More than 40 years strong, well over 1,100 boys and girls from around the state are taking part in the Junior Native Youth Olympics at Begich Middle School this weekend.
While it’s the miniature version of the NYO games, the pint-sized competitors shouldn’t be mistaken for pushover. They’re just as eager to compete.
When it comes to the Junior Native Youth Olympics, Aurora Standish is an old pro.
Having competed in NYO games since first grade, the sixth grader from McGrath is so skilled in the scissor broad jump that she even has time to give a lesson or two.
Aurora's teammate Jeremiah Hooper's favorite event is the Alaskan High Kick. He gives an effortless performance, but he says took a lot of practice.
"Seeing the older kids doing it and looking at videos," he said Friday.
While Jeremiah and the rest of the fifth and sixth graders at Begich Middle are pushing for victory, they’re not forgetting the main reason for these games.
"They do them because it's a way to keep the traditions and stuff,” said Standish. “Like the scissor broad jump is supposed to represent hopping across the ice, like when it’s breaking up."
Those cultural bridges are bonds the children use to connect with Alaska's Native history.
The Junior NYO continues at Begich Middle School this weekend, with the third and fourth graders getting their turns Saturday, and first and second graders competing Sunday.