Daggett and Colton Merriner of Grace Christian High School are co-winners of the Trajan Langdon Award youth division because of a selfless act: When Merriner collapsed just a few meters away from the finish line at the state cross country championships last fall, Daggett stopped before crossing the finish line himself to help his teammate complete the race.
“I saw him fall, and I’m like, ‘If I cross this finish line, I can’t go back and help my teammate,’” Daggett told Alaska’s News Source. “So I stopped right there and ran back and helped him up.”
Daggett finished 15th, but Merriner was disqualified for not finishing under his own power.
Kathleen Navarre won the Joe Floyd Award. She has coached basketball, volleyball, flag football and track over the past 20 years at Kodiak High School and Dimond High School. She has guided multiple teams to state championships and served as an athletic director. She’s also been an event director for numerous local and statewide high school sporting events. Navarre now helps organize events like the Alaska March Madness high school basketball tournaments for the Alaska School Activities Association and was the defensive coordinator for the Dimond girls flag football team, which won its third straight Cook Inlet Conference title this past fall.
The winners were determined by a vote of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors.