WE GOT NEXT: Local athletes taking their games to another level
A pair of college students who once walked the same halls at Gruening Middle and Eagle River High are currently among the nation’s top scholar athletes. Eagle River’s Andrew Shortridge and Chugiak’s Ed Hall are both mechanical engineering majors who are building impressive resumes in their respective fields, with both in the midst of award-winning seasons in athletics and academics.
Hall, a junior linebacker for the University of Idaho football team, has started all 11 games this season and ranks third on the team in tackles. A 2014 Eagle River High School grad who grew up in Chugiak, Hall leads the Vandals defense with three interceptions this season.
The 6-foot, 211-pound Hall is an even bigger deal in the classroom than he is on the football field. A redshirt junior, Hall currently has a 3.83 GPA and was recently one of two Idaho players named to the All-District 7 First Team by the College Sports Information Directors of America. District 7 includes all Division I (FBA and FCS) schools in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. The honor qualifies Hall for the Academic All-America ballot, according to a press release issued by the Idaho athletic department.
Hall is also an inventor who worked as part of a team that created an award-winning shower design at an engineering contest this spring.
Hall’s success has been one of the bright storylines for the Vandals, who have struggled in their final season in the Sunbelt Conference. After a surprising 2016 campaign that saw the team win the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Idaho is just 3-8 overall and 2-5 in the Sunbelt heading into its season finale against Georgia State (6-4 overall, 5-2 Sunbelt) Saturday, Dec. 2 in Atlanta.
A three-year starter at Eagle River High who left Alaska for the junior hockey ranks during his junior year at ERHS in 2012, Shortridge is blossoming into a star for the Division I Quinnipiac Bobcats. On Nov. 21, he was named the ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Week after posting back-to-back shutouts against Brown and Yale Nov. 17-18. The sophomore was the first goalie in the nation to post consecutive shutouts and his 52 saves pushed his scoreless streak to more than 129 minutes.
The big weekend also earned the 6-foot-3, 175-pounder a mention as the First Star of the Week by NCAA.com. Shortridge has started nine of 13 games for Quinnipiac this season, going 4-5-1 while compiling a .925 save percentage and 1.87 goals against average for the Bobcats, who are currently 10th in the 12-team league.
Outside the net, Shortridge is a standout student who was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team after making the Dean’s List last season.
Chugiak grad debuts for Seawolves
Former Chugiak High star Nicole Pinckney is earning minutes for one of the top Division II women’s basketball teams in the country.
Pinckney — a 2017 CHS graduate and four-time All-Cook Inlet Conference selection — has played in seven of eight games for the University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, who recently moved up to No. 2 in the country after winning the final Great Alaska Shootout with a 59-53 win over Division I Tulsa Nov. 23 at the Alaska Airlines Center. The 5-foot-5 freshman guard played 17 minutes in the victory, scoring two points with three rebounds and two assists.
So far this season the former Mirror Lake Coyote is averaging 3.6 points in 14.4 minutes per game and is fifth on the team with four 3-pointers made.
Former ERHS runner wraps D-II season
Eagle River High grad Peyton Young recently completed her freshman season as one of the top cross-country runners for NCAA Division II Trevecca Nazarene of Nashville, Tennessee.
The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame blog reported Young never finished outside the top three runners on her team this season and finished 92nd out of 197 runners at the NCAA Division II Midwest Region Championships in Cedarville, Ohio.
Young won the 3,200 meters at the 2016 state track meet for the Wolves and finished fifth in 2017.
Locals chipping in on the Kenai Peninsula
Chugiak-Eagle River skaters continue to make up a good portion of the Kenai River Brown Bears Tier II junior hockey team.
Former Eagle River High standout Cameron McDonald, 16, remains one of the North American Hockey League’s most impressive rookies, with 17 points (1 goal, 16 assists) in 22 games played this season. As of Monday, Nov. 27, McDonald was third on the Brown Bears in scoring. According to the league, McDonald is currently tied for fifth in total points among NAHL defensemen and tied for first among rookie blueliners.
McDonald’s brother Sutton, an 18-year-old rookie who played three seasons at Eagle River High, has three goals and two assists in 19 games played this season.
The McDonalds are two of four locals to skate for the Brown Bears this season, along with former Chugiak Mustangs Zach Krajnik, 18, and William Casey, 20. Krajink has a goal and three assists in nine games played, while Casey has yet to score in 13 games for the Soldotna-based squad.
Kelter set for sevens World Series
USA Rugby Sevens player Alev Kelter will play in her fourth consecutive HSBC Women’s Sevens World Series starting Nov. 30 in Dubai. The team will play France, South Africa and New Zealand to open Pool A play. A 2009 Chugiak High graduate from Eagle River, Kelter has been a mainstay of the U.S. team over the past four years, suiting up for Team USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Griffin out of action down under
Australian Women’s National Basketball League star Kelsey Griffin is out for the season after suffering a hip injury, according to a report in the Bendigo Advertiser.
Griffin — a 2005 Chugiak grad from Eagle River — underwent surgery earlier this month, according to the paper.
An All-American at the University of Nebraska, the naturalized Australian citizen has been one of the WNBL’s top players since joining the league in 2012. She led the Spirit to league titles in 2013 and ‘14 and last season won her fourth-straight team MVP award.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Know of a local athlete doing great things after high school? Email tips to [email protected].