Facing unspeakable cold weather at minus-40 and minus-50 degrees, this year’s Iditarod was not one for the faint of heart. Known for the rigors of distance, this year’s edition also greeted dogs and drivers to sustained frigid conditions as the race was routed from Fairbanks to Nome due to a lack of snow in Southcentral Alaska this winter.
The best athletes to don the Columbia Blue and Black of the Chugiak Mustangs will be on hand this Friday for recognition of past accomplishments and to retire their high school jerseys, announced Chugiak Activities principal Jim Bell last week.
Local coaches are feeling a bit more complete, thanks to the showings make by incoming freshmen during the Mini (Me) Meet, held Friday and Saturday at the Anchorage Dome. And while the meet was unofficial, not requiring athletes to secure the requisite 10 practices usually mandated, Chugiak Coach Melissa Hall and Eagle River Coach Matt Turner were able to get baseline times for this season’s athletes.
It’s the second-busiest time in the high school sports calendar, with Eagle River and Chugiak High activities offices feeling the crunch. Three sports began March 9, the first day of last week’s Spring Break, and athletes had to have all their materials and forms on file prior to the weeklong hiatus as track and field, along with boys and girls soccer, began. High school baseball and softball begins this week.
Seventy-eight dog teams, including locals Jim Lanier of Chugiak and Philip Walters of Eagle River endured a sloppy start to this year’s Iditarod during the Ceremonial Start on March 7. The 11-mile trek commenced from Anchorage’s Fourth Avenue, down Cordova Street, then on bike trails before ending on the dog trails near Campbell Airstrip.
Last week’s Region IV basketball tournament played as anticipated, with all four of the conference’s first- and second-ranked teams moving on to the upcoming state tournament, held March 19-21 at the Sullivan Arena.
At age 74, Iditarod musher Jim Lanier of Chugiak is the oldest musher in the 2015 field. The 16-time finisher also won the half-way prize in 2012.This year’s race is his 18th Iditarod. This year’s race is also his second on the northern route, which follows a similar path to that run in 2003 when, also due to lack of snow in Southcentral Alaska, race organizers charted an atypical course.
In two basketball games Feb. 24 that set local high schools against each other, Lady Mustangs won out over the Lady Wolves 64-22, and Wolves boys beat the Mustangs 70-50. In the earlier girls contest, Chugiak led from the outset, scoring 20 points in the first quarter, leading to the 64-22 win. The Mustangs’ Julia Turner hit four three-pointers in the first half, scoring all of her team-high 14 points before the break. Teammate Ashlynn Burgess matched the team mark with eight points in the first, and six in the second half. Carley Stone scored 12 points, and eight of the nine Chugiak players who suited up figured into the scoring.
Mustangs girls basketball coach Ryan Hales said all teams come into the Region IV Tournament on equal footing. Play began March 2 to usher in March Madness, Alaska style. “We’re all 0-0 now,” he said Sunday. Lady Mustangs finished league play in third place, with two losses each to East and Dimond for a 10-4 season record. They were scheduled to enter the tourney against Service on March 3.
This year’s Nordic season ended Saturday with a steady downpour of rain on the rapidly-declining snowpack of West Anchorage’s Kincaid Park. The girls race began at noon, and the boys events at 1:30 p.m. Conditions deteriorated as the day progressed.