June 22, 2024

Jr. Iditarod mushers depart Yentna Station

The Jr. Iditarod start couldn’t have been more beautiful. The clouds were low on Knik Lake as the dog trucks came in to park. The temperatures were mild with no wind. The clouds lifted, Mother Nature’s artistic beauty was revealed in the hoar frost that covered the trees all the way around the lake. Incredible beauty surrounding an incredible Jr. Iditarod.

Katie Deits starts her 3rd Jr. Iditarod with the City Slickers

The dog trucks were parked in a circle, sleds were hooked to bumpers and gang lines were laid out on the snow reaching toward the start banner. Everyone was waiting for 10:00 to arrive. Friends, family and mentors surrounded the young mushers as they packed their sleds and booted their dogs. Jr. Iditarod officials passed from team to team checking sled bags for mandatory gear. Mushers were attaching Jr. Iditarod specific dogs tags to each collar. Finally it was time to take the trail.

Jessica Klejka, DVM (former Jr. Iditarod Champion) talks strategy with Colby Spears

After traveling 75-miles out to the Yentna Station Roadhouse, the teens checked in and began their dog chores. Comments were pretty much the same – I had a good run, the dogs did great and the trail was a bit slower than I expected. One word described the work of the Jr. mushers as they card for their dogs – EFFICIENCY. There was time for catching some shut-eye on the straw with their dogs and their was time to socialize at the campfire during the ten-hour mandatory lay over.

Kali Herbst leaves for Yentna Station in her rookie Jr. Iditarod

When 4:05 arrived on Sunday morning, Andrew Nolan headed to Willow with a 10-minite lead over Colby Spears. Right behind Colby was Emma Shawcroft followed by Bailey Schaeffer, Chandler Wappett and Rachel Cockman. After an hour’s break in the action at Yentna Station, Katie Deits, Anna Stephan and Katherine Winrich began their 75-mile trip to the finish line. Kali Herbst, Rebecka Stephan and Hannah Mahoney made up the final trio to depart Yentna Station. Logan McCready-DeBruin scratched last evening at the Eagle Song checkpoint. Logan made the decision to scratch for the bet interest of his dogs.

Jr. Iditarod Veteran, Bailey Schaeffer, contemplates footwear for the race

From my position at Yentna Station, waiting for clouds to life and the Iditarod Air Force to fly, I see the teams moving along the trail very nicely. I’d estimate the leaders to make Willow very close to noon.

Jr. Iditarod veteran Chandler Wappatt takes to the trail

Many compliments can be paid to these young mushers including their passion for the sport , their dogs and adventure. They’ve been well schooled in dog care and the bond they have with their athletes is easy to observe. All of these young mushers are winners. In dreaming and trying, they win.