Julie Hughes was a vibrant and energetic girl from Sitka who sadly passed away in 1985 at 15. She was known for her dedication and the positive attitude that she displayed throughout her life. Her loved ones and the rest of Sitka celebrate her memory on the third Saturday in May every year with the Julie Hughes Triathlon.

She began swimming with Baranof Barracudas Swim Club when she turned eight years old. Julie was a natural athlete, so she took swimming and excelled with the help of Coach Siouxha Tokman. Julie was also a great student in school; she always showed her infinite curiosity and maturity beyond her age.

At the age of 13, Julie was diagnosed with leukemia. She underwent six months of chemotherapy in Seattle before returning to Sitka. When she returned home, she went back to the pool and swam with the high school squad for a couple of years. In 1984, during the fall, Julie relapsed in her sophomore year, so she returned to Seattle with her family. Julie was eventually transferred to a cancer research center and had a narrow transplant surgery in early 1985 (her mom was her donor). During recovery and radiation therapy, Julie developed pneumonia, and with a weak immune system to combat it, Julie passed away in February 1985.

While swimming with BBSC, Julie told Coach Tokman that she had always wanted to compete in a triathlon, but she was never able to achieve her dream. After passing, Coach Tokman shared this information with Julie’s family and together realized that a Sitka triathlon was just what Julie would’ve liked to see. So, in May 1985, the first Julie Hughes Triathlon was held to commemorate the vibrant teenage athlete. To this day, this event is one of the most significant running events in the city of Sitka.

The Julie Hughes Triathlon consists of a 5-mile run, a 14-mile bike ride, and a 1,000-yard swim -there’s a special course for participants under the age of 12-. Athletes can complete it individually or as teams. All the proceeds from this event are donated to the Sitka Cancer Survivors Network.