The success of the 2006 Arctic Winter Games is measurable in a number of ways, one of them being the impressive performances of Kenai Peninsula athletes competing in the event. Of the 42 athletes from the peninsula competing for Team Alaska, 32 had a gold, silver or bronze ulu hanging around their necks at the end of the week.
“It was pretty cool,” said Kenai wrestler Michael Dormady, who finished the week with three gold ulus.
Dormady, who wrestled at 90 kilograms (198 pounds), earned gold ulus in the team competition as well as in the individual freestyle and Inuit wrestling competitions.
“The competition, I thought, it wasn’t bad. I wrestled up a weight class,” Dormady said.
While Dormady said he has had a lot of experience with freestyle wrestling from high school and club teams, the Inuit style was new for him.
“The difference is, in Inuit, you can’t use your lower body. It’s all upper body. You’re pretty much trying to squeeze the guy and take him down,” Dormady said. “I never really tried it. We learned (the rules) just that morning before Inuit started. I’ve done Greco-Roman, and it’s almost the same thing.”
Dormady proved to be a quick study as he went 3-0 in the Inuit tournament.
Also picking up a trifecta of wresting golds was Nikiski’s Justin Tumbaga, who competed at 75 kilograms (165 pounds). Tumbaga was 4-0 in the freestyle competition and 3-0 in the Inuit matches. Homer’s Derek Verburgt picked up team and Inuit gold ulus at the wrestling venue, as well as a silver in the individual freestyle event at 82 kilograms (180 pounds).
Also picking up a trio of ulus was Soldotna resident Trent Semmens, a sophomore at Kenai Central. Semmens said he surprised himself in the cross-country skiing competition, opening the week with a win in the 5-kilometer classic event.
“Usually my classic technique isn’t all that great,” Semmens said.
Semmens followed that up with a win in the 7.5-kilometer freestyle race.
“That was quite the race. I was racing with Yamal the whole race. We were right on each other. It came down to a sprint,” Semmens said.
Semmens wrapped up the week with a second-place finish in the 3-by-3-kilometer relay.
Other gold ulu winners from the peninsula included girls basketball team members Piper Daugharty, Lindsay Layland and Jill Temple of Homer, Hannah Delaney and Lacie Wortham of Kenai, Karen Senette and Jessi Stenga of Soldotna, and Rachael Heffner of Sterling.
“It’s just incredible. I’m so glad that we got this opportunity,” Delaney said. “I got to play with a lot of players that, we didn’t really know each other, but we just came together as a team really well and we had a lot of fun.”
The team wrapped up the gold ulu with a 74-63 win over Northwest Territories in the tournament championship game.
Kaylee Grant of Soldotna was on the juvenile girls indoor soccer team that defeated Alberta North 6-4 in the championship game to win a gold ulu, and North Kenai’s Jamie Peterson was on the gold-ulu girls volleyball team that didn’t drop a single game in the tournament.
Soldotna’s Jessica Turner was part of the Team Alaska figure skating squad that won an open team gold, and Sterling’s Shane Strausbaugh was part of the gold-winning team mushing competition.
Winning silver ulus from the peninsula were members of the boys bantam hockey team Soldotna’s Bradley Duwe, Kevin Garske of Sterling, Kenai’s Dominick Eubank, and Anchor Point’s Chance Rockett and the junior girls hockey team Karlyn Remsen of Kenai, and Holly Perkins and Jenna Redford from Soldotna.
The boys Bantam team lost 3-2 in overtime to Alberta North in the championship game.
Rockett said the hockey team played well together despite facing off against each other during the high school season.
“Usually when you make a team of past enemies, you don’t go out that well,” Rockett told the Homer News. “But the whole team meshed. Everyone played great and everyone had fun. It was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had.”
Team Alaska’s girls squad dropped the championship game 3-2 to Alberta North.
Kenai’s Bryson Lowe and Sterling’s Kyle VanRyzin were on the boys juvenile indoor soccer team that lost 3-2 to the Northwest Territories in the championship game.
Reidun Todd of Homer won a silver in the snowshoe biathlon relay event.
Bronze ulus went to: boys basketball team members Michael Pate and Tanner Pollack of Homer; Kasilof biathlete Taylor Karnikis; Katie Connor of Homer in girls wrestling; Brianna Goins of Ninilchik in the Dene games; and Dannielle Malchoff of Port Graham in the Inuit games.
While the medals were nice, each athlete interviewed said there was more to the Games than the competition. Semmens said his parents hosted the Alaska ski team for dinner one night while his neighbors hosted skiers from Yamal. After their meals, the teams mingled, playing some foosball, bouncing on a trampoline and enjoying a backyard campfire. Semmens said the conversation wasn’t great the skiers from Yamal spoke little English but the camaraderie was nice. Semmens also went to a hockey game with some of the Saami skiers.
“That was fun,” Semmens said.
Dormady said he stopped by home once during the week to get some clean clothes and say hello to his dad, but otherwise spent most of his time either competing or checking out the other venues.
“The room beside us was Team Alberta North, and we got along with them pretty well,” Dormady said. “... For the most part, I was out and around going to the venues.
“I thought it (the Games) was pretty cool, and a couple other participants from Canada thought it was pretty cool.”
When asked if he was at all surprised to see the community do such a good job staging the games, Dormady said, “No.”
“The people around Kenai are all pretty generous. We had a bunch of volunteers even some of my friends volunteered,” he said.
Other Kenai Peninsula participants in the Arctic Winter Games not mentioned above include: from Anchor Point, cross-country skier Erika Klaar; from Kenai, midget hockey players Lauren Baldwin, Kyle Coleman and Owen Dukowitz; and from Soldotna, midget hockey players Sam Evanoff, Bradley Fusaro, James Iverson and Elijah Waldrip, junior boys indoor soccer player Anthony Griglione, and Dene games athlete Samuel Peter.
Clarion reporter John Hult and Homer News reporter Ben Stuart contributed to this report.
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