The 2014 Junior Iditarod officially concluded tonight with the Junior Iditarod Awards Banquet. The juniors graciously accepted their awards and prizes and thanked their families and sponsors. The prize committee worked exceptionally hard this year and the kids earned a variety of scholarships and awards totaling in the neighborhood of $17,000.
I always tell my students that one of the things that intrigues me so much about the Iditarod is that the mushers are great role models and often exemplify character traits that we value. The Junior Iditarod mushers are no exception to this rule. There are even special awards given to the mushers who demonstrate exceptional character.
Each year one junior musher is recognized with the Sportsmanship Award. This year the award was given to Kevin Harper. After leaving the halfway point, Jimmy Lanier ran into a bit of trouble. Apparently a few of his dogs got a little “chew-happy” and chewed through the lines that attached the leaders to the rest of the team and the leaders were able to get away from the team. Kevin, without hesitation, stepped up to help Jimmy out. He chased down the leaders, turned his team around and brought them back to Jimmy, and then had to turn his team around again to head off back down the trail.
The veterinarians award one junior musher the Humanitarian Award each year. This award is given to the person who is judged by the vets to have taken the best care of their dogs during the race. In presenting the award this year the vets, Dr. Meyer and Dr. Hempsted, said that the award could have been given to many of the mushers, but they ultimately decided that Ben Harper was the most deserving candidate.
When we learn about the Iditarod at school we often discuss the idea that most of the mushers are not in the race to win it. They run the Iditarod to challenge themselves and to have a grand adventure. We talk about the trait of perseverance and the idea that setting goals and not quitting until you succeed are life lessons we can learn from the mushers. This is also true for the Junior Iditarod mushers! Each year the Red Lantern award is given to the musher who sticks with it and gets themselves to the finish line, even when they are last, without quitting. This year the Red Lantern winner was Nicole Forto. Nicole showed great strength and perseverance and completed her rookie Junior Iditarod!
The Junior Iditarod is an amazing event and I am grateful for the opportunity to be so involved with it this year! Everyone was so inviting and welcoming and so obviously loved what they were doing. A special thanks to Lacey Hart and Nicole Forto for all of the time, talent, and energy they gave to my students this year. The boys loved working with you almost as much as I did! Congratulations to all of the junior mushers and the entire Junior Iditarod family for a job well done! Thanks for including me in your fun!