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Teller Native Youth Olympics team ends Unalakleet’s 23-year win streak

By Keith Conger - Published in the Nome Nugget newspaper 04/16/15

Day One - Thursday, April 9

White Mountain's Anna Prentice rose quietly from the crowd. She was
surrounded by members of thirteen Native Youth Olympics teams that
were taking up much of the available space on the floor of the Brevig
Mission gym on Thursday evening during the 30th annual Bering Straits
School District Native Youth Olympics, or NYO, Championships.

Prentice's hands glistened from the crisco-ladened stick she been using during
the weekend's first competition - the Indian Stick Pull. Prentice had
worked her way up through the loser’s bracket to meet the girl she
had expected to find in the finals, Chelsea Fagerstrom of Golovin,
who was one of the district’s highest finishers from the previous
year’s meet.

Over one hundred sets of eyes athlete's gazed at the pair, including those
from the powerhouse Teller and Unalakleet squads who would spend the
next three days duking it out for first place. An NYO judge reached
into one of the three large vats of fat that sat on the gym floor and
pulled out the slippery stick, handing it to one of the officials who
positioned it between the two competitors.

The duo faced each other on a plastic mat. The stick was steadied, two
hands worked to grip the slippery baton, and then the girls began to
push and pull. Prentice was able to wrestle the stick from Fagerstrom
two straight times, which, due to the double elimination format,
afforded her the opportunity for one more best of three with the
previously undefeated Fagerstrom. In the last series, Fagerstrom was
able to wrestle the stick away as she became the district champ in
the event.

While Fagerstrom and Prentice were busy helping grab first day leads for
their teams, the Unalakleet Wolfpack and Teller Aklaqs NYO squads
were getting a slow start to their point scoring. When the teams
went to bed after the first event Thursday night, the Wolfpack was
ahead of their main rival, 6-0.


The two teams were the clear favorites coming into this year’s
meet, with Unalakleet having defeated Teller l53-152 in the 2014
championships. They would soon change the complexion of the meet by
scoring in bunches on days two and three.

There was a lot riding on each of the ten NYO events. The top five in each
competition earn points counting toward a final team total. Winners
of each contest represent the BSSD at the state meet on April 17-18.

Day Two - Friday, April 10

The 125 competitors woke up on Friday morning to the Alaskan High Kick,

where athletes balance on one arm while extending into the air with
one foot to kick a suspended ball. Leaders for the two top teams
wasted no time setting up the weekend's main individual battles. In
the boys competition, Teller's Cameron Okbaok was able to match
Unalakleet's Makiyan Ivanoff until the two reached 78 inches. From
there Ivanoff kept extending the height until he had moved the
suspended ball to a height of 88 inches. His effort broke the
eighteen-year-old BSSD record of 86 inches set by Alex Ivanoff of
Unalakleet in 1996.

“I know the guy who owned the record,” said Ivanoff after breaking a
mark that lasted 20 years. “He has been encouraging me to break the
record.”

The top individual girls at this year's BSSD NYO Championships came to
the surface as well during the High Kick. Both Apaay Campbell of
Gambell and Jazzlyn Garnie of Teller reached a height of 60 inches,
only to be outdone by Garnie's teammate Grace Ongtowasruk, who
reached 63 inches. By the time the boys and girls had finished event
number two, the Aklaqs had turned a six-point deficit to the Wolfpack
into a six-point advantage.

Ivanoff had so much fun besting old records that he decided to do it again in
his next event. The Toe Kick requires competitors to leap from a
standing position and gently tap a thin wooden dowel as they jump
over it. He and Okbaok left Teller's Ryan Topkok and the rest of the
boys at 56 inches. Both extended well past the 2010 BSSD record of 78
inches set by Max Fancher of Unalakleet. The pair proceeded to 88
inches, but only Ivanoff would reach 90, thus setting two district
marks in about one hour's time.

Unfortunately for Unalakleet's Allie Ivanoff, the Toe Kick will be dropped from NYO
competition in 2016. It will be replaced by the Scissor Broad Jump.
Ivanoff made her way past the established older girls by tapping a
stick that rested 51 inches from the start line. Ongtowasruk, the
closest competitor, jumped 43 inches.

The results of event number four – the Kneel Jump - were all but a
foregone conclusion when Campbell stepped up to the line.

She carries three distinctions simultaneously She is the BSSD district record

holder, she is the state of Alaska record holder, AND a past jump of 55 ½ inches

made her the world record holder.

From a kneeling position, Campbell (pictured below) launched herself just an
inch and quarter shy of her the district mark of 53 ¼ inches, which
she set last year. This year's jump of 52 inches outdistanced Garnie
by 15. It was also two inches further than Elim's Isiah Saccheus, the
winner of the boy competition. Campbell won her first kneel jump
district title in her first year of qualification as a 7th
grader in 2010. She joins Melissa Towarak as the only athletes in
BSSD history to win a district title in the same event in every year
of eligibility.

Campbell says she first tried the event when she was six years old. Of her
world record form she simply says she picks out a spot with her eyes,
and jumps for that spot.

The Kneel Jump and the Indian Stick Pull were the only events of the
weekend without an athlete from either Teller or Unalakleet on top of
the podium.

