Category: Sports

June 12, 2017 Chance Townsend
Alumni Chris Bryant looking over old team photos of UAA's 2007-08 men's basketball season. Bryant, a Bob Zundel Memorial Award recipient, had a career high of 26 points as the third leading scorer of the team. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

When you look through the halls of UAA’s men’s basketball program from recent years, one team in particular stands out. That team is the 2007-08 men’s basketball team. Coached by current head coach Rusty Osborne and led by seniors Carl Arts, Chris Bryant, Luke Cooper and McCade Olsen, the Seawolves won a school record of 29 games, and advanced to the NCAA Division II semi-finals for the first time since 1988.

The ’07 Seawolves were defensive juggernauts, only allowing 60.1 points per game, and were the top ranked scoring defense in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Their solid defense helped make up for their low scoring offense, which averaged 73.1 points per game, ranking in the bottom-half of the GNAC, above Alaska-Fairbanks and MSU-Billings.

Senior and Seawolves legend Carl Arts led the team with an average of 18.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 0.5 blocks and 1.7 steals per game. In addition, GNAC All-American Luke Cooper led the team in assists with an average of 8.9 per game.

McCade Olsen: 2006-2008

McCade Olsen was the team’s second leading scorer and re-bounder at the end of the ’07 season. He was also the hero in the Seawolves Sweet 16 win against Seattle Pacific University.

“Hitting game-winning free-throws to beat SPU [Seattle Pacific University] in the second round of the western conference tournament…is a memorable moment,” Olsen said.

Teammate and fellow starter Luke Cooper was also very fond of this particular game.

“I still refer to this game as the McCade Olsen game,” Cooper said, “down one [point] on the last possession, [Olsen] got fouled with about two seconds left, calmly went to the free-throw line and knocked both in. We won by [one] point.”

Olsen still resides in Anchorage with his wife and two kids. He is now a supervisor at the McLaughlin Youth Center.

Luke Cooper: 2005-2008

Cooper finished his college career at UAA, ranking fourth on the all-time NCAA Division II assists list with 880 total, and was a two time GNAC first team selection.

Cooper still has fond memories of his time in Alaska.

‘We ended up meeting the team that started our streak, BYU Hawaii, in the elite eight and ended up winning by six or so [points] to send us to Springfield. Having my parents fly over from Australia to witness it was the most special part of it all,” Cooper said.

Now that he is gone, Cooper has fond memories of the state.

“I still regularly think about my college days,” Cooper said. “[I] am so thankful I chose such a beautiful place like Alaska to go to college. I met some of the most amazing people there who I still keep in touch with to this day.”

Cooper now plays professional basketball in his home country of Australia for the Sydney Kings. In his free time, he takes the opportunity to coach youth basketball.

“I’m really driven by trying to create a pathway for kids with college aspirations, to get the chance that I got, hopefully they get to experience it somewhere as beautiful as I did,” Cooper said.

Kevin White: 2007-2010

White was the team’s top backcourt reserve player in 2007, and led the freshman in three point field goal percentage (3FG%). Although White didn’t have a major impact on the team his freshman season, he was pivotal in the success of the Seawolves later in his career.

Before the team went on their 16-game hot streak there was tension early on in the season.

“It was the start of a very jam packed season and we were training. Karl Arts who is no doubt known around UAA as one of the greats, missed a box out, and gave up an offensive rebound and [the starters] lost to the bench squad,” White said. “Coop’s gave his team a spray that I’ll remember for my life, it ended with Karl and Coop arguing about it for a solid 30 seconds to the outcome of if we ever give up an offensive rebound and we lose Coops ‘I’ll punch you straight in the mouth and knock your head off.’ These two were our leaders, our captains!”

“We went on to win about 16 games straight from that moment and really established a mentality that was tougher than any team I’ve ever played on,” White said.

White now plays basketball in his home country of Australia for the Illawarra Hawks. White has been playing professionally for the NBL since he left UAA in 2010.

Chris Bryant: 2007-2008

Bryant was the team’s third leading scorer in 2007 and was the Bob Zundel Memorial Trophy winner for exemplary qualities towards teammates, coaches, media, fans and referees.

Bryant scored a career high 26 points against BYU-Hawaii on their home court, which he describes as a standout moment to him and a testament to all the hard work his team put in.

“Playing and winning an exciting overtime against BYU-Hawaii was amazing,” Bryant said. “It was a career high for me, and really validated that I can really contribute to our team.”

Bryant is now a health coach/fitness entrepreneur for Southcentral Foundation, an innovative health services company in Anchorage.

Many of the players from the ’07 season team still try to keep in touch with each other, but not as much as some of them would like.

Cooper frequently stays in contact with his former teammates and even helps out the coaches with their recruiting efforts.

“I’m still best mates with Kevin White, and also his brother Steven who went to UAA after I left,” Cooper said. “We all live in Sydney right now, I still keep in contact with Chris Bryant, Cam Burney, and talk regularly with Coach Rinner and Weakley and help them when they’re recruiting kids from Australia. [I] also talk regularly with Jane Brown who still works in the athletic department, she was my favorite.”

Bryant and Olsen have busy lives, but still try to keep in touch with their former teammates as much as they can. Both men still live in Anchorage and try their best to make it to basketball games.

May 30, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy

After the commencement of spring semester 2017, 24 student athletes walked across the stage with their degrees, ultimately leaving behind their teams and college athletics for good.

Since the women’s basketball team lost three of their standout players, they are slowly building their roster back up. With the help of three new recruits, the total accumulation is five so far.

Tennae Volivia, a forward from East Anchorage High School, will be joining the Seawolves for collegiate basketball. Photo credit: UAA Athletics

The first of the three new recruits is an Anchorage local, Tennae Voliva. From East High School, Voliva boasted the accomplishments of making Second-Team All-State twice in her high school career, as well as making First Team All-Cook Inlet Conference honoree in her final season.

Head coach Ryan McCarthy was excited about the addition of Voliva.

“We’ve been able to recruit some of the best student-athletes in the state of Alaska,” McCarthy said.

In addition, the 6-foot forward made the varsity basketball team every single year of high school, becoming a career 1,000-point scorer.

Victoria Langi defends against an opponent during a game. Langi played two years of collegiate basketball at Skyline College, and is joining the Seawolves along with her younger sister, Sala. Photo credit: Will Nacouzi

To add to the most recent recruits is Victoria Langi, a standout guard originally from Pacifica, California. However, Langi is transferring in as a junior, after playing two years of college basketball at Skyline College and being an All-North Coast Conference performer.

Langi produced impressive stats during her previous season, averaging 15.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists from her team, a large improvement from her freshman year of 6.9 points per game. Her performances proved to be good enough to rank her in the top 20 of the North Coast statistics in the majority of categories.

McCarthy is thrilled to have Victoria join the team considering he already signed Victoria’s younger sister, Sala Langi, who is coming in as a freshman in the positions of guard and forward. In addition, McCarthy expects Langi to be a huge assest to scoring points.

“She was one of the top shooters in the state of California’s JC system,” McCarthy said.

The addition of the Langi sisters and Voliva makes the total of new Seawolves on women’s basketball five players.

As an all-arounder at the Virginia L10 State Championships, Nelson secured third, with a score of 9.725 on bars and 9.525 on beam. Photo credit: Whitney Riney

Despite his recently announced retirement, head gymnastics coach Paul Stoklos was fortunate to sign an all-around standout gymnast from Newport News, Virginia.

This all-arounder, Hope Nelson, has been a level 10 competitor for four years. Nelson has many impressive accomplishments, including qualifying for World Class Gymnastics three separate times.

In addition, at the Virginia L10 State Championships, Nelson won bars with a score of 9.725, placed second on beam with 9.525 and secured a third place finish in the all-around.

Stoklos expects Nelson to make excellent improvements and have to potential to be an all-arounder on the team lineup for the future seasons.

Nelson is the first recruit for the team that has been announced, but more additions are expected.

