Native Youth Olympics virtual meet

Merlin White of Kwigillingok kicks the ball in the Two Foot High Kick in Anchorage during the Traditional games event last spring. File photo by Greg Lincoln

by Greg Lincoln

Our athletes from the Yukon Kuskokwim delta region are deeply talented in Native Youth Olympics (NYO). This region has produced champions and record holders year after year. These athletic events encourage involvement in healthy sports activities, a sense of belonging to a team, positive sportsmanship, and an opportunity to meet and make new friends.

You can find these NYOers throughout our homeland, practicing afterschool and when they’re not at school, they are practicing at home.

Participating in NYO has also been credited as an incentive to stay in school and improving and maintaining good grades in order to continue participation in the games, says the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) which hosts the state games each year.

“NYO Games Alaska is a year-round program that has a quantifiable positive impact on more than 2,000 youth each year, says CITC. “NYO influences our young people to improve academic performance, strengthen overall health and well-being, and instills important values, including leadership and respect—values that make strong communities and build tomorrow’s leaders.”

This past weekend Bethel Regional High School Native Youth Olympics team hosted a virtual event with teams from Chefornak, Juneau, and Toksook Bay joining the Bethel Warriors for a multi-team meet.

Team Juneau headed by Coach Kyle Worl traveled to Bethel to participate.

There were approximately 24 high school boys and girls and 21 junior high athletes that were in the books this past weekend. Good job everyone.

For the high school girls Crystal Moses of Toksook Bay made a clean sweep of all eight events. She was the top scoring athlete for the high school girls with 80 points. Chefornak’s Albertina Tunuchuk scored a total of 38 and Bethel’s Rhea Kanuk won three silver medals and two fourth place ribbons for 32 points. Juneau athlete Jordan Bennet also won three medals, a silver and two bronzes. She scored a total of 20.

For the boys, Team Juneau member Ezra Elisoff took home four golds, and one each of second, third, and fourth. He was the top scoring athlete with 58 points. Henry Kanuk of Chefornak also placed in all of the events, along with three gold medals, he had 56. His teammate Michael Flynn was also a top scorer with 48 points.

Notably, Elisoff hit 62” in the One Arm Reach event.

The stick pull events were not included.

NYO has been around for more than 40 years, says CITC, and hundreds of young people from communities throughout Alaska have competed in traditional contests of subsistence and survival skills that have been passed down through countless generations. It is up to us to support them in their endeavors. Good job student athletes.