In the words of Bugs Bunny, “That’s all folks.”

The short — but jam-packed — Kodiak High sports season closed on Saturday when the baseball team ended a marvelous run through the Division II State Championships with a runner-up finish. 

As sports fans, we’re lucky to have players and teams to cheer for during the spring. We were not as fortunate when the school year started back in August, as fall sports, then most of the basketball season was still on hiatus because of the pandemic. 

Sports slowly opened up as the calendar turned to 2021, and by the end of March, Kodiak’s basketball teams headed off-island to the Northern Lights Conference Championships. The trip to the Mat-Su Valley was the first for an island team since February 2020.

That opened the door for the spring teams and gave sports-deprived rooters something to follow. 

As always, I wrap up every high school sports season by ranking the top 10 stories. This year’s list, as expected, is heavy with spring headliners. 

10. BACK IN ACTION

Beginning the top 10 list is the return of prep sports. Kudos goes to the Kodiak Island Borough School District and activities director Debbie Rohrer for getting the students back on the playing fields. 

 9. CLEARING THE BAR

Elan Hilty emerged as the star of the Kodiak girls track and field team. The sophomore moved to No. 4 on the school’s all-time high jump list by clearing 5 feet during the F/V Invincible Pentathlon. 

“It was the perfect day — sunshine and a big crowd watching,” Kodiak coach Ashley Mortenson said. “She beat all but two of the boys in the high jump, which I think gave them a healthy respect for her skills.”

She later placed fourth at the Division I State Track and Field Championships with a jump of 4-10. 

8. MVP

Leslie Spear concluded a brilliant high school career by snagging softball’s Northern Lights Conference most valuable player award. The senior slugger belted five home runs, drove in 35 runs and hit .533 during the regular season. She helped Kodiak reach the Division II State Championships for the third straight year. 

“She has been the driving force,” Kodiak coach Tom Bolen said. “She motivates the girls by her play, her spirit and her love for the game ... I told her the other day of how proud I am of her and what she has meant to the program.” 

Even though Spear played only two games during the basketball season, the 6-foot-2 post was placed on the NLC first team. She ended her career with 697 points despite missing a season’s worth of games due to the pandemic. 

Read below for Spear’s swimming accomplishments. 

7. IN THE WATER

Back in November, seven Kodiak High swimmers competed at the Alaska High School Invitational.

Juniors Ian Rocheleau and Jackson Krug both recorded two podium finishes. Ian Rocheleau was second in the 200-yard individual medley (1 minute, 57.34 seconds) and third in the 100 backstroke (52.64). Krug was second in the 100 freestyle (47.78) and third in the 200 freestyle (1:46.52). 

Senior Leslie Spear was second in the 200 freestyle (1:58.10), freshman Alison Narog was third in the 50 freestyle (24.91) and eighth in the 500 freestyle (5:43.95) and junior Nick Carver was fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:00.52). Jake Sarnowski was seventh in the 500 freestyle (5:24.63), while senior sister Alicia Sarnowski was seventh in the 100 backstroke (1:01.68).  

6. NLC DOMINANT

Kodiak softball continued to dominate the Northern Lights Conference regular season in 2021. The Bears won all eight games and grabbed the regular-season conference title for the second year in a row. Kodiak will enter the 2022 campaign riding an 18-game regular-season conference winning streak. 

The Bears finished second at the Northern Light Conference Championships and tied for seventh at the Division II State Championships. 

The state tournament was only Kodiak’s third meet of the season. The wrestling season was shifted from the fall to the spring for COVID-19 precautions, and wrestlers were required to wear masks while competing. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of any other team,” Kodiak coach Junior Valladolid said. “This team came together, were by each other, rooted for each other and worked towards their goals. They went through something that no other team has done.” 

5. PODIUM FINISHES

The wrestlers finally hit the mat in April, and Olivia Troxell and Hannah Finley didn’t disappoint. Both earned podium finishes at the girls’ state championships. 

Troxell, a junior, placed third at 119 pounds, while Finley, a sophomore, was fifth at 145 pounds. 

The state tournament was only Kodiak’s third meet of the season. The wrestling season was shifted from the fall to the spring for COVID-19 precautions, and wrestlers were required to wear masks while competing. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of any other team,” Kodiak coach Junior Valladolid said. “This team came together, were by each other, rooted for each other and worked towards their goals. They went through something that no other team has done.” 

4. RUNNING FIELDS

Micah Fields was one of the few who made headlines during the fall and the spring as he continued Kodiak’s gloried history of producing long-distance runners.

In the fall, Fields, a junior, placed 10th in the Skinny Raven Alaska Team XC Championships with a 5-kilometer time of 16 minutes, 43 seconds. His time won the state invitational race.  

Fields posted the ninth-fastest 3,200-meter time in school history at the Division I State Track and Field Championships during the spring. His time of 9 minutes, 41.48 seconds earned him a runner-up finish.  

3. BACK AT STATE

Kodiak High’s baseball team picked up two dramatic, late-game victories in their first state tournament appearance since 2015. The two victories — 3-2 over Homer in eight innings and 4-3 over North Pole — sent the Bears to their second state championship game and first since the undefeated 2004 season. Kodiak trailed entering the sixth inning of both games.  

There were no late-game heroics in the championship game as Palmer defeated Kodiak 7-3 to claim the inaugural Division II title.

“It is a real big accomplishment for these kids from Kodiak,” Kodiak coach Jason Fox said. “It’s been quite a long time since Kodiak baseball has been there ... We played some good ball and just came up short with the last one.” 

Nate Baker’s two-run, two-out single not only topped North Pole but it awarded Fox his 50th victory since taking the program over from James Arnold in 2017. Fox is second all-time in coaching victories behind only Rick Langfitt’s 98 wins. 

2. BACK ON TOP

Jackson Roberts, Bengt Anderson, Jerron Bruce and Micah Fields will go down as the foursome that brought the 3,200-meter relay state title back to The Rock. 

The four Kodiak runners zoomed across the finish line first at the Division I State Track and Field Championships with a time of 8 minutes, 30.17 seconds — six seconds ahead of runner-up North Pole. 

Kodiak’s string of eight consecutive victories in track’s longest relay race was snapped in 2019. 

“The whole team really just performed spectacularly. I was so pleased,” Kodiak coach Ashley Mortenson said. 

1. SHOT PUT WINNER

Orion Harper cranked off a 3-foot personal best to claim the shot put crown at the Division I State Track and Field Championships. The junior took top honors with a toss of 50 feet, 8 inches. 

“I could see it flying out over towards the 50 (marker). I was mostly trying to stay back into the ring, so I knew it was a good throw,” Harper said.  

Harper’s throw was more than good. It was exceptional. He became Kodiak’s first shot put champion since Kordell Pillans (2015 and 2016) and in doing so shot to No. 4 on the school’s record board, behind Pillans (55-07.25), Floyd Galloway (53-09.25) and Michael Odell (53-03.25).

“Orion is generally a fairly stoic and reserved individual. But, wow. He was elated after his win,” Mortenson said. “It was fun to see him so expressive in his excitement for clinching the title and breaking 50 feet.”

 

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