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Pride of Alaska youth finalists are a diverse bunch, both athletically and geographically

by | Apr 3, 2024 | Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, Cover Story, Directors' Award, Pride of Alaska Award

From Kipnuk to Kenai, the six finalists for the Pride of Alaska youth awards come from all over Alaska — and they compete in all kinds of sports.

A spiker from Kenai, a striker from Anchorage and a dog driver from Nenana lead the way for the girls. A swimmer from Juneau, a multi-sport star from Utqiagvik and a world-record setter from Kipnuk are the contenders among the boys.

One girl and one boy will be selected as winners and honored later this month at the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame inductee ceremony. They will be among the winners of seven Directors Awards, presented annually by the Hall of Fame in recognition of recent achievements.

The Pride of Alaska youth awards are essentially Alaska’s high school athlete-of-the-year awards — although they don’t necessarily recognize high school athletes, but rather high school-aged athletes.

Emily Robinson, a 16-year-old from Nenana, is nominated for mushing, which isn’t a high school sport. Colton Paul of Kipnuk was 18 years old when he shattered the world record for the scissors broad jump at last year’s Native Youth Olympics and when he won four events at the 2023 World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.

The four other finalists competed in traditional high school sports:

  • Emma Beck led Kenai Central to a state volleyball championship to cap a brilliant career.
  • Mai Mateaki helped the Dimond girls to a runnerup finish at the 2023 state soccer tournament and also helped the Lynx dominate in flag football.
  • PJ Foy set two records at the state swimming championships, in each case breaking records he had previously set.
  • Uatahouse Tu’ifua was a three-sport star for Barrow High School in Utqiagvik, going undefeated in wrestling and nabbing first-team all-state honors in football and third-team all-state honors in basketball.

Beck, Mateaki, Foy and Tu’ifua are all headed for college athletics. Although Beck hasn’t settled on a college yet, Mateaki signed a letter of intent to play Division I soccer at the Air Force Academy, Foy is set to compete in Division I swimming at North Carolina and Tu’ifua is headed to Eastern New Mexico State for Division II football.

Paul graduated a year ago from Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka and was still 18 in the summer of 2023 when he dominated WEIO in his first year of eligibility.

As for Robinson, she’s still got another year of high school left, but already she’s proven herself against older, more experienced sled-dog drivers. This winter, she beat a pair of recent Iditarod champions to win the Knik 200.

Winners will be announced next week and will be honored at the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame ceremony on Tuesday, April 30, at the Anchorage Museum.

Highlighting the evening will be the induction of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 — musher Dallas Seavey, runner Allie Ostrander and Special Olympics athlete Bobby Hill as individual members, plus Scott Gomez’s 2000 NHL Rookie-of-the-Year campaign, which is being enshrined in the Moment category.

The ceremony will also recognize seven Directors Award winners — two Pride of Alaska youth winners, two Pride of Alaska adult winners, two Trajan Langdon Award winners (youth and adult) that honor integrity, inspiration and sportsmanship and one Joe Floyd Award, given for lasting and significant contributions to Alaska sports.

Here’s a look at the six finalists for the Pride of Alaska youth winners:

Emma Beck

Emma Beck

Beck, a monster hitter and blocker, was the driving force behind Kenai Central’s second straight Class 3A state volleyball championship. She averaged 5.9 kills per set to go with 100 aces, 90 blocks, 62 assists and 52 digs to earn the Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year award, ending a long streak of winners from Anchorage.

Beck led the Kardinals to a 22-1 record in best-of-five matches and a 51-5 record in best-of-five and pool play matches. In a four-set win over Valdez for the state championship, she pounded 23 kills. The year before in a three-set win over Valdez for the state title, she racked up 18 kills and five blocks.

The daughter of Kenai head coach Tracie Beck, Emma grew up around volleyball. As a sophomore she was a key part of Kenai Central’s runnerup finish at the state tournament and the next year she led the Kardinals to the top spot for the first time in school history.

