The Kenai Peninsula athletes representing Team Alaska at the Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon, from March 4 to 10 did a great job collecting ulus.
Area athletes did just as good of a job collecting Facebook friends and email addresses.
“There’s a lot of friends that I’ve made over the years that I got to see again,” said Christina Glenzel, 16, who lives in Soldotna and competed in the Dene games for the third time. “I also got to meet new friends.
“It’s a really fun week.”
The games are held every two years and involve nine areas from the circumpolar world — Alaska, Alberta North, Greenland, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Nunavik Quebec, Yamal, Sapmi and Yukon.
Competition is important at the games, which were held on the Kenai Peninsula in 2006, but the games also focus on the concepts of friendship, cooperation and resource sharing.
Alaska won the most ulus this year for the fourth straight games. The last time Alaska did not lead the medal count was in 2004, when Alberta North used home-turf advantage in Wood Buffalo to notch 138 ulus to Alaska’s 136.
This year, Alaska piled up 190 ulus, compared to runner-up Yukon’s 122.
Nunavut won the coveted Hodgson Trophy, presented to the team with the best overall sportsmanship, for the fourth time.
Alaska has three Hodgson awards, including one at the 2010 games and one from the 2006 Kenai Peninsula Games.
The Kenai Peninsula had 18 athletes attend the games, while 282 athletes represented Team Alaska. Peninsula athletes were able to bring home 31 medals.
Coaches from the Peninsula added to the haul. Kenai’s Pete Iverson won the bronze in male bantam hockey, while Homer’s Janice Todd directed the snowshoe biathlon team to seven golds, six silvers, and two bronzes; and Ninilchik’s Kelli Jo Boonstra coached snowshoe athletes to five golds, four silvers and two bronzes.
Terry Eubank also coached a male midget hockey team including Kenai’s Matthew Morse and Jake Eubank, Homer’s Thomas Bowe and Soldotna’s Cody Harvey to fourth place.
The Peninsula’s greatest success came in Dene games. Leading the way was Randy Standifer Jr. of Tyonek. Standifer Jr. took four golds and two silvers.
Amber Glenzel, who organizes the Native Youth Olympics events at the Peninsula Winter Games, said Standifer Jr. is only 16, so he will have a chance to be even more dominant in two years.
“He did an outstanding job for his first year there,” said Gabe Holley, a Skyview junior who also competed in Dene games and is the cousin of Standifer Jr.
Jonny Wilson, a senior at Kenai Central, also was impressed.
“Randy is just a great guy,” Wilson said. “He came out there knowing how to do two events, just like me.
“I was surprised how young he is. He’s really good and really big.”
Holley managed to bring home a gold and two silvers. It was his second Arctic Winter Games.
He said meeting people is what makes the games special. The Dene games judges were so impressed with the Dene games participants on Team Alaska that the judges wanted to give them all a Fair Play pin, but couldn’t.
“With the new kids that are going there, we want to be respectful to them, and try to help them out as much as we can,” Holley said. “Then we end up becoming friends with them.
“That’s one of the reasons Alaska kids got Fair Play pins — a good attitude and respect toward others.”
Holley also said it was fun hanging out with the Dene games athletes in the open division.
Amber Glenzel took months and months convincing Wilson to apply to be in the games for the first time, and now Wilson is glad she did.
Wilson won a gold, two silvers and a bronze, teaming up with Holley and Standifer Jr. to win the junior male pole push. The three Peninsula athletes also swept the junior male finger pull, with Standifer Jr. taking first, Holley taking second and Wilson nabbing third. The three have also swept the top two spots in the finger pull at the Peninsula Winter Games the last two years.
Wilson said he knew only two events heading into the games, but he still had a great time.
“Meeting people from different cultures was really fun,” he said. “Seeing how they did things was great.”
Wilson said he had just taken a Kenaitze drum-making class in Old Town Kenai before he went to the games. In Canada, he got an even broader exposure to drums.
“I liked seeing all the different drums, how they were made and how they used them,” he said. “It was different than here.”
Wilson enjoyed the games so much that he said he wanted to go in two years, when the games will be held in Fairbanks, and compete in the open division.
Christina Glenzel plans on being in Fairbanks, too. After moving up to the junior division from the juvenile division for these games, she didn’t equal her success from two years ago, when she won the juvenile all around.
She still was able to win a silver and gold medal and finish sixth in the all around.
For the second straight games, Glenzel also won a Fair Play pin. Although judges said they wanted to give every Dene member of Team Alaska the pin, there were only three to give.
“The judge that gave it to me told me that I was cheerful, respectful and made everybody really happy,” Glenzel said.
Glenzel said the games are always an opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new friends.
A highlight for her this time, in addition to winning the pole push, was trying to learn throat singing from some Nunavik Quebec athletes.
“It wasn’t very successful, but it was so awesome,” Glenzel said.
Kenai’s Zybrylle Mary Ann Gage and Andrea Krol also notched a bronze in the juvenile female pole push, which uses a 20-foot-long pole and is the opposite of tug of war.
“Their team was the smallest team for the juvenile girls,” Amber Glenzel said. “They put on quite a show.”
