Monday, February 28, 2022

Iditarod 2022 Top Ten(ish)

Fifty years. Fifty years of changes; of challenges. Trails shortened; rerouted; growing increasingly faster. Faces coming, going... aging. Champions getting younger, getting older. From HAM radio reports to GPS trackers. One vet for an entire race to an entire team of them. Women going from being a talking point, to champions, to the favorites of every race. An entire lifestyle reborn. Fifty years is a legacy many sports only wish they had, and cannot be rivaled.

With all the talk of it being the historic 50th, a lot of teams have their sights set on the prize of top team in the world. From previous champions hoping to add to their collection of trophies (and one possibly hoping to break the record for most wins) to a grandson of the race founder hoping to finally bringing a championship to the family name. There's a lot at stake emotionally for the top teams of Iditarod 50. So let's take a look at the top... ten... ish, who very well may have the best chance.

Aaron Burmeister - He ran an incredible race in 2021, and had there been just a hair more trail I'll argue to my dying day that Burmeister would be the Iditarod champion of 2021. Aaron has said in interviews this is likely his final Iditarod, his children are getting older and he wants to devote more time to their passions with his support, plus business outside of dogs has been busy. Aaron's goal has always been to bring the Iditarod Champion title to his hometown of Nome, and this could be his last chance. He's hungry to beat the rest of the field (and I suspect very much so Dallas Seavey). It will be exciting to see how Aaron takes on the 50th. 

Brent Sass - The multi-time Yukon Quest Champion is having a banner year in the mid-distance races. He won the Copper Basin, as well as both the Alaska side Yukon Quest and the Canadian side. Brent should be right at the front of the pack as they charge down the final leg of this year's Iditarod. He's on the upswing and with the Quest not being a thousand mile race this year, his team should be a little more rested this go around. Look for Brent to start and finish strong. 

Dallas Seavey - You either hear "We are the Champions" or you hear "The Imperial March" when you read or hear Dallas Seavey's name. He's the hero and the villain to many. But the now FIVE TIME Iditarod Champion is on the cusp of making history yet again as he runs for a possible sixth title. If Dallas accomplishes another win in Nome, he will break the very long standing record by Rick Swenson for most wins. Though the win is what Dallas has in mind, he often says he doesn't really focus on any records (do we believe him?). It was said that tying Swenson's five would never be done - six is unheard of. The pressure is on, whether he admits it or not.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom - The 2018 Iditarod champion has never finished out of the top ten, and don't expect him to now. The new dad has trained and raced all season building his Iditarod team and has a strong set of dogs in front of him. Ulsom will probably keep to the traditional race schedule we're used to seeing from the top teams as he "builds the monster" and will pick off teams as he goes down the Yukon and up the Coast. 

Michelle Phillips - Phillips is coming off of a well fought second place finish in the Canadian Yukon Quest last week. The Canadian musher has made her mark in the sport over the last few years and is in the running for top female musher in this year's race. Michelle nearly cracked the top ten last year and with several of last year's top ten out of this year's race she should have no problem making that next step. Don't count her out. 

Mille Porsild - While Michelle is fighting to become top woman, Mille Porsild will be fighting to keep it. The new to Iditarod but not mushing or racing musher will have everyone watching as she again races to improve on her last Iditarod. She jumped 10 places last year improving from her 15th place rookie finish to 5th place... so, she isn't just in the running for top rookie. Mille will give all of the teams a run for their money. Do not be surprised if she takes down all of the established favorites this year.

Mitch Seavey - The three-time Iditarod Champion is back after a short hiatus from the race. Mitch sat the 2021 season out and allowed son Dallas to create a hybrid team out of both Seavey kennels. It definitely had the fandom talking about a possible retirement in the musher's future, but that's not the case... at least not yet. Mitch watched his father help Joe Redington work to create the Iditarod, and helped his dad train for the first race. He'd always known he would run the Iditarod with the hopes of one day winning it. He's managed it three times, watched his son win five (once from the sidelines!), and is still more than capable of winning his fourth. Mitch hasn't finished out of the top ten in decades (well, we won't count the severed finger withdrawl of 2011) and came second in his last Iditarod.

