May 27, 2024

Stage is Set for 40th Jr. Iditarod

Jr. Iditarod class of 2017

The stage is set for the 40th Jr. Iditarod. Earlier today mushers brought their dogs in for vet check. This evening they gathered for the bib draw, pizza, cake and race rule information. It will be a baker’s dozen, thirteen mushers will take to the trail on Saturday morning. In an earlier post, six of the teenage mushers were introduced in conjunction with some news about vet check. This post will contain some information regarding bib draw and the other seven mushers that make up the Jr. Iditarod class of 2017.

Bib #1 is reserved for the honorary mushers – Stan and Sally Smith who’ve given generously of their time and talents volunteering over the past 20 years for both the Jr. Iditarod and the Iditarod.

Wearing bib #2, rookie Colby Spears will lead the teens out across Knik Lake. Veteran Andrew Nolan drew bib #14 and will be the last to leave the starting line. The thirteen teens will leave the stating line in two-minute intervals. Start differential will be add to their ten-hour layover at Yentna Station.

Colby Spears is fourteen years old and attends Joe Redington Jr/Sr High School. Colby began mushing in 2016 and is excited to be running the Jr. Iditarod as his first competitive race. He enjoys all outdoor activities especially dirt bikes, 4-wheelers, ice fishing, hunting and going out to the cabin. He really enjoys time spent with his Dad.

Rookie Kali Herbst drew bib #13. She’s from Ketcham, Idaho where the snow is up to the eaves of the houses this winter. Kali, the daughter of Iditarod veteran Trent Herbst has been mushing since she was three. The Jr. Iditarod will be her first competitive race. Kali is a freshman in high school who participates in track, orchestra and journalism. Her hobbies are bike touring, playing violin, pack rafting and writing. As to whether she plans to continue mushing, she says, “I’m enjoying it now!”

Anna Stephan and sister Rebecka Stephan will leave the starting line wearing bibs 8 and 9 respectively. The sisters are new to the Jr. Iditarod. They credit their dad with getting them started in the sport about seven years ago. The girls are homeschooled and both are in ninth grade. Anna enjoys running, fishing and playing the violin. Rebecka says her hobbies are playing the violin and swimming. Anna and Rebecka recently completed the Willow JR 100. When asked about future plans, graduation is a long way off but they both are committed to continue mushing. The Stephan sisters are from Wasilla, Ak.

Katherine Winrich of Reedsville, Wisconsin will be wearing bib #11 in her rookie Jr. Iditarod. Katherine, age 16, says she was introduced to sled dogs when she was in middle school. “When I got my first three dogs, I began to keep a journal about running the dogs and our experiences mushing recreationally. After I picked up three more dogs, I began running sprint races.” A couple of years ago, Katherine decided to try mid-distance mushing and found she really liked the trail time with the dogs. Katherine participates in track and field, drama club, MAD, Adventure Club and National Honor Society at Reedsville High School where she is a junior. Katherine is running a combined team with dogs from Kathleen Frederick, Meredith Mapes and Melissa Owens-Stewart.

In running the Jr. Iditarod, Rachel Cockman is taking a step toward her goal of running the Iditarod in 2021 when she turns 18. Rachel lives in Cantwell and operates Happy Jack Kennel. Her Happy Jack bloodlines come from King, Osmar and Santos dogs with a little native dog mixed in. She’s excited about the team and feels they are strong right now and looks forward to the future and long distance racing with these dogs. Rachel does much of her training on the Denali Highway. She’s participated in the Willow Jr. 100. Rachel will be leaving the Knik start wearing bib #10.

Chandler Wappett of Fairbanks is a Jr. Iditarod Veteran of one race.  His trip south from Fairbanks was for a dual purpose.  Besides the Jr. Iditarod this weekend, today he participated in the state cross country ski meet held in Anchorage.  This is young man with many irons in the fire. Chandler started mushing in 2011 because he liked being outdoors by himself with the dogs.  Chandler finished 5th last year in the Jr. Iditarod and has participated in other junior races in the Fairbanks area.  Chandler’s siblings all take turns in training and racing the dogs.  As a junior at Lathrup High School Chandler participates in cross country running and cross country skiing.  He also enjoys fishing, soccer and hunting.  He plans to enter medical school after graduation and will continue mushing as long as possible.  Wappett will be wearing bib #12.

Along with the bib draw, the rookie mushers received a repair kit and some tips on sled repair. Jim Uhl advises the mushers to plan ahead – know what might break and have a plan to fix it.

Richard Plack gave a detailed explanation about trail markings and condition. The trail will be soft due to recent rain/snow and warm weather. The teams will experience some overflow on lakes and swamps in the first 20 miles of the race.

The 40th Jr. Iditarod has four veterans with seven years of experience in the race. The nine rookie contestants are all anxious for their first Jr. Iditarod experience.  Use this link to see a complete list of the mushers.  God speed to all!  Stay tuned for more news from the trail.