Local youth thrive at NYO

Nome athletes set records at the Native Youth Olympic Games this year.

Nome’s Parker Kenick won a medal for the One Hand Reach and broke the records for the high school boys’ One and Two Foot High Kicks. Teague Green Johnson medalled in the Indian Stick Pull and set new records for the Wrist Carry and Seal Hop. Colin McFarland joined them as a medalist of the Scissor Broad Jump. Their long-term dedication set them apart, according to Nome team coach Vanessa Tahbone.

“They’ve been with the program throughout their high school career. Even through the pandemic, and even though we didn’t get to have in-person competitions last year and the year before, we did virtual, they still stuck with the program,” Tahbone said.

Youth from all over Alaska participated in NYO. Photo courtesy of NYO Games/CITC (2022). Used with permission.

NYO games display an uncommon approach to sports. Athletes compete primarily against themselves, according to Tahbone. They encourage and support both teammates and competitiors. Each one of the events in the games build subsistence skills.

“All the games tie back to hunting, hunter success, and what it takes to go out on the land,” Tahbone said.
Through NYO, young people strengthen their overall health, tend to improve academic performance, and learn traditional values. The events ground athletes in Native Alaskan values like leadership, respect and community ties.

“It’s a good way for students to connect with their culture. They might not have any other opportunities to do so. It’s a great way to learn about some history about the culture,” Tahbone explained.

Tahbone looks forward to growing participation and an increased range of NYO games in Nome for the June Midnight Sun Festival.

Image at top: The Nome team at NYO state meet in Anchorage. Photo courtesy of NYO Games/CITC. Used with permission (2022).