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Ronan athletes win Alaskan adventure

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RONAN — The boys and girls basketball teams at Ronan High School have won the chance to visit Alaska and compete in January as part of the Alaska Airlines Classic. 

Last fall, the Maidens participated in a sweepstakes called, the Alaskan Nights High School Movie Night. The event featured the new movie, “Alaskan Nights,” about a high school basketball team in Metlakatla, Alaska. The movie showing provides an opportunity for schools to fundraise for their teams and the Maidens took advantage. 

The sweepstakes portion of the event allows teams the chance to win the grand prize - the opportunity to play basketball in Alaska.

While they didn’t expect to win the sweepstakes, Maidens from grade six-12 worked together on the contest’s requirements. 

“There were some hoops to jump through,” Ronan basketball coach Steve Woll recalled. 

To enter the sweepstakes, the team had to meet certain requirements. To start, the Maidens had to take a hometown team picture showing off something special about Ronan. The team easily rose to the task with grades six through 12 gathering in front of the Ronan arch. Shannon Patton shot a photo showing a mixture of team jerseys and traditional dress of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

The students also had to answer the question, “What would a trip to Anchorage, Alaska, to play in the Alaska Airlines Classic, mean to the boys and girls of your high school basketball team?” The kids were able to draw plenty of parallels between their experiences and that of the team in “Alaskan Nights.” Both basketball teams are from small towns on reservations in remote areas and feel a strong connection to the game. The opportunity to connect with other student athletes in Metlakatla who face the same challenges, they wrote, could build an inspiring connection for both communities. 

After submitting their entry to the sweepstakes, it took a few weeks for the teams to hear back. The fundraiser, put on by the team, came and went with the $20 tickets for dinner and the Alaska movie earning quite a bit of money. Finally, Woll received an email late one Monday night letting him know Ronan was in the top four contenders. 

“We knew it was big, but over 1,100 schools participated,” Woll said, remembering the excitement that came with that revelation. 

Once they were in the final four, it was time to show off their personalities via a Zoom meeting with the contest organizers. A panel of girl and boy players, along with the vice principal and the coaches, spoke with the officiants and answered questions. Then, it was time to display their school spirit with a pep assembly. They didn’t hold back.

Carting the computer with the judges on Zoom out of the locker room into the gymnasium full of Ronan students, the pep assembly began with a powerful performance of a drum group. In addition, students dressed in their team colors of orange and black ,arranged themselves in the stands to form a giant “R” as the announcer and band got everyone fired up for the cheer, “We are Ronan.” 

“The place was just ecstatic, it was electric,” Woll said. “It was as loud as I’ve ever seen it.” 

During all the hoopla, it took a few attempts to to hear the judge over the sound of the student’s enthusiasm, but finally, they heard the question, “How would you feel about coming to see us in Anchorage, Alaska?” 

“Everybody went nuts,” Woll recalled with a laugh. “We’re kind of in a daze over the whole thing.” Out of all the schools in the nation, Ronan had won. 

Now, thanks to the win spearheaded by the Maidens’ efforts, both the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams will be going to Alaska in January to compete in three games in three days. The Maidens will be going up against Alaskan schools West Anchorage, Metlakatla, and Point Hope on Jan. 17-19, while the Chiefs will be facing any of seven other schools, five of which are from Alaska, one from Arizona, and one from California, on Jan. 19-21. 

Alaska Airlines will be providing the school with discount codes in August for family and fans to arrange to attend. 

“It was a joint effort from many, many people,” Woll said. “So many coaches and parents and kids helped to put it all on. It was a total team effort, that’s for sure.”

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