Faced with the decision of wrestling in Anchorage or helping two other teams get off The Rock, the Kodiak coaching staff didn’t hesitate.
The coaches opted out of a wrestling tournament at West Anchorage High School and gave their plane tickets to the school’s volleyball players and swimmers so they could compete in season-ending events.
“It was a no-brainer,” Kodiak wrestling coach Junior Valladolid said. “Those are our kids, our students, our athletes. I would have felt pretty bad. I couldn’t have imagined myself taking those seats.”
It was an interesting weather situation on the island last weekend, one that gave Kodiak Island Borough School District activities director Debbie Rohrer a major headache.
Both the volleyball and swimming teams had flights canceled because of dense fog and were in jeopardy of missing their events — volleyball at the Northern Lights Conference Championships and swimming at the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Swim and Dive State Championships.
“There is plenty of weekends where we have multiple teams traveling. The thing that made last weekend unique was you had a team trying to get to state and a team trying to get to regions,” Rohrer said.
Volleyball had the bleakest outlook, as the team tried three times before successfully getting of The Rock on Thursday afternoon’s Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage — the same plane the wrestling team was supposed to be on. They landed hours after their scheduled match in Soldotna was supposed to start. Luckily for them, the NLC board of control shifted the Bears’ match against Palmer to Friday, giving the team enough time to catch another plane to the Kenai.
Kodiak volleyball coach Amy Willis was grateful for the wrestlers’ act of kindness.
“That was such an amazing sacrifice that those athletes volunteered to do that,” she said. “We were so blessed to have the kind of school that says, ‘hey, let’s help each other out.’”
The swimmers, who endured one flight cancellation, were also on the plane with the volleyball players to Anchorage, arriving less than 24 hours before the start of the state meet.
“It was very much appreciated,” Kodiak swimming coach Maggie Rocheleau said. “It shows the culture of the community — we give and give.”
Rocheleau also credited Rohrer for working magic to get both teams off-island.
“The relationship that she has built with the airlines and to be able to help get us off the island and back ... she earned several years of salary this week alone.”
Rohrer said this is the first time that a sports team has given up their travel weekend for another team during her time with the school district. She thanked all the wrestlers at their practice on Friday — the day after everybody reached their destinations.
“The reactions that I got from the kids was great,” Rohrer said. “It could have been the total opposite, and they could have been very selfish about it, and instead, they were all super excited that they (the swimmers) got to state and volleyball got to regions.”
Valladolid recalled when he was a junior at Kodiak High that there was a possibility of missing the state wrestling meet because of weather. However, coach Pat Costello had Valladolid and a few other wrestlers leave early to miss the storm.
“Coach grabbed us, and we had to leave from school, go pack and get to the airport,” Valladolid said. “We made it out, and the rest of the team got out the next day.”
He was happy that his program was in a position to help this past weekend.
“It’s nice seeing that our acts our getting recognized and appreciated, but it is kind of weird getting compliments for that because I think everybody would do that,” Valladolid said.
The wrestlers used their time off by holding a light practice on Saturday.
“This speaks volumes of our coaching staff and what they are teaching their kids — that our kids are willing to do that for others,” Rohrer said.
“I feel like there are huge life lessons that I am hoping the kids learn in the midst of all this fog and weather we have had in the last 10 days.”
Barring weather, Kodiak will compete at the Lancer Smith Memorial Tournament this weekend at the Curtis Menard Memorial Sports Complex in Wasilla. The tournament is the biggest of the season, with the best Division I and Division II wrestlers competing in the same brackets.
“This is an exciting tournament for everybody,” Valladolid said. “I’m always surprised that there are DII kids who come out and win a DI bracket.”
Kodiak is entering eight wrestlers in the varsity tournament, eight in the junior varsity tournament and five in the girls’ tournament.
The two-day tournament begins Friday. Kodiak leaves today.
“I’m praying that they get out,” Rohrer said.
The 40th Robin Hervey Tournament — Kodiak’s lone home event — is Nov. 22-23 at Kodiak High.
Valladolid said Grace Christian, Houston, Valdez and Division I defending state champion South Anchorage will be attending.
This will be the first Robin Hervey since 2016. The 2017 and 2018 editions were canceled because visiting teams could not get to the island because of the weather.
“Kodiak is going to get to see some of Alaska’s best,” Valladolid said.