The inaugural class of 21 inductees into the Alaska High School Hall of Fame includes two inductees with strong local ties.
The first class entered into the Hall of Fame Sunday at the Anchorage Downtown Marriott. Among those selected to the Hall of Fame by the Alaska School Activities Association were Cook Inlet Academy graduate Chuck Kopp and Soldotna High School graduate Molly Tuter.
According to information provided by ASAA, Kopp graduated from CIA in 1983 and earned awards in wrestling, basketball, track and field and cross country while in high school. He graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1987, then went on to coach the wrestling team at Anchorage Christian Schools for three years. Kopp returned to coaching in 2005 with the CIA wrestlers.
Kopp also is a graduate of the FBI National Academy of Law Enforcement Administrators. He is a 17-year law enforcement veteran and is currently Kenai’s police chief and city manager.
Tuter graduated from Soldotna in 1993 after leading her basketball squad to a Class 4A state championship in 1993. She also was an accomplished volleyball player and track athlete. Tuter went on to play basketball at Arizona State University. After college, she played with the Phoenix Mercury, making her the first Alaskan to play in the WNBA. Tuter is currently the head women’s basketball coach at the University of California, Irvine. She still returns to the area to run a basketball camp for the Kenai Boys and Girls Club.
Other inductees to the Hall of Fame were:
John Brown The 1968 graduate of Ketchikan High School led his team to four consecutive state basketball titles the first player in the state to do so. Brown returned to Ketchikan to coach the high school squad.
Don Clary The 1975 graduate of East High School still holds the two-mile state record, which has been converted to 3,200 meters. He attended the University of Oregon, earned All-American status three times and ran on an NCAA champion cross country team. In 1984, he reached the 5,000-meter semifinals of the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Mike Cronk The 1987 graduate of Northway High School is considered to be one of the most prolific basketball scorers in Alaska high school history. He played at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and helped the school earn the 1988-89 conference championship. He is currently a teacher at Northway.
Herbert Didrickson The 1946 graduate of Sheldon Jackson High School (Sitka) is considered one of Alaska’s best basketball players. He played two years at Sheldon Jackson Junior College, followed by 15 years on the Sitka Alaska Native Brotherhood team.
Steve Frank The 1973 Lathrop graduate won a state title with Lathrop in 1972. After becoming a three-year letterman at UAF, he coached the Monroe Catholic boys to victory in 1980. He was elected to the Alaska State House from 1984 to 1986 and the Senate from 1988 to 1996. He is currently the vice chair of the Alaska Permanent Fund board.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Haines The 1978 graduate of East High School was the undefeated cross country champion all four of her high school years. She still holds the one-mile record, which has been converted to the 1,600 meters. She also made the Olympics as a skier.
Nina Kemppel The 1987 honors graduate of West High School earned skimeister awards in 1986 and 1987. She graduated from Dartmouth College with an economics degrees. She is a four-time Olympian and won 19 U.S. national skiing titles. She also has won Mount Marathon a record nine times. She is currently a member of the Athlete Advisory Council to the U.S. Olympics Committee.
Rocky Klever The 1977 graduate of West High School was an all-conference performer in football, basketball and American Legion baseball. At the University of Montana, Klever set a rushing record and was named to the university’s Hall of Fame. Klever, who resides in New Jersey, played for the New York Jets for seven years as a tight end, making him the first Alaskan to play in the NFL.
Trajan Langdon The 1994 graduate of East High School led his squad to three state championships. Langdon played basketball for four years at Duke University and also earned a degree in mathematics. Langdon was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1999, becoming the first Alaskan to play in the NBA.
Butch Lincoln The 1991 graduate of Kotzebue High School twice led his team to berths at the state tournament. An Inupiat, Lincoln is the first Native Alaskan to earn a full scholarship for basketball at UAA. He played point guard there and lettered all four years.
Aelin Peterson The 1992 graduate of West Valley won the skimeister award in 1991 and 1992. She competed in Junior Nationals from 1992 to 1998, winning five gold and four silver medals. She earned NCAA All-American honors at Northern Michigan, but stopped skiing after her junior year. She started skiing again in 2000 and competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics before retiring in 2005.
Mark Schlereth A 1984 graduate of Service High School who earned all-conference honors in football there. He played at the University of Idaho before earning two Pro Bowl berths and one Super Bowl ring with the Redskins and two with the Broncos. He is now an NFL analyst for ESPN.
Brian Swanson The 1994 graduate of Chugiak High School played for his school’s varsity squad for three years before going to Colorado College and earning a degree in psychology. Swanson was then a first-round pick for the Edmonton Oilers and played for them for three years. He is now building a home in Eagle River and volunteers with youth at local rinks.
Kristy Klinnert Waythomas The 1987 graduate of Kodiak High School was undefeated in cross country during high school. In track, she twice won state in the 1,600 and 3,200 and still holds the state record in the 3,200. At Northern Arizona University, Waythomas set a school and conference record in the 10,000 that still stands. Waythomas is now a middle school math teacher.
Gary Wilken The 1964 graduate of Lathrop High School was a member of the team that claimed the state title in 1964. He attended Oregon State University as one of the first Alaskans to earn a Division I basketball scholarship. He was named to the school’s Hall of Fame in 1993. He was first elected to the Alaska State Senate in 1996, and re-elected in 2000, 2002 and 2004.
Tom Huffer He enters the Hall of Fame as a coach inductee. He retired in 1990 from coaching at Chugiak High School after starting the school’s football program in 1969. Huffer was named state football coach of the year three times and was inducted into the Alaska State Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005. He also coached at the collegiate level at the University of Montana, Linfield College and Valley City State University.
Gilbert “Gil” Truitt He enters as an administrator inductee after retiring from administration at Mt. Edgecumbe in 1990. Truitt was a member of the first class to graduate from Mt. Edgecumbe and returned there after earning a teaching degree and a master’s degree in education administration. He served at the school for 33 years. Although retired, Truitt continues to support the school and community.
Leslie “Les” Wells He enters as an administrator inductee. Wells came to Alaska in 1961 and served as volunteer executive secretary for ASAA from 1965 to 1971. He went to work full time for ASAA in 1977, helping to unite it into one statewide organization.
First National Bank of Alaska Enters as a contributor inductee. First National Bank of Alaska has been the title sponsor of the Alaska School Activities Association state championships since 1990, contributing more than $1.25 million over the past 15 years. Bank employees also volunteer hundreds of hours to support ASAA events.
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