Jorge Sanchez, incoming junior cross-country runner, placed fifth in the Coast Conference Championships during his freshman year at Hartnell College. Photo credit: Hartnell College Athletics

In cross-country, an incoming junior transfer from Salinas, California is making his debut at UAA in the fall. Jorge Sanchez started his collegiate running career at Hartnell College, making impressive achievements during his time there.

Sanchez is taking a leap of faith coming to Alaska; his recruitment trip in the spring was his first time ever even leaving California.

“Within that period of time I was able to connect with [head coach Michael Friess] and assistant coach TJ [Garlatz] and I realized why they have one of the top cross country programs in the country at the Division II level — they are passionate about the sport and they genuinely want you to succeed, not only in running, but in school,” Sanchez said.

During his freshman year, Sanchez placed fifth in the Coast Conference Championships. At the regional championship he placed 12th overall, earning him all-region honors.

For his sophomore year, Sanchez improved significantly, taking second at Coast Conference Championships and then going on to take the overall individual win at the NorCal Cross Country Championships with a 4-mile time of 21 minutes and 25 seconds, only missing his personal best by 19 seconds.

These four additions to the UAA Athletic community are far from the final ones. Throughout the remainder of the spring and summer, coaches will continue to recruit and announce new members to their teams.

May 4, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy

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Tracen Knopp signs his national letter of intent for Nordic skiing at UAA. In his senior year, Knopp inished fifth in the final Besh Cup standings and was sixth in ASAA Skimeister standings. Photo credit: UAA Athletics

Volleyball 2017-18

With the loss of all-stars Morgan Hooe and Erin Braun, UAA volleyball head coach Chris Green made up the difference with the addition of five new players, two of which have been already practicing with the Seawolves this spring.

The previous two signees for the team included Casey Davenport and Jalisa Ingram. Davenport will be a freshman coming from Auburn, WA and Ingram also a true freshman coming from Flagstaff, AZ.

The first addition is a local from Anchorage who graduated from Dimond High School. Anjoilyn Vreeland was a four year letter awardee on Dimond’s volleyball team, along with current UAA Seawolf and former Dimond Lynx player Leah Swiss. In high school, Vreeland was able to help her team to all four 4-A State Title matches in her career, as well as the championships in 2012 and 2015.

After graduating from Dimond and before coming to play at UAA, Vreeland spent a year in Pendleton, Oregon. She played at Blue Mountain Community College where she average 3.08 digs per set.

Vreeland is currently joined by another newcomer who has already been practicing with the Seawolves. Tara Melton also started her collegiate volleyball career away from UAA before transferring. In Arizona at Glendale Community College, Melton spent two years playing for the team as a middle blocker and right-side hitter.

Green is exceptionally optimistic about the future of the team with Melton. She was able to already play at a competitive level and show her future potential.

The 6-foot-1-inch Melton was also named to the 2016 National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association First Team All-American. She boasted 3.05 kills per set and 0.78 blocks per set in 2016, a switch from her averages in 2015 at 2.03 and 0.83, respectively.

With those, Melton was ranked third nationally in attack percentages, which helped her team to a national third-place in 2015 as well at a 54-8 record during her career there.

“[She] played at the highest level in junior college and proved she can be an elite offensive performer,” Green said.

The final addition to the team is a true freshman from thousands of miles away. Vera Pluharova is traveling to UAA all the way from Nechanice, Czech Republic.

Pluharova was familiar with the Seawolves long before she signed to the team. Due to being a member of the TJ Slavia Hradec Kralove club team, she was able to play against the Seawolves during their 2015 European summer tour and get a glimpse of what a future at UAA looked like.

In addition, it gave Green an insight into her playing ability.

“[She] has been very impressive in the back row this spring and comes from elite high school and club programs, so we are confident she will add great depth,” Green said.

With the official announcements of these five new volleyball players, they are the first additions to the UAA athletic community, with skiing coming second after the official signing of two skiers.

Skiing 2017-18

The alpine ski team lost all four of the total graduating seniors, despite that, head Nordic coach Andrew Kastning was the first to announce his additions on the Nordic side.

Kastning was grateful for the new additions; both being current Alaskan residents. One from Colony High School and the other from West Valley High, they both have excelled in the sport they just signed the national letter of intent for.

“Both [recruits] represent the very best of their respective ski clubs and it is always a big recruiting goal to have the best Alaskans join our team,” Kastning said.

Tracen Knopp is one of the two, and has competed in numerous ski races that ranked him as one of the best, as well as competing in cross country running in the fall.

During his senior year, Knopp took 27th at Junior Nationals in the 15K classic, as well as ranking sixth at the ASAA Skimeister standings. In addition, he placed fifth in the final Besh Cup standings.

To add to the female Nordic team, Jenna DiFolco signed her national letter of intent. As far as Besh Cup standings, DiFolco came out ranked No. 1 for women under 18.

In the ASAA Skimeister standings, she placed third, and at Junior Nationals she competed in two events, placing in the top 25 for both.

Both have shown obvious potential and ability to transition into a collegiate career of skiing, and according to Kastning, they will have years to continue to improve and grow.

As far as other sports, incoming recruits will be announced throughout the next several months. National letters of intent are generally signed during April, but coaches and teams can accumulate other athletes and walk-ons into late summer months.

April 12, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy

Lauren Cuddihy is a member of the UAA Seawolves Track and Field team.

With the loss of numerous prominent athletes from every team, the official National Collegiate Athletic Association signing period isn’t until mid to late April, depending on the sport, but coaches have been recruiting for quite a while and many already have very promising prospective athletes.

UAA guard Kiki Robertson takes a shot over Point Loma Guard Amy Ogren during the first round of the NCAA Division II Western Regional Championships on March 13, 2015 at the Alaska Airlines Center. Photo credit: Adam Eberhardt


Volleyball will be the first season to kick off the 2017-18 school year in August, two very prominent athletes used their remaining eligibility and won’t be returning. Morgan Hooe, the standout setter and team captain finished off her senior season.

Hooe was a very significant contributor to team for the past four years, racking up numerous awards and All-Americans, she will be followed by freshman Madison Fisher to take the place of setter on the team.

Erin Braun is the second loss the team will suffer, who had been a duo with Hooe for the past four years. Braun was a middle blocker for the team, successfully ending her career with numerous awards such as First Team All-GNAC, West Regional Championships All-Tournament and maintaining GNAC All-Academic for her entire collegiate career.

Head coach Chris Green confirmed that they had prospective athletes signing during the signing period in mid-April, but as of now no comment is allowed to be made until they sign.

Women’s Basketball:

Women’s basketball is another fortunate team, similar to volleyball, the team only loses three players, however, they happen to be three of the most successful.

The first to go is Alysha Devine, the Wasilla local and 6’0” forward has been a key component to the team for the past four years — even playing in all but one game her freshman season. The GNAC All-Academic and conference honorable mention leaves the team as being the fifth-leading scorer.

In addition, forward Autummn Williams and guard Kiki Robertson both depart their collegiate basketball career for UAA.

While this was only Williams first season and only season at UAA, Roberston has played and been a significant player for the past four years. Robertson also ended her career with 15 different awards and notable accomplishments during her career.

Again, head Coach Ryan McCarthy noted that although they have prospective athletes, due to NCAA regulations no specific information can be released.

“At this point we are unable to comment on anyone we have signed until the NCAA signing period for women’s basketball which is in mid-April. Once we do get everyone signed, which should be around May, we can comment publicly but due to NCAA rules, at this point in time we are unable to do so,” McCarthy said.

Men’s Basketball:

Of all the sports at UAA, men’s basketball is taking the second biggest hit, losing seven of their 16 current players. Included in these loses are guards Suki Wiggs, Diante Mitchell and Spencer Svejcar.

Wiggs produced top performances for UAA and earned numerous awards including First Team All-West region and USBWA National player of the week. He ended his career with an impressive 24.4 points per game average, good for fifth in all of NCAA Div. II.

Mitchell also ended the season with an honorable mention All-GNAC status as well as being All-Academic in the conference.

In addition, the team is losing forwards Travis Parrish, Corey Hammell, Tayler Thompson and Connor Devine.

