Connecting you with Alaska athletes.

Directors Awards: Pili, Schumacher, Foy and Robinson collect Pride of Alaska honors; Keil, Gilbert and Petersburg basketball team also honored

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, Cover Story, Directors' Award, Pride of Alaska Award

Five athletes, one team and a man who widened horizons for Alaskans with disabilities have been selected as the 2024 recipients of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame’s Directors Awards.

The Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors picked the winners from a pool of nearly five dozen nominees.

Four of the winners received the Pride of Alaska Award as athletes of the year. Two others won the Trajan Langdon Award for leadership, integrity and sportsmanship, and one was honored with the Joe Floyd Award for last and significant contribution to Alaska sports.

All seven will be honored Tuesday, April 30, at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Anchorage Museum, where they’ll share the stage with the four-member Class of 2024, which was announced late last year.

The Directors Award winners are:

  • Emily Robinson, Pride of Alaska girls winner. The teenage musher from Nenana ran with the big dogs and beat them, winning her first mid-distance race by topping a Knik 200 field that included two recent Iditarod champions. Robinson followed up by capturing her third straight Junior Iditarod crown, becoming the first musher since 1984 to three-peat.
  • PJ Foy, Pride of Alaska boys winner. He swam to five gold medals at the Western Zone regional meet last summer and then capped his high school career at Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau by breaking his own records in two events at the state championships. More recently, he became the 13th Alaskan in history to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
  • Alissa Pili, Pride of Alaska women’s winner. In a year when women’s basketball captivated the country, Pili had a starring role. She was named to four All-America teams and set a single-season school scoring record with 727 points while leading Utah to a 23-11 record and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Her season included a trip home for the Great Alaska Shootout, where she drew adoring crowds.
  • Gus Schumacher, Pride of Alaska men’s winner. The 23-year-old rocked the cross-country ski world by becoming the first American man to win a World Cup distance race since 1983. Schumacher’s stellar season also included a victory in the American Birkebeiner, two top-10 finishes in the Tour de Ski and the No. 15 ranking in the overall World Cup standings.
  • Doug Keil, Joe Floyd Award. Keil, who became Alaska’s first Paralympian in 1980, introduced the world of adaptive sports to thousands of Alaskans with disabilities. He founded Challenge Alaska more than 40 years ago, and though the early emphasis was on skiing, the nonprofit organization now provides access to dozens of sports and outdoors activities. It also teams up with the Anchorage School District to bring wheelchair sports to schools.
  • Tyson Gilbert, Trajan Langdon Award adult winner. Open-heart surgery cost him one season and a torn Achilles tendon cost him another, but Gilbert battled back to lead the UAA men’s basketball team in scoring for two straight seasons. This season he averaged 15.3 points a game to earn first-team all-conference honors and lead the Seawolves to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years.
  • The Petersburg boys basketball team, Trajan Langdon Award youth winners. A Cinderella run through the postseason carried the Vikings to the Class 2A state championship, a fitting reward for a team that embraced the concept of teamwork, made contributions to its community and showed compassion for a sick classmate.

It’s also fitting that the sport of basketball produced both of this year’s Trajan Langdon Award winners.

The award is named for the East High basketball star whose skills and composure helped put Alaska basketball on the map back in the late 1980s.

Langdon was Alaska’s first five-star recruit, and he went on to a brilliant college career at Duke, a short career in the NBA and a long career in Russia. Known for his smarts, work ethic and integrity, he’s currently the general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans of the NBA.

Petersburg coach Rick Brock said the Vikings didn’t have a big star like Langdon to lead them this season. And maybe that’s why the movie that inspired them wasn’t “Air,” the film about Michael Jordan, but “The Boys on the Boat,” the film about the Olympic champion men’s-eight rowing team.

The team watched the movie twice, once on a road trip to Anchorage and again at a late-season team dinner. The idea that success comes when everyone works together, trusts each other and sacrifices for each other resonated with the players, Brock said. “Give me 40, Dan!” — the coxswain’s repeated cry as he urged the rowers to an unlikely victory — inspired a team T-shirt.

The Petersburg boys basketball team returned home with some hardware. Photo courtesy Rick Brock.

The Vikings were a .500 team for most of the season and were 11-10 going into their final two regular-season games. They won both to spark a seven-game winning streak that carried them to the state championship.

Two wins came at the regional tournament, where they beat Metlakatla in the championship game to avenge three straight losses to the Chiefs. Three more wins came at the state tournament, including a title-game showdown against defending champion Hooper Bay.

“We believed, but nobody else would’ve picked us to win state or regions,” Brock said.

The Vikings performed well off the court too, compiling a 3.67 team GPA, putting on a free clinic for middle-schoolers and hosting their annual cancer-awareness fundraiser.

The cancer-awareness game has become more meaningful in recent years, Brock said. Joseph Tagaban, a junior who grew up playing basketball, was diagnosed with cancer as an 8th grader and has spent the last couple of years going back and forth to Seattle for treatment. Tagaban is back in school this year and served as the team’s manager.

At UAA, Tyson Gilbert missed two years of basketball to deal with his physical setbacks, which began almost as soon as he joined the team as a junior. He collapsed during his first open-gym session with his new teammates, a scary moment that led to the discovery of a heart defect.

Tyson Gilbert. Photo courtesy UAA Athletic Department

“There were many times Tyson could have quit,” said UAA sports information director Nate Sagan.

Instead, the 6-foot-2 guard chose to contribute.

“Even while recovering, he was a positive presence on the team every day, motivating teammates and coaches through his challenges,” Sagan said. “Once he recovered, he became our best player on the floor (and) our best all-around contributor off the floor.”

