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High School Sports

7 students are among 11 inductees for Alaska High School Hall of Fame

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: March 11
  • Published March 10

Seven students, one administrator, one official, one broadcaster and one business have been selected to the Alaska High School Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.

Among the students, six are being recognized for their athletic achievements — track star Alana Clooten of Lathrop, wrestler Cayle Byers of Chugiak, multi-sport star Lincoln Johnson of Nikiski, basketball/flag football player Lorrie Clifford of Chugiak, basketball player Mendy Benson of Kenai Central and swimmer Sarah Murphy of Service. The seventh, Royal Henderson of Haines, is being honored for his accomplishments in student government.

Two people are receiving lifetime achievement awards — Homer administrator Anita Harry and Anchorage broadcaster Bob Barger. Clarence Thompson is being inducted as an official, and the Orthopedic Physicians Alaska (OPA) is being honored as a major contributor.

An induction ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, May 3, at the Lakefront Hotel in Anchorage.

Here’s a look at the Class of 2020:

Royal Henderson, Haines, student government. A 2013 Haines High School graduate, Henderson was elected student body president three straight years beginning with his sophomore year. He was elected to the Haines Borough school board as a senior, and as a junior and senior he represented Region V on the Alaska Association of Student Governments. He attends the Gonzaga University School of Law acceleration program.

Alana Clooten, Fairbanks, track/basketball. Clooten, a 2005 Lathrop High graduate, won four state titles in the discus, three state titles in the shot put and was an all-state basketball selection as a junior and senior. At Georgia Tech, she won an ACC title and set a school record in the hammer throw. Clooten was on the honor roll every semester in high school and graduated from Georgia Tech with high honors.

Cayle Byers, Chugiak, wrestling. Byers, a 2007 Chugiak High graduate, won two state championships and finished second once and fourth once at the state tournament. He was ranked sixth in the nation at 189 pounds as a senior and won a championship at the prestigious Reno Tournament of Champions. Byers competed in Division I wrestling in college, placing third at the 2012 NCAA national championships for Oklahoma State and qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials. He’s now a coach for the Chugach Eagles Wrestling Club.

Lincoln Johnson, Nikiski, football/wrestling. Johnson was a multi-sport athlete who graduated from Nikiski High in 2013 with 20 varsity letters — he competed in five sports each year. His best sports were football and wrestling. As a junior and senior, he made the all-state football team as a first-team lineman on offense and defense and he won state championships in wrestling. He also competed in shot put and discus in track and played basketball and soccer. A 4.0 student, Johnson is in medical school at the University of Illinois (Rockford).

Lorrie Clifford, Chugiak, basketball/flag football. Clifford, who graduated in 2009, was an all-state basketball player and an all-conference flag football player at Chugiak High. A point guard on the basketball team, she led Chugiak to the 2009 Class 4A state championship, scoring 19 points in the title game. She played college basketball at Western Oregon and went on to earn a spot on the USA Rugby women’s sevens team.

Mendy Benson, Kenai, basketball/swimming. A 1993 graduate of Kenai Central High, Benson was a two-time state swimming champion in the 50 freestyle and also made it to the state finals in the 100 free and 100 butterfly. In basketball, she helped Kenai advance to the state tournament three times and was part of the school’s 1991 championship team. As a senior she was an all-state selection and a Converse All-American. She went on to play basketball at the University of Oregon, where she was a starter as a junior and senior.

Sarah Murphy, Anchorage, swimming. A 1998 Service High graduate, Murphy won nine individual championship and set three state records. She was the girls swimmer of the meet at the 1996 state championship and was the Speedo National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association of America high school swimmer of the year in 1996-97. She swam at Harvard for two years, breaking the school’s 100 butterfly record, and is a faculty member at UAA’s WAAMI medical school.

Anita Harry, Homer, lifetime achievement. Harry worked as a high school and junior high administrator in Homer from 1972 through 2019, a 47-year span during which she served as a bus driver, timer, official, judge and coach for a variety of sports. She helped coordinate countless tournaments and events and has been an active member of the booster club.

Bob Barger, Anchorage, lifetime achievement. Barger has been broadcasting high school games on radio and television since 1969. He got his start as a student at Sitka High, calling games on the radio on Southeast Alaska stations and has since become one of the recognized voices in Alaska high school sports. He moved to Anchorage in 2000 and is part of the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network.

Clarence Thompson, Anchorage, officiating. Thompson has been a football and basketball official for more than 40 years. He served two terms as president of the Anchorage Football Officials Association, where he instituted a system of written evaluations and numerical rankings to assist members in assessing areas of deficiencies. He worked to get adequate dressing facilities and pay increases for sports officials, and has worked numerous state football playoff games.

Orthopedic Physicians Alaska (OPA), major contributor. OPA is one of ASAA’s major corporate sponsors, was instrumental in helping ASAA develop a concussion policy and provides services as many state championship events.

Update: This story has been corrected to fix Sarah Murphy’s graduation year and her position with WAAMI.

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