Team Yukon’s Emily King during the two-foot high kick at Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse on March 17. She won the event with a kick of 74 inches. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Just For Kicks provides long-distance competition for Yukon Arctic sports athletes

The Arctic sports event included junior athletes locally and a group of Alaskans via the internet

When the Arctic Winter Games were officially cancelled on March 7, it seemed as though many of the athletes would not get a chance to compete at all.

Sport co-chairs were notified quickly, however, about venue availability and work was soon underway to put together showcase and celebratory events for athletes and sports.

Mark Koepke, one of the co-chairs of the Arctic sports organizing committee, said it was a unanimous decision to put together a local competition.

The result was the Just For Kicks Arctic Sports Showdown, hosted at Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse on March 17.

Bianca Berko-Malvasio in mid Alaskan High Kick motion at the Just For Kicks Arctic Sports Showdown in Whitehorse on March 17, 2020. Bianca won the gold medal for All Around Junior Female at 2018 Arctic Winter Games. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The event pitted the five junior boys against the five junior girls on Team Yukon against each other in seven Arctic sports using a handicap system to keep the sides competitive.

“I originally just thought, OK, we’ll do something with our kids,” said Koepke. “But I thought we needed a way to make the competition interesting because they practice together enough that within our junior boys and our junior girls, there is no surprise in who would roughly rank where.”

Out of that came a system with benchmarks to try to increase the parity of the competition.

With a system in place, Koepke said organizers reached out to the Arctic sports community in Juneau, Alaska, to see if they wanted to compete as well via a live link between the gym in Whitehorse and the satellite venue in Juneau.

“We had to tweak (the system) a bit because they had a mix of open males and senior females, so they used different benchmarks,” said Koepke.

Koepke spoke to the News on March 18, noting that things had changed a lot in the week previous but that the venue never had more than 30 people inside at one time and involved no more than 50 people throughout the day.

“I think they all had a lot of fun,” said Koepke. “When this opportunity first came up to host the alternate event, everyone was still in shock after the Arctic Winter Games (announcement). We had kind of a pizza night and we put the idea out in front of the kids and said, ‘Do you want to do this?’ Every single one of them wanted to do something. We went forward because it was what they wanted to do.”

The seven sports at the event were the triple jump, the kneel jump, the one-foot high kick, the one-hand reach, the two-foot high kick, Alaskan high kick and the sledge jump.

Lou Samson hits the height during the Alaskan High Kick event at Just For Kicks Arctic Sports Showdown in Whitehorse on March 17, 2020. Samson was the top junior boy of the event. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

In the battle between the junior boys and junior girls, the girls group of Emily King, Kate Koepke, Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Kalina Morrison and Sascha Nelson finished with 2,409 total points, while the boys group of Lou Samson, Cooper Muir, Devyn Rollins, Dimas Mateo-Sotil and Lang Honhorn combined for 2,082.

On the Alaskan side, the girls group combined for 1,636 points while the boys group earned 2,234 points.

In the Alaska versus Yukon battle, the Yukon emerged victorious with 4,491 points to Juneau’s 3,870 points.

The top junior boy and junior girl for Team Yukon were each also recognized individually. Lou Samson was the top boy with 524 points and Emily King was the top girl with 588 points.

The medals Samson and King won were custom-made for this event, comprised of a Barbie doll performing a one-foot high kick on a lanyard for King and a Ken doll performing a two-foot high kick on a lanyard for Samson.

“Those were handcrafted along with the trophy,” said Koepke.

The trophy itself featured Barbie dolls competing in the sledge jump and the one-foot high kick alongside some very topical touches — an AWG mascot figurine, a Yukon flag and a small bottle of hand sanitizer.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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