<strong>Photos by Michael Penn </strong>| Juneau Empire                                Alea Oien competes in the spike driving contest.

Photos by Michael Penn | Juneau Empire Alea Oien competes in the spike driving contest.

Miners clean up at Gold Rush Days

Oien wins All-Around Resource as top-point getter

The obstacle pole buck requires speed, balance and some know-how with a chainsaw.

Ryan Friend had all three down on Sunday to win the logging competition, in which contestants walk across a propped-up cedar log, slice the tip off with a chainsaw and return to the start as quickly as possible. The Greens Creek miner completed the task in under 17 seconds en route to winning Co-Bull of the Woods honors at the Juneau Gold Rush Days at Savikko Park.

Not bad who someone who spends much more time around minerals than lumber.

“A miner beating out the loggers, that’s kind of nice,” Friend said.

Ryan Friend competes in the hand mucking contest during the Mining & Logging Competition at the 29th Annual Gold Rush Days at Savikko Park on Saturday, June 22, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Ryan Friend competes in the hand mucking contest during the Mining & Logging Competition at the 29th Annual Gold Rush Days at Savikko Park on Saturday, June 22, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The obstacle pole buck was one of over 30 events packed into the two-day festival. The competitions began on Saturday morning and didn’t end until Sunday evening. The Gold Rush Days have been a mainstay in Juneau since 1990, after being established as a way to inform the public about mining and highlight “past, present and future of mining and logging in Alaska and in the Juneau Gold Belt.”

[Juneau family finds community, competition at Gold Rush Days]

Alea Oien won the All-Around Resource (highest-scoring competitor), Babe of the Woods (highest-scoring logger) and Best Female Miner (highest-scoring miner).

In addition to garnering Co-Bull of the Woods honors, Friend also won co-Best Male Miner. Eddie Petrie was the other Co-Bull of the Woods, and Josh Olson was the Co-Best Male Miner. Juneau Gold Rush Commission Chairman Jerry Harmon said it’s uncommon for there to be ties for either of those awards, let alone both.

“It’s partly what makes it worth coming here,” Oien, 52, said of winning All-Around Resource.

Oien, who has been competing at the Gold Rush Days since the mid-90s when she worked at Echo Bay Mines, credits her success to watching others, and then putting new techniques into practice.

Heath Coro competes in the hand mucking contest as judge Bill Wilcox watches during the Mining & Logging Competition at the 29th Annual Gold Rush Days at Savikko Park on Saturday.

Heath Coro competes in the hand mucking contest as judge Bill Wilcox watches during the Mining & Logging Competition at the 29th Annual Gold Rush Days at Savikko Park on Saturday.

“I just keep an eye on what works for everybody, and I incorporate that into what I do, and then I remember it for the whole year and employ it the next year,” Oien said.

Oien won six events total this year: women’s spike driving, women’s hand mucking, women’s choke setter race, women’s obstacle pole buck, women’s horizontal chopping and women’s log rolling. Oien said she’s not one to shy away from competition.

“I just like a challenge, that’s about it,” she said.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.


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