The Alaska State Judo Championships is a long, grueling day of battle. For Yukon judokas, it’s bookended by lengthy drives to and from Anchorage.
“It’s a long weekend with the drive – 13-hour drive – then you have to get adjusted for a long day of the tournament,” said Yukon coach Aaron Jensen.
It’s a lot to go through, but it was worth it.
Yukon judokas captured 10 medals, including five gold, at the 54th annual championship in Anchorage on Saturday.
“This year they had two fighting areas instead of one, so that’s a sign that it’s getting bigger,” said Dan Poelman, president of Judo Yukon.
“We had five cars drive out, so this was our biggest team yet.”
“It’s a great relationship we have with the Alaskans – our next-door neighbours.”
Judo Yukon was represented by 14 athletes at the championship that saw over 150 judokas and eight Alaskan clubs compete.
It was the third year in a row Yukon attended the championship, after a decade of absence, and was Yukon’s best medal haul in those three years.
Yellow stripe Devon Rollins, of Whitehorse’s Shiroumakai club, didn’t waste time getting a win under his belt.
Rollins won his first match in under 30 seconds and finished the day undefeated to claim gold in the Bantam 2 division (under 66 pounds).
Orange belt Cassi Jensen improved on a silver from last year, winning all four of her bouts by full points to take gold in Intermediate 1 (under 70 pounds).
Green belt Andrew Jensen came out on top in three straight fights to capture gold in Juvenile B (under 178 pounds).
First-degree black belt Richard Zebruck bounced back from an early loss to win gold in the senior men open division.
Aaron Jensen, a second-degree black belt and Shiroumakai sensei, and Sandy Neuman, a first-degree black belt with Whitehorse’s Northern Lights, snatched gold together in the Katame no Kata team event.
Shiroumakai yellow belt Jerry Miller, the only Yukoner to win a gold at last year’s Alaska championship, had a bit of rotten luck on Saturday.
Due to a glitch involving the new two-mat format, Miller had a bout dropped from the record and had to fight an extra one. So he was spent when it came to the medal round.
Nonetheless, he took bronze in senior men (under 132 pounds).
“He fought a fight he shouldn’t have fought,” said Aaron. “The computer didn’t show it, so they fought him again.
“Basically he should have gotten a silver medal, but he got a bronze.
“He was just exhausted by that time and didn’t do as well as he should have.”
Hannah King, a yellow belt with Shiroumakai, took silver in Intermediate 2 (under 106 pounds).
Poelman, a second-degree black belt and Northern Lights sensei, fought to silver in the Master over-35 (under 200 pounds).
Orange belt Paige Poelman took bronze in Intermediate 2 (under 106 pounds).
Yellow belt Liam Rollins won bronze in Intermediate 2 (over 120 pounds).
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