Donovan Jackson, 12, of Juneau competes in the one-foot high kick during the 2022 Traditional Games on April 2, 2022. The games were held at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)

Donovan Jackson, 12, of Juneau competes in the one-foot high kick during the 2022 Traditional Games on April 2, 2022. The games were held at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)

Juneau hosts record-setting Traditional Games competition

It was the largest iteration of the games held in Juneau yet.

Teams from as far in-state as Nome, as well as from Canada and the Lower 48, came to Juneau last week to compete in the 2022 Traditional Games.

The games are a series of different events from traditional Alaska Native competitions.

“We had great turnout. We had over 150 athletes coming from over 20 communities across Alaska and a few places outside of Alaska,” said coach and organizer Kyle Worl. “That was really exciting to me to see it reaching outside Alaska.”

[Juneau recognizes beginning of child abuse prevention month]

The last time the games were held in person was in 2020, days before major lockdowns swept the state to stave off the early stages of the pandemic. This year’s event was the same size as the 2020 event, the largest the games in Juneau have ever been, Worl said.

“At the 2020 event we felt like we had been building momentum each year,” Worl said.

For some, Worl said, the Traditional Games were the last major event they attended in Juneau before the pandemic, and the the first major event as the pandemic recedes, bookending the worst of the virus.

“The games this weekend represented a lot for me in the growth of the sport. And coming out of the pandemic as well. We haven’t been able to host a big event like this for two years,” Worl said. “A lot of my friends were like, that was the last big event I attended in Juneau in 2020.”

Having the games back in person really made the experience, Worl said. Across

“I think everyone was so grateful to experience the games again. We’ve been doing a lot through the pandemic but it hasn’t been the same,” Worl said. “Nothing really beats in person, that face to face with people, talking to them, the camaraderie between athletes. I’m very happy with how it went. A lot of teams said they want to return next year.”

[Photos: Traditional Games return to Juneau]

There were a lot of new teams, Worl said, especially from Southeast Alaska, where Worl said his mission is to promote the games and get more teams from communities that haven’t participated before.

“One of our big missions here is to promote the games here in the Southeast — Petersburg, Skagway and Haines were all new teams to the Traditional Games,” Worl said. “We want to see a team from every community in Southeast Alaska.”

Worl said he’d also like to see more college teams come to compete. University of Alaska Southeast’s team competed this weekend; Alaska Pacific University and Northern Arizona University have competed in the past, Worl said.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can accommodate a larger event. It was logistically hard to organize with 150 athletes in middle … maybe school high school adult divisions doing 11 different games,” Worl said. “Our Southeast teams, our athletes are gaining experience. For a while we were really disadvantaged because we were a first year team going up against teams that had decades of experience.”

Athletes set 19 records for the games here in Juneau over the course of the games, with Chickaloon winning for overall large team and Whitehorse winning the overall small team.

“(Thunder Mountain High School senior) Ezra Elisoff took all-around athlete for high school male,” Worl said. “He also took the Sportsmanship Award. He set a new record for our event for the Alaskan high kick at 81 inches.”

Complete scoring is available at traditionalgames.sealaskaheritage.org. The next games will be in 2023, Worl said, and hopefully hosted at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

Augustin Greetham, 14, of White Horse connects with his target during one-foot high kick at the 2022 Traditional Games held April 2, 2022 at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)

Augustin Greetham, 14, of White Horse connects with his target during one-foot high kick at the 2022 Traditional Games held April 2, 2022 at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)

More in Sports

This photo shows a high school basketball in the TMHS gym. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
TMHS boys bounce back against Kayhi

Another day, another 2-point game.

TMHS sophomore Kerra Baxter (22) dribbles while surveying the court during a loss to Wasilla. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
TMHS loses two to Wasilla

Similar final scores, but two very different games.

Anna Dale, a senior and the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears Varsity hockey team’s assistant captain, goes above and beyond on and off the ice. Dale talked with the Empire about her love for the game and how hockey will continue to play a role in her future after high school. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire) Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Transcending Treadwell: Anna Dale hopes to play hockey at the next level and inspire others to get on the ice

“She’s somebody who takes some risks, keeps people together and goes to bat for the team.”

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears hockey team played against Houston High School’s Hawks Friday evening at Houston’s home, one of three weekend of away games for the team. (Courtesy / Judy Campbell)
Crimson Bears hockey takes home mixed results from away games

The team preps for upcoming weekend home tournament and #LivelikeMatthewC game

Kayhi’s Lindsay Byron (21) tries to block Juneau’s Skylar Tuckwood (13) as she attempts a layup Friday at Ketchikan High School. Juneau won 40 to 33. Photo by Christopher Mullen Ketchikan Daily News
JDHS girls net big conference wins in Ketchikan

Crimson Bears girls find two wins against Lady Kings.

Courtesy Photo / Robert Casperson 
JDHS junior Sean Oliver and senior Orion Dybdahl pose for a photo on Saturday after earning all-tournament honors at the O’Brady Invitational tournament in South Anchorage.
JDHS boys basketball takes 3rd place in O’Brady Invitational tournament

Crimson Bears beat Bartlett and and South Anchorage but fall to West Valley.

Sophomore Addison Wilson races toward the basket late in TMHS' comeback win. Wilson was one of four players on her team to score 9 points. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Thunder Mountain girls storm back for a Saturday night win

They play again at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

JDHS senior Orion Dybdahl takes the ball down court while being closely guarded by two defenders on Wednesday night’s game. Dybdahl led the Crimson Bears in scoring with 19 points. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
JDHS loses close game against Colony

Wednesday night’s game was Suicide Prevention Awareness.

Most Read