Unalakleet runner Ourea Busk makes history
One girl from Unalakleet was the sole athlete in Unalakleet’s first track and field season.
In her first season ever, she qualified for state and then went on to win the 400 meter sprint in the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State Track & Field Championships in Palmer.
Rising sophomore Ourea Busk ran for the first time ever on a track this year, but she has been a runner all her life.
“She’s always loved running, she’s always been a natural ever since she was little,” her coach Mori Busk said.
It was Mori Busk’s idea to start a track and field team in Unalakleet. While the Bering Strait region has plenty of cross country teams, who run in the fall, there are no track and field teams.
The new Unalakleet team would be the first.
“I started inquiring what it would take to offer track and field at our school,” Mori Busk said. The school’s administration was supportive of her project, and after the funding was in place, Mori Busk offered places on the team to the Unalakleet student body.
“Ourea was the only taker,” Mori Busk said. With a team of one, Unalakleet’s first track and field season began right after NYO ended. “We are complete novices here,” Mori Busk said, adding that coach and athlete both were learning the basics of track together. “We didn’t know what to expect. We were just there to learn.”
At that point, Unalakleet was still snow covered. Mori Busk said that there was “still nowhere to practice outside.” So Ourea practiced in the school hallways and on the treadmill. Although they couldn’t get near a track, Mori Busk said that Ourea took the difficulties in stride. “She was just open to training and doing whatever, she was just eager,” Mori Busk said, ‘She’s so coachable and she’s so dedicated and she works so hard.”
Ourea Busk is an athlete year-round, according to her coach. She participates in all the other sports offered in Unalakleet, such as skiing and NYO. She was ready for this training.
When the snow finally melted, Coach Busk marked off the distances of the different events on the streets of Unalakleet, and Ourea could finally practice outside. The pair only had two weeks of training in total before their first meet in Palmer.
At the Palmer meet, Ourea Busk was signed up to run in four events: the 3,200 meter, the 400m, the 800m and the 1,600m. Ourea was up against multiple other athletes, and it was her first time running on a real track and field track.
She qualified for finals in three of her four events, finishing third place in the 3,200m and the 400m, and in seventh place in the 800m. “We were completely shocked,” the coach said.
“She won her heat and ran the most beautiful perfect race on her first track,” Mori Busk said. The pair decided to pull Ourea from the 1,600m so that she could focus on the other three events at State.
State was three weeks away, but Ourea began to experience shinsplints and other health problems. Mori Busk said that they took those next three weeks of training much more slowly, focusing on cross training and stationary biking, for example, rather than running, and ensured that Ourea was taking good care of her health.
As the meet approached. Mori and Ourea also made the choice to pull out of the 3,200m and the 800m to focus on the 400m.
On the weekend of May 27, Ourea and Mori Busk travelled to Palmer again for the state meet. Ourea competed in the 400m and finished first, completing the 400 meter course in 1:01.22. “She’s a state champion. She won!” Mori Busk said.
With her win, Ourea Busk made history across the region, receiving congratulations and support from across the Bering Strait region.
However Mori Busk said the young athlete hasn’t let it go to her head. “(She’s) very humble,” Mori Busk said, “(She) doesn’t really think twice about it. She just goes out and does it.”
Mori Busk plans to continue Unalakleet’s track and field team. ““We would love to have more participants next year,” Mori said, stating her hopes of having a relay team in the future. She thinks Ourea’s story is a source of inspiration. “One of the main takeaways from all of this (is) it’s so huge for rural Alaska to have a state champ,” Busk said, “just because we come from rural Alaska doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Just providing this opportunity was awesome. It turned out way better than expected.”
The Alaska Sports Report reported that Ourea Busk was named Alaska Athlete of the Week after turning in one of the most inspiring performances at the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State Track & Field Championships.