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Russian Old Believers schools on Kenai Peninsula cancel sports programs

Azary Reutov passes during Voznesenka's football practice on September 1, 2016. (Marc Lester / ADN archive)

KENAI — Three Russian Old Believers schools in Alaska have canceled their sports programs for the upcoming year because of a lack of resources, officials said.

Kachemak-Selo School, Voznesenka School and Razdolna School on the Kenai Peninsula will not field sports teams, The Peninsula Clarion reported Monday.

The school administrations cannot maintain programs for soccer, wrestling, cross-country running, and football, said Michael Wojciak, principal of both Kachemak-Selo School and Voznesenka School.

Old Believers is a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church that exercises specific traditional customs.

The athletic programs could not be maintained for reasons including a lack of participants and difficulty finding coaches. The schools also need proper practice facilities, Wojciak said.

Wojciak credited Justin Zank, who now coaches the Homer High School football team, with keeping some of the programs afloat by coaching football and middle school and high school wrestling. Finding another coach "willing to hold practices in their garage" is unlikely, Wojciak said.

The sports were organized under the umbrella of the Voznesenka School to be sanctioned by the Alaska School Activities Association, but students from all three schools participated.

The village schools will remain without athletics until there are facility changes and a dedicated coaching staff, Wojciak said.

“It was a much easier web to rip down than it was to weave,” he said.

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