Braves Earn Sportsmanship Award at NYO

Sentinel Staff Writer
    Athletes representing Mt. Edgecumbe High School placed highly in a number of individual events and won a team award in this year’s Native Youth Olympics competition over the weekend in Anchorage. The squad of 11 took fourth place overall and earned the Ben Snowball Team Sportsmanship award at the annual contest that features physically demanding events drawn from traditional Alaska Native activities.
    Competing in the girls one-foot high kick and seal hop event, MEHS senior Tessa Anderson scored first place, took second in the two-foot high kick, and third in the scissor broad jump.


Mt. Edgecumbe’s Native Youth Olympics team lines up for a photo with their awards over the weekend in Anchorage. Coach Margo Livermore kneels in front, while coach Archie Young stands at the right. (Photo provided by Archie Young)


MEHS junior Donovan Stephan-Standifer competes in the Eskimo stick pull at the NYO state competition; he won first place. (Photo provided)

    “The second day, with one-foot and seal hop, when I got the first places, that was kind of like the cherry on top, you know, like just a great way to end my athletic career at Mt. Edgecumbe,” Anderson told the Sentinel after school on Tuesday. She has competed in NYO for years, and also played on the Lady Braves’ volleyball and basketball teams.
    Her Alaska Native heritage is Unangan, the Indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands.
    She cited the importance of the games, and of Mt. Edgecumbe, for her personal life beyond sports. Along with her strong placing in events, she was one of two winners of the NYO academic scholarship, which will help pay for college.
    The essay she wrote for that “didn’t really have much to do with academics or athletics really, but I wrote mainly about how coming from Sitka my culture isn’t really here, like it’s not where my background is from. So coming to Edgecumbe, getting to learn that and then starting NYO, being able to go to Anchorage, meeting all these new people and seeing all this history has been really cool,” she said.
    The soon-to-graduate senior will attend Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, in the fall.
    Speaking on Edgecumbe’s sportsmanship award, she highlighted her team’s strong cohesion and willingness to support others.
    “Going into this competition, one of our main goals was to have good sportsmanship; that was our team goal, whether it was from individual PRs to placing, that was our top priority,” she said. “And so for us to get that award just meant a lot, like it meant that we were working hard at it, that we could work as a team together.”
    Next year, she hopes her high school team continues the hard work and sets new personal records.
    “After this trip, especially, I’ve gotten really close to all these kids. And they’re just awesome people, I love being around them all, and they work really hard at practice... Next year, I hope to see them get better and get more of those PRs.”
    Lennie Brandell, a junior from King Cove, competed in the boys one-foot high kick, two-foot high kick and Indian stick pull.
    “They went amazing, actually. I have a PR in two-foot, so I exceeded 80 inches,” he said.
    Like Anderson, Brandell spoke on his team’s supportive nature – a feature key to the Native Youth Olympics.
    “It just means that we care for each other and we all want to uplift each other and have them be the best they can be, and we just want to see people succeed... The environment (at NYO), everyone is so nice and talkative. I made like five new friends on my trip,” he said. Like Anderson, Brandell’s background is Unangan.
    He noted the importance of coach Margo Livermore, who helmed the squad alongside Archie Young this year. Livermore won the Healthy Coach award at NYO following a vote by coaches and officials.
    “Our kids were awesome this year in their sportsmanship, teamwork, and dedication,” Livermore told the Sentinel. “Almost every kid got a PR and they supported one another along the way. I’m proud of each and every one of them. I’m honored to be their coach.”
    MEHS junior Donovan Stephan-Standifer took first in the boys Eskimo stick pull.
    Competing in the girls Alaskan high kick, sophomore Tahira Akaran, of Kotlik, took fourth; in the kneel jump she claimed fifth.
    “I am really proud of myself for going past my PR in Alaskan.  And I was really excited for kneel jump, it wasn’t too bad. And the whole trip overall was really fun; it was another good experience of my second year at NYO in high school,” Akaran said.
    While Edgecumbe’s team went north as a unit, the group of athletes from Sitka’s boarding school offered support to all comers.
    “We were just encouraging everyone else, not just our team, but like every other team, no matter if our team isn’t competing in that one event,” she recalled. “We just gave little tips, you know, just always being supportive, and always there for other teams whenever they need it. There’s always positive energy, and that’s the main important thing about NYO.”
    Akaran also is Unangan. Next year, she plans to compete in the same events again, and would like to beat her previous personal records, but beyond scores, Akaran appreciates her team.
    “I just really want to thank my teammates just for all the positive energy (and) support they have towards me and my teammates. So it was a really great year with them,” she said.
    Competing in the girls toe kick, an event recently added back into the NYO repertoire, junior Nevaeh George, of Newtok, snagged third place.
    “They just brought back toe kick, so I never practiced it ever in my life before. I didn’t start practicing until two weeks before states, and then I ended up getting third,” she told the Sentinel. “I don’t know... I thought it was a really difficult event, because you’re floating in the air and you have to kick a stick with your toes.”
    She credited MEHS senior Franz Fermoyle for his help instructing her in the toe kick; he took third among boys in the event.
    George also competed in the one-arm reach and wrist carry. The latter is a painful event in which the competitor has to hold onto a stick only by the wrist, no fingers allowed, while being carried.
    George’s Alaska Native background is Yup’ik, and she’s also part Filipino.
    Decked out all in red, Edgecumbe’s team stood out at the event, George said, and worked to support everyone present, regardless of school.
    “I kind of already knew that we were going to surprise people. Because last year, we got first with Colton Paul, we surprised a lot of people. And then this year, I could tell everyone showed a lot of sportsmanship,” George said. “And during the competitions and the events, we wore bright red shirts so you knew it was our team… We were mostly on the court supporting everyone, people who aren’t on our team.”
    Last year, Mt. Edgecumbe’s Colton Paul, who has since graduated, broke the NYO world record in the Alaskan one-foot high kick.
    Like her fellow athletes, George said NYO gives her a chance to make friends and experience activities that otherwise wouldn’t appear in a school curriculum or gymnasium.
    “It’s a really big part of me. I’ve learned so much from it, and if I weren’t in NYO, I think I would be a completely different person,” she said. “Because of NYO, I’ve met so many people, I’ve learned so many new things. And I think having it at Edgecumbe is also unique because no other school in Sitka has NYO. And since it’s at a boarding school, we meet people from all over Alaska. We hear their stories.”

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July 2004
Photo caption: Junior League All Stars will compete in a tournament in Wrangell. From left are Bryn Calhoun, Chris Scott, Sean O’Neill, Ross Venneberg, Caleb McGraw, Richard Carlos, Jacob Houston, Coby McCarty, Bryan Lovett and Daniel Erickson.


July 1974

Photo caption: Volunteers leave the Yaw Building Library with loads of books being transferred to the new Orin and Betty Stratton Library on the Sheldon Jackson campus. SJC librarian Evelyn Bonner expressed appreciation to the community for the help.


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