Athletes of the Week: ‘Fastest Alaskans’ Mamae and Morris

Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 9:59 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In most sports, determining who is the best can be debated endlessly (looking at you Michael Jordan and LeBron James).

But when it comes to who is the fastest, a good old-fashioned recess foot race can settle that without dispute.

Two East Anchorage Thunderbirds — Olyvia Mamae and Brian Morris — proved their speed in 2022 at the “Big C Relays,” the largest indoor track meet in Alaska, when they won the “Fastest Alaskan” 100-meter dash as juniors.

Unfortunately for the rest of the field coming for the crown, the “Fastest Alaskans” just kept getting faster.

Mamae, at 12.62 seconds, and Morris, at 11.22 seconds, both defended their titles as the “Fastest Alaskans” at the 2023 event in what could be the start of a record-breaking season for the seniors.

”It feels really good,” Mamae said after taking pictures with her plaque. “It is kind of nice to know that all of the work that I have been putting in is paying off, especially because I am so much faster than last year ... There was pressure, but at the same time, I really like it because I don’t really get that much pressure here — not to sound cocky — but it is really nice actually to have that pressure.”

“Crossing the finish line, I had a big grin on my face — I did PR too,” Morris said. “It felt really good because last year I did not do as well as I thought I would, so this year is really a comeback year for me,” Morris said. “I was really happy because defending the title is hard, it’s a lot more pressure than first winning it, so it means a lot to me.”

Like most athletes, Morris, who was also the anchor of East’s 4x100-meter relay team that took gold at the Big C Relays, grew up playing multiple sports before narrowing his focus on sprinting.

“He is super dedicated to the sport of track and he really works hard year-round, which is really hard to do as a track athlete — so many people are multisport athletes and he is one of the few specialized athletes,” East track & field coach Christina Shurtleff said of Morris. ”He is actually one of our captains and so he is a great leader on the team. We have a bunch of new kids on the team so he actually spends time with them, trying to teach them starts and teaching them handoffs, he is really helping bring our young squad up to par.”

Morris isn’t only attempting to break records on the track, but barriers in his family as well.

“This has been a ride for our family,” Morris said of the recruiting process and recent success. “I am the first kid to go to college and really commit and do sports so it is good for my parents and my family, they really look up to me as the youngest in the house.”

As for Mamae, she is not the youngest in the house. In fact, she is in the middle of seven brothers, four older and three younger.

“It has made me really tough — they all bullied me,” Mamae said with a laugh. “They definitely made me tougher, they definitely made it so that I wouldn’t give up so easily ... When I was younger I hated it, but now that I am older it is kind of nice, because they really did make me who I am.”

Mamae is a three-time state champion in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and the 100-meter hurdles, with a chance to sweep in those events again this spring, and she certainly has the ambition to do it.

”I really want to break three state records this year; I want to break the [100-meters, 200-meters and the 100-meter hurdle],” Mamae said, who also stars on the Thunderbirds flag football team. “But my biggest goal really is the 100 hurdles, I really want to break that record, like I want to make it hard to reach for the next person.”

The current state record is 14.82 seconds, set by Bartlett’s Rosie Smith in 2011, and Mamae said she ran a 14.73 at an unofficial meet to start this season, so the record is within her reach, she just needs to grasp it at an upcoming meet.

”Hopefully by the time I get to state it I will be in the low 14′s.” the North Dakota State University commit said.

In addition to the “Fastest Alaskan” award, Mamae also earned the “High Step Hustler” at the Big C Relays as the 100-meter hurdles champion, also for the second time.