By Melinda Munson

Just a few weeks before the Native Youth Olympics (NYO) in Juneau, Skagway Traditional Council President Jaime Bricker received word she had funding from Sealaska Corporation to bring six athletes to the games. 

While Bricker coached Junior Native Olympics in 2021, Skagway didn’t have a senior team assembled. Bricker hurriedly patched a team together, held two practices, distributed stretching and instructional videos and made travel arrangements. This was an opportunity too good to miss, a chance for Skagway to participate in their first ever NYO, held April 2-3.

“We had two very long and very intense days of back to back events and long stints of observing other athletes from the bleachers. They were patient and focused more often than not. And they truly threw themselves into the games without reservations,” Bricker said. 

Bricker said that sixth grader Atlin Ryan was “determined to learn the one arm reach just half an hour prior to the event. I took him down to begin practicing what I have learned over the last year and a half, but I was struggling.”

Bricker asked other athletes for assistance. Kyle Abbott, a senior from Thunder Mountain, spent 20 minutes coaching the middle schooler. Ryan later placed third in the one arm reach and Abbott, who himself won the bronze for highschool, tracked down Ryan to congratulate him.

“I told them that as the first ever Skagway team to compete at NYO, they are “The Six Knowledge Bearers” for the other teammates that were not able to attend,” Bricker said. 

“We are already talking about how to design year-round practices because we’ve all realized how much strength and dedication it takes to do really well.”