Nikiski's Anna and Katie Floyd won't forget their trip to Whitehorse, Yukon, to play for Team Alaska in the 2000 Arctic Winter Games anytime soon.
Katie, 15, a freshman at Nikiski Middle-Senior High and a member of the Team Alaska junior women's basketball team, took home a silver ulu award for the team's second-place finish.
Anna, 16, a sophomore at Nikiski, played for the fifth-place Team Alaska hockey squad.
"It was wonderful -- I wish I could go again," Anna said last week about her trip.
Katie was recruited to play for the hoops team by coach Deb Lowney of Homer, while Anna got a last-minute call from Anchorage to fill an empty spot on the hockey team.
"It's something I always dreamed would happen, but I always figured it would happen to somebody else," Anna said.
Anna said she enjoyed her experience on the ice. She said Team Alaska played well, especially considering that the team never practiced together before the tournament while many of its opponents had been playing together for years.
"By the second game, we had it all together," Anna said. "We did pretty well for what we faced."
The basketball team did have a brief practice session before its first game, but it did face stiff competition. To ensure closer competition, Team Alaska players are all under 16, while other teams have players as old as 19.
Lowney still set lofty goals for her team.
"Goals were two-fold," Lowney said. "One is the competition, which we took seriously. We put a lot of time into what we wanted to accomplish.
"The other is to get (the team) out exploring the other venues, seeing other events and meeting other athletes. We met some wonderful teams from other nations."
Teams come to compete from all around the globe -- at least the portion of it near the Arctic Circle. Russia, Greenland and several Canadian provinces were represented.
"I traded my Team Alaska coat with a guy from Greenland," Anna said. "Everybody wanted a Greenland coat. I befriended him playing pool. We talked to every team."
"Everybody was really outgoing," Katie said. "You'd just say, 'Hey, I'm from Alaska,' and start a conversation."
While the hockey team did not make the championship round, Anna made the most of the opportunity to see nearly every other sport and collect banners and mementos for the presentation she will give to Nikiski's chamber of commerce.
Katie did play in the championship game of the basketball tournament, and came home with an invaluable experience from it.
"I got to learn new stuff from a different coach, and I got to play with a whole new team," Katie said.
Katie played for Nikiski's junior varsity squad this past season, and she said the lessons learned in Whitehorse should translate well when high school practice starts next winter.
"It taught me more about how to deal with a team," Katie said. "In Whitehorse, I was a team captain. I learned a lot about leadership. I'm sure I can take that with me."
"One of my goals was to have it be an experience they'll remember for the rest of their lives," Lowney said. "I know it was an enriching experience."
Other peninsula athletes that participated in the 2000 Arctic Winter Games include:
Homer -- Lillian Sloth (basketball), Caitlin Crandall (basketball), Channing Fetterquist (basketball), Shanda Cundiff (basketball), Kyle Lintz (snowshoe biathlon), Tela O'Donnell (wrestling), Sydney Schoepke (ski biathlon), Clayton Smith (ski biathlon), Heather Strutz (snowshoe biathlon), Marta Todd (snowshoe biathlon).
Kenai -- Catie Baldwin (hockey), Hans Carlson (volleyball), Jordan Engle (ski biathlon).
Seward -- Brianna Bardarson (basketball), Stacie Tarpie (mushing).
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