The loss of limb can be a devastating life change that transforms the way even the simplest tasks are done, but Anchor Point’s Angelica Haakenson is out to prove that she isn’t done living.
Haakenson, a Homer High School freshman, made her racing debut on skis Friday afternoon at the Kenai Klassic ski meet at the Tsalteshi Trails in front of a crowd of prep supporters, all while in a seated position.
The 14-year-old took center stage in a two-lap race around the soccer field at Skyview Middle School, besting two other female racers in a Sit Ski, a chair that is attached and sits atop a pair of cross-country skis for disabled and paralyzed racers. With no leg motion to push forward, all energy is spent from the upper body as the skier double poles across land.
“I never thought I’d be here,” Haakenson said.
Haakenson lost both legs in a Christmas Day car accident three years ago on the Sterling Highway between Ninilchik and Anchor Point. Haakenson was traveling with her mother, Mathany Christine Satterwhite, when the pickup they were in encountered problems.
Haakenson’s grandfather was called to help jump-start the truck with his van, and it was in the middle of that process that Anchor Point resident Larry Pyatt rounded the corner and began sliding on the icy road while attempting to slow.
Pyatt’s SUV struck the van and pinned Haakenson between the van and Satterwhite’s pickup. The collision was severe enough that emergency crews had to carefully extricate Haakenson from the wreckage.
Haakenson was medevaced to Anchorage, where both legs were amputated in order to save her life. At age 11, Haakenson was left with no bipedal way of moving, meaning her swimming dreams were essentially dashed, and her aspirations to take up skiing more seriously were frozen.
However, Friday’s event showed that a world of potential still awaits those who keep digging. With Haakenson leaving her competitors in the dust, the event was an exciting and heartfelt moment.
“You do this every day?” exclaimed a breathless Maria Salzetti to Haakenson upon finishing. Salzetti is a Kenai skier who tried her hand at sit skiing. “You are amazing!”
Homer assistant ski coach Megan Corazza helped organize the event that was to take place after the girls and boys varsity races, and said Haakenson’s story was one that touched her after Corazza experienced a similar tragedy in her family with the death of a family member. Corazza said shortly after hearing of Haakenson’s experience, she tried reaching out.