Julie Hughes was a vibrant star and energetic girl who was loved by many in Sitka. Julie died when she was 15, in 1985. The determination, dedication and positive attitude she displayed during her life were such sources of inspiration for those that knew her, that the memory of her life is celebrated the third Saturday in May each year with the Julie Hughes Triathlon.
Hughes began swimming with the Baranof Barracudas Swim Club when she was eight years old. A natural athlete, Julie took to swimming and excelled at it. Under Coach Siouxha Tokman, Julie loved to be in the water and swam to the top of her age group. Julie was also an excellent student in school, showing infinite curiosity and maturity beyond her years.
When Julie was 13, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Julie underwent six months of intense chemotherapy in Seattle before coming home to Sitka. Upon returning home she returned to the pool and swam for two years with the high school squad.
In the fall of 1984 during her sophomore year she relapsed. Julie and her family returned to Seattle. She was eventually transferred to a cancer research center and underwent a bone marrow transplant (her mother was the donor) in January 1985. In recovery after a course of radiation Julie developed pneumonia. With an immune system too compromised to combat it, Julie passed away in February 1985.
While she was swimming with BBSC, Hughes told Coach Tokman that she was interested in competing in a triathlon, but she was never able to realize that dream. After her death, Siouxha shared this information with Julie's parents. Together they realized that a triathlon in Sitka was just what Julie would like to see as well as being a proper way to honor this teenage athlete. The first event was held May 1985, and to this day 30 plus years later, the Julie Hughes Triathlon is still one of the largest and longest running events in Sitka.