I can still remember the second-to-last day of July like it was yesterday.
I sat on a plane for four hours (milk run, Juneau to Anchorage), took a short taxi cab ride to Mulcahy Stadium and proceeded to watch six hours of the best baseball of my life. On July 30, 2019, the Juneau Post 25 baseball team made state history, becoming the third program in the 67-year history of the American Legion state tournament to three-peat. And they did it by winning back-to-back games in a span of about six hours.
It was a great year in sports, that also saw a local runner make history, several hall of fame inductions and state championships for Juneau’s athletes.
Juneau Post 25 rallies to third-consecutive state championship
The capital city’s American Legion baseball went on a tear from 2017-2019, compiling an 85-16 record. Of those 85 wins, few if any were more dramatic than the two that sealed Juneau Post 25’s third-consecutive state championship at the American Legion state tournament in July.
The Midnight Suns came back from a 4-3 deficit in extra innings against South Post 4 in the semifinals. In the finals against Wasilla, Juneau’s defense made multiple outs with the bases loaded and the game tied at 8 in the bottom of the seventh, eventually winning 13-8 in extras.
“We told them the scrappiest team is going to win here,” Juneau coach Joe Tompkins said. “There was so much talent in this tournament — this is probably the best tournament that I’ve been to. There was not a lot of blowouts, there was a lot of one-run games, there was a lot of great baseball. Chugiak put us in the loser’s bracket, but they could’ve won it. South could’ve won it. Wasilla definitely could have won it.”
Kasey Watts, Donavin McCurley and Bobby Cox were the cornerstones of the dynasty. The team affectionately nicknamed Cox, “UPS,” after his dad’s employer, and Cox “delivered” plenty of times. The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder led the team with 14 doubles, four triples and 38 runs through the end of the state tournament.
All three players, who played together for three seasons, aged out of American Legion baseball at the end of the season.
Tuckwood wins fourth-consecutive Region V title
Sadie Tuckwood made Southeast running history in September, becoming the first-ever four-time champion at the Region V Cross Country Championships. Tuckwood finished in 17 minutes, 50 seconds, at the region meet, 20 seconds faster than her previous best time on the 5-kilometer Sitka course.
She set her previous personal best during her first Region V-winning performance (18:12), after which she won the state title and Gatorade Player of the Year for Alaska girls cross country.
“If you can’t set a goal or do something for yourself, do it for your teammates — that’s kind of our motto,” JDHS co-coach Tristan Knutson-Lombardo said. “And I think Sadie has really grown in that respect from her freshman year to now her senior year.”
Tuckwood, a senior, signed a National Letter of Intent with the Spokane, Washington Gonzaga Bulldogs last month, making her the first Juneau-Douglas girls runner to go Division I in nine years.
Miller leads JDHS to second-consecutive state title
JDHS senior Malia Miller also won the Gatorade Player of the Year award.
Miller was named Alaska’s best girls soccer player after leading the Crimson Bears to their second-consecutive state title. She finished her high school career with 105 goals, a new state record.
“I wasn’t completely sure I was going to get it this year,” Miller said of the award. “I didn’t get it last year, and it was a little discouraging. I know there’s a lot of great athletes everywhere throughout Alaska so it was pretty cool to hear they gave it to me.”
Miller went to Bellevue College in Washington, where she recorded nine assists this fall. That tally is tied for second in the Northwest Athletic Conference.
Juneau Huskies capture the Chugach Conference championship
In one year, Juneau’s combined high school football team went from worst to first.
The Juneau Huskies creamed Bartlett High School 67-24 on the final week of the regular season to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Chugach Conference. It was quite a reversal from 2018, when the Huskies were winless and finished last in the five-team conference.
The merged program went 0-8 in its inaugural season (2018) and averaged just six points per game. This year, Rich Sjoroos’ team averaged 40 points per game and went 5-4.
Juneau lost in the first round of the playoffs to eventual state champion South Anchorage.
“Everybody that is out there for Juneau, there’s really no playoff experience there,” Sjoroos said at the time. “So to get a game under their belt now is really going to build us for next year, and the fact that almost every kid is coming back, I think they’re going to be pretty motivated and hungry to avenge anything like that that happened this year.”
Honorable mentions: Hall of famer Justin Dorn claimed a triathlon championship, Chad Bentz inducted into Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.