When Kikkan Randall was an East High freshman, she was already going places

This story was originally published on Aug. 24, 1997.

Lew Haines returned to the Anchorage high school sports scene this year to discover that not much had changed during his 16-year absence.

"It's the same scene, the same chatter. It's almost the same coaches, " Haines said Saturday while soaking up sun and atmosphere at the Bartlett cross-country relay races.

And beginning this year, it's the same family. Again.

The second generation of the Haines family enters high school this fall, and if early performances are any indication, Generation Next is as athletically gifted as Generation First.

Throughout the '70s and '80s, the Haines family was a constant source of talent for East High. Lew and Tone Haines' seven children — six of whom graduated from East — excelled in any number of sports, from running to tennis to gymnastics to swimming to skiing.

Especially skiing. Two of the Haines children, Chris and Betsy, were Olympic cross-country skiers.

Following in their fleet footsteps are Kikkan Randall of East High and Jamie Haines of Service High, who begin their freshman year of high school as the defending junior high cross-country champions.

[Anchorage skier Kikkan Randall wins Olympic gold]

In the second race of her high school career, Kikkan finished second Saturday in a field of 160 girls — defending state champion Darcy Dugan of Dimond was the only girl to outrun her — and Jamie finished 80th in a field of 168 boys.

The cousins are among 16 Haines grandchildren, 11 of whom live in Anchorage. Five of the seven Haines kids still live in Anchorage, including Kikkan's mom, Debbi, who skied on a national championship team at the University of Utah, and Jamie's dad, Chris, who was a member of the 1976 Winter Olympic team.

Kikkan and Jamie are extending a family tradition that actually spans three generations. Though Lew and Tone Haines were well out of high school when they brought their family to Alaska in the mid-1960s, Lew played a pivotal role in the development of Anchorage sports. He was the athletic director at the University of Alaska Anchorage when the Great Alaska Shootout began 25 years ago and was the school's provost when its first athletic team — a coed ski team — was formed.

Lew Haines, 76, thought he'd seen his last high school race 16 years ago when the last of his children, Mary, graduated in 1981.

"When Mary had her last race I said, 'I'm through, finished, kaput, ' " he said. "It's different now, in a way. I can be a little more relaxed with (the grandchildren) running."

But you have to wonder if there's relaxation of any sort when the Haines clan gets together.

The family celebrated Lew's 75th birthday last year by hiking the Crow Pass trail from Eagle River to Girdwood, a marathon-length wilderness trek that lasted 17 hours. For Saturday's race, Debbi arrived on a mountain bike and left on roller blades. Even the various in-laws are involved in sports, including Kikkan's dad, Ronn (a swimming instructor and avid Alpine skier), and Jamie's mom, Tracy (also a swimming instructor).

The way Jamie sees it, if you're born a Haines, you have little choice but to be active.

"They just make you do a lot of stuff, " he said. "They say you get choices, but you don't. Right now I'm doing tennis and cross country. When I learned tennis, my dad said once I learned it, it would be my choice (to continue playing). But if I didn't do it, I'd get bugged."

Relatives jokingly call Jamie a rebel, and Kikkan says he's more laid back than she is. His sport of choice — the one he does because he loves it, not because everyone else in the family is doing it — is snowboarding. He banters easily with his family, and when his grandfather mentions that Jamie was part of the Crow Pass birthday trip, Jamie responded with a laugh: "And I didn't like that, either."

Kikkan, meanwhile, is as goal-oriented as a 15-year-old can be. She took advantage of the school district's transfer policy to enroll at East instead of Bartlett, and not just because she wanted to wear the same blue-and-red that her mom and aunts wore.

[Photos: Randall has been a standout Anchorage athlete for decades]

She was enticed by East's school-within-a-school academic program, evidence that her interests extend beyond athletics. She's one of 12 youths on the mayor's Anchorage Youth Advisory Commission, and she was the president of a youth organization that successfully campaigned to reinstate junior high sports in Anchorage.

Kikkan's athletic achievements already are notable. She has twice finished second in the Mount Marathon junior race (mom Debbi and aunt Betsy are both former winners of the women's race) and is perhaps the fastest girl in the state on skis. At the state speed-skiing championship last winter at Arctic Valley, Kikkan hit 74.1 mph to win the state title.

Kikkan considers the family legacy an inspiration, and an advantage.

"If I ever need any advice, I can ask, " she said. "And they all come to cheer for me."

Before last year's junior high cross-country championships, for example, Betsy walked the course with Kikkan and offered advice. And every time Kikkan visits her grandparents, she gets a family history lesson.

"There's pictures and stories all over the wall about what everyone's done, " she said. "Right now there's a picture of Jamie and I in a relay race, so we're starting to replace them."

[Kikkan Randall blazed a cross-country trail. Jessie Diggins followed it to history.]

If things go the way Kikkan hopes they do, she might even replace Betsy in the record books. Though she admires her accomplished aunt — a member of the 1980 Winter Olympic team who won three straight state cross-country championships and lost only one race during three years of track for East High — Kikkan wouldn't mind one-upping her.

"My biggest goal is beating Betsy's sub-five-minute mile that she ran in high school, " Kikkan said.

And so it goes in the Haines extended family, where the new generation is quickly catching up with the old.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.