Bethel martial arts team shines at state meet

2017 Bethel Judo Team: (Left to right) back row: Louise Russell, Samuel Beans-Polk, Brenna Rice, Leif Nielson, Lindsey Beans-Polk, and Warren Polk. In front row are Emily Madison, Soren Nielson, and Axel Madison. Photo courtesy of Louise Russell

by Tommy Wells

When KUC Judo Program sensei Louise Russell and Y-K Fitness Center Judo instructor Warren Polk decided the time was right for Bethel to send a team to the 2017 Alaska Judo Championships, they knew the seven athletes selected to form the first team from Bethel to compete in the meet were good.
Even the two veteran instructors would have been hard-pressed to know just how good they were, however.
Bethel had all seven of its martial arts athletes place in the top four in their respective age and weight classifications at the tournament, which was held in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex on the campus of The University of Alaska-Anchorage recently. The Bethel team members were among more than 130 athletes from throughout Alaska and Canada to participate in the event.
“We were very happy with the results,” said Polk. “It was an outstanding performance on the part of all of our team members. They all worked really hard.”
Bethel crowned three state champions during the April 22 meet, including Lindsey Beans-Polk, Samuel Beans-Polk and Emilie Madison. Lindsey captured the 139-pound title in the Under 15 division of the  Juvenile B girls’ classification. Samuel won the 141-pound bracket in the Under-15 Juvenile boys’ A division. Madison won her classification, too.
In addition to the three gold medals, Lief Nelson gave Bethel a state runner-up finish. He was second in the 128-pound division of the boys’ Under-15 Juvenile A standings.
Soren Nelson and Axel Madison also medaled at the tournament. Madison was second in the 88-pound class of the Juvenile boys A bracket. Nelson was third in his division.
Brenna Rice, competing in one of the tough Senior divisions, also did well. She finished fourth in her division.
“We’re thrilled with how everyone did,” said Russell. “Judo has been here (in Bethel) for quite a long time but this is the first time we have had the opportunity to take a team to the state meet. We have several individuals come down and compete, but we had never had a team come. I think they represented themselves, and Bethel, very well.”
“The beauty of it is this was the first time we had taken a team, and each of the did very well,” said Polk.
Russell and Polk praised the support of the community and parents of the athletes for making the trip possible. Both indicated they were hoping to send a larger team to the state meet in 2018.