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World Eskimo-Indian Olympics start has world record, late arrival

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 1:53 pm, Fri Jul 19, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Amber Vaska registered the best women’s effort in the kneel jump Wednesday in the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics at the Carlson Center.

The 24-year-old Vaska, a medical school applicant and a former West Valley High School volleyball and basketball player, will have to wait until this morning to learn if her jump of 55 inches holds for the top spot.

WEIO is known for fairness and officials of the four-day celebration of Native culture and games decided to allow Apaay Campbell, the world record holder in the women’s kneel jump, an opportunity to compete this morning.

Nicole Johnston, the chair of the WEIO board of governors, said Campbell, who  is from Gambell, was delayed by inclement weather while in flight Wednesday to Fairbanks. She was slated to get here early this morning.

“It’s not something  you see in other events,” Johnston said.

“We’ve done it for NYO, too,” she said. “They weren’t world record holders, but they were kids who got weathered in and really wanted to be at NYO.”

Campbell set the record of 55 1/4 inches at the Native Youth Olympics in April at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage.

This morning about

10 a.m., Campbell will get three attempts in the event that is based on quickness and balance a person needs while being on moving ice during spring breakup.

The event begins with a contestant kneeling on a floor at a line and his feet are flat on the floor with the bottoms up.

From the kneeling position, he jumps forward as far as possible and lands on his feet while maintaining balance.

The women’s results will become official after Campbell completes her three tries.

The men’s results were official Wednesday, as Wasilla’s Chris Warrior reached 59 1/4 inches, just a quarter-inch farther than runner-up and 2012 winner Christian Paul, of Kipnuk. Kyle Worl, of Anchorage, placed third at 57 3/4.

Toe kick

When Nick Hanson was an Unalakleet High School student, he used to hop ice for kicks in Norton Sound.

The agility of the now 25-year-old came in handy Wednesday for a world-record effort of 94 inches in the toe kick, which is based on the same survival skills as the kneel jump but it involves a small wooden stick.

“You’ve got to be quick, because if one of those ice floes bust up,  you’re going  to get your foot wet or you’re going to go under,” Hanson said.

The toe kick involves a participant jumping forward to try to kick the 1-inch diameter stick backwards while keeping the toes of both feet together. Like the kneel jump, it involves athletic prowess and balance.

Hanson said the water in Norton Sound was  five to six feet deep for about a mile out from his hometown. However, he doesn’t recommend ice hopping.

“When we go out, the ice kind of sticks around a little bit if it’s thicker and then it will start breaking up in places,” he said. “Once it starts breaking up, we kind of go out there sometimes and play around. It’s dangerous, and I don’t recommend anybody doing  it.”

Rather than danger, Hansen encountered determined competitors on the hardwood court floor of the Carlson Center before he broke the previous world mark of 92 inches he tied a year ago.

“It was overwhelming,” Hanson said of his achievement Wednesday. “Everyone kept playing it up that you were the world record holder last year and you got this. I didn’t feel that way; I felt like it was going to be tough competition out there.

“It (competition) just pumps you up and motivates you to get out there,” Hanson added.

John Waska finished second Wednesday at 92 inches, and Warrior placed third (88).

Toe-kick competitors from Anchorage claimed the top three women’s places, led  by Autumn Ridley at 58 inches. Terry Johnson was runner-up (56) followed by Victoria Treder (50).

Drop the bomb

Lillah Merculief, of St. Paul, saw a Daily News-Miner photo three years ago of her sister, Lindsay, competing in the drop the bomb. It inspired 17-year-old Lillah’s first  entry Wednesday in the event that involves strength, mental toughness and endurance.

“She was the only woman that year in the drop the bomb,” Lillah Merculief said after Wednesday’s preliminaries, from which she emerged among the qualifiers for Saturday night’s finals.

In drop the bomb, a participant lies face down with arms out in an iron cross position. Three spotters lift the person — by each wrist and the ankles — one foot off the floor. The participant is carried as far as possible around the floor before he sags and drops.

Calvin Bell, a University of Alaska Fairbanks mechanical engineering student from Nome, cites mentality for success in drop the bomb.

“It’s all mind over matter like most of the (WEIO) games,” Bell, in his third time in the event, said. “Your body is telling you’ve had enough and your brain is telling you haven’t.”

Bell also qualified for the finals from the prelims, which involved participants being lifted, but not carried around, the floor.

Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.

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