Ten Jr. Iditarod mushers drew their bib numbers on Friday evening at Iditarod Headquarters. The Juniors will take to the trail on February 27th from the Willow Community Center at 10:00.
The teens, ages 14 – 17 will run 75 miles out to Yentna Station Roadhouse. The roadhouse, run by the Gabryszak family, has been the traditional turnaround for years. The teens will begin to arrive late afternoon. They are required to rest for 10 hours. The differential to accommodate two-minute start intervals is added to the ten hours. Given past races, the leaders will most likely depart from Yentna for the return trip to Willow beginning at sometime between three or four o’clock in the morning.
The JR. Iditarod field for 2016 is comprised of seven veterans and three rookies. They all hail from Alaska in an area covered by a triangle with corners in Fairbanks, Bethel and Skagway. There’s an equal number of male and female racers.
Five of the top six finisher in 2015 are back to race. Defending Champion Kevin Harper, returns for his final Jr. Iditarod. Andrew Nolan the recipient of the 2015 Sportsmanship award and Marianna Mallory the recipient of the 2015 Humanitarian award are back for the race. Nolan finished third and Mallory finished in 6th place. Dakota Schlosser, the highest placing rookie of 2015 returns to the field. In 2015 the Jr. Iditarod was moved north to Cantwell and the Denali Highway do poor snow conditions so for most of the veterans, the trail will be new. Harper and Nolan are the only returning veterans with more than a year of race experience.
Veterans Katie Diets, Rose Capistrant and Joan Klejka will be on the traditional Jr iditarod trail for the first time come Saturday. Klejka from Bethel was awarded the Red Lantern in 2015 as the final musher to finish.
New comers to the race include Bailey Schaeffer of Willow, Denver Kay Evans of Skagway and Chandler Wappett of Fairbanks.
Wasilla merchants and mushing suppliers are very generous in supporting the Jr. Iditarod. The donations are numerous and each musher receives a bag of items ranging from gloves to blinking safety lights to fleece neck warmers. Kipmik provides 500 dog booties. Each of the mushers draws a tag. If the tag has a “B” the musher receives 100 booties, tags drawn with a smiley face mean have a smiley day but no booties. Winners were Katie Deits, Rose Capistrant, Joan Klejka, Kevin Harper and Chandler Wappett. Many thanks to Kipmik for their generous support of the Jr. Iditarod mushers.
The Jr. Iditarod has select Stan Hecker as the Honorary Musher. Hecker is a long time volunteer from Michigan who came to the race through high school friends. Hecker will be on hand in Willow wearing Bib #1.
The weather is expected to be unusual for this time of year. Temperatures may reach into the 40s and some rain may fall. These mushers and their dogs are ready to rock and roll. Bib numbers can be found on the Jr. Iditarod Webpage. Follow the Jr. Iditarod at jriditarod.com.