The top five finishers of the wrist carry, including Austin Butler with his gold medal, celebrate together during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The top five finishers of the wrist carry, including Austin Butler with his gold medal, celebrate together during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Camaraderie wins at youth competition

More than 100 athletes from around the region gathered to participate

Bleachers were packed at Kenai Middle School over the weekend for the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational, or the Kenai River People’s Winter Games, hosted by the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. The event was the first in this year’s Native Youth Olympics season, and the first to be hosted by the Kenaitze Tribe since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across more than a dozen events, more than 100 athletes from around the region gathered to participate. Teams came from the host Kenaitze Indian Tribe, from nearby Salamatof Tribe and Sterling Elementary, from Homer, Seward, Chickaloon and Service High School.

On Tuesday, ahead of the event, Yvonne Flynn, a Dena’ina Instructor with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, said the competition wouldn’t be intense, that it would instead be “like a family community coming together and celebrating being back together.”

That sentiment could be felt in open displays of camaraderie — divisions between teams were not apparent.

During the opening ceremony athletes danced and shook each other’s hands. During the 2-foot high kick, athletes and officials offered tips to their peers when they missed the ball. During the scissor broad jump — in which athletes need to stick the landing to record a result — the entire crowd let out a collective cry when athletes tipped over their center of gravity and fell to their knees.

This collaborative spirit was also seen during the wrist carry — a particularly challenging event where the athlete hangs from a wooden pole by only their wrist. That pole is carried by two other athletes, who run as far as they can before the contestant falls. Athletes from across team boundaries were filling the roles of carriers — including Homer’s Elijah Gordon, who was a carrier for countless other athletes.

Gordon was carrying when Dakota Butler, of Salamatof Tribe, managed a gold-medal-winning performance of 204 feet and 8 inches, nearly 60 feet more than the next finisher — who was in fact Gordon. The crowd erupted as Butler cleared the first turn, persevering where many of his peers had fallen. They only grew louder as he rounded the second bend and completed a full lap.

An official explained before the event that it was a challenge of strength and endurance, as the athletes must hang on despite the “burn” of carrying their weight on their wrist.

In addition to the three days of competition, the tribe hosted at the Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus a musical performance by Byron Nicholai, an Indigenous singer and drummer who gained popularity by posting videos to social media.

Nicholai opened the show, which was held at 7 p.m. in the campus’ gathering space, by telling the youth in the crowd to pursue their passions as he did.

“You have to go out there and get it,” he said. “Be true to yourself. That’s where you’ll find the most peace.”

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational Results

Girls

1-Foot High Kick

Junior — 1. Aliya Adams, Sterling Ch’anik’na 63 inches; 2. Maya Boger, Chickaloon 61 in.; 3. Emmajean Kendrick, Team Qutekcak 59 in.; 4. Zoey VanSaun, Ninilchik NYO 50 in.; 5. Natali Barfuss, Nin 48 in.

Senior — 1. Abby Semaken, Salamatof Tribe 78 inches; 2. Molly Evans, Homer Halibuts 75 in.; 3. KimberLee Butler, Sal 74 in.; 4. Leah Evans, Hom 74 in. 1 miss at 74 inches; 5. Charity Gordon, Hom 74 in. 1 miss at 62 in.

1-Hand Reach — 1. Laura Butler, Sal 46 in.; 2. Rowan Matney, Hom 44 in.; 3. Abby Semaken, Sal 44 in. 3 misses

2-Foot High Kick

Junior — 1. Maya Boger, Chi 52 in. 2 misses; 2. Aliya Adams, Ste 40 in.; 3. Emmajean Kendrick, Qut 40 in. 3 misses; 4. KayLea Butler, Sal 36 in. 3 misses, 5. Etolin Mill, Nin 32 in. 1 miss

Senior — 1. Leila Kell, Chi 64 in. 3 misses; 2. KimberLee Butler, Sal 58 in. 3 misses, first at 50 in.; 3. Abby Semaken, Sal 58 in. 3 misses, first at 46 in.; 4. Charity Gordon, Hom 58 in. 4 misses; 5. Leah Evans, 54 in.

Alaskan High Kick

Junior — 1. Aliya Adams, Ste 58 in. (Tied Kenaitze Indian Tribe Record); 2. Maya Boger, Chi 50 in.; 3. Emmajean Kendrick, Qut 46 in. 1 miss at 42 in.; 4. Natai Barfuss, Nin 46 in. 2 misses, 1st at 38 in.; 5. Myka Battiest, Kenaitze 42 in.

