Loyola University Athletics Program Develops an Alaska Pipeline

By Justin Breen on September 16, 2013 6:22am 

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 Loyola University Chicago has three athletes from Alaska, cross country runners Abby Jahn and Audrey Michaelson, and women's soccer player Tricia Stonebraker.
Loyola's Alaskans
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ROGERS PARK — When people find out Loyola University student-athletes Abby Jahn, Audrey Michaelson and Tricia Stonebraker hail from Alaska, they're usually bombarded with questions.

And all three have incredible stories to tell.

Stonebraker, a senior midfielder on the Ramblers' soccer team, described the time a black bear leaned its head against the glass but decided not to break into her family's Anchorage home. She also boasted catching 200 salmon while dip netting — using a large, handheld net.

One of Stonebraker's favorite foods? Moose bacon.

"I don't even know how to describe it, but it's just juicy," said Stonebraker, 21.

Jahn, a junior cross-country runner from Wasilla — about 45 minutes north of Anchorage — spent the summer working for Denali Zipline Tours, which gives customers amazing views of Denali National Park.

"Got paid to play in the trees," she said.

One of Jahn's hobbies is mountain racing — running more than 10 miles up and down locales like Matanuska Peak. She also almost pedaled into a black bear during a bike ride.

"I yelled some words that probably shouldn't be mentioned," said Jahn, 20.

Michaelson, a freshman cross-country runner from Palmer, which is next to Wasilla, loves to ski-jour. That consists of cross-country skiing while being pulled by a dog harnessed to the skier. Michaelson's free weekends occasionally are used to hike Alaska's many glaciers.

"I have a deep appreciation for peacefulness and quiet," said Michaelson, 19.

During her one month in Chicago, Michaelson has noticed the obvious differences between the Windy City and Last Frontier, such as congestion, constant noise and lights diminishing the beauty of a star-lit sky.

But all three Ramblers also mentioned other disparities like how big squirrels are here, and that wild rabbits are everywhere.

"I still get excited when I see bunnies because you never see them in Alaska," Stonebraker said. "People there just have them as pets."

 Loyola University Chicago cross country runners Abby Jahn (l.), a junior transfer from IIT, and freshman Audrey Michaelson, pose for a photo after running in subzero temperatures near Palmer, Alaska, their home state.
Loyola University Chicago cross country runners Abby Jahn (l.), a junior transfer from IIT, and freshman Audrey Michaelson, pose for a photo after running in subzero temperatures near Palmer, Alaska, their home state.
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Loyola University Athletics

Stonebraker was Alaska's high school soccer player of the year in 2010 at Service High School but didn't have the option of competing there collegiately because none of the state's universities have soccer teams. She chose Loyola in part because her older sister attended nearby Northwestern University, and the Ramblers' coaching staff sent her a letter of interest.

Jahn and Michaelson both graduated from Colony High School, but said that had nothing to do with them becoming Ramblers. Jahn originally was a student-athlete at Illinois Institute of Technology, where she was named an NAIA All-American in 2012, but transferred to Loyola this year for a switch in majors from architecture to environmental science.

"I was already in the city, and I decided I wanted to stay in the city," said Jahn, who makes the daily commute to Loyola from her Bridgeport apartment.

She became teammates again with Michaelson, Alaska's 2013 track athlete of the year, whose path to Rogers Park was more routine, with a recruiting letter and campus visit.

"It definitely wasn't by design," Ramblers cross-country coach Randy Hasenbank said of having Michaelson and Jahn on the roster. "It just kind of happened that way."

Michaelson has yet to experience a Chicago winter, but Jahn and Stonebraker said Alaska's storms provide far more snow and cold, but the wind here is much more biting. And the city's summer mosquitoes are mere annoyances compared to the "layers hovering over ponds and bogs back home," Jahn said.

During training runs now, Jahn and Stonebraker have to dodge passing cyclists while on the lakefront path.

That has its danger, but perhaps it pales in comparison to Jahn's experience during a cross-country skiing race a few years ago.

"There was a female moose standing in the middle of the trail," she said. "And we all just had to ski around her."

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