Fresh off a state title in football and an individual state title in wrestling, Nikiski junior Lincoln Johnson also put on quite a show.
Johnson took golds in junior male 82-kilogram wrestling and junior male 82-kilogram Inuit wrestling. Team Alaska, which also included Nikiski’s Trey Zimmerman and Seward’s Savannah Fackler, took silver in the coed open team competition.
Johnson said he still remembers watching the games on the Peninsula in 2006.
“Watching some of the high-schoolers wrestle, I thought it’d be cool if I had the chance,” he said. “Two years ago, a couple of my other wrestling buddies competed, and that put the seed in my mind that it would be nice to do.”
Johnson said he will have plenty of memories of the games in addition to pinning his way through the tournament.
He only competed three days, so he had plenty of time to watch other sports and make friends.
The highlight came at the closing ceremonies, which were done in several different languages.
“I was mingling with everyone trading gear,” Johnson said. “I traded stuff for some Canadian gear, some Russian stuff.
“I had the time to talk with them and figure out how their lives were that much different, but also very similar to what we experience.”
Like all the Peninsula athletes, Johnson said Whitehorse looked a lot like Alaska.
“If I had been dropped off there, until I started talking with people and seeing prices, I would have thought I was in Alaska,” Johnson said.
Like Johnson, Soldotna High School freshman Sadie Fox also watched the games when they were on the Peninsula and decided that one day she wanted to participate.
Through Besh Cup racing, Fox qualified for the games. The top finishers in Besh Cup qualify for Junior Nationals, but Fox said even if she had qualified for Junior Nationals, she still would have headed to Whitehorse.
“I wanted to go to the games instead,” Fox said. “I think it’s fun. Junior Nationals is more serious.”
Fox said she enjoyed meeting people at the games so much that even if she qualifies for Junior Nationals in two years, she is leaning toward heading to Fairbanks for the games.
She said three members of Team Alaska — Jade Hajdukovich, Morgan Flynn and Grace Graham — qualified for Junior Nationals and went to the games instead this year.
The final medals from the peninsula contingent were a gold from Ninilchik snowshoer Riana Boonstra, a bronze from Homer soccer player Maggie Koplin, a silver from Soldotna hockey player Hydn McDermott-Johnston, two bronzes from Homer table tennis player Jimmy Gao, and a pair of silvers each for wrestlers Zimmerman and Fackler.
Kenai Peninsula athletes
at the Arctic Winter games
Cross country skiing, Sadie Fox, Soldotna — 6th place, skiing on a mixed team in boys junior relay; 10, 750-meter juvenile female classic; 10, 5-kilometer juvenile female freestyle; 13, 7.5-kilometer juvenile female classic.
Dene Games, Gabe Holley, Kenai —2, junior male finger pull; 2, junior male hand games; 16, junior male snow snake; 10, junior male stick pull; 1, junior male pole push; 5, junior male overall.
Dene Games, Jonny Wilson, Kenai — 3, junior male finger pull; 2, junior male hand games; 22, junior male snow snake; 5, junior male stick pull; 1, junior male pole push; 2. junior male all around.
Dene Games, Randy Standifer Jr., Tyonek — 1, junior male finger pull; 2, junior male hand games; 2, junior male snow snake; 1, junior male stick pull; 1, junior male pole push; 1, junior male all around.
Dene Games, Andrea Krol, Kenai — 9, juvenile female finger pull; 21, juvenile female snow snake; 3, juvenile female pole push
Dene Games, Zybrylle Mary Ann Gage, Kenai — 10, juvenile female snow snake; 3, juvenile female pole push.
Dene Games, Christina Glenzel, Soldotna — 5, junior female finger pull; 2, junior female hand games; 15, junior female snow snake; 6, junior female stick pull; 1, junior female pole push; 6, junior female all around.
Hockey, Male Midget — 4, Team Alaska (Matthew Morse, Kenai; Thomas Bowe, Homer; Jake Eubank, Kenai; Cody Harvey, Soldotna).
Hockey, Female Junior -- 2, Team Alaska (Hydn McDermott-Johnston, Soldotna).
Snowshoeing, Riana Boonstra, Ninilchik — 5, juvenile female 2.5-kilometer cross country; 1, juvenile mix 4-by-400-meter relay; 5. juvenile female 5-kilometer cross country; 6, juvenile female short distance combined (8th in 100 meter, 7th in 400 meter, 7th in 800 meter).
Soccer, Female Intermediate — 3. Team Alaska (Maggie Koplin, Homer).
Table tennis, Jimmy Gao, Homer — 3, juvenile male doubles; 3, juvenile male team event.
Wrestling, Trey Zimmerman, Nikiski — 2, junior male 62 kg; 2, junior male 62 kg Inuit wrestling; 2, team competition open coed.
Wrestling, Lincoln Johnson, Nikiski — 1, junior male 82 kg; 1, junior male 82 kg Inuit wrestling; 2, team competition open coed.
Wrestling, Savannah Fackler, Seward — 1, junior female 60 kg; 1, junior female 60 kg Inuit wrestling; 2, team competition open coed.