Senior — 1. Leila Kell, Chi 66 in; 2. Abby Semaken, Sal 60 in.; 3. Charity Gordon, Hom 60 in. 1 miss at 60 in.; 4. KimberLee Butler, Sal 60 in. 2 misses, 1st at 60 in.; 5. Molly Evans, Hom 60 in. 3 misses, 1st at 56 in.

Arm Pull — 1. Dee Wilmeth, Nin; 2. Alexis Lackey, Ste; 3. Myka Battiest, Ken; 4. Etolin Mill, Nin; 5. Natali Barfuss, Nin

Bench Reach — 1. Emilee Wilson, Sal 33 ¾ in.; 2. Charity Gordon, Hom 31 ¾ in.; 3. April Selenka, Open 30 ½ in.

Eskimo Stick Pull

Junior — 1. Alexis Lackey, Ste; 2. Dee Wilmeth, Nin; 3. Natali Barfuss, Nin; 4. Audrey Williams, Ken; 5. Myka Battiest, Ken

Senior — 1. Leila Kell, Chi: 2. Jade Wren, Service High School; 3. Laura Butler, Sal; 4. Josie Andres, Qut; 5. Rowan Matney, Hom

Head Pull – 1. Joanna Hopson, Ser; 2. Anne-Corinne Kell, Chi; 3. Teirrah Harris, Ser

Indian Stick Pull

Junior — 1. Zoey VanSaun, Nin; 2. Emmajean Kendrick, Qut; 3. Lily Schablein, Qut; 4. Etolin Mill, Nin; 5. Natali Barfuss, Nin

Senior — 1. Chastity Gordon, Hom; 2. Mylee Yeoman, Sal; 3. Leah Evans, Hom; 4. Katie Hallam, Hom; 5. Leila Kell, Chi

Kneel Jump

Junior — 1. Maya Boger, Chi 32 in. (New Kenaitze Indian Tribe Record); 2. Emmajean Kendrick, Qut 17 ½ in.; 3. Maria Wardlow, Team Wardlow 15 ¾ in.; 4. Fayth Bishop, Ste 14 in.; 5. Lilly Edwards, Ste 13 ¼ in.

Senior — 1. Leah Evans, Hom 35 ¼ in.; 2. Leila Kell, Chi 33 ¼ in., 33 ¼ in.; 3. Abby Semaken, Sal 33 ¼ in., 32 ½ in.; 4. Charity Gordon, Hom 25 in., 22 in., 21 ¾ in.; 5. Jade Wren, Ser 25 in., 22 in., 20 in.

Scissor Broad Jump

Junior — 1. Maya Boger, Chi 21 feet 2 ¾ in.; 2. Aliya Adams, Ste 18 ft. 5 in.; 3. Emmajean Kendrick, Qut 18 ft. 2 ½ in.; 4. Etolin Mill, Nin 16 ft.; 5. Natali Barfuss, Nin 15 ft. 8 in.

Senior — 1. Jade Wren, Ser 26 ft. 8 ¼ in.; 2. Molly Evans, Hom 25 ft. 1 ¼ in.; 3. Charity Gordon, Hom 23 ft. 5 ¼ in.; 4. KimberLee Butler, Sal 23 ft. 2 ½ in.; 5. Abby Semaken, Sal 23 ft. 1 ½ in.

Seal Hop

Junior — 1. Maya Boger, Chi 41 ft. 3 in.; 2. Lily Schablein, Qut 33 ft. 9 ½ in.; 3. Natali Barfuss, Nin 25 ft. 5 in.; 4. Allison Merkes, Ste 24 ft. 10 in.; 5. Leila Lee, Ste 22 ft. 8 in.

Senior — 1. Leila Kell, Chi 83 ft. 10 ¼ in.; 2. KimberLee Butler, Sal 65 ft. 2 ¼ in.; 3. Rowan Matney, Hom 62 ft. 11 ½ in.; 4. Laura Butler, Sal 37 ft. 9 ¼ in.; 5. Jade Wren, Ser 36 ft. 4 in.

Triple Jump — 1. Leah Evans, Hom 23 ft. 9 in.; 2. Leila Kell, Chi 21 ft. 1 in.; 3. Charity Gordon, Hom 19 ft. 8 ½ in.