Devine just started and finished his only season at UAA, after transferring from South Dakota State, but he proved to be a vital asset to the team. He was the fourth leading scorer, third leading rebounder and top shot blocker for the Seawolves.


Hockey also takes a very minimal loss, only four players of their current 27-player roster.

Defensemen and assistant captain Chase Van Allen finished off his fourth year of eligibility with the Seawolves, competing in the majority of games all four years. Van Allen played in all 34 games of his junior season, 31 of his sophomore season and 30 of his freshman season.

In addition, the team loses forward Dylan Hubbs, forward Brad Duwe and goalie Rasmus Reijola.

Hubbs and Duwe, similar to Van Allen, played in the majority of the games all four seasons.


The skiing teams, split into Nordic and alpine, look at a loss of only four players, but all of them belonging to the alpine side.

On the men’s side, Curtis McKillop and Hughston Norton depart after the 2017 season. McKillop made several NCAA Championship appearances in his career and was also named to the All-Academic ski team every year. Norton also managed to make NCAA championship appearances every year of his career.

On the women’s side, Katherine Lamoureux and Miranda Sheely both concluded their final collegiate season.


Although the gymnastics team is losing only three athletes, their roster is only topped off at 14 athletes total.

The first to depart is Nicole Larkin, who has made appearances in nearly every single meet since her freshman year and helping to contribute to several school records in team totals. Larkin made a significant contribution to the team, being co-captain for three years straight as well as being named to MPSF All-Academic team every year.

In addition, Brice Mizell and Kallie Randolph will not be returning after expiring their four-year eligibility. Both have also contributed to school records in overall team scores. Randolph produced some of the best floor scores in her time at UAA and earned several All-MPSF honors.

Head coach Paul Stoklos also confirmed that no athletes have officially signed until late April, but their team is expected to increase in size.

“It is out hope to sign three athletes and to add four walk-ons to bring our team size closer to 18 athletes,” Stoklos said.

Cross Country/Track and Field:

The last season of the year and the final team to compete contains members of the cross country and track and field team, who are still in competition until late May. Being one of the largest teams in the UAA program, it is also the team that loses the largest amount of athletes, at 14 after the commencement of their outdoor season.

On the men’s sprint team, only one athlete is being lost. Adam Commandeur, a prominent member of the men’s 4×400 sprint team and a successful 400m runner. For the men’s distance and cross country team, the Seawolves will lose six runners, including Joe Day (800m), Michael Mendenhall (mile, 3k, 5k), Philip Messina (mile, 3k, 5k), Jesse Miller (800, 5k), Michel Ramirez (5k, 10k) and Victor Samoei (3k, 5k, 10k).

In addition, the men’s team is losing a prominent jumper, Tevin Gladden. He holds the UAA record in high jump and holds several top jumps in the UAA record book for long jump and triple jump.

On the women’s sprint side, very prominent loses will be seen. Karolin Anders (heptathlon), Jamie Ashcroft (100m, 200m), Hayley Bezanson (200m, 400m), Alexia Blalock (jumps/hurdles) and Mary-Kathleen Cross (100m, 200m, 400m) will not be returning.

Three of them, Ashcroft, Cross and Bezanson, are a part of the 4x400m UAA record team. In addition, Ashcroft holds the UAA indoor and outdoor record in both the 100m and 200m and is a part of the 4x100m outdoor UAA record. Anders is currently finishing off her final outdoor season; she holds the UAA record in the indoor high, triple and long jump, as well as shot put and the pentathlon.

Dakayla Walters is another member of the track team not set to return. Walters competes in the shot put and discus, making appearances at numerous GNAC Championships.

With the departure of many talented athletes, teams will be adding many new faces to Seawolf athletics, finalized recruits added to teams will be announced by the end of April.

April 3, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy

As the 2016-17 school year nears the end, it also marks the end of many athletes’ last ever college season with a sport that they have dedicated countless hours to. It is a bittersweet end for many; after four years at a collegiate level of competition, it’s a large change to not compete in that way anymore. Many of these UAA athletes are now graduating with a degree to start their future in, but some still have to stay and finish their degrees with no more eligibility left.

To get a glimpse into the lives of these soon-to-graduate college athletes, alpine skier Miranda Sheely, men’s basketball guard Spencer Svejcar and volleyball’s setter Morgan Hooe shared their experiences.

Women’s Skiing – Miranda Sheely

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Miranda Sheely skiing slalom at the NCAA West Regionals. Although out of eligibility years, Sheely plans to stay in Alaska to finish her degree. Photo credit: Sam Wasson/UAA Athletics

Originally from Frisco, Colorado, Miranda Sheely has always been in a skiing location, which is shown by the fact that she’s been skiing a large majority of her life. She originally learned to ski when she was only two years old and began competing in the sport at the young age of five.

Skiing has always been one of the most important aspects of Sheely’s life and coming to UAA to compete and earn her degree only added to the significance. Now that she finished her last year of eligibility, Sheely described how devastating it is knowing it’s all over.

“The worst [thing about running out of eligibility] would be leaving my team. I grew so close to each and every one of them. They are my family, and I will really miss suffering through fall training with them. All the cold and rainy days but also enjoying the sunny days and traveling together,” Sheely said.

Although it’s all over and she’s moving into a new chapter in her life, Sheely will always look back fondly on all the people she was able to meet from all over the world that skiing at UAA introduced to her.

However, if there was something Sheely wished she could tell herself four years ago it would be to cherish every day.

“I wish I would have known how fast it would fly by, and to try my hardest every day and always take that extra run because all four years flew by,” Sheely said.

As for now, Sheely is one of many athletes that run out of eligibility but still have to finish their degree. She plans to stay in Alaska for the foreseeable future to finish her degree and find a job in therapeutic recreation, and, of course, continue skiing for fun.

Men’s Basketball – Spencer Svejcar

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Spencer Svejcar at an away game at Northwest Nazarene University. Svejcar finished the 2016-17 season with a .458 3-point average and a 15.1 points per game average. Photo credit: NNU Athletics

Spencer Svejcar, another Colorado local, came to UAA to play as a guard on the men’s basketball team. In addition, Svejcar has been pursing his degree in physical education. Being a full-time student is already a large responsibility, but adding a sport on top it was something Svejcar wasn’t initially prepared for.

“I wish I would have known how hard you have to work every single day and had a better understanding of how important it is to manage your time properly so you can get athletics and schoolwork done every day when I came into it years ago. I had to get to a whole new level of work ethic once I realized what it actually takes to play college sports,” Svejcar said.

However, the hard work and time commitment never turned Svejcar away from basketball. This is the sport he had grown up with, playing since he was five and beginning to compete for YMCA ball in kindergarten.

For Svejcar, all the hard work and dedication was worth it in the end.

“The best thing was being able to travel around the country to places I had never been and experience things I had never experienced. Also, being able to try and work as hard as possible for four years to perfect a certain craft and put myself into the position I am today was really rewarding,” Svejcar said.

But even behind the glamorous travel and the lifelong friends, there was intense hours of long training. Svejcar and his teammates were only in competition from November until March of every year, which meant the rest of the time was spent in the gym and the weight room putting in work. Svejcar recalled that the worst part of college athletics was the off-season and pre-season training.

Unlike Sheely, Svejcar doesn’t want to give up his sport just yet. Although he has more credits to take to finish his degree, Svejcar plans to continue training and then pursue a professional basketball career in Europe.

When basketball is all over and done competitively in his life, Svejcar wants to finish his degree and get a job in the lower 48.

Volleyball – Morgan Hooe

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Morgan Hooe waits for the whistle at a UAA home game. Hooe, leader in assists in the 2016 season, hopes to continue to play professional volleyball in Europe. Photo credit: Adam Phillips

Similar to Svejcar, Morgan Hooe just finished up her eligibility and instead of leaving competitive volleyball behind indefinitely, she wants to head to Europe to pursue professional volleyball.

However, those plans for Europe are on a temporary wait list in Hooe’s life while she focuses on her last stretch of school. She has until spring of 2018 to graduate with her degree in physical education.

While she continues taking classes to finish up, Hooe will continue training and staying in shape to be prepared for a professional level of volleyball. Although the collegiate level is a step down from that, Hooe got an introduction to a high level of competition and other perks along the way.

