An eye-opening experience

Kodiak NYO athlete Peter Pletnikoff gets carried by Anthony Abell, left, and Sam Tuckfield in the wrist carry event during a practice last week in the Kodiak High School gym. (Derek Clarkston photo)

Today, the majority of Kodiak’s Native Youth Olympics (NYO) team will get a taste of what NYO is all about.

The team of nine athletes will be representing Kodiak High School at the NYO games in Anchorage that run through Sunday.

This is the first time in several years that Kodiak has sent a team. The athletes have had nine weeks to prepare themselves for the next three days.

“This was new,” Kodiak NYO coach Matt Neagley said. “It was an eye-opening experience recognizing that these events are difficult, that these events are sometimes uncomfortable, and learning the stories with these events.”

Sophomore co-captain Khasity Condello, however, was very familiar with her events — the Alaska high kick, the one-hand reach and the one-foot high kick.

Her mother and her stepfather, who is an assistant coach on the team, both competed in NYO. Condello also had experience competing in NYO in Seward before she moved to Kodiak.

She was glad Kodiak fielded a NYO team this year.

“I did it before and had a feel for it and wanted to do it again,” said Condello, whose favorite event is the one-foot high kick because it is the least painful.

The team voted Condello as a captain.

“She is a quiet leader — a leader by example,” Neagley said. “She really drives herself to be the best … she has her eye not just on this season, but the upcoming season, and is going to put in a dedicated effort to be a top Alaskan competitor.”

Kodiak’s other captain is Peter Pletnikoff, one of two seniors on the team. Unlike his fellow captain, he had never competed in NYO prior to this year. In fact, if it weren’t for the urging of Neagley and a few teammates he would still be on the KHS track team.

“I decided to get out of the groove and do something new,” Pletnikoff said.

He is glad he joined NYO, because it has taught him teamwork and sportsmanship.

He is the only Kodiak athlete competing in five events — the kneel jump, wrist carry, one-hand reach, Indian stick pull and seal hop. He said that it helps to get through the event quickly and smoothly.

“It is just mental,” Pletnikoff said. “If you don’t have the strength in your mind to do it, you have no shot at succeeding.”

Pletnikoff was chosen to be captain by the three-person coaching staff because he is a driven athlete.

“In practice he is pushing himself,” Neagley said. “He doesn’t need people to watch over his shoulder to succeed in making those efforts … his improvement has been really impressive and his fitness shines when it comes to a lot of these events.”

Neagley knows the competition in Anchorage will be tough, considering this is a new team competing against teams that train year-round for NYO.

“Our expectations going in, as in where we will place, are minimal,” Neagley said. “Our expectations of how we will represent Kodiak through sportsmanship, through effort and through the approach that we take to each and all of our events we will seek to be second to none.”

The remainder of the team consists of senior Casey Dinnocenzo, junior Brandy Berg, sophomores Larissa Holmes, Tatiana Yakanak and Taylor Heflin, and freshmen Sam Tuckfield and Samantha Heglin.

Karluk is also sending a team to Anchorage.

Mirror writer Derek Clarkston can be reached via e-mail at sports@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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