Barrow, Alaska in not a normal destination point for national media, but crews from ABC, NBC, CNN and ESPN gathered Friday night in the northernmost community in the U.S. — 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle — to see a dream realized.
A $500,000 artificial turf field in bold blue and gold just a few yards from the Arctic Ocean became the new home of the Barrow High Whalers.
It was a crowning moment for Cathy Parker, the Jacksonville, Fla., woman whose national fundraising campaign through Project Alaska Turf.com made all of this possible. And the Whalers didn't disappoint, overcoming many distractions — including a streaker in the third quarter — and rallying from a 16-6 deficit in the final five minutes to defeat the Seward Seahawks, 18-16. Friday's game was heard worldwide through Pennsylvania-based Black Diamond Sports.net, and you can listen to a halftime interview with Parker by clicking here. You can listen to a rebroadcast of the entire game by clicking here.Parker inspected the field before the game with North Slope Borough School Superintendent Trent Blankenship, left, and Barrow handyman "Moosie" Igtanloc. Blankenship started the program last year to combat drug abuse and a high dropout rates among students. The team, with the finest playing field in Alaska, is now a member of the seven-team Greatland Conference.
Photojournalist Terry Brown, who accompanied Parker's group to Barrow, was kind enough to send us these images. Mic Weatherly, above, broke out the facepaint in support of the Whalers.
Inupiat whaler Price Brower, left, kicks back in his lounge chair. The gametime temperature was in the low 40s and Brower kept warm dressed in his polar bear pants and parka. Temperatures in Barrow reach higher than 32 degrees an average of only 109 days a year. An Inupiat girl, also dressed for the weather, helped cheer Barrow to the victory.
The teams gathered at midfield for the coin toss, conducted by Parker. An estimated 3,000 people attended the game, including NFL Hall of Famer Larry Csonka. The field was named after Parker during a pregame ceremony.
Barrow operates out of the shotgun, with the frigid waters of the Arctic only yards from the edge of the field. One of the reasons Barrow's field is blue is because that color tends to hold heat better than the traditional green.
Barrow Inupiat native Joseph Aveognna, 6, cheers from the shoulders of Tom Gloe of Jacksonville. Gloe was among the Florida entourage in attendance. Whaler fan Devin Tiegland shows his appreciation for the new field.
Seward's Dylan Beck stops Barrow's Anthony Edwards short of the goal line, but Edwards would later score on a two-yard run to give Barrow a 6-0 lead. Seward scored the next 16 points before Barrow's miraculous comeback.
Parker, left, and Whaler fans cheer the winning score in the final minute. "Our kids played a good game," Seward coach Kelly Cinereski told Danny Martin of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "but [Barrow] had a storybook ending."
It was nearly 10 p.m., but Whaler players didn't hesitate to take a cold dip in the Arctic after their dramatic victory.
Joining them was Evan Hall, left, a member of the Bartram Trail High team in Jacksonville. Hall accompanied the Florida group that attended the game.
Parker continues her fundraising effort at Project Alaska Turf.com, hoping to secure other facility upgrades for the Whalers.
Whaler apparel is also available through this link. Thanks to the North Slope Borough School District.