“The best part about competing [at UAA] would definitely be how fast and competitive the level of play is and the opportunity it gives you to make new friends and travel all around the United States and the world,” Hooe said.

However, as many other student-athletes would agree, Hooe recalled that she missed out on many hours of sleep and a lack of a social life to be able to focus on her athletics and academics. Hooe and her team generally had two practices a day as well as five required sessions in the weight room a week, which she maintained for four years straight. Regardless, Hooe learned many valuable things from being a student-athlete.

“I wish I would have known before I got here that that you will constantly improve over your four years and that you won’t be the best overnight. You have to work on yourself and your game each and every day if you want to be the best,” Hooe said.

March 28, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
Hailey Swirbul competes in the 2017 NCAA Skiing Championships held at the University of New Hampshire. Swirbul completed the 5K classic and 15K freestyle in 16:34.8 and 41:46.9 respectively. Photo credit:

As the Seawolves’ skiing season came to an end, freshman Hailey Swirbul proved to be the highest performer of the final national meet, as well as, a standout performer throughout the duration of the season.

The El Jebel, Colorado native came to UAA for the first time in the difficult period of time where the future of the ski team remained unknown, but, despite that, the Nordic standout exceeded expectations.

Before coming to Alaska, Swirbul became a back-to-back Junior Distance National Champion, as well as, managing to qualify and compete in the World Junior Championships in 2016.

Swirbu competed in the World Junior Championships again this year during her collegiate season.

“The best part of the season for me was actually off of the collegiate circuit. I raced as part of a relay team at World Junior Championships and earned third place. This was the first time in history that the US has earned a relay medal at WJ’s,” Swirbul said.

However, skiing hasn’t always been Swirbul’s primary sport. She only added the skiing into her routine as cross training for mountain bike racing. Both she and her brother trained together for bike racing until transitioning to skiing.

Not only was skiing not her first sport, but Nordic wasn’t even the first type of skiing she incorporated into her life.

“My brother and I switched from freestyle skiing to Nordic skiing to keep our fitness high through the winter for biking,” Swirbul said.

Ever since then, Swirbul has participated competitively in nordic skiing, and has gone to great lengths and made great accomplishments. However, just like an college athlete, she noticed the extensive changes that occur in collegiate competition.

“Many of the people racing in the [Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association] are from Europe, and are years older than I am, so the level of competition is higher. It is interesting to hear different languages at all the race venues, like Norwegian, Estonian, Italian, etc.” Swirbul said.

This observation is unique to not only collegiate skiing, but also at UAA. Throughout the United States, many college-level skiers come from Europe primarily due to the extensive early-training skiers receive there. For UAA, many of the ski team members, as well as athletes from other teams, come to Alaska for the ample opportunities it offers.

On the ski team alone, Swirbul is joined by 13 athletes from other countries, an impressive amount of the total 22 on the team.

Even with such a diverse and supportive team, Swirbul had to overcome several obstacles for her first season. To no surprise, she had to deal with some chronic foot injuries: an extremely common injury for freshmen to experience injuries during their first year in any collegiate sport, primarily due to the change of training.

“I had to cut holes in all my boots! That was the only solution to relieve the pressure from my heels and ankle bones,” Swirbul said.

Despite that, Swirbul managed to consistently compete and do well all season. In addition, she managed to stay on top of a full course load as a civil engineering major.

Swribul knows that eventually, competitive skiing will end and a career will begin. Fortunately, she has so far enjoyed her courses specific to her major. Not only that, but she has high goals set for the future.

“After graduating, I would like to focus more on structural and transportation engineering projects in Alaska, but I am not sure where I would like to go with it specifically,” Swirbul said.

With the positive news of the ski team not being cut for the future, Swirbul will enjoy three more seasons of eligibility to compete for UAA, but until next year’s season, she has time to focus on her course work until the end of the 2016-17 school year.

March 20, 2017 Alexis Abbott
UAA's Alysha Devine guards Simon Fraser's Ellen Kett during UAA's second round in the NCAA West Region Championship. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

Ranking No. 1 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and entering the West Region Championships with the No. 1 seed, Alaska Anchorage’s women’s basketball team had all the confidence they needed to leap over their first opponent in the tournament quarterfinals.

Little did they know, every team in the WRC bracket brought their best game to the Alaska Airlines Center, hungry to earn the championship and advance to the Elite Eight.

Friday, March 11 vs. Hawaii Pacific

The UAA women’s basketball team was put to the test in the NCAA Div. II Championship quarterfinals.

UAA, ranked No. 1 (30-1), survived an intense first-round matchup between No. 8 seed Hawaii Pacific (21-7), in a 63-56 victory.

“I’m proud of our ladies for surviving and advancing. I’m most proud of the way they fought back,” head coach Ryan McCarthy said.

The win made 30 total victories for the Seawolves against fellow D-II opponents.

The game got off to a slow start, beginning with a 20-15 lead by Hawaii Pacific after the first quarter. UAA trailed behind until a sudden improvement in play by senior forward Autummn Williams, who dropped a 3-pointer just in time for the Seawolves to walk out leading 27-26 at halftime.

The third quarter was when the game began to be in UAA’s favor, while the energy began shifting from the Sharks to the Seawolves. Although it was a low-scoring matchup, both teams brought high-level intensity to the court.

The Seawolves made a 43-30 lead after three-quarters of aggressive play.

Williams racked up a team-high of 23 points, with senior guard Tara Thompson not far behind with 15.

Thompson began the fourth quarter sinking four 3-point shots to change the game for both the Seawolves and the spectators.

It was clear that both teams were hungry to get the win, but by the end of the fourth quarter, it was Alaska Anchorage that fought harder.

The Seawolves advanced to the semifinals against No. 5 seed Simon Fraser (25-7).

Saturday, March 12 vs. Simon Fraser

After a brutal 40 minutes, the UAA women’s basketball team suffered a massive upset in the West Regional Championship semifinals. The Seawolves ended their 26-game winning streak to Simon Fraser (27-7) with a final score of 70-80.

This loss was UAA’s first all season to a Div. II team, wrapping up the record-breaking season 30-2. The Seawolves beat the Simon Fraser Clan twice before the WRC second round.

The tough matchup began with a tight score, ending the first quarter with UAA up 17-16. The Seawolves brought the momentum they needed to get ahead and by half-time they led 35-27.

After the halftime break, the game started to take a left shift, while the lady Seawolves only managed to bulk up seven points in the third quarter — the Clan racked up a whopping 27 points.

Autummn Williams made a noticeable appearance in the last quarter, leading the team once again with 18 points, most of which were made from jumpers in the fourth.

Junior forward Shelby Cloninger was not far behind, contributing 16 points to the Seawolves’ score. Sophomore Hannah Wandersee also made a lasting impression with 14 points and 7 rebounds.

Kiki Robertson led the team in steals in her last game as a Seawolf and is now the GNAC’s single season steals record holder, with 109 steals. Robertson ends her career as the GNAC’s all-time career leader in assists, steals and games started, after starting her 128th game at UAA.

As the clock counted down in the last few minutes of the matchup, the desperation that both teams had felt began to show. Shooting free-throws every minute and intentional fouling contributed to an intense wrap-up of the Seawolves’ final game.

Outshot, but not outplayed, nationally-ranked UAA ended their record-breaking season with blood, sweat and a lot of tears.

March 20, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
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Seniors Kiki Robertson and Autummn Williams became 2016-17 standouts for the Seawolves women's basketball team. Both players were honored with NCAA Division II All-Regional honors. Photo credit: UAA Athletics

With an outstanding and record breaking season, the Seawolves women’s basketball finished off the season unexpectedly in the NCAA West Region Championships that they had the privilege of hosting at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The Seawolves not only clinched the regular season and Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship title but also remained at No. 2 in the national division 2 rankings for the entire season and held the No. 1 seed in the west region up until their final championship game against Simon Fraser on March 11.

In the West Region Championships, the Seawolves first defeated No. 7 Hawaii Pacific at 63-56. However, head coach Ryan McCarthy knew the Seawolves could have played a lot better.

