A small group of Juneau teens earned over a dozen Yukon Inter-Schools Arctic Sports Championship medals in Whitehorse, Yukon, last Friday.
Team Juneau, made up of five student athletes from Juneau-Douglas, Thunder Mountain and Yaakoosge Daakahidi high schools, won 13 medals at the single-day competition at Porter Creek Secondary School.
Coach Kyle Worl entered athletes Matthew Quinto, Erik Jim, Orion Denny, Sara Steeves and Josh Sheakley into six of the seven events for the high school 10-12 grade division, including the the kneel jump, Inuit stick pull, Alaskan high kick, wrist carry, scissor broad jump and one-foot high kick. The meet was originally supposed to include the sledge jump, but there was not enough time to squeeze it in.
Quinto, a TMHS junior, lead the way with three golds, one silver and the men’s sportsmanship award. Quinto won first place in the kneel jump, scissor broad jump and Alaskan high kick and second place in the one-foot high kick.
Quinto was on Juneau’s reinstated Native Youth Olympics team last year, competing in both the NYO Games Alaska in April and and World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in July. He said he was surprised at how much he’s improved since last season, such as in the one-foot high kick. The event requires contestants to kick a suspended ball before landing on their kicking foot.
Last season, Quinto could reach 7 feet regularly; at the Arctic Sports Championships, he reached 8 feet.
“We have to work on a lot of fast twitch muscles so we can kick really fast and get our feet back down,” said Quinto, who added he’s had to overcome the fear of falling on his back.
A Whitehorse contestant won first place in the event with a jump of 8 feet, 4 inches. YDHS senior Josh Sheakley kicked at 8 feet too, but because Quinto had two more successful attempts, Quinto nabbed second and Sheakley finished in third.
Worl has been impressed with Quinto’s rapid improvement. He knows he’s worked hard for it though, not missing a single team practice while also practicing on his own time.
“It’s really great to have an athlete like that who’s so dedicated to the sport and wants to prove,” Worl said.
TMHS seniors Orion Denny and Sara Steeves also brought home some serious hardware. Denny, the women’s sportsmanship awardee, won silver in Inuit wrestling and bronze in the kneel jump, Alaskan high kick and wrist carry. Steeves pocketed bronze medals in the scissor broad jump and one-foot high kick.
JDHS junior Erik Jim finished in fourth place in the wrist carry.
The NYO team’s next competition, the 2019 Traditional Games, takes place March 16-17 at the TMHS main gym. The NYO Games Alaska are April 25-27 at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.