Wrist Carry

Junior — 1. Lily Schablein, Qut 7.5 seconds; 2. Alison Merkes, Ste 4.81; 3. Emma James, Nin 4.65; 4. Cameron Ivanoff, Ken 4.44; 5. Ella Albritton, Ste 3.19

Senior — 1. Leila Kell, Chi 51 ft. 10 in,; 2. Sage Laky, Hom 20 ft. 8 ½ in.; 3. KimberLee Butler, Sal 18 ft. 4 in.; 4. Leila Kell, Chi 15 ft.; 5. Ryan Alcorta, Hom 10 ft. 7 in.

Boys

1-Foot High Kick

Junior — 1. Joseph Rodgers, Chi 72 in.; 2. Staxx Van Kirk, Sal 62 in.; 3. Liam Bellinger, Ste 60 in.; 4. Javian Jackson, Nin 58 in.; 5. Rex Cramer, Ste 56 in.

Senior — 1. Elijah Gordon, Hom 102 in. 1 miss; 2. Dez Hess, Nin 102 in. 2 misses; 3. Sean Moonin, Nin 100 in.; 4. Josiah Gordon, Hom 94 in.; 5. Alex Covey, Ser 94 in. 1 miss.

1-Hand Reach — 1. Alex Covey, Ser 60 in. 2 misses; 2. Elijah Gordon, 58 in.; 3. Sean Moonin, Nin 50 in. 1 miss

2-Foot High Kick

Junior — 1. Joseph Rodgers, Chi 54 in.; 2. Staxx Van Kirk, Sal 52 in.; 3. Liam Bellinger, Ste 50 in.; 4. Rex Cramer, Ste 42 in.; 5. Bryce Butler, Sal 34 in.

Senior — 1. Sean Moonin, Nin 82 in. 1 miss at 82 in.; 2. Elijah Gordon, Hom 82 in. 1 miss at 66 in.; 3. Alex Covey, Ser 78 in.; 4. Dez Hess, Nin 70 in. 1st miss at 66 in.; 5. Josiah Gordon, Hom 70 in. 3 misses, 1st at 62 in.

Alaskan High Kick

Junior — 1. Joseph Rodgers, Chi 66 in. (New Kenaitze Indian Tribe Record); 2. Staxx Van Kirk, Sal 54 in.; 3. Liam Bellinger, Ste 46 in. 1 miss; 4. Hayden Edwards, Ste 46 in. 5 misses; 5. Talon Morrill, Ste 42 in. 2 misses

Senior — 1. Alex Covey, Ser 84 in.; 2. Elijah Gordon, Hom 78 in.; 3. Josiah Gordon, Hom 74 in.; 4. Dez Hess, Nin 70 in.; 5. Matthew Chagluak, Ser 70 in. 2 misses, 1st at 66 in.

Arm Pull — 1. Liam Bellinger, Ste; 2. Staxx Van Kirk, Sal; 3. Cooper Larent, Nin; 4. Brook Bass, Ste; 5. Hayden Edwards, Ste

Bench Reach — 1. Rick Dunaway, Nin 43 ¾ in.; 2. DJ Schwendeman, Nin 38 ¾ in.; 3. James Wardlow, War 38 ½ in.

Eskimo Stick Pull

Junior — 1. Liam Bellinger, Ste; 2. David Wheeler, Ste; 3. Cooper Lardent, Nin; 4. Staxx Van Kirk, Sal; 5. Draven Swearingen, Sal

Senior — 1. Elijah Gordon, Hom; 2. David Fairbans, Ste; 3. Ryan Oliver, Ser; 4. Sean Moonin, Nin; 5. Joseph Winrod, Hom

Head Pull — 1. Mark Gordon, Hom; 2. Judah Eason, Ken; 3. Samiel Wilson, Sal

Indian Stick Pull

Junior — 1. Rex Cramer, Ste; 2. Asher Stephens, Hom; 3. Dawson Yeoman, Ken; 4. Joseph Rodgers, Chi; 5. Draven Swearingen, Sal

Senior — 1. Elijah Gordon, Hom; 2. Sean Moonin, Nin; 3. Matthew Chagluak, Ser; 4. Josiah Gordon, Hom; 5. William Wilson, Sal

Kneel Jump

Junior — 1. Joseph Rodgers, Chi 35 ½ in. (New Kenaitze Indian Tribe Record); 2. Hunter Dockwieler, Ste 21 ½ in., 20 ½ in.; 3. Liam Bellinger, Ste 21 ½ in.; 17 ½ in.; 4. Dawson Yeoman, Ken 18 ½ in.; 5. Staxx Van Kirk, Sal 17 ½ in.

