Kids come to mushing through many different circumstances. Sometimes, it’s purely coincidental and other times it’s a family affair. Some get into the sport after being introduced by neighbors or friends while others follow older brothers and sisters down the trail. Whatever brought them to dogs, these are dedicated young mushers who have worked hard at becoming good at driving sleds, camping in the winter and caring for their beloved athletes. Meet five of the nine rookies of 2022 through these brief biographies.
Tori Boulding from Manley, Alaska is an 8th grader at Rock Cross Middle School. Boulding, age 14, says she’s been mushing since before she can remember. She is the daughter of Iditarod icon and veteran Charlie Boulding and Robin Boulding. She’s new to racing. Tori claimed gold in the February Willow Jr. 100 run, her first race. Tori’s father has participated in thirteen Iditarod runs between 1992 and 2005. He’s finished 11 and has been in the top ten eight times. His best finish, 3rd place was sandwiched between three 5th place finishes. Tori enjoys wood cutting, fishing and Minecraft. Manley was a checkpoint on the Fairbanks Alternate Race Route run in 2003, 2015 and 2017. She is running Brent Sass dogs from Wild and Free Mushing.
When Sawyer Brown started mushing in 2010, he set a goal of being the youngest winner of Iditarod. Dallas Seavey currently holds that record, winning Iditarod at the age of twenty-five. Brown, age 15, who is from Ester, Alaska can enter the Iditarod upon turning 18. Ester is located a few miles west of Fairbanks. He has been focused on sprint mushing over the last ten years. Brown has raced in the Tok Race of Champions and the Willow Jr. 100 where he placed 12th this year. He has raised the majority of the dog in his kennel from pups. He likes working on car engines and plans to pursue a career in auto mechanics after he graduates from high school.
Katie Henry, age 15, lives in Kotzebue, Alaska. She has grown up in a mushing family, sharing the sport with four sisters. They pride themselves in taking good care of their canine athletes. Participating in a subsistence lifestyle, Katie hunts and fishes. Henry’s previous racing experience includes the Junior Kobuk 440. She is a sophomore, hopes to become a veterinarian and plans to continue mushing. Kotzebue lies 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle, north and slightly east of Nome.
Bristol Huffman, age 14, is also from Kotzebue, Alaska. The high School freshman has been mushing for two years and is training with musher Dempsey Woods, Jr. Bristol ran the 2021 Junior Kobuk 440. She says she decided to take up the sport of mushing because she likes to work and she likes to work with dogs. Bristol enjoys cross-country, fishing, hunting, trapping, kayaking, swimming and listening to music. While not sure of her career path, Huffman plans to attend college. Her dream is to own her own kennel and race the Iditarod.
Joachim Labrecque, age 15, rounds out the first handful of rookie racers for the 2022 Jr. Iditarod. He is from Willow, Alaska but attends Chugiak High School. Joachim has been running dogs all of his life, taking the sport up from his mom. The Jr. Iditarod will be his first race. As a freshman, he participates in Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, basketball, cross-country and blacksmithing. He also enjoys playing guitar, hunting, fishing, camping, exploring, shooting and running dogs. After high school Labrecque plans to attend the Naval Academy in Maryland then enter Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.
The Jr. Iditarod has been moved up the Parks Highway to Cantwell. Abundant snow and warm temperatures have combined to create copious amounts of overflow on the trails to and from Yentna Station. The 2022 Jr. Iditarod will be a stage race. Mushers will do a sixty mile run on Saturday out and back on the Denali Highway then do another 60 mile out and back run on Sunday. The times for each day will be combined. Saturday’s stage will start at 10:00 am while Sunday’s stage will start at 9:00 am. The finisher’s banquet will be held at the Cantwell school on Sunday evening. Race tracking and updates can be found at www.jriditarod.com throughout the weekend. Come back soon to meet more of the Jr. Iditarod contestants.