Nicolas Petit - Nic hasn't run as many races as he has in seasons past. Some for choice, some because of trucks not wanting to run in the cold. Petit's name was shockingly missing from the winner's finishes this season, and one has to wonder if the King of Mid-Distance's reign is coming to an end. Or, is he taking notes from the others' books and he is focusing more on the Iditarod and his chances to come down Front Street first? Time will tell, but I'm not willing to leave him off the list just yet. Expect to see Petit's classic get out ahead early approach again this year.

*Nic Petit had to WD from the race due to testing positive for Covid. Jeff King will run in his place.

Peter Kaiser - Kaiser's Iditarod ended prematurely last year when his dogs ended up with an illness (as many did in 2021), but they've bounced back this season. Pete has dominated in the mid-distance races taking place this season around Bethel - including regaining his Champion title in the Kusko 300. As long as his team can handle the insanely warm weather of South Central in the first few days of the race, Kaiser's team should be right in the mix for top spots. It truly is only a matter of time before Pete gets his second Iditarod title (and what a story that would be). Kaiser- and really all of the "village teams" are a reminder of Redington Sr.'s true goal for the Iditarod - to keep the mushing lifestyle alive and well in Alaskan villages. Peter Kaiser is one in a long line of those teams and an extremely successful one.

Ryan Redington - Speaking of Joe Redington Sr., his grandson Ryan is running the 50th Iditarod calling it "Redington's Run" (a name with double meaning after Hobo Jim's passing late last year - who penned a song with that title after Redington Sr. passed in 2001). Like Nicolas Petit (and mushers like Martin Buser before them), Redington likes to start fast and push for most of the race, he's deviated from that slightly this season when he pulled the plug early on his race in the John Beargrease. Redington's sole focus this season has been in preparing for the Iditarod. He wants so badly to finally bring a championship to the family name that started it all. That's a lot of pressure for any musher, and time will tell how Ryan handles it.

Travis Beals - Okay, I called this a top ten, but I have eleven names. I can't help myself. There are several names on this list that could probably come off, but I've already done that and you'll see the honorable mentions below. I joke every year that I need to have a top fifteen or a top twenty, that's just proof that mushing has so many strong kennels right now, it's great to see. But, I digrees. Beals is another steady team that is hard not to bet on. Travis has an outside chance of taking the top prize, but that's all it takes - especially in these last few years that strange weather played a huge part in who finished and who didn't. Expect Travis to build a monster of his own - they've certainly proven to be made of tough stuff this season.

And like I said - the honorable mentions. I could have put these names in the "top ten" but I already cheated and snuck an extra name in there. Still, these teams have a really great chance of being top ten.

Jeff Deeter - With all of the snow storms in the interior this year, Deeter's training and race schedule got very skewed. Every time they turned around they were having to dig out their kennel and house. That can possibly affect Jeff's race to Nome, but I expect him to still challenge for the top ten. He's an up and coming team that I expect will be a well known name before too long. He could play a spoiler this year even with all of the issues his winter has given him.

Matt Hall - Matt gave a good chase for Brent Sass in the Alaskan Yukon Quest this year, and should give him and the others just as much fun in the Iditarod. Matt can easily find himself in the top ten if he plays his cards right (see what I did there). The Smokin' Aces dogs are on the right track to take control of the race. 

Matthew Failor - How can anyone leave Failor off of their list - even if just an honorable mention - the man ran last year's Iditarod right before going in for hip replacement surgery. WHAT?! He managed a 21st place finish last year after having to scratch in 2020 when he along with two other teams got stuck in the overflow (just ahead of the famed Elim 11). Don't expect Matthew to sit back and take it easy this year (that was last year's strategy). 

Richie Diehl - I hate leaving him off the list but I already cheated with one of the teams make it a top 11. Richie is another "village musher" who has proven himself and his team. He came in 9th last year and could easily be that or higher this year. Diehl has also had a good race season on the West Coast of Alaska and that could come into handy once he hits the coast.