“I think we played with a lot more composure, but [that night] definitely wasn’t our best shooting night,” McCarthy said.

Large contributions were made by senior forward Autummn Williams and sophomore guard Tara Thompson, who had 23 and 15 points, respectively. In addition, senior guard Kiki Robertson made 7 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.

UAA’s second game of the tournament, against No. 4 Simon Fraser, gave other Seawolves a chance to shine. Junior forward Shelby Cloninger came through with 14 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore forward Hannah Wandersee managed a career-high five blocks, but neither effort was enough. The Seawolves’ season was ended with a final score of 80-70 against SFU.

The team and head coach McCarthy knew this was a possibility from the very beginning.

“One game and you’re done, there is no series like the big leagues. One bad game or one slip up and [you could have] it slip through your fingers,” McCarthy said. “I’m disappointed in certain areas, but I am most proud of how they fought back.”

Overall the team ended with an undefeated conference record at 20-0 and an overall record of 30-2. With the impressive overall season, many individuals were recognized after the devastating early end.

Williams and Robertson were recognized for their outstanding performances throughout the season, which earned each of them NCAA Division II All-Regional honors. The duo proved to everyone to exceed expectations.

“It was always good to keep going and prove everyone wrong,” Robertson said.

Williams earned the honor of being named to first team by averaging 21.3 points per game, making her the sixth highest scorer in all of Division II. In addition, Williams also earned the title of GNAC Newcomer of the Year and GNAC Tournament MVP.

Williams also broke the Seawolves’ single-season scoring record by accumulating 682 points. With the many records and honors that Williams earned, she now advances to the national ballot for NCAA Division II All-American honors.

The second UAA standout, Robertson, earned her title to the NCAA Division II Second Team All-West Region and GNAC Defensive Player of the Year by securing four different UAA and GNAC all-time high records. Robertson managed 700 assists, 382 steals, 128 started games and 116 victories.

Robertson was a valuable player on and off the court, not only pulling in many records and honors but also being an exceptional individual and teammate.

“We looked at last years team and it doesn’t really mean much to us anymore, we were trying to start new traditions and legacies for us and our younger teammates,” Robertson said.

With the commencement of the 2016-2017 basketball season, the UAA women’s team will lose three of their most valuable players, in addition to Williams and Robertson, senior forward Alysha Devine will also no longer be on the team.

Devine has made a substantial impact on the success of the women’s basketball team over the past four years, including being on the GNAC All-Academic team every year, while also previously being named as the honorable mention All-GNAC and MVP of NCAA West Region Championships. Devine also served as the team co-captain for three of her four years.

Although the Seawolves lost their chance to continue onto the Elite Eight, Simon Fraser doesn’t get the opportunity either, after being beaten in the final round. California Baptist University defeated Western Washington for the West Region title and will compete in the Elite Eight on March 21-24.

March 5, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
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Suki Wiggs prepares to make a basket during the March 4 game against No. 3 Western Oregon. The No. 2 Seawolves' future in the NCAA tournament is up in the air, as of publication. Photo credit: Paul Dunn

The UAA men’s basketball team narrowed in on the end of their 2016-17 season at the GNAC Championships in Lacey, Washington. The season leading up to the tournament had proven to be successful, but it wasn’t enough to push them past No. 3 Western Oregon.

The Seawolves have officially been in season since late November, in that time playing a total of 29 games, 20 being conference games, but only losing eight games overall. This put them at a solid position in the conference at No. 2 overall, with a 72.4 percent win rate. In addition, the Seawolves have won every single home game that has taken place at the Alaska Airlines Center, totaling 16 games.

Although the Seawolves came into the GNAC Championships with a solid base to take on Western Oregon, the outcome was debatable from the beginning. The teams have only played each other twice before in the regular season, each winning one game a piece.

Being close rivals back to back ranks in the conference and in the West Region, the March 4 game only proved their competition even more, sending the teams into triple overtime.

As it’s expected, head coach Rusty Osborne and the team had to make some adjustments and specific preparations coming into the game.

“We have improved over the last week and a half… we’ve had a few slip ups along the way but we were able to identify things and make small changes and [I think we] benefited from it,” Osborne said.

The first half led neither team to the lead, although the Seawolves sparked the first 5 points quickly by senior forward Connor Devine and senior guard Diante Mitchell, the Wolves initially trailed behind until both teams battled back and forth for the lead.

Although both teams battled for the lead, they both also made many offensive errors, letting the game be a primarily defensive battle.

By the end of the first half, only four Seawolves had managed to get points in, all being seniors, including Devine, Mitchell, senior guard Spencer Svejcar and senior guard Suki Wiggs. UAA only trailed behind by 2 points, at 25-27.

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Connor Devine seeks an opening to get past Western Oregon's defense on March 4. Devine played 45 total minutes in the game, which lasted into triple overtime. Photo credit: Paul Dunn

Throughout the season, the team struggled with the changes that had been put into place, but senior forward Corey Hammell noticed the positive changes occurring during this game.

“We’re playing better together, it took a while for us to get to know each other and learn to play together, but we’ve made the adjustment and we [were] really clicking,” Hammell said.

The second half again proved to be a defensive battle. The offensive sides of both teams ended with many errors and again only had the same four Seawolves score for the remainder of the half.

The Wolves started off with an increasing lead, but only at most being 8 points ahead. With only two minutes left in the game, the Seawolves led 54-53 until Mitchell extended that lead at 13 seconds left to 55-53.

With almost no time remaining, it looked as if the Seawolves were going to pull through with the win. However, with two seconds left Western Oregon’s Evan Garrison got in a last second layup only to leave the teams at 55-55.

This put them teams in the first two overtime periods that resulted in nothing significant, the first overtime period ended at 62-62 and the second overtime period ended at 72-72.

To finish off the games, the Seawolves and Wolves battled it out for the third and final overtime period of the game.

Wiggs came in strong with the first four free throws of the period.

Quickly things began to look positive for the Seawolves, however, not even a minute later WOU took off. With only two minutes left in the game, the Wolves held a 7 point lead. The Seawolves tried to catch up but unsuccessfully.

Western Oregon finished off the third overtime period with a 7 point lead, leaving the Seawolves with a loss at 84-91.

Although the team was disappointed with the outcome, Osborne reflected that the future isn’t set and stone yet.

“It’s one of those things that if you win you keep playing, if you don’t then we don’t really know, we’re right on the cusp of eighth [place],” he said.

The Seawolf men’s NCAA playoff future was announced along with tournament brackets on Sunday night after publication of this edition.

February 27, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
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Senior guard Kiki Robertson stays focused during an offensive play during Saturday, Feb. 25's win over Simon Frasier. Photo credit: Simon Fraiser Athletics

As the women’s basketball season is nearing the end, the team only seems to defy all odds and continues to break records. Before coming into the weekend, the women had already cliched a 21 game win streak, as well as remaining the reigning Great Northwest Athletic Conference and West Regional No. 1 seeds. In addition, the women still hold their No. 2 position in the national division II rankings, only 31 points behind the No. 1 Ashland.

The Seawolves came into the weekend of Feb. 23-25 prepared to play the second two highest seeds in the conference, first, No. 2 Western Washington and No. 3 Simon Fraser.

Thursday, Feb. 23 vs. Western Washington

Being No. 2 in the conference, the team and head coach Ryan McCarthy knew it wouldn’t be an easy game.

“They’re a well coached team and they play very hard… We haven’t played them since the beginning of December, but we can diversify what we can and cannot do and change things up,” McCarthy said.

The Seawolves debuted the night against WWU with the first lead of the night, credited early on to senior guard Kiki Robertson and senior forward Autummn Williams.

By the end of the first quarter put the Seawolves ahead, but only by 3 points, something that the team wasn’t used to, usually obtaining a lead much larger. Slowly redeeming themselves, the Seawolves pooled their effort with eight of the women securing points.

By halftime, the Seawolves had a slightly larger lead at 32-23. Temporarily, they stayed within in a safe lead, enough to get them through the third quarter.