Familiar names were on top of the leader board in the The One Hand Reach, the
event where participants balance precariously on one hand while they
extent their other hand skyward to touch a suspended ball. Ivanoff
grabbed his third gold medal by reaching 62 inches, while Okbaok took
silver with a touch at 56 inches. Garnie took her first gold medal of
the games with a 50-inch reach, besting Campbell's touch of 48.

At the meet's mid-point there was a buzz in the air. The 92-70 lead the
Aklaqs had established made real the possibility that Unalakleet
could lose its first district title since 1992.

In the Two Foot High Kick athletes must take off with two feet, tap a
suspended ball with their toes, and land back cleanly on two feet.
The prowess in the event from the district's two top squads was
evident on the boys side, as all five point scorers were from either
Teller or Unalakleet. Okbaok got his first and only gold medal of the
weekend reaching 90 inches. He passed Ivanoff by four inches.

Only two inches separated the gold and bronze medal winners on the girls
side of the Two Foot High Kick. Campbell became the girls first
double gold medal winner of this year's championships by jumping 62
inches. Garnie took the silver with a jump of 61 inches, while Allie
Ivanoff won the bronze at 60.

In the Wrist Carry event, Teller's Isaac Okleasik III did not disappoint
the many supportive Teller fans who had traveled across the six miles
of Port Clarence ice. Okleasik was able to hang from one wrist as
teammates Okbaok and Topkok carried him around the gym for 321 feet,
8 inches. He beat silver medalist Everson Paniptchuk of Shaktoolik by
124 feet. This was the third district championship in a row for
Okleasik.

The girls side of the event featured former district champions Campbell
(2013), Garnie (2011, 2012) and reigning 2014 champion Helen Bruns of
Brevig Mission. It was actually Teller's Amber Okleasik, however, who
hung on for 99 feet 5 inches, beating silver medalist Bruns by only
three inches.

The Wolfpack tried to rally on the last event on Friday night. The
Canadian One-Foot High Kick is the high wire of NYO events, where
contestants kick a suspended ball and must land cleanly on the
kicking foot. Gold medals went to Makiyan Ivanoff, who's 110 inches
was the second highest district jump ever recorded, and Allie
Ivanoff, who went well over her head at 82 inches. Both scored
important points for their teams. Unfortunately for Unalakleet,
Okbaok jumped 104 inches, and Topkok went to 96 inches. The Teller
pair scored big from the second and third spots, and negated any
gains made by the Wolfpack jumpers.

When day two came to a close, the Teller Aklaqs held a healthy 164-116
margin.

Day Three - Saturday, April 11

The Eskimo Stick Pull was the opening event on Saturday morning. Tyler

Takak gave Shaktoolik its first gold medal of the games. The contest
has competitors grasp a stick with two hands from a sitting position
in a sort of mano-a-mano tug-of-war. Takak met up with silver
medalist Talon Erickson of Unalakleet who had ousted Okbaok in the
semi-final.

The girls final in Eskimo Stick Pull matched Garnie and Fagerstrom, who
were both looking to win their second gold medals of the weekend.
Garnie was able to out pull Fagerstrom, and more importantly from a
team standpoint, she was able to secure the points that went along
with a first place finish.

The scoring system for each BSSD Native Youth Olympics event rewards 10
points for the first place spot. Each subsequent place after that
decreases by two points, with the fifth place finisher being the
lowest point scorer at two points. BSSD rules also only allow for
eight point scoring members from any one team. So theoretically, if a
team were to have all its members score first through fourth in both
the girls and boys side of any one event it would secure 56 points.
The score entering the final event was Teller 180 – Unalakleet 116,
so mathematically, the Wolfpack was out of the competition for first
place at that point.

Unalakleet's Jayden Wilson won the final boys event of the weekend – the Seal
Hop. He hopped straight-backed on his hands and toes for 94 feet, 5
inches. Ongtowasruk, however, surpassed even that number by hopping
104 feet, 4 ¾ inches. Not only did Ongtowasruk earn her second gold
medal, but her effort put an exclamation point on team trophy for the
Aklaqs. The final score was Teller 198, Unalakleet 130. Gambell took
third place with 74 points.

Makiyan Ivanoff's four gold medals were the most by any athlete at the games,
and gave him the NYO Outstanding Boy Athlete. He was the top point
scorer for the boys with 56, narrowly beating Cameron Okbaok who had
54 points. The next top boys were Ryan Topkok, 26 points, Jayden
Wilson 18 points, and Arctic Ivanoff 12 points.

The girls side was equally close with Apaay Campbell scoring 60 points
for Gambell, and Jazzlyn Garnie scoring 56 points for Teller. The NYO
Outstanding Girl Athlete went to Campbell. She demonstrated her
amazing overall abilities by having top five finishes in 9 of 10
events. The next top point totals were Grace Ongtowasruk, 34 points,
Allie Ivanoff, 34 points, Chelsea Fagerstrom, 22 points , and Helen
Bruns, 20 points.

In a sport known for its outstanding sportsmanship, the winner of the
2015 award was the team from White Mountain.

The BSSD will compete as a district team at the state competition April
17-18. The team is comprised of first place finishers from the ten
events.

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