Savoonga hosts 31st BSSD NYO meet
The Bering Strait School District 31st Native Youth Olympics was held last weekend from April 14 to 16 in Savoonga, on St. Lawrence Island. The annual meet is a coming-together of all villages in the region for three days of the hardest, yet most sportsmanlike, competition you’ll ever see.
With the graduation of 12 of the 20 event winners last year the field was open for new stars to emerge.
2015 Most Outstanding Performers Apaay Campbell of Gambell and Makiyan Ivanoff of Unalakleet were back as judges to watch the younger generation leap, pull and hop to gain the podium spots vacated by former athletes.
Arctic Ivanoff, Makiyan’s younger brother, stole the stage on the boys side, winning four events and easily ascending to the top of the standings. He won Canadian 1 Foot, One Hand Reach, Alaskan High Kick and Scissor Broad Jump. The latter even was just reinstated this year, replacing Toe Kick, as the State NYO organizing committee made a switch of events.
Senior Ryan Topkok from Teller also had a standout tournament as he finally got his gold medal, in the Two Foot High Kick. He also pointed in One Foot High Kick, Alaskan High Kick and Eskimo Stick Pull. Stebbins’ Wilfred “Sunshine” Katcheak was a crowd favorite as he earned four medals but none of them were state-qualifying gold. Wallace Ungwiluk of Gambell also placed in four events, showing his versatility and athleticism.
On the girls side it was nip and tuck between Unalakleet freshman Alexandria Ivanoff and Teller senior Grace Ongtowasruk. Both had performed well in 2015 and had high hopes of gaining the top spot amongst the girls. With early wins in Kneel Jump, Two Foot High Kick and One Foot High Kick it appeared that Alexandria would gain an insurmountable lead. However, Grace persevered with multiple 2nd place finishes and a win in Alaskan High Kick and it came down to the Saturday Seal Hop event. The defending champion Ongtowasruk came through with a repeat winning performance and finished with a narrow victory.
The Wolfpack from Unalakleet came away with a hard-fought team victory over an up-and-coming Qughsatkut squad from Gambell and the always tough Teller Aklaqs, who placed third.
In the coveted Team Sportsmanship race, the young Savoonga Huskies team, led by NYO legend Darcie Kingeekuk, gave another reason why this event was special in Savoonga.
The athletic event was given a respite on Friday evening as the renowned drummers and dancers from Savoonga gave an awesome, and inclusive, performance that lasted until after midnight.
The event is a great showcase of our region’s athletes. It is open to 7th – 12th graders and specific events often favor one or the other groups. Notably, the BSSD State team will be made up of athletes from seven villages and include athletes from all of the six grades. The state NYO games will take place in Anchorage on April 21 through 23, 2016.