Unalakleet’s Johnson captures skate and biathlon titles in Koyuk
After a one-year absence from the sport, Unalakleet junior Sikulik Johnson returned to his winning ways by capturing both the skate ski race and biathlon race at the 39th annual Koyuk Invitational Ski Races last weekend. Johnson was one of 62 skiers from around the Seward Peninsula braving the chilly and windy conditions in Koyuk.
Johnson’s first victory came in the 3.9-mile high school boys ski race on Friday, where he averaged just over seven minutes a lap on the three-lap course, and finished with a time of 21 minutes, 20 seconds.
Senior Aaron Bergamaschi of White Mountain finished second with a time of 24:41. First year skier James Horner, a senior from Nome, was third with a time of 25:26.
Nome junior Emelyne Hobbs won her first high school girls ski race by completing the race in 24:58. She would have taken third in the boys race. Hobbs shaved a full ten minutes off her 2015 time. Nome teammates Mary Fiskeaux and Sophia Hobbs, who are both sophomores and first year racers, finished second and third respectively with times of 27:26, and 29:46.
Seventh grader Tobin Hobbs captured his first Koyuk ski race title by completing the 2.6-mile junior high course in 15:20. The race for second and third was hotly contested as seventh grader Ben Homekingko of Koyuk crossed the line in 17:20, edging eighth grader Matthew Nielson, a first year skier from Nome, by three seconds.
Sixth grader Margo Daniels of Unalakleet also won her first Koyuk ski race, finishing with a time of 18:09. She would have placed fifth in the boys category. Seventh grader Melody Bergamaschi of White Mountain was second in 20:42. Eighth-grader Bethany Daniels, another first-year skier from Nome, finished third with a time of 20:55.
Due to the windy conditions on Saturday, the biathlon race was shortened to a one lap, 1.3-mile sprint. Johnson won his second race of the weekend with at time of 10:10. He missed all five targets. His overall mark included two and a half minutes of added penalty time. In this race, 30 seconds were assessed for each of miss. Horner came in second with a time of 10:24. His three hit targets were two more than any other high school competitor. Third place went to Bergamaschi with a time of 11:03, and zero targets hit.
Emelyne Hobbs won the high school girls biathlon race with a time of 10:27, and again posted the third fastest overall high school time. She hit one shot. Sophia Hobbs placed second, also hitting one shot, and had an overall time of 12:42. Fiskeaux missed all her shots and completed the race with an adjusted time of 13:21.
Tobin Hobbs eeked out a one-second victory over Homekingko in the junior high boys race, with a time of 8:45. Hobbs found the target four times. While Hobbs had a faster ski time, Homekingko made up 30 seconds by being one of only three racers on the day to hit all five shots. Another racer connecting on four shots was Unalakleet seventh grader Michael Haugen, who finished in third place with a time of 10:52.
To show just how much a shooter’s sport biathlon is, sixth grader Virginia Nassuk of Koyuk vaulted to the top of the junior high girls leader board by shooting clean (5 of 5), and finishing with a race time of 11:56. Had she hit only one shot, like the four girls that followed her across the line, she would have placed fifth. Second and third places went to Melody Bergamaschi and Daniels with times of 13:27 and 13:29, respectively.
The third biathlete to shoot clean was fifth grader Kennedy Olanna of Savoonga, who placed twelfth with a time of 19:17.
Biathletes in rural Alaska shoot in the prone position at 4.5-inch targets from 50 meters. They use 22 target rifles and low velocity ammunition. Shooters do not carry their rifles, but ski to managed ranges. The Koyuk biathlon race assessed time for missed shots. Other races require competitors to ski short penalty loops for each miss.
Teams competing in this year's Koyuk Invitational were Golovin, Stebbins, Savoonga, Gambell, Unalakleet, Shishmaref, Nome, White Mountain and Koyuk.