Senior — 1. Dez Hess, Nin 43 in.; 2. Alex Covey, Ser 39 ½ in.; 3. Elijah Gordon, Hom 38 in.; 4. Sean Moonin, Nin 33 ¼ in.; 5. Josiah Gordon, Hom 32 ¼ in.

Scissor Broad Jump

Junior — 1. Rex Cramer, Ste 21 ft. 8 ½ in.; 2. Hayden Edwards, Ste 21 ft.; 3. Joseph Rodgers, Chi 20 ft. 4 ¾ in.; 4. Staxx Van Kirk, Sal 20 ft. 2 ½ in.; 5. Noah Lackey, Ste 17 ft. 8 ½ in.

Senior — 1. Dez Hess, Nin 31 ft. 1 ½ in.; 2. Elijah Gordon, Hom 30 ft. 8 ½ in.; 3. David Fairbanks, Ste 30 ft. 3 ½ in.; 4. Alex Covey, Ser 29 ft. 6 ¾ in.; 5. Matthew Chagluak, Ser 29 ft. 8 in.

Seal Hop

Junior — 1. Joseph Rodgers, Chi 72 ft. 2 in.; 2. Zane Montgomery, Ste 54 ft. 8 1/2 in.; 3. Mitch Sego, Ste 48 ft. 2 in.; 4. Staxx Van Kirk, Sal 45 ft. 7 ½ in.; 5. Hayden Edwards, Ste 43 ft. 1 ½ in.

Senior — 1. Sean Moonin, Nin 69 ft. 2 ½ in.; 2. Elijah Gordon, Hom 46 ft. 3 ¼ in.; 3. Cooper Bernard, Sal 40 ft. 5 ½ in.; 4. David Fairbanks, Ste 38 ft. 1 in.; 5. William Wilson, Sal 36 ft. 10 ½ in.

Triple Jump — 1. Judah Eason, Ken 31 ft. 2 in.; 2. Rick Dunaway, Nin 29 ft. ¾ in.; 3. Elijah Gordon, Hom 28 ft. 10 in.

Wrist Carry

Junior — 1. Kaleb Web, Nin 25.42 seconds (New Kenaitze Indian Tribe Record); 2. Joseph Rodgers, Chi 22.25; 3. Javian Jackson, Nin 18.81; 4. Kai Kerrone, Ken 13.03; 5. Zane Montgomery, Ste 10.86

Senior — 1. Dakota Butler, Sal 204 ft. 8 in.; 2. Elijah Gordon, Hom 146 ft. 10 ¼ in.; 3. Sean Moonin, Nin 77 ft. 8 ½ in.; 4. Joseph Winrod, Hom 62 ft. 8 ¼ in.; 5. Alex Covey, Ser 53 ft. 10 ½ in.

This story was corrected on Jan. 17. It previously mistakenly identified athletes competing for the Salamatof Tribe as representing Salamatof Native Association. It also said that the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational was the first Native Youth Olympics competition on the Kenai Peninsula since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — it was the first to be hosted by the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, but others were held by Salamatof Tribe and in Homer in 2022.

An official gives advice to a junior athlete competing for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe after the boy missed his first attempt at the 2-foot high kick during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

An official gives advice to a junior athlete competing for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe after the boy missed his first attempt at the 2-foot high kick during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

An athlete competing for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe in the Junior division sticks her landing while performing the scissor broad jump during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Frdiay, Jan. 13, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

An athlete competing for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe in the Junior division sticks her landing while performing the scissor broad jump during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Frdiay, Jan. 13, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A junior athlete competing for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe performs the two-foot high kick during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A junior athlete competing for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe performs the two-foot high kick during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Byron Nicholai, of “I Sing, You Dance,” sings and drums during a musical performance as part of the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Byron Nicholai, of “I Sing, You Dance,” sings and drums during a musical performance as part of the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Byron Nicholai, of “I Sing, You Dance,” is joined on stage by members of the audience during a musical performance as part of the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Byron Nicholai, of “I Sing, You Dance,” is joined on stage by members of the audience during a musical performance as part of the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Dakota Butler hangs from a wooden pole by only his wrist as he performs the wrist carry during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. Butler held on for more than 200 feet, claiming the gold medal in the event. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Dakota Butler hangs from a wooden pole by only his wrist as he performs the wrist carry during the Kahtnuht’ana Hey Chi’ula NYO Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Kenai Middle School in Kenai, Alaska. Butler held on for more than 200 feet, claiming the gold medal in the event. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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