Seawolves comprised of International talent

When walking through the halls of
university campuses, it is quite common
to hear fellow students talking in various
dialects or accents. Here at UAA, however,
these cultures not only present themselves
in fellow students but have fl ooded the
athletic department.
With 48 current international student
athletes, UAA outnumbers many of their
competitor’s sports programs.
“We enjoy the fact that we are from
everywhere; Anchorage is a diverse
community,” Director of UAA athletics
Steve Cobb said. “We have a diverse student
population, so our athletics department
should be diverse.”
Although other ski teams are comparable
to UAA’s number of international athletes,
the men’s and women’s basketball, hockey,
cross-country and track and fi eld teams’
international students far outnumber other
Great Northwest Athletic Conference and
Western Collegiate Hockey Association
teams.
Many Alaskan high school graduates
plan to leave the state according to women’s
basketball head coach Tim Moser, making
it tough to recruit locally. He also said that
many students graduating from high school
from the lower 48 don’t consider Alaska
because of the distance.
But many international athletes don’t
mind the extra distance.
“[With] international kids they are
coming to America- they don’t care
whether it’s Alaska or California,” Moser
said. “They just want to come over here.”
Both Moser and cross-country/track
and fi eld head coach Michael Friess said
it takes a particularly mature and special
athlete to stay in or come to Alaska and
compete for UAA.
Nonetheless, coaches do their best to
recruit in-state athletes fi rst.
“We don’t go anywhere until we exhaust
what’s in the sate,” Cobb said.
Many GNAC schools – including
Western Oregon and Seattle Pacifi c – do
not look to recruit internationally because
of the cost alone. According to athletics
staff at both schools, the costs can be up
to fi ve or six times more than that of an
in-state athlete.
Despite the costs, the Seawolves have
had some of their star athletes come from
around the world. This season alone Dasha
Basova of Russia and Hanna Johansson of
Sweden have made a signifi cant impact
on the women’s basketball team. Crosscountry
has seen strength from the Kenyan
family pack of David Kiplagat, Paul
Rottich and Elizabeth Chepkosgei. Men’s
basketball has seen strong leadership from
New Zealander Jeremiah Trueman, who
last season taught the team to do the “Haka
dance” before every game last season.
“I know for us the better kids that we’re
trying to fi nd as freshmen are going to be
internationally,” Moser said. “And I think
Mike’s [Friess] cross country team’s done
it and I think [men’s basketball] have done
it with the Australia connection.”
Hockey also has more than enough
international talent, with players ranging
from all across Canada to as far as
Dusan Sidor of Slovakia, Nils Backstrom
of Sweden, and Luka Vidmar from
Slovenia. The hockey team carries 17
internationals out of their 26 members
whereas other WCHA teams average
around six international players each, with
the University of North Dakota Sioux just
behind UAA with 12 internationals.
“The nature of the sports we offer,
other GNAC schools don’t have hockey
and skiing,” Cobb said. “And historically
Western Canada and Europe have been
where we get those athletes.”
While recruiting brings many
international athletes, so does word of
mouth. For instance, athletes like Johansson
were told about UAA by alumnus Maria
Nilsson and Australian Steve White knew
about UAA from his brother Kevin White
“So it just so happened that Maria
[Nilsson] helped us get another one, and
we’re going to hope that Dasha knows
someone, and maybe Viki too,” Moser
said.