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Swimmer Lydia Jacoby, runner Tristian Merchant collect Pride of Alaska awards as Alaska’s top youth athletes

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: 1 day ago
  • Published 1 day ago

Seward's Lydia Jacoby, shown here at a 2020 meet in California, will swim in two events at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials. (Photo by Jack Spitser)

Tristian Merchant of Anchorage Christian and Lydia Jacoby of Seward, a pair of national-class athletes, are the 2021 winners of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame’s Pride of Alaska awards for young athletes.

Merchant is a distance runner who in October clocked what is believed to be the fastest 5-kilometer cross country time recorded by an Alaska high schooler (14 minutes, 41 seconds at the Region III championships).

Merchant is a three-time state champion in cross country and a two-time state champion in track, and he’s one of four Alaska boys to break the 9-minute mark in the 3,200 meters on a track oval. A senior, Merchant is headed to Northern Arizona in the fall.

Jacoby is a junior who last month at a meet in California swam the sixth-fastest time in the world this season in the 100-meter breaststroke (her time of 1:06.38 has since slipped to 10th place in this season’s world rankings).

The effort makes Jacoby a darkhorse contender at next month’s U.S Olympic Trials, where she has qualified to race in the 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke.

Along with Merchant and Jacoby, the 2020 West Post 1 Legion baseball team was awarded the Trajan Langdon Youth Award, which goes to a team or individual who demonstrates integrity, inspiration and sportsmanship.

Jack Opinsky, left, with his dad and West baseball coach John Opinsky at their home in Anchorage on July 31, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

West won the state championship with a dramatic, come-from-behind finish that allowed coach John Opinsky to win the final game of his career. Opinsky had battled terminal brain cancer for more than a year, and his son Jack hit a two-run walkoff single that lifted West to a 3-2 victory over Wasilla in the title game.

According to his obituary, Opinsky, 52, was wearing his championship ring when he died Jan. 6 this year at the family’s home in Anchorage.

The Pride of Alaska awards are determined by the board of directors of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. The adult award-winners will be announced Wednesday.

Pride of Alaska youth winners


2021 — Lydia Jacoby, swimming, Seward

2020 — Hailey Williams, track, Delta Junction

2019 — Kendall Kramer, skiing, West Valley

2018 — Alissa Pili, basketball, Dimond High


2021 — Tristian Merchant, running, Anchorage Christian

2020 — tie: Hayden Lieb, wrestling, Bethel; Aedyn Concepcion, wrestling, South Anchorage

2019 — Jersey Truesdell, football, Soldotna

2018 — Gus Schumacher, skiing, Service High

Tristian Merchant of Anchorage Christian runs to his third straight Division II state cross country title at the 2020 meet at Kincaid Park. (Loren Holmes / ADN)