Junior forward Sierra Afoa and Williams came into the spotlight after halftime, managing a combined 10 points total to keep the team at a steady 10 point lead coming into the fourth quarter.

Quickly, the game started to go downhill for the Seawolves. With many offensive errors and not enough points, Western Washington managed to tie the game up, sending the teams into overtime.

Each team managed to score 10 points in the first overtime period, reluctantly sending the game into a second overtime, with Williams having scored 5 of those 10 points.

Second overtime again brought out Williams and sophomore guard Tara Thompson to score the majority of points, pushing the Seawolves past Western Washington at 75-72.

Overall, Williams put 31 points total into the game, helping lead the Seawolves to 22 straight wins.

Saturday, Feb. 25 vs. Simon Fraser

In a change of scenery, the Seawolves moved from Bellingham, WA to Burnaby, BC to take on GNAC No. 3 Simon Fraser.

Although the team is ending up just as successful this season as they were last season, the seniors and Alysha Devine know that things have changed.

“Last year, we went in and we were basically just playing not to lose, but also not to win. This year it’s just a different mindset, we go in and we just want to get the win and keep this going,” Devine said.

With an unusual slow start, the Seawolves let Simon Fraser spike the first lead of the night early on. Quickly enough, Shelby Cloninger and Thompson stepped and pushed the lead out of Simon Fraser’s favor.

The Seawolves slowly paced their lead, but not enough to stay safe by the end of the first quarter, at only a 4 point lead, 15-11.

The second quarter only proved to set the Seawolves back even more. Even though seven of the Seawolves managed to get in at least one point, Simon Fraser was able to match them for almost all of them. Williams got in the last 2 points before halftime, leaving the Seawolves only at 38-33.

Coming into the second half, the Seawolves had a lot more pressure put on them, causing the lead to switch quickly and dramatically. Many offensive errors led the Seawolves to miss points that Simon Fraser was then getting.

Halfway through the third quarter, the Seawolves continued trailing behind at 54-59.

In a turnaround, the Seawolves managed to redeem themselves before time ran out. Freshman guard Kimijah King and Colinger jumpstarting the beginning of the fourth quarter and Williams finishing it off getting the Seawolves to 77-72.

This pushed the Seawolves to 23 straight wins and leaves with the GNAC Championships to play in next. Now that the final regular week is over, head coach McCarthy is happy with the results.

“We are healthy, we are good. For us, I just want to see what we do and how we react when we are hit with some diversity,” McCarthy said.

The women take off again to Lacey, WA for the GNAC Tournament semi-finals on Friday, March 3.

February 27, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
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Dallas Seavey crosses the finish line first in Nome, winning the 2016 Iditarod. If Seavey wins this year's race, he will tie with Rick Swenson for most races won. Photo credit: Marc Lester

March 6 marks the start of the 45th Iditarod race since the very beginning of the tradition in 1973. Although the race has taken place for less than 50 years, the trail has been used for over 100 years as a popular mail and supply route, as well as a common “highway” for Alaskans to travel throughout the state. It wasn’t until 1908 that they trail was first surveyed by the Alaska Road Commission and is now classified as a National Historical Trail by Congress.

The trail spans nearly a thousand miles that racers travel on for generally nine to 15 days. The race itself is the ultimate test for the racers and their teams of 21 dogs; with Alaska’s unpredictable terrain and conditions, the racers need to expect the unexpected. Whether it be blizzards and white-out storms or temperatures with a wind chill reaching nearly -100 degrees Fahrenheit, the racers cover all possible aspects that are expected to occur in remote areas of the state.

The race consists of checkpoints: Locations the mushers can stop throughout the race to rest, eat and gather supplies. The 2017 course consists of 19 different checkpoints spanning from the ceremonial start in Anchorage, re-starting in Fairbanks and then going all the way to Nome.

The ceremonial start runs 11 miles through Anchorage, on March 4, but then the teams will relocate to Fairbanks for the actual start on March 6. Traditionally, the race starts in Willow, but for the second time in three years, the start will be held in Fairbanks.

The Alaska Range, the mountain range just north of Anchorage, was monitored for weeks prior to the start by Iditarod Race Marshals. The marshals, including marshal Mark Norman, described the conditions as getting significantly worse, so the start had to be moved for the safety of the teams.

Regardless of the start, it will still be a fair race between the teams; the winning spot is in competition between 72 mushers and their teams, with the assumption that none drop out before the commencement of the race. With various reasons, 11 of the mushers who were already accepted and expected to race have withdrawn from the competition.

Included in the 2017 race, is the record holder and youngest four-time winner (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016) Dallas Seavey. A Willow local, Seavey joins again the 2017 Iditarod in hopes to break his own record and expand his win streak.

If Seavey wins this, he will be tied with Rick Swenson for the most wins in the Iditarod.

Joining Seavey in the race is four-time Iditarod racer Nicolas Petit, who got into the sport only due to one of his dogs with a paradoxical name.

“I got into [mushing] because of my dog, Ugly. Super cute husky mutt I adopted in Girdwood when I moved to Alaska. He pulled me very slowly around town… [until we got a team and then began training],” Petit said.

Petit realized that everyone is going to be in their best conditions this year for the race, due to the unexpected snowfall during the winter.

“This has been a great training season. Lots of snow makes for more trail access and soft cushion for the dogs to run on,” Petit said.

Racers like Petit look forward to the race now only for the exhilaration of the competition and Alaskan outdoors, but also because they get treated partly like a local celebrity. He explained that, with all preparations done ahead of time, the race can be a real vacation to a musher like himself with limited kennel help.

In addition to Petit, seven-time Iditarod runner Kristy Berington shared her experience and insight on the race.

Berington recalled that she has very memorable parts of the race, but they aren’t always they best.

“You can see all the hard work you’ve put in for years trotting in front of you…all that matters is you, your dogs, the trail and the race. [But the worst part], in a way, is getting to the finish line, the adventure is over. Back to reality. Also, [the possibility of] finishing the race with a feeling of disappointment,” Berington said.

Along with Petit, Berington agreed that training and race conditions are a lot better than in the years past. Smaller, middle distance races haven’t been canceled at all this year which served as excellent practice for the teams.

To catch the ceremonial start, the racers will be taking off in the morning of Saturday, March 4 in Anchorage. For more information or live tracking, visit or visit their Facebook page, The Iditarod Trail Committee.

February 27, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews
Goalie Olivier Mantha makes a save during the game against UAF on Saturday, March 7, 2015. Photo credit: Adam Eberhardt

UAA has two Division I teams: Hockey and gymnastics, but hockey was not always a D-I sport.

According to UAA Athletic Director Keith Hackett, hockey became a Division I sport in the ’80s after Division II hockey was eliminated as a sport at that level by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

“The options available to UAA at the time were to move to Division I or Division III. UAA chose to move up in the level of competition to Division I,” Hackett said.

Matt Thomas is the head coach of Seawolf Hockey, and he says that there really is no other division for UAA to compete, except at the top level.

“There wasn’t enough schools that supported [Division II hockey], so you either compete at the Division I or the Division III level in hockey. We wouldn’t have a conference that we’d be able to go into. There’s no Division III programs out west,” Thomas said. “We wouldn’t have a conference to go to. Nobody would accept us. They pushed so hard back in the ’80s to go Division I because that was the only conference they could go into because of those teams. Division I teams, they travel. We travel quite a bit and that’s why we need it for Alaska.”

Hackett said there are several differences between Division I and II sports, and while UAA offers two Division I sports, the school is still recognized by the NCAA as a Division II school.

“Some of those differences include numbers of permissible scholarships available, size of coaching staffs, recruiting rules and regulations, level of competition, etc.,” Hackett said. “Chief among these requirements is a desire to make a commitment to developing a program that can be competitive at the highest level in college sports through competitive facilities, salaries and the support services needed to build a winning program… Up until a few short years ago, UAA did not have these kinds of necessities for our Division I programs to compete at the Division I level on a consistent basis. Competing at the Division I level takes a significant commitment of human and physical resources.”

Thomas said that the team and the scholarships it would be able to offer would be greatly affected by a different division and that only local students would come for the sport.

