Trinity Jackson, 13, participates in the wrist carry as judge Elizabeth Rexford watches at the Native Youth Olympics 2018 Traditional Games at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreational Center in March 2018. Tuckwood won the event for middle school students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Trinity Jackson, 13, participates in the wrist carry as judge Elizabeth Rexford watches at the Native Youth Olympics 2018 Traditional Games at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreational Center in March 2018. Tuckwood won the event for middle school students. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau hosts 2020 Traditional Games this weekend

More than 125 athletes will participate in the games

More than 125 athletes from more than 18 locations will come together at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé to compete in the 2020 Traditional Games this Saturday.

“It’s cool to see the growth and the momentum of the sport throughout the southeast,” said Kyle Worl, the organizer of the event and a prime mover in the push increase the popularity of the traditional games and the Native Youth Olympics in Southeast Alaska.

[Juneau local recognized for Herculean effort bringing back traditional sports]

The games are based on hunting and survival skills that allowed the indigenous people of Alaska to thrive in their homeland for thousands of years, according to partner organization Sealaska Heritage Institute, a nonprofit that promotes and protects Alaska Native culture.

Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File
                                Orion Denny, 16, rejoices in winning the high school adult one-foot high kick competition at the Native Youth Olympics 2018 Traditional Games at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreational Center in March 2018.

Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File Orion Denny, 16, rejoices in winning the high school adult one-foot high kick competition at the Native Youth Olympics 2018 Traditional Games at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreational Center in March 2018.

Local teams will come from all local high schools and middle schools. Teams from Nome, Bethel, Whitehorse, Ketchikan, Metlakatla, Hoonah, Hydaberg, Craig and Lower Kuskokwim will travel to Juneau to compete, as well as individuals from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Barrow. Three college teams will also be present and competing: University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Pacific University and Northern Arizona University.

“I think that’s really exciting that our culture can be shared all the way to Arizona,” Worl said.

The team was founded by a Fairbanks resident who brought the sport to the school and became a coach, Worl said.

Worl has been part of a movement to revitalize the NYO and traditional games, particularly in the Southeast and at a college level, so that kids who go to school can continue to play before becoming coaches in their own communities, forming a self-sustaining reaction.

“Because it’s kind of a reintroduced sport for the Southeast or a new sport for most people, recruitment is a year-round activity,” Worl said.”Throughout the year, I’m continually recruiting and trying to build interest in the sport.”

Part of his plan for the future is to deconflict the scheduling of the event with other major sports in the Southeast, particularly basketball, so that more people will have a chance to participate.

“Next year we’re trying to move our event back into April so we’re not overlapping with basketball season,” Worl said. “That’s one of the challenges we’ve noticed is that we overlap with basketball season. We’re trying to find our balance or find our way.”

The events will begin at JDHS at roughly 9 a.m. on Saturday with an opening ceremony. Worl said that there will be a parade of athletes and speakers from the sponsoring organizations, which include the Sealaska Corporation and the University of Alaska Southeast. Other partner organizations for the Traditional Games include the Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

Walk-ons are also welcome to participate in the games for free, Worl said.

“Anyone can show up and participate. Just learning through the experience. You don’t have to be experienced at all,” Worl said. “If you go onto the floor, people are going to teach you, and coach you and give you advice. That’s the spirit of the games.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

Know and go

What: The 2020 Traditional Games

When: March 7-8, beginning at 9 a.m. each day.

Where: Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, 1639 Glacier Ave. Admission and participation is free with registration.

More in Sports

Courtesy Photos / Eric Hanson
Thunder Mountain High School junior Kiah Dihle runs her way to an eighth-place finish Saturday at the state cross country meet.
Juneau cross country teams end strange season with strong finish

The race was the first and last in-person race of the season.

Courtesy photos / Debbie Lowenthal
Above, Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé High School students Rayna Tuckwood (right) and Skylar Tuckwood (left) race at the Thunder Mountain High School cross country race course during a regionals meet Oct. 3. Below, Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé High School students Tim Degener (right) and Finn Morely (left) compete in the boys division.
Juneau runners raring to rout rival racers in state meet

This will be one of the first all-up state competitions since the pandemic began.

Associated Press
                                In this March 2017 photo, volunteer handlers guide teams out of the dog yard and down the chute to the starting line of the 45th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Fairbanks, Alaska. The world’s most famous sled dog race will go forward in 2021, and officials are preparing for every potential contingency now for what the coronavirus and the world might look like in March when the Iditarod starts.
Iditarod preps for any scenario as 2021 race plans proceed

The world’s most famous sled dog race will go forward in 2021.

The Juneau Mountain Bike Alliance and City and Borough of Juneau are collaborating to finish a new pump track for bicycle riders in Cope Park, due to be finished within weeks, Sept. 16, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Outdoors pump track work is ramping up

Cope Park is about to have a new way to keep entertained.

Coach Merry Ellefson compliments runners on a job well done after a race. (Courtesy Photo / Debbie Lowenthall)
Long-distance running meets socially distanced competition

Team spirit carries Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé High School’s runners on where others falter.

Matt Boline demonstrates a drill during a recent workout with players in the 12-and-under group workout at Treadwell Ice Arena. (Courtesy Photo / Steve Quinn)
Photos: It’s heating up on the ice

Juneau Douglas Ice Association’s youth hockey season is underway at Treadwell Ice Arena.

Alan Stuart/Pair of Thieves 
                                This photo shows Doug Peterson posed recently in Pacific City, Ore., next to the camper van that will accompany him on a nearly 1,500-mile bike ride to raise awareness for National Suicide Prevention Month. Peterson is riding his bike from the Canadian border to the Mexican border during the month of September, raising money with the support of apparel company Pair of Thieves and awareness for National Suicide Prevention Month.
Oregon man rides from Canada to Mexico for suicide awareness

He will ride across the country during National Suicide Prevention Month.

Capital Kennel Club of Juneau stays dogged, holds first post-pandemic trials

Past events had been scratched — and not behind the ears.

Runners jog through a haze of colored powder as they begin a 5k run through downtown Juneau on Sunday, April 29, 2018. (Richard McGrail / Juneau Empire File)
Some local color: Downtown run is coming up

DBA partnered with the J-D Cross Country team will host the 2020 DBA Color Run.

Israeli Olympic racewalker Shaul Ladany holds his 1972’s Olympic race shoes for a portrait in Omer, Israel, Sunday, July 12, 2020. In an instant, the world record holder in the 50-mile walk was thrust into one of sports’ greatest tragedies and a seminal moment in modern history _ the kidnapping and massacre of his fellow Israeli team members at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The killing shocked the world, gave the Palestinian cause an audience and ushered in a new era of global terrorism. Ladany, a Holocaust survivor, the lessons still linger. He says it taught him to “never be afraid” but become “more careful.”(AP Photo / Ariel Schalit)
Israeli racewalker recalls surviving 1972 Munich massacre

In an instant, he was thrust into one of sports’ greatest tragedies.