The debate over how far high school sports teams should travel to compete has raged for decades. Opponents of long-distance travel often cite costs and out-of-school time, while proponents claim it’s part of the interscholastic athletics experience.
A high school football team in Ketchikan, Alaska, though, recently might have set a new travel bar. The Kayhi Kings, as the team is called, flew 24 hours and traveled more than 1,600 miles — from the tip of southeast Alaska to the North Slope community of Utqia?vik (OOT-kee-AH-vik), formerly known as Barrow.
As The Sacramento Beepointed out, “that’s the equivalent of flying from San Diego to Seattle, a reminder of just how big Alaska is.”
According to the paper, the two schools are in the same conference based on enrollment size, despite the fact that they are separated by hundreds of miles.
As the activities principal of Ketchikan High School I think it’s important for the ‘lower 48’ to understand how far we travel in Alaska,” Melissa Johnson,assistant principal who oversees activities and athletics, posted on Facebook before the game. “Our Ketchikan High School football team travels next weekend to Utqaigvik (Barrow), Alaska, for a conference football game! We overnight in Anchorage both ways, and it will take 12 hours of direct travel! This is a conference football game, over 1648 travel miles. Please share #travelinAlaska #espnwhereareyou.”
“These trips are really taxing because you miss school. But they’re still expected to do all the school work,” Johnson told the Bee, adding that the team receives little financial support from the school district and holds several fundraising activities that include raffles, dinners and a “rent-a-football-player” benefit. “[But] I think it’s a really cool cultural experience. It’s almost like a different country.”
By the way, the Kayhi Kings beat Barrow, 8-6, and earned a trip to the playoffs — forcing the team to next travel 985 miles to Fairbanks at an estimated cost of $1,000 per player. More fundraising is underway.