During four years at UAA, Gilbert completed one undergraduate degree and started another while compiling a 3.58 cumulative GPA, and he logged nearly 500 hours of community service.

“I am sure Trajan would take pride in having his award represented by Tyson Gilbert,” Sagan said.

Pride of Alaska Award

GIRLS
Winner
Emily Robinson, Nenana
Other finalists
Emma Beck, Kenai, volleyball
Mai Mateaki, Dimond, soccer/flag football
Other nominees
Ourea Busk, Unalakleet, track/cross country
Nadia Chernich, Delta/Fairbanks, softball/baseball
Hallie Clark, Colony, basketball
Layla Hays, Wasilla, basketball
Caylin Jones, Chugiak, hockey
Clare Mullin, Sitka, track/cross country
Olivia Soderstrom, Service, skiing
Past winners
2023: Sayvia Sellers
2022: Lydia Jacoby
2021: Lydia Jacoby
2020: Hailey Williams
2019: Kendall Kramer
2018: Alissa Pili

BOYS
Winner
PJ Foy, Juneau
Other finalists
Colton Paul, Kipnuk, Native sports
Uatahouse Tu’ifua, Utqiagvik, football/wrestling
Other nominees
Murphy Kimball, West Anchorage, skiing
Liam Lierman, Eagle River, baseball
Coby Marvin, Palmer, mountain running
Fischer Adams, Palmer, cross country
Aaron Concepcion, South Anchorage, wrestling/football
Johnny Figgins, Colony, soccer/football
Muhammad Subally, East Anchorage, basketball
Mac Swanson, Anchorage, hockey
AJ Szewczyk, Eagle River, track
Past winners
2023: Finnigan Donley
2022: Obed Vargas
2021: Tristian Merchant
2020: Hayden Lieb; Aeyden Concepcion (co-winners)
2019: Jersey Truesdell
2018: Gus Schumacher

WOMEN
Winner
Alissa Pili, Anchorage, basketball
Other finalists
Lydia Jacoby, Seward, swimming
Christy Marvin, Palmer, mountain running
Other nominees
Rosie Brennan, Anchorage, cross-country skiing
Jordyn Bruce, Eagle River, heptathlon
Ava Earl, Girdwood, track/cross country
Meg Inokuma, Palmer, mountain running
Kendall Kramer, Fairbanks, cross country/skiing
Mikayla Lantto, Wasilla, hockey
Allie Ostrander, Soldotna, cross country/track
Past winners
2023: Alissa Pili
2022: Clair DeGeorge
2021: Rosie Brennan
2020: Ruthy Hebard
2019: Caroline Kurgat
2018: Kikkan Randall; Roxie Wright (co-winners)
2017: Morgan Hooe
2016: UAA basketball team; Allie Ostrander (co-winners)
2015: Allie Ostrander
2014: Kikkan Randall
2013: Nunaka Valley softball team
2012: UAA basketball team

MEN
Winner
Gus Schumacher, Anchorage, skiing
Other finalists
Dallas Seavey, mushing
Jeremy Swayman, hockey
Other nominees
Andrew Kurka, Palmer para skiing
Isaiah Moses, Anchorage basketball
Brandon Pili, Anchorage football
Santiago Prosser, Anchorage track/cross country
Edefuan Ulofoshio, Anchorage football
Isaac Updike, Ketchikan track
Spencer Woods, Shungnak wrestling
Past winners
2023: Jeremy Swayman
2022: Scott Patterson
2021: Dallas Seavey
2020: Gus Schumacher
2019: Keegan Messing
2018: Andrew Kurka
2017: David Norris
2016: Dallas Seavey; Soldotna football team (co-winners)
2015: Erik Flora
2014: Trevor Dunbar; Eric Strabel (co-winners)
2013: Mario Chalmers
2012: Alaska Aces

Trajan Langdon Award

YOUTH
Winner
Petersburg Vikings basketball team
Other finalists
Fairbanks high school ski teams
Manusiu Muti, Utqiagvik wrestler
Past winners
2023: Geremu Daggett and Colton Merriner
2022: Jeremy Lane
2021: West Anchorage Legion baseball team
2020: Houston High football team
2019: South High boys basketball team
2018: Brenner Furlong

ADULT
Winner
Tyson Gilbert, UAA basketball
Other nominees
Matt Failor, Willow, mushing
Oliver and Wilson Hoogendorn, Nome, adventurers
Past winners
2023: Vanessa Aniteye
2022: Hannah Halverson
2021: Billy Strickland
2020: Israel Hale
2019: Andy Beardsely and Larsen Klingel
2018: DaJonee Hale
2017: Damen Bell-Holter
2016: Laci Effenberger
2015: Aliy Zirkle
2014: Marko Cheseto
2013: Paul Tandy
2012: Chugiak High football team

Joe Floyd Award

Winner
Doug Keil, Challenge Alaska founder
Other finalists
John Lindquist, Kodiak swim coach
Dick Shellhorn, Cordova official/broadcaster
Other nominees
Roman Dial, Anchorage, wilderness adventurer, educator
Rafael Echavarria, Anchorage track coach
Christa Hayes, Mat-Su PE teacher
Michelle Lackey Maynor, Alaska Raceway Park owner
Anne Thomas, Mat-Su store owner and event organizer
Past winners
2023: Kathleen Navarre
2022: Beth Bragg
2021: Richard Knowles
2020: Cristy Hickel
2019: Brush Christiansen
2018: Jim Mahaffey
2017: Ma’o Tosi
2016: Dennis Sorenson
2015: Mike Friess
2014: Dick Mize
2013: Don Dennis
2012: Steve Nerland and Don Winchester

Story made possible by:

Nicole Johnston

Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

Sports Categories