Thursday, February 26, 2015

Iditarod 43: Bring on the Rookies!

With about 20 (I may have miscounted) rookies in this race, let's take a look at some of the more (in this blogger's opinion) interesting and exciting teams.

Let's start off with the "returning rookies" these are mushers that have run in previous years but scratched before the finish line in Nome. You are a rookie until you complete an Iditarod. So that means you can run 20 Iditarods and still be considered a rookie if you never finish.

Cindy Abbot is one such musher who was only going to run the race once - but a freak crash on the trail left her stiff and sore for days. She finally couldn't handle the pain any longer and was forced to scratch. When flown back to Anchorage she was checked out by doctors and it was noted that she'd broken her pelvis! Last year she tried again, but unfortunately saw trouble on the difficult, snow barren trail, and once again had to scratch. One wonders if she can make it this year with trail conditions being just as bad as last year's (and completely new for the first half of the race) but she's a determined person. I wouldn't count her out.

Lev Shvartz chose last year to be his rookie year, and it didn't go well. Like many teams - veteran and rookie - Lev ended up scratching in Rohn. This year the Gorge and Burn are out, so the trail is relatively safer for sleds and mushers. Lev was my choice of rookie last year, and I have no doubt that Shvartz can make it to Nome this year.

Philip Walters is a middle school band teacher - so right there I think he's pretty awesome. Walters runs dogs out of Snowhook Kennel owned by Justin and Rebecca Savidis (they're the ones with the super cool dogbox with the silhouette of the howling dog on each door). Walters won't really be competitive, but he's using his run to shed light on how important arts are for education. He's helped with the Iditarod curriculum as well.

Heidi Sutter is another teacher turned Iditarod musher this year. She and her hubby run KMA Kennel (and you can guess what KMA stands for). Heidi will be easy to spot as she is BRIGHT PINK hair. Heidi is a great advocate for the sport - she is incredibly active on social media - and brings a positive presence to the races. She says she's using this Iditarod to train her team for the 2016 Yukon Quest. Very excited to see how she does in her rookie year.

Alan Stevens is running a Buser team - most likely puppy team - so that makes his team interesting in and of itself. He's helping train Martin and Rohn's next batch of superstars.

Yuka Honda is a Janitor who lives in the Yukon Territory of Canada - but was born and raised in Japan. After graduating university she moved to Canada where she was a dog handler, then she saw the Iditarod on television and decided she wanted to race. She moved to Alaska to learn the ropes before moving to her home in the Yukon. She has a kennel of 25+ sled dogs. She's not a total stranger to 1000 mile races, she competed in the Quest in 2012.

Ben Harper is one of the more exciting rookies this year - he's running Redington dogs - but in his short time in Alaska he's been a top musher on the "junior circuit" coming in the top 4 of each of his Jr Iditarod runs. This will be a telling rookie year, and just the stepping stone for what looks like a very successful career in the sport.

One week until the Musher's Banquet where the bib numbers will be drawn!

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