At the end of March, UAA student Stuart Towarak spent his time in Fort Smith, Canada competing in the 2018 Arctic Winter Games.
Towarak, a physical education student at UAA, returned to Alaska after AWG with a new record. Even more impressive, this was Towarak’s first year competing in AWG, finishing the one foot high kick at 9-feet and 7-inches to win the gold medal.
The new AWG record that he set wasn’t even threatened by the second place finisher, who ended with a final 9-feet and 2-inches. Nick Hanson came in third.
“When I was in high school [Hanson was] my coach, the Eskimo Ninja. He’s been coaching and helping me out in the Native Games the last 10 years. [At the AWG this year] we pushed each other to do our best in competition,” Towarak said.
Despite this being his AWG debut, Towarak has been competing for a long time.
“I started competing in the one foot high kick 10 years ago. The one foot high kick is one of many Native Games played in the Native Youth Olympics, World Eskimo Indian Olympics and Arctic Winter Games,” Towarak said.
He has participated in these events for years, including the NYO from 2008 to 2013 and the WEIO from 2011 to 2017.
“One of my best accomplishments from the Native Games is kicking 114 inches in the one foot high kick in the Native Youth Olympics back in 2013, which is the NYO record for the boys. I share that record with John Miller of Barrow and Tim Fields of Noorvik,” Towarak said.
Towarak said that still doesn’t top the new AWG record that he set; he broke that record after it was set 30 years ago, at 9-feet 6-inches.
“It’s really a step by step process with doing the one foot high kick because you have to work on your approach, take off spot, exploding up on your jump, finding your target on the ball, kicking at your pea, and focusing on landing on that same foot you just kicked with,” he said.
The basic goal of the one foot high kick is, from a standing or running start, to jump with both feet, kick a suspended ball with one foot, then land on the kicking foot, all by doing so without losing balance.
Towarak said that even with his training of over 10 years and people always telling him he makes it look easy, he still has to work on each step in order to kick it without difficulty.
From his perspective, these skills are something he can work on for a long time. He said that he plans to continue competing until he can no longer handle it.
Towarak also said he would like to continue his life in Alaska for the foreseeable future, hopefully getting a job post-graduation.