Former Crimson Bears Rhea and Francis to be inducted into high school hall of fame

For the third year in a row, at least one Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bear will be represented in the annual Alaska High School Hall of Fame induction class.

The Alaska School Activities Association announced recently that Talisa Rhea and Leah Francis will join George Houston (class of 2017) and Chad Bentz (class of 2016) in the state’s hall of fame.

Rhea starred on the Crimson Bears girls basketball team from 2004-2007, a period in which the Crimson Bears never finished lower than third place at the state tournament. Rhea and JDHS secured the third state title in program history in 2005.

As a junior and senior, Rhea was named Alaska 4A girls player of the year. Rhea said she takes pride in being from Alaska and was humbled when she received news of the award.

“I was really excited and of course very honored to even be thought of,” Rhea said by cellphone. “I guess too it means I’m getting kind of old to be considered. Ten years out now, it’s kind of crazy.”

Rhea went on to play four years of Division I basketball at Oregon State University and Seattle University. Despite only playing three seasons with the Beavers, Rhea is the program’s 12th all-time leading scorer, averaging 15 points per game as a junior.

But before she was a Beaver or Redhawk, she was a Crimson Bear. And her college basketball experience hasn’t overshadowed her high school one.

“I just remember our home games and the gym being full and the student section being super loud and there not being a huge difference (in crowd) between the girls games and the guys games,” Rhea said. “Everyone came out to support and I just remember feeding off of that energy and just the environment that we had at home games and how unique that was to the rest of the state.

“But also being down in Washington (state) and seeing some of the high school stuff there. What we had in Juneau was pretty special and I definitely realize that now.”

The 2007 JDHS graduate is now the Manager of Basketball Operations for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

Like Rhea, Francis also found early success in her sport which she continued to build on as an upperclassman.

The 2010 JDHS graduate won three state 4A girls titles in cross country and was just as successful on the track. Francis was a three-time state title winner in the 1600-meter and three-time state title winner in the 3200-meter races.

The two-time Gatorade Player of the Year awardee said the winning came at a cost. Francis said she had trouble coping with the anxiety over winning races.

“I think what I’m really proud of is the amount of vulnerability it took for me to step on the line and race in high school,” she said. “It was really hard. I’m proud of myself for keeping at it and I’m just really grateful that I made so many good friends and had the support of such awesome coaches.”

Francis went on to run at Stanford University, where in 2015 she graduated with an English degree in creative writing. She said she’s not the avid runner she used to be, but that’s how she prefers it now. Francis ran her last marathon in October and sometimes trains with other marathon runners.

The memories that stick with her from her illustrious high school career are not standing on top of the podium.

“When I was in high school, the winning mattered to me so much it was making me vomit before races,” Francis said. “Now, I’m just like, ‘Wow,’ what a fun time with my friends.”

She now lives in Seattle and is training to be a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills coach.

Both Rhea and Francis say they plan to be in attendance for the April 29 ceremony in Anchorage.

Southeast Alaska’s Kyle Fossman (Haines High School) and Cameron Severson (Petersburg High School) are two of the three other former athletes going into the hall this year.

There are now just shy of 140 individuals in the Alaska High School Hall of Fame since its establishment in 2006. The hall includes categories for athletes, coaches, administrators, officials, activity participants, contributors and lifetime achievement awardees.

More in Sports

Senior assistant captain Anna Dale attempts to stuff the net during a home game between Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé Crimson Bears Varsity hockey team and the Kenai Central Kardinals at the Treadwell Arena Saturday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Crimson Bears topple Kardinals on home ice

The team won with a score of 4-2

This combination photo shows all five division-winning teams from the recent 3v3 Pre-Season Tournament at Thunder Mountain High School. (Upper left) Team 7, (upper right) Hoopsters, (lower left) 3 Amigos; (lower center) Lucky Ladies and (lower right) 3 of a Kind. (Courtesy Photos)
3v3 Tournament crowns division winners

Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball and Hooprats recently hosted the 13th… Continue reading

Matthew Wendel, Mike Kreis, Kasey Watts, Courtney Kreis, Tami Wahto and Todd Schur wore costumes during the 2021 Turkey Trot. Why’d they wear costumes? “Why not?” asked Schur. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strut your speed at upcoming annual Turkey Trot

Stuff the starting line Thanksgiving morning

Bree Lee Lo, June Enele, Lemoe Eneliko and Moira Anemia pose for a photo taken by Alexandra and Barron Anemia. All were on hand to celebrate Samoa's Rugby League World Cup run. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Local rugby fans celebrate Samoa’s World Cup run

“Win our lose, we’re still proud.”

Glacier Swim Club finds success in Petersburg

Twenty Juneau students competed in the November swim meet hosted in Petersburg over the weekend.

The 2022-23 Thunder Mountain girls varsity volleyball team poses for a group photo during 2022 3A/4A Volleyball State Championships in Anchorage on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 10 and 11. (Courtesy Photo / Julie Herman)
TMHS volleyball wraps up stellar season

Falcons fall short of finals at State tournament

TMHS stands for team photo after state tournament at Bartlett High School in Anchorage on Saturday, Nov. 5. (Courtesy Photo / Josiah Loseby)
Juneau swim teams make a splash at state championship

“We all performed well and we all had a good time.”

Juneau Skating Club Forget-Me-Not team featured in last year’s spring event. The team is traveling to Irvine, California to compete in the Glacier Falls Classic on Saturday, Nov. 12. (Courtesy Photo / Kim Hort)
Forget-Me-Not skaters return to California

Juneau Skating Club team competes in Glacier Fall Classic.

Thunder Mountain girls varsity volleyball team celebrating their championship victory against JDHS on Saturday, Nov. 5. TMHS now heads to the state tournament in Anchorage to face Colony in the first round on Thursday, Nov. 10. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
TMHS volleyball team advances to state tournament

Falcons will take on Colony in Anchorage Nov. 11

Large crowds turned out to support high school swimmers through Alaska at the Region V meet on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28, 29 at in Juneau at Dimond Park Aquatic Center. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Prep swim teams score big at Region V meet

TMHS and JDHS swim teams score big at Region V meet

JDHS junior Mila Hargrave winds up to spike the ball while TMHS junior Ashlyn Gates attempts to deflect it. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Volleyball wraps up regular season

Region tournament set for Nov. 4 and Nov. 5