As always, it's difficult to stick to the 10 and only 10 names. There are so many fantastic teams on the roster year in and year out that it's difficult to not want them all to be crammed into those spots. More and more the passing of the torch seems to have happened - I mean, we don't have Jeff King in this year's race... no Lance Mackey... no Aliy Zirkle. Still, the 50th running of Iditarod is certain to be a memorable one as we watch it play out. Good luck to all 49 teams set to run the race this coming weekend. May the trail be safe and swift, the dogs and mushers all stay healthy... and may they all reach Nome and that burled arch.

Have a favorite team you're hoping to see take the prize? Who are in your top ten(ish)? Comment below with your thoughts and cheers! And, if you like what you see and want to see this blog continue, you can buy me a slice of pizza (that actually goes to internet costs)!

Sunday, February 27, 2022

2022 Iditarod Meet the Rookies

The Iditarod class of 2022 boast a lucky number of thirteen names prepared to head down the trail. Some are fulfilling bucket list dreams, others are taking the next step in their mushing journey, and still others seem to plan on making their mark. As with most rookie classes, many are running dogs from another musher's kennel, though this year some are the only representation of their kennel. 

The six women and seven men all look to have fantastic runs to Nome, and their chances have never been better. There are several names that could easily take rookie of the year, and others that will no doubt surprise us all.

Each year I like to give a brief run down on who these mushers are and which team they run for (if not their own). Paws and fingers crossed that this year all thirteen earn that Finisher's Belt Buckle on this historic 50th running of the Last Great Race on Earth. So, let's meat them, shall we?

Amanda Otto - Otto came up to Alaska several years ago chasing her dream of mushing dogs. She landed at the Husky Homestead, home of four-time Iditarod Champion Jeff King. While King is not signed up to run in the 50th Iditarod, his dogs will no doubt be in the capable hands of his handler. Amanda is an avid athlete and adventurer and made mushing her focus after an injury in 2016 "derailed her soccer career". Otto is quite active on social media - especially her Instagram account, and is worth a follow. You can follow Amanda via Husky Homestead's Facebook page, her Instagram, and you can support her by joining her GoFundMe. You can also view her Iditarod Bio.

Bridgett Watkins - The musher from Kennel on a Hill and her dogs come from a very distinguished pedegree. Bridgett is the daughter of Yukon Quest Champion Allen Moore; Aliy Zirkle is her step-mom. Many of the dogs in Bridgett's kennel are either from Allen and Aliy's kennel or their bloodlines trace back to them. There will be a lot of eyes on Watkins to see how she measures up (but let's remember the Seavey's and Mackey's didn't blow the competition away their rookie races). Watkins had a tragic run in with a moose a few weeks back, but still plans on running Iditarod. You can learn more about Bridgett in her Iditarod Bio, as well as her website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Eric Kelly - Another musher running dogs from his own kennel, Eric got into mushing after meeting Jamaican mushing sensation Newton Marshall. After helping Newton prepare for one of his Iditarod runs, Eric found himself working at Kathleen Fredrickson's kennel of Shameless Huskies before starting his own kennel 4 years ago. Like many Alaskans, Eric and his family fell in love with Alaska during a vacation to the great state and decided to pack up and move to the land of sled dogs. Eric's daughter Aspen is also an aspiring musher. You can learn more about Eric from his Iditarod Bio, as well as his Facebook page, and Instagram.

