Alaska Sports Hall names Directors winners
The top vote-getters are not the only ones being honored at a special ceremony for outstanding contributors to sports in Alaska. Joining this year’s inductees — Nordic skiing pioneer Dick Mize, mountain runner and skier Nancy Pease, basketball legend John Brown, female wrestling champ Michaela Hutchison and the Iron Dog snowmachine race — are Directors’ Awards winners, who will be singled out during the induction ceremony set for March 5 at the Anchorage Museum.
In mid-January, the Alaska Sports Hall of fame announced that musher Aliy Zirkle, cross-country running phenom Allie Ostrander, Alaska Pacific University ski coach Lars Flora and University of Alaska Anchorage track and cross-country running coach Michael Friess also will be recognized for their efforts in the sports world that is Alaska.
“The Directors’ Awards give our organization the opportunity to shine a light on some of Alaska’s sports figures who are making history right now,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. “It’s a nice bookend to the inductee enshrinements.”
Ostrander and Flora will receive the Pride of Alaska Awards, which is given to those individuals who show ongoing excellence in their sports. While Ostrander, a senior at Kenai Central High School, is a competitor, her fellow award winner, Flora, 41, is a coach.
Ostrander not only captured the 2014 state records in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters in track, but she also won the state cross-country running meet for the third year in a row. In July, she also made history by winning the juniors race — overall — including the boys runners. To top it all, she won the Nike national championship race in early December, held in Portland, Ore.
Flora has been a busy person, too. He is the head coach of APU’s Nordic program, which has produced such champions as three-time World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall, Olympian Holly Brooks and U.S. Ski Team member Sadie Bjornsen, who is having the best season of her career this year.
The Trajan Langdon Award will go to Zirkle, who at 45 is one of the world’s toughest dog mushers. The Two Rivers musher finished second in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Iditarod, and is the first woman to ever win
the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race. The Trajan Langdon Award recognizes leadership, sportsmanship and inspiration.
The Joe Floyd Award, for significant and lasting contribution to Alaska through sports, will go to longtime UAA track and cross-country running coach Michael Friess. During his 25 years of coaching, Friess’ team has collected 18 conference championships and six West Region championships. “We’re very excited about this year’s recipients,” said Robinson of the announcement. “In looking at the winners and all the other outstanding nominees that were considered, it’s apparent just how high the bar is set in the Alaskan sports world.”
Winter races challenge bikers, skiers, runners
The annual Little Su 50K and Susitna 100 ski, bike and running races demand the respect of anyone who embarks upon this wintertime challenge. Only in Alaska do we have such events that extend the biking and running racing season into the cold winter months.
This year’s races are scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 14-16, and start with the 100-mile Susitna race, which departs 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, followed by its little cousin, the Susitna 50K, which departs at 11 a.m. the same morning.
Alaska Wilderness Races is “proud sponsor of the Susitna 100 and Little Su 50K races in February,” the race web site states. “You will enjoy the challenge of winter racing in Alaska on marked trails with spectacular views and varied conditions.”
The Susitna 100 race had 128 racers signed up as of mid-January. The Little Su closes at 125 entrants. With this year’s lack of snow early in the year, the race could be a shoe-in for cyclists. But a lot can change in a month, and in years of deep snow — it’s still not too late to pray for record snowfall — skiers can often prevail.
“The Susitna 100 and the Little Su 50K are wilderness races and as such are subject to Mother Nature’s whims,” organizers wrote. “Each year presents a unique set of race conditions that is determined as much by the weather two weeks before the race as the preceding four months.”
Part of the course travels the Alaska Range, which is situated such that colder than average temperatures often descend. While the skies might appear to be an innocent brilliant blue, the sunny weather can be misleading. The other part of the course is Knik Arm, an “extension of the Pacific Ocean that is an avenue for the Japanese current and warm-but-wet storms. Here, mercifully balmy temperatures can be undone by the sudden deposit of a foot or more of fresh snow.”
Every year is a guess. And this year promises more of the same. To follow the race as it unfolds, go to www.susitna100.com.
Winter Bike to Work Day
Anchorage is in good company with some of the northernmost cities in the world when it comes to wintertime pedal power. For national Winter Bike to Work Day, set for Feb. 13, the Top 10 cities signed up for the event — during the first 36 hours of registration — included Anchorage.
That’s right. We Alaskans shared registration props with the following communities:
1. Oulu, Finland 64
2. Montreal, Canada 53
3. Calgary, Canada 46
4. Winnipeg, Canada 32
5. Quebec City, Canada 28
6. Edmonton, Canada 26
7. Anchorage, USA 20
8. Saskatoon, Canada 16
9. Tampere, Finland 15
10. (Tie) Traverse City, USA; Zagreb, Croatia; Oslo, Norway
Bike Anchorage members are trying to get that number even higher. Don’t just bike to work on Feb. 13 — sign up and let everyone know. The more numbers that show up, the more voices will be heard when it comes to creating cycling-friendly communities. And while you’re at it, don’t miss the Anchorage Winter Bicycle Fest, a nearly monthlong cycling-centric series of events set for Feb. 6-26.
Go to http://winterbiketoworkday.org/#commit to sign up. Go to bikeanchorage.org for more on the Bike Fest. Power to the pedal!
Tour of Anchorage does the snow dance
As of mid-January the snow situation was looking dismal, but those organizing the Tour of Anchorage know that all it takes is one good snowstorm for an epic ski race to be staged.
This year’s Tour of Anchorage is set for Sunday, March 8, and includes the traditional freestyle lengths of 25K, 40K and 50K, and a 25K classic option, and is part of the American Ski Marathon Series.
In each event, abilities range from top national ski racers to recreational skiers challenging themselves with just making the distance. The 40K and 50K races start at Service High School and traverse the city along bike trails. The 25K race starts at Alaska Pacific University and joins the same course. All the races finish at Kincaid Park.
It’s not too late to sign up. Registration is $70 for Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage members, $80 for nonmembers. New for this year: There is no race-day registration. Besides, come prepared and maybe win big. First place 40/50K men and women win round-trip tickets from Alaska Airlines, plus $1,000. Second-place winners received $300, while third-place racers get $200.
For more details, go to anchoragenordicski.com and click on the Tour of Anchorage button in the racing section.