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.
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