“There are no scholarships in Division III. You’d only have one comprised of… Well, it depends, you’d still have teams,” Thomas said. “From a scholarship standpoint, you can probably get Alaskans to play because they’d probably be here but I don’t know how many out of state people come up here. I think a lot of Division III schools people go there, they’re regional, they live in that area.”

The overall cost of athletics would be reduced if UAA didn’t offer Division I sports, Hackett said, but that many of the costs would stay the same regardless of division.

“[Without Division I sports] we would have to add programs to meet our NCAA minimum requirements to be a D-II member and to maintain our compliance with Title IX,” Hackett said. “A majority of our costs are travel related. When you have to fly to every competition, there are significant costs involved. Sponsoring Athletics is an expensive proposition but an important one for most institutions.”

Dede Allen, the associate director of Athletics, is the designated Gender Equity Coordinator for athletic programs and Title IX issues. All divisions are subject to the same Title IX regulations, Allen said.

“Title IX’s intent is simple; provide participation opportunities and athletic grant-in-aid in a gender equitable manner,” Allen said. “Any institution that receives federal funding is subject to Title IX, therefore the NCAA Division I, II or III is irrelevant. The details of how gender equity is achieved can be complicated. Title IX gives us guidance in the operation the department of athletics and it is our responsibility to make decisions in a gender neutral manner.”

Some issues that Allen focuses on are equipment and supplies, travel and per diem allowance, coaches, services, facilities, publicity, recruitment and scheduling of games and practice times.

Hockey costs more than gymnastics, and Allen said that budgets don’t need to match up as long as decisions about the teams are made without a consideration of gender.

“This doesn’t mean that we are required to spend dollar for dollar the same on men’s and women’s sports, only that decisions are made in a gender neutral manner…[For example,] gymnastics uniforms and equipment are less expensive than hockey uniforms and equipment,” Allen said.

Hackett said that there have been no further discussions to eliminate any athletic teams at UAA since Nov. 2016, and that talk of transitioning into a Division II school isn’t very serious.

“If we were to make a decision to move solely to a D-II Conference there would need to be a careful review of what that would look like and what sports might be considered for expansion,” Hackett said. “At this time there has been no serious discussion about this topic. Many of our costs would remain the same because of the huge amount of travel we already have based on our geographic location in Alaska.”

Allen said that outside of Title IX requirements, cutting or transitioning divisions also means discussing NCAA requirements.

“There are other considerations like NCAA membership requirements and Conference sport offerings, in addition to Title IX, when determining sport sponsorship,” Allen said. “While dropping a male sport may not hurt our gender equity position, it may put us in jeopardy with NCAA or Great Northwest Athletic Conference rules.”

If UAA were to cut hockey, Allen said that there may not be an immediate Title IX issue, but NCAA rules require a minimum of 10 sports, and GNAC membership requires offering specific sports such as basketball and cross country.

February 20, 2017 Brenda Craig
Photo credit: Jules Hannah

To some, roller skating around in circles and hitting people is not their idea of fun. For Nicole Sola, better known as ‘Supernova’ on the track, wouldn’t have it any other way. Sola is an electrical engineering major at UAA and member of the Rage City Rollergirls derby team on her off time. Although there is a lot of skating and hitting involved in roller derby, there is much more to this underground sport than meets the eye.

Being a fan of competitive sports and not having many options after high school influenced Sola to try something new. She had an interest in roller derby in the past, which sparked her interest and being participating in the fall of 2014.

“I was scared because I don’t like meeting new people either, I was just at a time in my life that I really want to make new friends, meet new people and wanted to try something new. I literally just bought my gear and showed up,” Sola said.

Sola has been a part of the roller derby community since then and attends practice at least three times a week. Shen has played in many tournaments in Alaska. Being in the roller derby scene has fulfilled Sola in her playful competitive needs while creating new friendships.

“Being a part of this team means that I can be competitive, play a sport that I really love with people who have become like a family, and continually learn new strategies,” Sola said. “I have people that rely on me but I also rely on them, on and off the track, it is always so much fun.”

While roller derby is a contact sport, there are many rules and strategies to the game. Besides the skating and hitting, the actual point in roller derby is to score points by passing the opposite team. Sola explains that there are five members of the team at a time that consists of four ‘blockers’ and a ‘jammer.’ The jammer is the person who scores the points by making her way through the other team’s blockers, which are known as a ‘pack.’ On the other hand, the blocker’s job is to block the other team’s jammer to keep her from scoring any points by not letting her past.

However, one of the blockers is also known as a ‘pivot’ and she has the power of becoming the jammer if the jammer is too tired or needs help. There are many other rules that come with roller derby but the basic idea is to score points by passing the other team a numerous amount of times. Sola plays the blocker position that is able to become the jammer when needed.

One major point that pops up when roller derby is mentioned are the safety concerns. Like many other contact sports such as football, hockey and soccer, injuries can happen at any time.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, well, can’t you get hurt?’ and I say, ‘Well yeah, but you can get hurt in any sport,’” Sola said.

Aware of the safety concerns, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) provides specific regulations to prevent hazards from happening. According to the Rage City Rollergirls website, “Each skater in our league must meet the WFTDA minimum skill requirements, including basic skating skills, falls, balance/agility, skating with others, blocking and knowledge of rules.” Safety gear such as helmets, elbow pads, kneepads, wrist guards and mouth guards are required.

Even though Sola has only been in the roller derby league for three years, it has become a part of who she and exposes her to new people every day.

“Roller derby has become a big part of my life I have met so many amazing people and friends through roller derby,” Sola said. “It is such a great sport. It has become worldwide and it brings people together from so many different walks of life.”

Sola is working towards her electrical engineering major and plans to go to grad school for astrophysics or astro-engineering and hopes to work for NASA in the future while continuing to participate in roller derby in the mean time.

“If that fails, I will just become a pro derby girl, kind of joking. I will play derby until it no longer fits into my schedule or life,” Sola said.

Starting a new hobby or sport can be nerve-wracking when you’ve never done it before. In roller derby, everyone is very supportive in helping individuals looking to join.

“It is super empowering because you’re playing with this group of women who are very supportive and encouraging to you,” Sola said. “I would definitely encourage other people to join derby, or any sport really. So many people think that you have to be a certain shape or size to play a sport, but in derby literally any and all sizes have an advantage. A lot of people on the team had never even played a sport before joining derby.”

Over the last couple of years, roller derby has been impacting Alaska forming over 20 roller derby teams all over the state. The growing amount of individuals intrigued by the sport has lead to bigger derby meets and even greater friendships. If skating around in circles and hitting people is your cup of tea, along with intense strategic plays, team bonding, and most importantly fun, then roller derby might be the sport for you. Learn more about it on the Rage City Rollergirls website at

February 20, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
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Madeline Arbuckle preforms her floor routine in a meet against UC Davis at the Alaska Airlines Center. Photo credit: Skip Hickey

Already five meets into the season before the UC Davis meet, the Seawolves have received variable results from week to week, but the gymnasts, including junior Kendra Daniels, can barely keep up with the quick season.

“It has flown by. Pre-season felt like it was dragging on and the team was ready to compete, it’s hard to think we only have a couple more meets and then it’s over,” Daniels said.

The began with a rocky start in the Northeast in early January with two back to back losses in the Virginia opener and Maryland quad meet, neither time breaking a score of 188 when their goal is always 190.

However, soon after, things started looking positive in the mid-season for the Seawolves. Although neither meet produced a score of 190, the gymnasts secured two wins with their home field advantage. Wisconsin-Stout joined the Seawolves at the Alaska Airlines Center for two separate meets that allowed the gymnasts to score the previous season high score of 189.350.

Not long after, the team performed the current season high score of 190.900, finally bypassing the 190 barrier — In Sacramento against the Hornets. Although it was a season high, the meet still resulted in a loss behind Sacramento’s 194.900.

Although they pulled off what they wanted, head coach Paul Stoklos reflected that it wasn’t under the best circumstances.

“We had our season high score and we walked away from that really quite happy because we had two of our competitors out of our lineup, one go out with an injury during the event, and one out with the flu right before… but we still pulled it off,” Stoklos said.

