Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Senior Field Trip: Iditarod

The finish line to the Iditarod is within walking distance to Nome Beltz High School, but this March, senior student Melissa Owens is hoping to get to the finish line by dogsled instead taking an 1100 mile detour. Melissa hopes to be the youngest musher to ever race and complete the legendary dogsled race. Iditarod rules require mushers to be at least 18 years of age to complete in the race. Melissa turns 18 less then 2 weeks before the start of the race on February 18.

Melissa has literally been involved in dogsledding her entire life. Her father first raced the Iditarod in 1987 and brought Melissa up to the stage with him when he drew his number. Melissa and her brother Michael raise and train their own dogs including some that can trace their lineage to her fathers teams in the '87 and '90 Iditarods. Melissa won the Junior Iditarod in 2005 as an ninth grader. This year she is concentrating on completing the 2 races required to qualify for the Iditarod. She recently completed the soggy Kuskokwim 300 and now has her sights set on the Don Bowers 300.

18 year old Rohn Buser plans to enter this years Iditarod race as well. Rohn finished his senior year at Wasilla High School a semester early last December so he could concentrate on training for his one shot at the Iditarod before he goes off to college.

Mushing is in Rohn's blood as well. he is the son of 4-time Iditarod winner and course record holder Martin Buser. Rohn is another winner of the Junior Iditarod winning the race in 2007 as a 17 year old. Rohn helps his father with the dogs at the Happy Trails Kennels and has done fairly well in the middle distance races he has entered. He finished 4th in the 2007 Kuskokwim 300, 10th in the 2008 Cantwell Classic 200, and 5th in the 2008 Kuskokwim 300. Rohn has already qualified to run the Iditarod with his finishes in this years Kuskokwim and Cantwell races.

19 year old Jeff Deeter graduated from Wasilla High School last spring. He plans to go to college next fall, but he has one last item to check off his list before he enrolls - run the Iditarod race.

While Jeff can't trace dogsled racing in his bloodlines, he became involved in the sport at a very young age when his family moved to the arctic village of Noorvik Alaska when he was seven. He began working at the kennel of Iditarod veteran Jeff Sihler at the age of 15. 2 years later Jeff ran the Jr Iditarod finishing 11th in the 2005 race. He ran it again in 2006 finishing 9th. Jeff has completed his qualification races for the Iditarod finishing 15th in the 2007 Knik 200 and 19th in the 2008 Copper Basin 300. He plans to go to college in the fall to study biology.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mitch Seavey wins K300 again

Sterling Alaska musher and 2004 Iditarod winner Mitch Seavey has won the 29th annual Kuskokwim 300 dogsled race. Seavey has raced the K300 twice before winning the race in 2005 and earning a second place finish in 2006.

Seavey broke away from the pack of leader in the slippery and soggy trail section between Kalskag and Tuluksak. This section of trail was markedly different then what Seavey saw 30 hours earlier on the out leg of the race where deep snow and ferocious winds caused navigational issues. The warm weather and winds had reduced the snow pack substantially creating over flow and slippery conditions. Many of the trail markers had fallen down or floated away making navigation difficult. Seaveys team stepped up to the challenge as they broke away from a group of 5 team who had all left the Kalskag checkpoint within 12 minutes of each other. By the time Seavey reached the Tuluksak checkpoint he had a 36 minute lead over the second place team of Ramey Smyth. That is a lead that Seavey carried through the remaining 50 miles of the race.

Big Lake musher Ramey Smith came in second place. Smyth previously won the K300 race in 1995. Coming in 3rd and 4th place were Kotzebue mushers Ed Iten and John Baker. Coming in 5th place was another Big Lake musher - Rohn Buser. The 18 year old Buser who graduated from Wasilla High School this past December will be running this year's Iditarod as a rookie and finished 4th in last years K300. Buser is son to 4 time iditarod and 2 time K300 winner Martin Buiser. Coming in 6th place was Rohn's father, Martin Buser.

Click for Aniak pictures

Paul Gebhardt pulling into Aniak
Video by Storm Phillips