NYO Extravaganza showcases skills, strength
Nome's three-day Native Youth Olympics Extravaganza took place April 4- 6 and about 75 young people competed in the traditional strength and skill events.
This is the third year for the Extravaganza. A group from Dillingham was able to come to Nome for the competition thanks to a backhaul flight. The Nome-Beltz band and choir went to Dillingham for the Regional Music Festival and the NYO athletes rode the flight back to Nome.
The events of the games are rooted in survival in the far North. Strength, skill, knowledge, and the ability to work cooperatively counted for much in olden times. While modern times might demand different skill sets, the lessons of NYO still prepare young people for what lies ahead mentally and emotionally. And staying in shape physically is a trait that will benefit them their entire lives.
“I think it’s important for them to stay active in any kind of sporting event,” said NYO Assistant Coach Jake Kenick. “This one is great because there’s so much cooperation. It goes a long way for sportsmanship. It teaches a lot cultural values.”
The explosive jumps of the height events are crowd pleasers. The intense pain of the wrist carry and the seal hop are obvious character builders. How much pain can you stand?
Wookie Nichols and Alahna Johnson, both 11 and in the sixth grade, like NYO for the same reason. “I like it because it’s active,” said Wookie. “I like being active.”
This year the young people trained for a month and a half, according to coach and Extravaganza organizer Vanessa Tahbone. “Next year we’re going to have a longer training season of almost three months,” she said. Aaron Rose, who competed in all the events, thinks one has to train year-round if aiming for improvement. For Aaron that training includes others sports such as wrestling and cross country. “Cross country gives you the cardio and the mid-section. Wrestling gives you the muscle build for it,” he said.
Henrik Brandt, who is 19 and out of high school, is a long-time competitor. “I grew up with it,” he said. “They incorporated NYO into the elementary schools. Back there before contact people used to practice these games. It was a way of life. And not just a physical sport but it's a spiritual and mental thing. It works on all parts of your body and mind.” The Nugget asked him about how the younger kids get involved today. “During the Extravaganza we try to get the community to participate,” he said. “And that’s the elementary schoolers’ time to get in touch and experiment with it. So when junior high comes they’re ready. They have a passion for it and they're ready to get into it.”
“It’s been a lot of fun of to be involved with these kids not only during their school years but afterwards as well,” said Jake Kenick, the assistant coach. “I see them blossom in the sport. I'm glad to be a part of it.”
“This is now our third Extravaganza,” said organizer Tahbone. “So we’re getting better every year.”
Last year they went to Kotzebue on a music backhaul for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District competition. While Kotzebue's team is not so big, all the schools from the NANA region sent competitors, making the meet a good one. Tahbone liked having the Dillingham team in Nome for the Extravaganza and hopes in the future to have more out of town teams.
A special shout-out goes to Florence, Tahbone’s patient and resilient baby. Either amaqqing with mom or being held by one of her many aunts and uncles she was smiling, happy, never complaining. She already is real NYO material.
According to Tahbone, 14 athletes will be traveling to Anchorage for the games on April 25-27. It will be held at the Alaska Airlines Center.