Men and women succeeding on the national level and beyond are the finalists for the 2023 Pride of Alaska awards.
NCAA champion swimmer Lydia Jacoby of Seward, NCAA Division II volleyball player of the year Eve Stephens of Palmer and All-America basketball player Alissa Pili of Anchorage are the finalists for the women’s award.
For the men, it’s Anchorage hockey player Jeremy Swayman, a goaltender for the NHL’s best team; Girdwood figure skater Keegan Messing, a two-time national champion for Canada, and Anchorage runner Santiago Prosser, a top-20 finisher for Northern Arizona’s NCAA championship cross country team.
Finalists for the athlete-of-the-year awards were chosen from a field of 27 nominees by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors.
Winners will be announced April 5 by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame in an awards show produced in partnership with Alaska’s News Source at 3pm AST, on the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Facebook Live.
The winners will be honored April 27 at the Hall of Fame’s annual banquet. In addition to recognizing the Directors Award winners, the banquet will feature the induction if the Class of 2023 – Kodiak coaching legend Joe Floyd, Fairbanks football player Reggie Tongue and Palmer basketball player Jessica Moore in the individuals category; Kikkan Randall’s 2018 Olympic gold medal in the moments category and March Madness Alaska/state high school basketball championships in the event category.
Lydia Jacoby was already an Olympic gold medalist when she arrived at the University of Texas for her freshman season, and she added to her resume by claiming an NCAA championship for the Longhorns.
Jacoby used her signature fast finish to come from behind and win the 100-yard breaststroke at the national championships. The Seward swimmer clocked 57.03 seconds, the seventh fastest time in the all-time rankings.
At the Big 12 championships, Jacoby established USA Swimming age-group records with victories in two events — the 100 breaststroke (57.29) and the 200 breaststroke (2:04.32). Her winning time at the NCAA Championships didn’t lower her 17-18 national age-group record because she turned 19 about two weeks before the meet.
Alissa Pili, a 6-foot-2 forward led the Utah women’s basketball team to the Sweet 16 in the same week she was named a second-team All-America pick by both the Associated Press and the US Basketball Writers Association.
The Dimond High grad was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and ranks 16th nationally in NCAA Division I scoring (20.7 points per game) and 14th in shooting percentage (58.9). In her first two NCAA Tournament games she scored a combined 61 points to send the 8th-ranked Utes to the Sweet 16, where they lost to Louisiana State by three points.
Eve Stephens, a 6-1 outside hitter, was named the NCAA Division II Player of the Year after a brilliant senior season for the UAA volleyball team.
Stephens ranked third in the nation in kills per set (4.75), made the top 50 in attack percentage (.351) and aces per set (.53), and recorded double-figure kills in 28 of 30 matches. She helped the Seawolves post a 27-3 record.
Stephens, a Colony High grad, was an unanimous first-team pick for two All-America teams as well as a first-team Academic All-America selection. She graduated magna cum laude with a 3.91 GPA in accounting.
- Rosie Brennan, Anchorage (skiing)
- Ava Earl, Anchorage (cross country, track)
- Eden Hopson, Utqiagvik (Native games)
- Meg Inokuma, Palmer (mountain/ultra running)
- Sydnee Kimber, Sitka (wrestling)
- Kendall Kramer and Naomi Bailey, Fairbanks (cross country)
- Christy Marvin, Palmer (mountain running, skiing)
- Darci Matson, Wasilla (hockey)
One of figure skating’s most crowd-pleasing competitors, Keegan Messing wrapped up a 20-year career with some of the best results of his life.
He registered a career-best overall score to win the silver medal at the ISU Four Continents Championship in February, and then posted a career-best short program score at the recent World Championships in Japan, where he placed seventh. He earned standing ovations at each event.
At the Canadian National Championships in Ontario, the 31-year-old from Girdwood captured his second straight title. The competition coincided with the due-date of his second child, so Messing rushed back to Anchorage, arriving before the baby did.
Jeremy Swayman alternates in goal for the Boston Bruins, the best team in the NHL right now. He has 20 wins with four shutouts in 29 starts.
At age 24, the Anchorage man shows signs of being the best goalie in Alaska history. He’s technically sound, has the work ethic of a farmer and owns the emotional equilibrium his position demands.
In 78 starts over three seasons, he has a 50-23, a 2.22 GAA and a .920 save percentage. He’s 20-6 this season.
Since the Bruins started alternating him in goal in February, Swayman is 7-2-0 with a .926 save percentage.
Santiago Prosser became an NCAA champion and an all-American as a member of Northern Arizona’s first-place team at the 2022 Division I cross country championships.
The sophomore out of Dimond High placed 19th overall in a field of 255 runners to become the seventh Alaskan to earn Division I All-America honors in the sport. He was the No. 3 finisher for Northern Arizona.
- Tyler Aklestad, Palmer, and Nick Olstad, Wasilla (snowmachine racing)
- Lars Arneson, Anchorage (mountain running)
- Pheonix Copley, North Pole (hockey)
- Maxime Germain, Anchorage (biathlon)
- Kamaka Hepa, Utqiagvik (basketball)
- Isaiah Moses, Anchorage (basketball)
- David Norris, Fairbanks (skiing)
- Ryan Redington, Knik (sled dog racing)
- Joquis Sconiers, Service (boys basketball coach)
- Derryk Snell, Eagle River (football)
- Spencer Woods, Kotzebue (wrestling)