Koyuk's Homekingkeo targets biathlon gold at Bering Straits ski and biathlon championships
If the jargon “shooting clean” in biathlon is used when a participant has connected on all shots in a race, then eighth grader Ben Homekingkeo of Koyuk should now be called Mr. Clean. On Friday afternoon in White Mountain during the 38th Annual Bering Straits School District Ski and Biathlon Championships he used perfect 10 for 10 shooting to capture his first district biathlon gold medal.
Homekingkeo needed a perfect score, as his winning time of 23 minutes, 21 seconds provided a mere nine second advantage over silver medalist Tobin Hobbs of Nome in the junior high boys division. The young Koyuk skier has yet to miss a shot in competition this season. Sixth-grader Carter Commack of Unalakleet earned the bronze medal.
A total of eight medals were awarded in four divisions for ski and biathlon races. Skiers and biathletes from Nome Nordic captured the remaining seven. They were lead by junior Wilson Hoogendorn who was the only high school biathlete to shoot clean. He finished the 5.4-kilometer biathlon race with a time of 19:23. Double silver medalist Sikulik Johnson, a junior from Unalakleet, hit eight shots, and finished with a time of 22:39. First year skier Ben Cross, a freshman from Nome, earned the bronze medal with a time of 25:09, hitting three shots.
Hoogendorn blazed around the 7.4-kilometer high school course, which included the scenic and demanding Sweatheart Loop, in a time 25:19 on Thursday. Johnson earned the silver with at time of 29:17. Cross earned the first of his two bronze medals, finishing the race in 30:46.
Bianca Trowbridge broke the handle of her ski pole on the very first push of the high school girls skate ski race on Thursday. After swapping out poles, the Nome junior tracked down the other competitors and finished in first with a respectable time of 31:22 on the 7.4-kilometer course. Teammate and fellow junior Emelyn Hobbs earned the silver medal with a time of 33:05. Nome freshman Erin Johanson earned bronze in her first race on the Sweetheart Loop.
Trowbridge and Hobbs connected on five and four shots respectively in the high school girls 5.4-kilometer biathlon race, and earned gold and silver medals. They finished with times of 24:36 and 26:49. The bronze medal went to first year biathlon racer Mary Fiskeaux, a Nome sophomore, who hit six shots and finished with a time 27:55.
Although Homekingkeo proved the better junior high boy biathlete on Friday, Tobin Hobbs showed he was the faster of the two by winning the 3.9-kilometer skate ski race on Thursday with a time of 12:55. Homekingkeo’s time of 14:51 netted him the silver medal in the event. Commack earned the first of his two bronze medals by completing the course in 15:00.
Nome eighth-grader Mallory Conger posted the weekend’s fastest time in either junior high skate ski division. Her 11:54 showing in the 3.9-kilometer skate race was over a minute faster than the best junior high boys time. Unalakleet sixth-grader Margo Daniels finished in second place with a silver medal time of 15:04. Seventh-grader Melody Bergamaschi earned a bronze medal with a time of 15:51.
Conger connected on eight shots and finished the 5.4-kilometer biathlon race with a time of 22:41. That effort would have earned her a gold medal in the junior high boys division. Daniels found the target seven times, and finished in 29:41. Bergamaschi hit eight shots and earned a bronze medal for her 32:26 effort.
Homekingkeo further established himself as Mr. Clean over the weekend by winning the marksmanship competition in the junior high boys division. His score was 25 out of a possible 30.
Savoonga seventh-grader Martha Butler proved to be Ms. Clean. Butler was a perfect 10 for 10 during the biathlon race. She was also the only one of 54 athletes at the championships to post a perfect score during the marksmanship competition. She was awarded a gold medal for junior high girls in that event.
Bulter shaved over 11 minutes off her 2015 time in the skate ski race. For that effort she was awarded the Girls Most Improved trophy. Sixth-grader Colton Ivanoff of Unalakleet cut a whopping 22 minutes off his previous time, and earned the Boys Most Improved honors.
Savoonga grabbed its second marksmanship gold when sophomore Vadim Yenan scored 22 of 30 in the high school boys division. Johanson won high school girls marksmanship gold with a score of 27. High school participants are not allowed to use a rifle rest in either the biathlon or marksmanship competitions.
Homekingkeo led the Koyuk boys to first place in the junior high team competition. Teams from Nome won all three of the remaining divisions. Nome also earned the Sportsmanship Trophy.
The BSSD Championships serve as the most important regional warm-up race for the Western Interior Ski/Biathlon Association Championships. The WISA Championships act as the state contest for rural schools in both skiing and biathlon. The WISA meet rotates annually between Western Alaska and Interior Alaska sites. This year’s meet will be held in Galena on March 31-April 2.
WISA athletes from the Bering Strait School District are: Melody Bergamaschi from White Mountain; Vadim Yenan from Savoonga; Carter Commack, Payton Commack, Summer Sagoonick, Margo Daniels, Sikulik Johnson, Shawn Mixsooke and Darrell Semaken from Unalakleet; Hugo Apatiki from Gambell; Ben Homekingkeo, Denin Prentice, Megan Henry and Virginia Nassuk from Koyuk; Chester Topkok and Ryan Topkok from Teller.
Nome athletes going to the WISA Championships are Wilson Hoogendorn, Ben Cross, Nolan Horner, James Horner, Bianca Trowbridge, Emelyne Hobbs, Erin Johanson, Sophia Hobbs, Mary Fiskeaux, Starr Erikson, Mallory Conger, Clara Hansen, Maya Kralik, Matthew Nielson, Tristan Hobbs and Tobin Hobbs.