Mai Mateaki. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Mai Mateaki

Mateaki heads into her senior season of high school soccer after an insanely productive junior campaign — 46 points on 20 goals and six assists in 12 regular-season games. She didn’t miss a beat between seasons — in her first match as a senior, Mateaki scored a hat trick.

Mateaki has twice played in the state championship game, contributing a goal in Dimond’s 2-0 win over South as a sophomore but losing in overtime to South as a junior.

She was a huge part of Dimond’s championship season in flag football, compiling big offensive stats in 16 games. She rushed for 1,717 yards and 15 touchdowns, threw eight touchdown passes and totaled 195 receiving yards.

Emily Robinson. Photo courtesy Robinson Racing Kennels.

Emily Robinson

Robinson has a shot at unprecedented success for a junior musher. This winter she became the second musher in Junior Iditarod history to win three straight titles, and she still has another year left before she reaches the race’s age limit.

Robinson’s margin of victory has increased every year. At age 14, in 2022, she won the 150-mile race by six seconds. The next year she won by 15 minutes. This year she won by 29 minutes to match Tim Osmar (1982-84) as the only musher to win the race three times. The Junior Iditarod is for mushers 17 and younger.

Before her three-peat, Robinson entered the longest race of her career — the 200-mile Knik 200. She pulled off a stunning victory by coming from behind for a 65-second win over 2022 Iditarod champion Brent Sass — and in the process she also beat 2023 Iditarod champ Ryan Redington.

PJ Foy. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Goon Gallery

PJ Foy

Foy is as versatile as he is swift. His six individual state swimming championships for Thunder Mountain High School of Juneau came in four events — the 200 individual medley, the 200 freestyle, the 100 butterfly and the 100 breaststroke.

He set state records in two events as a senior, breaking his own marks in the 100-yard breaststroke (54.67 seconds) and 100 butterfly (48.27). Earlier this month, he qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials by clocking 53.44 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly at the Northwest Spring Sectionals in Federal Way, Washington.

Last summer, he dazzled at the Western Zone Senior Championships in Seattle, where he won five gold medals, set six Alaska age-group records and finished the four-day meet as the top point-scorer among 301 boys from a dozen states. He will swim for the University of North Carolina this fall.

Mt. Edgecumbe’s Colton Paul. Photo by Stephanie Goon/Alaska Sports Report

Colton Paul

Paul, who is from Kipnuk and attended school at Sikta’s Mt. Edgecumbe, broke a world record and tied a state record in a jaw-dropping performance at the 2023 Native Youth Olympics.

He traveled 38 feet, 7 inches in the scissors broad jump to add 14 inches to the previous world record (set in 2016 by Nick Hansen of American Ninja Warrior fame), and he reached 101 inches in the two-foot high kick to tie the NYO mark (set in 2011 by Brian Randazzo Jr.).

At the same meet, he won gold medals in three other events — the one-foot high kick, the kneel jump and the Alaska high kick — took silver in the one-hand reach and bronze in the seal hop.

A couple of months later Paul made his WEIO debut in impressive fashion by winning the men’s Outstanding Athlete Award. He claimed four wins (scissors board jump, one-foot high kick, two-foot high kick and kneel jump), was second in the Alaska high kick and third in the knuckle hop.

Uatahouse Tu’ifua.

Uatahouse Tu’ifua

Tu’ifua completed a highly decorated career at Barrow by capturing a third straight state wrestling championship and earning all-state honors in football for the second straight year.

A 285-pound heavyweight in wrestling, Tu’ifua went 21-0 as a senior and 63-4 — with 55 pins — through four seasons.

On the gridiron he was a first-team all-stater on offense and defense for the second straight season while helping the Whalers to a runnerup finish in the Division III playoffs.

He also earned Lineman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors to help pave his way to Division II college football.

Other girls nominees:
Ourea Busk, Unalakleet track and 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

Other boys nominees:
Murphy Kimball, West Anchorage skiing
Liam Lierman, Eagle River baseball
Coby Marvin, Colony mountain running
Fischer Adams, Palmer cross country
Aaron Concepcion, South Anchorage wrestling/football
Johnny Figgins, Colony soccer/football
Muhammad Subally, East 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

Story made possible by:

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

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