These meets lead the Seawolves to the weekend of Feb. 17-19 in Davis, California with a record of two wins and three losses.

Only five meets in and five meets left, the team realized how important these upcoming meets were.

“We are at the halfway point of the season, both time wise and competition wise… but everyone is really stepping up and doing a great job,” said head coach Stoklos.

The meet proved to be rather successful for individual gymnasts but lacked with the overall team score.

Standout junior Madeleine Arbuckle, a Winnipeg local, secured her career-best score of 38.000 all-around with an impressive 9.625 in floor being the highest of all her events.

Arbuckle also boasted a score of 9.500 in uneven bars, just barely edging past her previous season record of 9.425. In addition, her beam score of 9.575 lead her to a three-way tie with senior Brice Mizell and sophomore Kaylin Mancari who shared fifth place in beam.

The only other all-arounder on UAA’s side was junior Morgan Ross. The Reno, NV local just barely fell behind Arbuckle with a final score of 37.625. Securing top UAA performances in vault with a score of 9.625 and in floor with 9.800, putting her at second place in the floor exercise.

Ross wasn’t the only one able to succeed in floor, Daniels — who only began floor in college — was able to pull through for a tie for third with a score of 9.750.

“I had always wanted to do floor, and turned out it was one of my better events in college so being able to help out with that is amazing,” Daniels said.

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Kendra Daniels leaping up in her beam routine during a home meet at the Alaska Airlines Center. Photo credit: Skip Hickey

In addition, the Seawolves produced a season-best team total on uneven bars resulting in a score of 46.975. The uneven bars was led by senior Nicole Larkin, although scoring an impressive 9.700, it only put her at sixth overall, followed by freshman Mackenzie Miller (9.525) and Arbuckle, in eighth and ninth respectively.

Overall, the gymnasts performed exceptionally well as individuals, but it wasn’t enough to surpass UC Davis’ score of 194.900 while the Seawolves fell behind 189.350.

With a second chance to redeem themselves, the Seawolves rematched the Aggies on Sunday, Feb. 19. After returning to Alaska, the gymnasts will have several weeks off before returning to competition at home joined by Centenary College of Louisiana at the Alaska Airlines Center on Mar. 3-5.

“With so many meets in such a short amount of time… we cram it all into a 10-11 period week of time, but i know it every year and warn the athletes every year it’ll be over before [we] know it,” Stoklos said.

Quickly afterwards, the gymnasts head to the Conference Championships when it seemed to be just the beginning of their season.

February 20, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
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Junior defenseman Tanner Johnson blocks a pass in the Fairbanks games for the Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup in December. Photo credit: Sam Wasson/UAA Athletics

A tradition that has been upheld by the University of Alaska, Anchorage vs. Fairbanks hockey teams will continue for the second time this season, in addition to the first duel the teams had in Fairbanks.

The players and head coach Matt Thomas are looking forward to being back.

“It’s been a while since we have been home… it allowed the players to focus on their academics, but we’re excited to be back,” Thomas said.

The Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup had been played for years to prove the dominant collegiate Alaska hockey team. Each season, the cup comes down to a total of four games: Two of them played on UAF’s home field and the other two played on UAA’s home at the Sullivan Arena. Their home games have always been some of the best.

“We know it’s about wins right now, but we have to find a way to get them.. they’re coming into our arena and we’re going to make it difficult for anyone who comes in here,” Thomas said.

For the current season, the initial two games were already played in Fairbanks on Dec. 9 and 10. Splitting the current cup standings, one win went to each of the teams.

Dec. 9 was the kick-off of the 2017 Governor’s cup, game one of two gave UAA the beginning advantage with a lead early in the first period, credited to sophomore defensemen Eric Roberts.

The addition of two more points in the second period to give the Seawolves a comfortable lead was secured by senior forward Brad Duwe, assisted by the Renouf twins, Nathan and Jonah, followed by a come-up by senior defensemen Chase Van Allen.

The game was steadily over after that, UAF only managing one point before time ran out.

The cup continued on Dec. 10 with a win to UAF. The Nanooks proved to be a lot more aggressive than the previous night, knocking out 3 points before the Seawolves even came close to the net.

Nearing the end of the third period, the Seawolves didn’t look like they were coming back with a miracle, but junior defensemen Tanner Johnson dropped in for 1 point, that gave the Seawolves a little redemption but not enough to win.

With a current 2016-17 standing of 1-1, the Seawolves and Nanooks get another chance to battle it out. However, over the years, UAF is far into the lead over the Seawolves. During the 2015-16 season, UAA wasn’t able to win a single game over the course of four games. While UAF took three of the wins and the fourth game resulted in a tie.

A year earlier, in the 2014-15 season, the cup was again split. Both the Seawolves and the Nanooks took the win twice each. For a total running score, the Seawolves only have a meager three wins against the six wins that the Nanooks were able to accomplish.

In contrast, the Seawolves have done noticeably better this season compared to others, therefore having a better chance at redeeming themselves. Every since the beginning of the season with budget constraints, the Seawolves have had many obstacles to get over and get to this point.

“This whole season more than any other seasons we have felt a lot more pressure, honestly than any other season,” Thomas said.

With already seven wins on the season this year with several games to go compared to the 11 total all season in 2015-16 and seven total in the 2014-15 season. The Seawolves are on track to win as many, if not more, this year that last year.

Coming into the Governor’s Cup will be the last regular season games for the team, junior Tad Kozun knows how important these games are to the post-season success.

“We really want to make playoffs because we know we can beat the top teams, we have had successful games against them, which has been a huge confidence booster for us,” Kozun said.

The team faces off against UAF for Governor’s Cup glory on Feb. 24 and 25 in the Sullivan Arena at 7:07 pm.

January 16, 2017 Brenda Craig

Being able to maintain balance is what keeps business marketing major Dakota McKenzie sane throughout the fall and spring semesters. Between school and work, McKenzie manages to find time to snowboard and film for video parts.

McKenzie picked up snowboarding around the age of 13 after attending snowboard camp coached by the team manager of Arbor, McKenzie made an effort to get sponsored by Arbor. Several months later, McKenzie began receiving flow merchandise from the company.

Working at a board shop, McKenzie has been intrigued by the way business works and hopes to utilize the business marketing degree that he is currently going to school for.

McKenzie performing a front 180 switch 5050. Photo credit: Kolben Saetre

“I chose UAA because it was the closest to home and allowed me to work, film and ride as much as possible while pursuing a degree,” McKenzie said. “I hope to tie it into snowboarding or skateboarding someday — whether it’s making my own company or whether I go work in marketing for other companies.”

McKenzie is currently working at Blue & Gold Boardshop, attending UAA and filming for the snowboard and skate video ‘Evoke.’

“It’s pretty much like having three jobs with working, school and filming. It’s overwhelming at times, but putting the work in at the end of the day is definitely worth it,” McKenzie said.

Friends are what inspire McKenzie the most in snowboarding. His friends claim the same about him because of his drive and positive attitude.

“I think Dakota has a gift. He’s a very talented snowboarder and I believe that he is going to go far with it,” Riley Stewman, business marketing major, said. “You can tell that he is very passionate about it, which I feel is a huge part on why he’s so good.”

Jason Borgstede, the owner of Blue & Gold Boardshop, is teaching McKenzie about how to run a business. Although McKenzie has a hectic schedule, he is always able to put that aside and work to his full potential.

“Dakota is destined to leave the shop and do big things,” Borgstede said. “I know the mind of a 20 year old is constantly focused on what’s coming up and where life will take them, but Dakota is able to balance that with taking care of business when he’s in the shop.”

Juggling work, school and snowboarding can be overwhelming at times, but McKenzie stresses the importance of finding a balance between these priorities and the benefits of achieving someone’s goals.

“I think it’s important to remember what you’re working towards and the good times that are to be had once the hard work is done,” McKenzie said.

Students attend UAA for different reasons and goals they hope to achieve in the future. Like McKenzie, many students face the struggle of balance between work, school and recreation, and continue to work hard through busy times.