FAIRBANKS—In the same city where her Iditarod dreams begin, Aliy Zirkle is getting an award from the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
The Two Rivers musher and runner-up in the last three Iditarod Trail sled dog races was announced Wednesday as one of four recipients for the hall of fame’s Directors’ Awards.
“The Directors’ Awards give our organization the opportunity to shine a light on some of Alaska’s sports figures who are making history right now,’’ Harlow Robinson, Alaska Sports Hall of Fame executive director, said Wednesday in a press release. “It’s a nice bookend to the inductee enshrinements.”
Zirkle, who couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, is scheduled to be honored with the Trajan Langdon Award during the hall of fame’s 2015 induction ceremony, starting at 7:30 p.m. on March 5 in the Anchorage Museum of History and Art.
Coincidentally, the starting area for the Iditarod is about two blocks from the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, located at 625 C Street. The Iditarod begins at 10 a.m. on March 7 on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage.
The Trajan Langdon Award recognizes leadership, sportsmanship and inspiration, and is named for the former standout basketball guard for East Anchorage High School and Duke University. Langdon, now a scout with the National Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs, played with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers from 1999-2002 and played in Italy, Turkey and Russia from 2002-11.
Zirkle, 45, was recognized by the hall of fame for her demeanor in the Iditarod as much as her three straight top-two results among 14 entries in the race.
“Nobody has made second place look so good,’’ the release said. “Known for her trademark smile, this 45-year-old Iditarod musher is as gracious as she is good.
She puts her dogs first, always praises the competition and never makes excuses.
“Zirkle showed tremendous character when she finished the 1,100-mile race in second for third consecutive year,’’ the release continued, “And she did it with a smile.”
In last year’s Iditarod, Zirkle was caught in a storm but chased down eventual winner Dallas Seavey. Zirkle arrived on Front Street in Nome nearly 2 1/2 minutes behind the Seward musher in one of the most dramatic finishes in the race’s 42-year history.
Zirkle and her dog team compiled a finish of 8 days, 13 hours, 6 minutes and 41 seconds, while Seavey and his dogs finished in 8 days 13 hours, 4 minutes and 19 seconds.
Before her runner-up finishes in the last three Iditarods, Zirkle’s best results in the Iditarod were 11th place each in 2005 and 2011. She received the race’s Leonard Seppala Humanitarian Award in each of those years.
Zirkle placed fifth Sunday in the Copper Basin 300, which runs out and back from Glennallen and is a qualifier for the Iditarod and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. The Quest starts Feb. 7 in Whitehorse, Yukon and finishes on the Chena River near the Cushman Street Bridge in downtown Fairbanks.
Zirkle’s husband, Allen Moore, won his third straight and sixth overall title in the Copper Basin 300, and he also is two-time defending Quest champion.
The other Directors’ Awards honorees announced Wednesday were Michael Friess, who has been the head coach for the University of Alaska Anchorage cross country and track and field programs for 25 seasons; Kenai High School senior runner Allie Ostrander, who won at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon in December; and Erik Flora, director of the Anchorage-based Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center, whose racers include Olympian Kikkan Randall, of Anchorage, and Fairbanks’ Becca Rorabaugh, who was runner-up in the senior women’s classical sprint last week at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships in Houghton Michigan.
Friess is set to receive the Joe Floyd Award, which recognizes significant and lasting contribution to Alaska through sports and is named for the former longtime baseball and basketball coach in Kodiak. Ostrander and Flora are the respective female and male recipients of the Pride of Alaska Award, which is for consistent excellence in athletic competition.
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.