It was a smaller competition than expected, but the ambition and sweat of athletes still filled a Bethel gym this weekend at the Native Youth Olympics Invitational.
Eight teams were scheduled to compete, but fog and low clouds kept half of them away.
Only Goodnews Bay, Oscarville, and Kasigluk's Akiuk Memorial School made it to Bethel’s Glady’s Jung Elementary for the NYO event. But even that almost didn’t happen.
Without an airstrip, and only five miles from Bethel, participants from Oscarville usually travel by helicopter. With the fog, they came by boat instead.
“It was safe enough; there was no ice. It was a smooth ride to Bethel, and it only took, like, 20 minutes," said Eliza Joekay, Oscarville chaperone.
NYO events were created to help hunters prepare for subsistence activities. Oscarville eleventh grader Trevor Mesak says the wrist carry, where students hang from a wooden pole by one wrist, builds discipline and pain tolerance and teaches him how to keep holding on when the pain is telling him to let go.
“You can’t be lazy when you’re hunting," said Mesak. "You have to help out every part of the way. Either cutting or bringing the meat to the boat or bringing it up to the fish camp.”
About 30 athletes competed in grades four through twelve. Teams were not ranked, since most were unable to participate. Instead, only individual events were scored and students left the gym carrying fistfuls of brightly colored ribbons.
Mekoryuk’s NYO Invitational was also scheduled this weekend but was cancelled due to weather.