Teagan Hesse (11th grade) performs the Alaskan High Kick. Photo courtesy of Shannon Phillips

In a display of skill and determination, a team of 11 student athletes from Cordova showcased their prowess at this year’s Native Youth Olympic (NYO) Games, held over the weekend. The event, celebrated for its emphasis on Indigenous athleticism and culture, witnessed the Native Village of Eyak’s (NVE) representatives leaving a mark of excellence. 

Among the standout performances, Cordova 9th grader Taylor Tiedeman emerged as a formidable competitor, securing 5th place in the Eskimo Stick Pull event. Tiedeman’s display of strength and technique earned her a spot on the podium. 

Another moment of triumph unfolded as Cordova 7th grader Grace Higgins, supported by her carriers Colby Carter and Teagan Hesse, clinched a 3rd place finish in the wrist carry event.  

While these achievements illuminated the weekend of April 25-27, they were not the sole highlights. Several other athletes from NVE’s team demonstrated their dedication and perseverance by surpassing their personal bests during the games. Their determination to excel and push their limits exemplifies the essence of sportsmanship and self-improvement. 

Reflecting on the success in her event, Higgins said, “It was a team effort because my carriers had to do most of the work. I just had to hold on and not let go.” 

The NYO Games not only serve as a platform for athletic competition but also as a celebration of Indigenous heritage and tradition. NVE’s community inspired collaborative banner was displayed in full for the first time during this year’s grand entrance, carried proudly by the team’s athletes. 

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As the cheers fade and the medals gleam, the legacy of this year’s NYO Games will endure in the memories of the athletes and community. Their achievements stand as a testament to the power of determination, teamwork, and the pursuit of excellence. 

This story originally ran in the May 3 edition of The Cordova Times.

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