Two years after hosting the Arctic Winter Games, the Kenai Peninsula sent a contingent of 32 athletes, coaches and chaperones to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, from March 9 to 15 for the 20th version of the games.
The athletes from the peninsula helped Team Alaska rule the ulu count. Peninsula athletes took home 32 ulus 14 gold, five silver and eight bronze.
Alaska finished with 202 ulus, including 74 gold. After that, Northwest Territories had 111 ulus, Yamal-Nenets had 92, Alberta North had 90, Yukon had 81, Nunavut had 67, Greenland had 44, Nunavik Quebec had 24 and Sami had 16.
The first Arctic Winter Games were held in Yellowknife in 1970. According to the Web site of the games, the purpose is "to involve as many athletes as possible either in the games themselves or in team trials and to provide them a forum of competition for those other than elite athletes with competitive opportunities in the south."
The games, which include 19 different sports, are about much more than competition. They also provide an opportunity for northern areas to come together and celebrate the culture of the north.
About 2,000 athletes, coaches and support staff from the nine delegations attended the opening ceremonies in Yellowknife. Team Alaska had a total of 350 people.
The spirit of camaraderie is reflected in the Hodgson Sportsmanship Trophy, considered the most important award at the games. Team Alaska took the award in 2006 on the Kenai Peninsula. In Yellowknife, the trophy was won by Team Nunavut. Nunavut has been involved in the games since only 2000, but this was the third time Nunavut won the sportsmanship trophy.
Half of the gold ulus that came back to the peninsula from Yellowknife came in wrestling. Team Alaska won the gold in the team competition.
Anchor Point's Robert Brymer, Tristram Brymer and Brittney Wyatt each won a gold ulu in individual and Inuit wrestling for juniors. Robert Brymer wrestled at 68 kilograms, Tristram Brymer wrestled at 75 kilograms and Wyatt wrestled at 56 kilograms.
Homer's Zenon Martushev took a bronze at 82 kilograms in individual wrestling. Homer's Steve Wolfe served as a wrestling coach.
Homer also picked up a couple of bronzes in snowshoe biathlon from Fritz Munro. Racing in the junior class, Munro took third in the 3-kilometer mass start, third in the 2-kilometer sprint and fourth in the 3-kilometer individual. Homer's Edward Todd and Janice Todd served as snowshoe biathlon coaches.
Also from Homer, Mark Walsworth and Brandt Brockschmidt were on the junior boys volleyball team that took fourth place.
Many consider the Dene Games and the Inuit Games the heart of the Arctic Winter Games. The peninsula grabbed plenty of ulus in the traditional games.
Ninilchik's Brianna Goins, a junior, struck gold in the snow snake. This result pushed her to fourth overall for the junior girls in the Dene Games. Goins also was on a teams that included Kenai's Samantha Georges. The teams won gold in the pole push and silver in hand games. Georges also recorded a seventh-place finish in snow snake.
Kenai's Chelsea Morrow and Yvonne Waskey and Soldotna's Christina Glenzel found success in the juvenile girls category at the Dene Games. The three were on a team that took silver in hand games and silver in pole push.
Glenzel also had a silver ulu in the stick pull, a seventh in the finger pull and a ninth in snow snake. She finished sixth overall amongst juvenile girls. Morrow finished 10th in snow snake and 10th in stick pull, while Waskey was 15th in snow snake.
Kenai's Topher Anderson was the lone athlete from the peninsula to participate in the Inuit Games. Anderson's best finish was a fourth in the triple jump. He also was sixth in the 1-foot high kick, seventh in the kneel jump, 13th in the 2-foot high kick and 18th in the Alaskan high kick.
Games in Canada would not be complete without hockey. In midget boys, Kenai's Dom Eubank picked up a gold ulu after a 3-2 triumph in the title game. Eubank had a goal and two assists for the tournament.
Kenai's Morgan Cunningham played in the bantam boys tournament, with his squad beating Northwest Territories 5-4 in the bronze ulu game. Cunningham had one goal and five assists in his games.
Peninsula athletes were able to corral five ulus in cross-country skiing. Three of those came from Sterling's Maranda Merkes, skiing in the midget girls category.
Merkes struck silver in the 500-meter freestyle sprint and the 3-by-2.5-kilometer classic relay. She also had a bronze ulu in the 2.5-kilometer freestyle.
Soldotna's Trent Semmens had a bronze ulu in the 3-by-5-kilometer classic relay. He also was sixth in the 750-meter freestyle sprint and eighth in the 7.5-kilometer freestyle.
Kenai's Anders Nyquist tracked down a bronze ulu in the 3-by-2.5-kilometer classic relay. Nyquist also was sixth in the 5-kilometer freestyle, eighth in the 5-kilometer classic and ninth in the 750-meter freestyle sprint.
Peninsula athletes had a pair of gold medals in indoor soccer. Kenai's Shelby Daly and the junior girls notched a 1-0 victory over Northwest Territories in the gold ulu game. Daly had three goals and an assist in the tournament.
Soldotna's Erica Byerley took a gold ulu in the juvenile girls competition with a 2-1 victory over Yukon. Byerley had two assists in the tournament. Soldotna's Garrett Byerley had three goals in the tournament, but his team did not place in the junior boys division. Rebecca Byerley served as a chaperone for indoor soccer.
The peninsula's final gold ulu came from Melissa Massey of Soldotna in junior volleyball.
Team Alaska beat Alberta 29-27, 25-17, 19-25 and 25-14 in the championship match.
In basketball, Soldotna's William White took a bronze medal with the junior boys, while Soldotna's Jessica Duke took fourth with the junior girls.
Others serving as coaches from the peninsula were Soldotna's D'Anna Gibson in ski biathlon and Kenai's Jason Diorec in volleyball.
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