Gerhardt Thiart - A somewhat world traveller who got hooked on mushing a decade or so ago, Gerhardt is running Iditarod to raise awareness and support for US Veterans through the GAT Foundation. Gerhardt trained and completed his qualifiers under the mentorship of Mitch Seavey, and will be running a team of Seavey dogs in the Iditarod. You can read more about Gerhardt in his Iditarod bio, website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Hanna Lyrek - Well, we couldn't let the boys of the QrillPet racing team have all the fun could we? Hanna hails from Norway and is part of the "exclusive" club of mushers who will no doubt be repping the bright orange of the mushing sponsor (and Iditarod partner) QrillPet. Hanna was born in Alaska, and her family moved to Norway when she was 5. She says she's always run dogs and she is excited to finally see her dreams become reality in running the Iditarod. Hanna could be one of the front runners for rookie of the year, and it will be exciting to watch her race. You can read more about Hanna from her Iditarod Bio, website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Joe Taylor - Joe is another one of those California transplant turned musher. He got the bug after working at the UAF mushing program (like so many) and now has his own small kennel outside of Fairbanks. You may think it a little bit of Malarkey, and that's exactly what Joe Taylor went for when naming his kennel. You can learn more about Joe via his Iditarod Bio, website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Julie Ahnen - The B-team from Team Can't Stop racing is in the capable hands of Iditarod rookie Julie Ahnen. Julie has worked with this team since their puppyhood. Going on four years working with Jessie Holmes, Julie is eager to achieve her childhood dream and get her finisher's belt buckle under the burled arch. Ahnen should be fun to watch as she makes her way across Alaska with what should be a strong and fast team of young dogs. You can learn more about Julie through her Iditarod Bio, website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Kailyn Davis - The high school math teacher is living out a childhood dream with the opportunity to run the Iditarod this year. With Wade Marrs splitting his kennel between Alaska and Wisconsin (and not running the Iditarod this year) Kailyn was given the opportunity to run with his dogs to Nome. The team won't be entirely Stump Jumpin' Kennel dogs, but will be a solid core and help her get that belt buckle. You can learn more about Kailyn via her Iditarod Bio, website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

KattiJo Deeter - We all knew it was just a matter of time before the other half of Black Spruce Kennel took down the trail. Deeter's made it to Nome several times to greet Jeff and the team as they finished in past years, but now KattiJo will be running the kennel's second team in the race. With the insane winter weather this season brought to the Interior of Alaska, the Deeter's have had to change their racing schedule early on. Training was also changed up while they continually dug out and recut their trail. Still, both teams should have no trouble running to Nome. You can learn more about KattiJo via her Iditarod bio, website, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter.

Martin Massicotte - Martin is back to try again at finishing the Iditarod after starting in 2020 and not completing the race (like so many once they hit the coast). Martin is a lifelong musher with a great team of dogs, and hopefully this year's race doesn't prove to be a chaotic one of plague and overflow and snow storms that wipe out much of the trail and stall even the most champion of teams. Martin and his wife have shared a lot of their season via social media including how they got the Alaska and the adventure they've found just in the last month. You can learn more about Martin from his Iditarod bio, Facebook page.

Matt Paveglio - Team DEEtermined (in honor of his mother) is hitting the trails thanks to the generous offer of Iditarod veteran Kathleen Fredricks to have Matt run a team from Shameless Huskies kennel in the Iditarod. Matt has worked and dreamt of this moment and now it's finally here. Matt is a supporter of many kennels throughout the years and very vocal about his love for the sport. One can only hope that this run to Nome is everything he's hoped it would be. You can find out more about Matt and Team DEEtermined from his Iditarod bio, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Sean Williams - After having to withdraw just moments before the start of last year's race due to his mother becoming seriously ill (not Covid related), Sean is back to try again to make it this time to Nome. Williams has great support from Martin Buser and Matt Failor and should have a solid team of dogs with him. You can learn more about Sean via his Iditarod bio, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Sebastien Dos Santos Borges - Sebastien is known and loved for his work with "rescues" that he's added to his team. He is fun to watch in the mid-distance races, and one can only hope he has a wonderful run to Nome. He and team came in 7th in this year's Yukon Quest 300, and he certainly looks to have a strong rookie run in this year's Iditarod. You can learn more about Sebastien from his Iditarod Bio (which is very short), website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

So here's to the class of 2022! May they each have swift and safe trails, with "nary a moose" in sight. And when they come off the trail we will wait eagerly to hear them tell their tales and celebrate with them. GOOD LUCK ROOKIES!

Have a favorite rookie? Who do you think will win Rookie of the Year? Comment below with your thoughts and cheers. And, if you like what you see and want to see this blog continue, you can buy me a slice of pizza (that actually goes to internet costs)!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

2022 Iditarod Musher Roster

Here we go, folks! The moment we've all been waiting for IDITAROD 50 IS UPON US! In just a few days time we will all forget the world outside of GPS trackers and sled dogs exists. It is THE most WONDERFUL time of the year! There are 49 names on the roster after seeing 63 sign up. Many reasons, as always, for pre-race withdrawal. Some to do with the Covid policy (all participants must be vaccinated), to logistics (travel restrictions and bans are still in place for some areas), to financial, and just not emotionally prepared. Still, 49 is a solid number for the historic 50th running of the last great race and we are here for it.

