The 57th Annual State Judo Championships were held two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Sports Facility, UAA in Anchorage. Many competitors from fourteen clubs including two Canadian and five outside Anchorage joined with the several competitors from Southcentral Alaska to make for some very exciting matches. Besides the Sterling and Soldotna area competitors, teams from Southeast Alaska and McGrath travelled long distances for this premier event.
Eleven Sterling Judo Club athletes competed including seven returning veterans from prior Championships. Here are the Sterling athletes’ final results:
State Champions: Kaliesha Hart (repeating as champion); Walter Haybeck; Elijah Lee; and Charles Fairbanks.
State 2nd: Kiana Holland; Logan Hart; and Peyton Williams.
State 3rd: Peyton Lawton; Anthony Long (1st Competition & Sr. Div.); Jose (SJC satellite club in Las Vegas).
State 4th: Phillip Lawton (1st competition & Sr. Div.); Levi Shoemaker.
The Sterling club has a satellite judo program in Las Vegas. That program sent one athlete Jose (LNU). Jose finished in third place in his first ever judo competition.
The Sterling club finished 4th among the 14 teams competing. The challenges often faced by event organizers can result in competitors from the same club having to compete against each other thus making it impossible for additional SJC athletes to finish on top. One such division, the 13-14 female middle weights, brought two very tough SJC competitors together. Kaliesha Hart and Kianna Holland, both 2015 State Champs, had to compete each other in the best of three matches but it was only possible for one to win the championship after very close and hard fought matches: Kaliesha Hart. Given the weight differences they should have been separated into different divisions.
Another division, boys 9-10 middle weights, again brought two very tough SJC competitors together. Elijah Lee in his first State Championship had to win two of three matches against team mate, Logan Hart to take the gold. Logan won the gold last year and has many victories in local competition. Their three matches were some of the toughest fought matches all day!
The under 18 male light heavyweights had plenty of hot action including first time SJC competitor, Anthony Long losing his first match to long time competitor and eventual silver medalist, black belt, Jared Dempsey of Anchorage Dojo. Before suffering his second loss to another longtime veteran competitor and eventual champion, Dorian Mellon, Mt. View Judo Club, Long beat veteran players from Juneau and Ketchikan.
After eight months of hard training with nearly 30 SJC athletes eligible and ready to enter the 2015-2016 premier statewide competition, the club could only suit up 11 of its members for this event although a few more SJC students wanting to enter were not accepted under the exclusive internet registration and payment system. The all-volunteer program receives no public support to help defray the costs of travel, hotel, etc., especially in those situations where the entire family of young ones have to travel together, stay overnight with restaurant meals for one and all, then rush home late Saturday in order to avoid additional out of pocket costs. The only sad part of this report is that many more kids, teens and a few more adults would have very much enjoyed this and similar opportunities, but for the financial strain it puts on many families in Sterling.
The Sterling Judo Club was organized in February 2012. It operates on a twice a week basis plus many extra classes for extra competition and testing preparation. The program is operated at Sterling Elementary School gym thanks to the invaluable help of Principal Denise Kelly. Regular classes are taught by Messrs. Bob Ermold, Clay Holland and Paul McConnell together with sensei Bob Brink. This group puts a lot of time and effort to teach and coach students of all ages beginning at age 8. It would like to see an increase of adult age students where some special attention based on age could be offered. The club is now encouraging its more successful competitors to participate in a regional competition, the Continental Crown, held every fall in Seattle. Success at the regional level, as has happened with a number of other Alaskan judo competitors of all ages, has typically led to eligibility for national competition. Alaskans have won many national championships as well as silver and bronze medalists. The quality of judo development in Alaska is considered by coaches outside to be excellent.