Students from across the state will meet in Anchorage later this month for the Native Youth Olympics. That includes a group from Kodiak.
KMXT dropped by practice at the Kodiak High School gym.
Students in a low push-up position hop across the floor on their curled fingers. Most stop almost half way across the gym floor. Eighteen-year-old Malachi Still crosses the entire gym and then rounds back a few feet before collapsing.
“I [try] to do my best, as far as I can, even on practice days to get better and better… the tape really helps protect my fingers.”
This is Malachi’s second year of Native Youth Olympics, and he says the tape is part of training. His coach, Georgianna Spear, helped the athletes tape up their fingers before the activity.
“You don’t want them to have open wounds during practices.”
Students won’t be allowed to tape their fingers for the games themselves, but they should have calluses at that point.
Spear says this activity can be traced back to the way hunters would have mimicked seal movements. Spear is from a village west of Bethel and has been doing the Native Youth Olympics her entire life.
She says the games give students a chance to learn more about Alaska Native cultures.
“It connects with different tribes all over the state, so when we get together at the state meet, there’s students from all over the state that gather into one, so we celebrate that.”
The games include the one-foot high kick, which involves jumping up and hitting what looks like a ball hanging from the ceiling, and the scissor broad jump, an elaborate hop and run with the goal of getting as far as possible.
There’s also the Indian Stick Pull, which is reminiscent of catching fish. Two people grasp a stick covered in Crisco and try to pull it from the other person’s grip. They then wipe their hands off with paper towels and go again.
Spear is coaching student Jacob Dunlop, who’s in his second year of Native Youth Olympics.
“I feel like it’s a great way to reach yourself out to more nontraditional stuff, but also to expand your values. You’re introduced to new people and new ways of looking at the world through this program, so I feel like it plays a really big part in my life in that way.”
The students head to Anchorage for the meet on April 26. The games continue through April 28.