As always, I will list the teams as they are listed on the Iditarod's sign up roster until after the Bib Draw when I will reorganize it to reflect starting position. I will be in Anchorage when they are announced so the edit may be delayed, but we'll get it up as soon as possible.

The roster reflects the most recent update from February 19, 2022. Bib Numbers will be added after March 3, 2022. Bib numbers were chosen electronically again this year and announced yesterday (February 26, 2022). This year, based on feedback from readers, I've added kennel names where possible. If you see something that needs correcting let me know! 

Iditarod 50 Mushers

2Sean WilliamsHappy TrailsRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagram
3Nicolas PetitTeam PetitVeteranWebsiteFacebookTwitter
4Michelle PhillipsTagish Lake KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
5Paige DrobnySquid AcresVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
6Martin MassicotteChenil des PatriotesRookieFacebook
7Jessie HolmesTeam Can't Stop RacingVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
8Ramey SmythHomestretch KennelVeteranFacebook
9Anna BeringtonSeeing Double KennelVeteranWebsiteInstagram
10Matthew Failor17th DogVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
11Mats PetterssonKiruna Sled Dog ToursVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
12Joar Leifseth UlsomSivo Racing KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
13Hanna LyrekTeam Lyrek KennelRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagram
14Eric KellyDaybreak MushingRookieFacebookInstagram
15Riley DycheDarkhorse Sled DogsVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
16Lev ShvartsTeam OllieVeteranWebsiteFacebook
17Ryan RedingtonRedington MushingVeteranWebsiteFacebook
18Richie DiehlReal Diehl RacingVeteranFacebook
19KattiJo DeeterBlack Spruce KennelRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
20Dallas SeaveyDallas Seavey RacingVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
21Aaron PeckElevation Sled DogsVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
22Joe TaylorMushing MalarkeyRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagram
23Aaron BurmeisterAlaskan Wildstyle RacingVeteranFacebook
24Kristy BeringtonSeeing Double KennelVeteranWebsiteInstagram
25Deke NaaktgeborenNautique Sky KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
26Anja RadanoSwamp Dawg KennelVeteranFacebookInstagram
27Brent SassWild and FreeVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
28Dan KaduceDew Claw KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
29Julie AhnenTeam Can't Stop RacingRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagram
30Mitch SeaveyIdidaride Sled Dog ToursVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
31Matt HallSmokin Aces KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
32Amanda OttoHusky HomesteadRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagram
33Mille PorsildTeam Racing BeringiaVeteranWebsiteFacebook
34Jeff DeeterBlack Spruce KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
35Ryne OlsonRyno KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
36Bridgett WatkinsKennel on a HillRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagram
37Peter KaiserKaiser RacingVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
38Martin BuserHappy Trails KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
39Gerhardt ThiartSeavey's IdidarideRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagram
40Karin HendricksonBlue and Black RacingVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
41Kailyn DavisStump Jumpin' KennelRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagram
42Travis BealsTurning Heads KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
43Lisbet NorrisAlaskan KennelsVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
44Sebastien Dos Santos BorgesPolar TeamRookieWebsiteFacebookInstagram
45Joshua McNealCrooked Creek KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
46Chad StoddardDallas Seavey RacingVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagram
47Apayauq ReitanSivo Racing KennelVeteranWebsiteFacebookInstagramTwitter
48Matt PaveglioTeam DEEterminedRookieFacebookInstagram
49Yuka HondaGinga Express KennelVeteran
50Hugh NeffLanier's Northern WhitesVeteranFacebookInstagram

Comment below with any thoughts about the roster, or any corrections. If you like what you see and want to support my addiction (I mean HOBBY) of following these races and stalking (I mean cheering on) the mushers, you can buy me a slice of pizza (that really goes to paying for my internet/web expenses).