The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization established to highlight the sports and athletes that Alaska produces. One of the organization’s many events is its annual induction ceremony to honor the inductees to the Hall of Fame, which takes place on April 24.
Included in the 2018 inductees are Holly Brooks, Virgil Hooe, Dolly Lefever, Andrew Kurka, Kikkan Randall, Roxy Wright, Jim Mahaffey, DaJonee Hale, Alissa Pili, Gus Schumacher and Brenner Furlong.
The ceremony includes the recognition of the Directors Awards, including the winners for the Pride of Alaska Award, both male and female, the Joe Floyd Award and the Trajan Langdon Award.
The Pride of Alaska Award is characterized by “consistent excellence in athletic competition.” Despite there only being one male and one female category, there were actually three winners, with two women tying for the title.
Randall and Wright were the 2018 winners.
The Hall of Fame chose to recognize Randall for her outstanding performance at the Winter Olympics and her first ever gold medal for the U.S. Nordic Ski Team.
In addition, Wright was recognized for the same award due to her long-lasting contribution to the sled dog community. Wright originally retired from sled dog racing 21 years ago after repeated years of success, however, she returned to the scene in 2017.
Even after a lengthy retirement, Wright didn’t lose any of her skill; she came back to win two more races. She competed in and came out first in both the North American Championship and the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championships. Wright’s first place win for the North American Championship was the fourth time she had clinched the title.
“I never thought I would be back there, [everything that happened] was truly a gift and I had an awesome dog team that I didn’t even own, so I am thankful for that,” Wright said.
As for the men’s Pride of Alaska Award, Kurka, one of the two 2018 Winter Paralympic competitors took the title. At the Paralympics, Kurka won gold in the downhill and silver in the Super G.
Kurka also won three medals — gold, silver and bronze — at the 2017 World Para Alpine Championships.
The Joe Floyd Award was awarded “for significant and last contribution to Alaska through sports,” to long-time coach and sports activist Mahaffey.
During the past 55 years that Mahaffey has lived in Alaska, he has helped found the Equinox Marathon and Tuesday Night Runs, in addition to serving as the coach for the UAF ski team and Alaska Methodist University.
Even at 87, Mahaffey is still very active in the community, continuing to ski and volunteer.
The Director’s Award was credited to Hale, an All-American basketball player at Central Methodist University.
Despite her past issues with homelessness and expulsion from school, the Wasilla local was able to overcome her difficulties to find success.
“I made the decision that I didn’t want that life, so I wrote a letter to the school board and basically explained what happened to me, and that journey and everything that I had been through, and basically asked them to let me come back, and play [basketball] for one more year,” Hale said.
Hale’s coach, Gregory Ray, is extremely grateful for her hard work and dedication; she is the only woman in school history to surpass 2,000 career points, doing so while also clinching a spot on the CMU Dean’s List.
“You know, talent can win games but your heart is what keeps going and gets you to beat those hard games, the ones you never thought you were [going to win],” Hale said.
The five Director’s Award recipients will be joined by the seven other individuals that are being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The event will take place on Tuesday, April 24 at the Anchorage Museum at 7 p.m.
More information can be found at http://alaskasportshall.org.