Are you tired of hearing comments about youth today claiming that they have lost focus, are horribly self-centered or just unproductive? Well those people should have been at the Iditarod Headquarters tonight to watch the Jr. Iditarod Musher’s meeting. These young people, ages 14-17, manage and care for their own team of dogs and have trained devotedly for the race that they will start tomorrow morning.
They will leave from Knik and travel 75 miles out to Yentna on Saturday, spend a 10 hour layover plus differential which allows for the two minute staggered starts, and mush another 75 miles back to Willow on Sunday. While out at Yentna the mushers will stay outside all night and care for their teams and enjoy each other’s company.
This year’s group is almost half male and half female reminding us that the athletes here are the dogs, not the nushers. There are eight rookies and three veterans running this year so that should make for some interesting stories.
The evening started with each musher signing a set of bibs that will be given to the sponsors in gratitude of their valuable support. Pizza was served followed by a description of the trail conditions, markings and warnings about excessive moose on the trail by the Traill marker, Richard Plack.
Then it was time for the mushers to draw their starting positions which made the whole experience begin to actually seem real. Then the rest of us were ushered out so they could all get down to business with Race Marshall, Melissa Owens.
This year we have mushers from as far away as Southern California. In fact, we have four mushers from the lower 48 which is a record.
Chelsea Davis is 16 and a sophomore in high school. She has been here in Alaska working her dogs out of Talkeetna since the end of Christmas vacation. She is not missing school though, as she has homework everyday and goes into a local high school to have her tests proctored. A very serious student, Chelsea is considering medical school after high school. Being from California myself, I was drawn to her cheerful and positive attitude.
Anxious to really get on the trail in the morning,