High School Sports

Already a hockey standout, East High’s Laila Tosi is also juggling softball and shot put supremacy this spring

Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School senior Laila Tosi was practically raised in an ice rink.

She was on skates a few short years after learning to walk and followed in the footsteps of her older brothers, who played hockey.

“I grew up in a rink,” Tosi said. “There was always a sporting event going on.”

Before she moves on to the collegiate level to play for the Alvernia University women’s hockey team, she has some unfinished business to wrap up for the Thunderbirds.

The 2022 Alaska state championships for both fast-pitch softball and track and field are less than two weeks away, and she has intentions of participating in both for as long as she can. In addition to being a force on the ice, Tosi is dominant on the diamond as well as in the throwing ring.

She is the defending state champion for the Division I girls shot put and won the CIC title on Friday with a throw of 36 feet, 8.75 inches. She’s also a big hitter for the Thunderbirds softball team as well. Tosi said playing multiple sports that sometimes overlap requires a lot of time management and great communication with her coaches for all three sports.

“The only reason I’m allowed to do it is because my coaches are so good about it, and I’m really thankful,” Tosi said.

She said that coaches can “make or break a player” because they often want their athletes to focus on a particular sport that they’re coaching them to play — and not jump from one to the next.

“At one point she was doing hockey, softball and track, so I could only get her whenever (she was available),” East throwing coach Jan Michael Leal said. “She would show up, I’d work with her and she’d have to go to softball practice or finish the rest of her hockey season.”

A couple weeks ago, she competed in a throwing meet at Dimond and had to get across town in time for a softball game at Chuck Albrecht Softball Complex.

“On her last throw, she was already in her softball gear,” Leal said.

She left Dimond High School, where the meet was being held, to go play against the Lynx softball team across town.

“I threw my last throw at 10:30, and I had to go to Albrecht because our game started at 10:45,” Tosi said. “I was like 15 minutes late, so I had to hurry up and warm up and put on all my softball gear at the meet.”

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Training for different sports simultaneously can be difficult. Tosi says she just tries to keep in the best shape she can and that hockey helps keep her fit.

“My (hockey) coach Cristy Hickel tells me it’s all about being in touch with your body, your mental health and what foods you eat,” Tosi said. “It’s a lifestyle she teaches, so I try to carry that on into my other sports.”

She tries to train the same for every sport but says that track and field requires spending more time in the weight room than the other two.

While hockey is her main sport and the one she received a scholarship to play at Alvernia University, Tosi says her favorite between her secondary sports is track and field because of the coed camaraderie it offers that softball does not.

“I love softball, but being with the people here just puts it over the edge,” Tosi said from the CIC track meet.

She also said the main differences between softball and track and field is in the team dynamics. Tosi described softball as a “super team sport” and track and field as more of an individual sport “because it’s only you in the ring.”

“Even though (track and field) is an individual sport, you can feel the support when you’re in the ring, at practice, they’re always there cheering you on,” Tosi said.

Tosi is about to embark on state tournament journeys in both track and field and softball. She believes that continuing to stay in tune with her body to ensure she can perform at her best in both arenas is among her top priorities.

“It’s about managing my time and being in touch with my body, seeing how my arm feels, my wrist feels, communicating with both coaches time-wise and how I’m feeling,” Tosi said.

She played on a boys hockey team at East this year and suffered a wrist injury that has lingered and causes pain whenever she applies a lot of pressure on it which happens often in the sports she plays. Tosi has her wrist heavily taped when she throws and still produces impressive marks in the shot put.

“There’s a couple times when she’s throwing and she can’t even flick the wrist and that’s a big part of throwing,” Leal said. “You got to flick the wrist on your throw, and she wasn’t really able to do that. She’d throw and her palm would just be open so she’s just letting it go with no follow through and still hitting 36 and 37 feet.”

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Tosi is a cousin of Alaska sports standout Alissa Pili, who was a multisport star for Dimond from 2016-2019 and will continue to play women’s basketball in the Pac-12 for Utah this year after transferring from USC.

“She is a beast in her own category,” Tosi said. “Growing up trying to chase her, especially my freshman year. She was just that figure you try to chase and beat.”

The two competed against each other in the shot put and discus when Tosi was a freshman and Pili was a senior. The elder cousin finished first in both events with marks of 42′9″ in the shot put and 122′1″ in the discus, respectively, but Tosi wasn’t far behind.

“When I had her freshman year, she was awesome,” Leal said. “Just the numbers that she had, a lot of people were like ‘Man, Alissa is graduating but now we got this one (coming up),’ because she had numbers that were close to (Pili’s).”

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.