“You’re really not competing for the medal: you’re really competing to better yourself, to beat your own personal goals, but it’s not really about coming out on top,” explains Nome coach Vanessa Tahbone.
“Everybody helps each other, everybody helps coach one another. You’ll see students from one community helping another, even if they’re in the final five.”
In Western Alaska, the school athletics season ends with a highlight for many students and spectators alike: Native Youth Olympics (NYO).
Brevig Mission coach Edward Tocktoo agrees. “They interact with each other, younger and older kids — they help each other out. Just like our villages, we all help each other out. It starts off with our grandparents, and we just obey from there on. I hope it will continue, because our generations are starting to change a lot now, but we still try to represent our traditional values on our youngsters, and it’s still strong.”
Images, at top and below: Athletes at the 2019 Bering Strait School District Regional NYO Competition watch as Unalakleet’s Summer Sagoonick competes in the Alaska High Kick; Nick Hanson coaches Alexandra Ivanoff, also of Unalakleet, before the Scissor Broad Jump at the 2019 State NYO in Anchorage (photo courtesy of NYO Games Alaska).