With a record number of mushers entering the 29th Tustumena 200 Iditarod qualifier last week the Seavey family from Sterling added two more wins to their record. 2004 Iditarod champion Mitch was first to finish the T-200 and son Conway took the T-100. Last year Dallas Seavey won the Iditarod. “We were very proud when Dallas won the Iditarod last year and his younger brother Conway at 15 won the junior Iditarod and he’s running here today, so it’s been a great ride for our family and there is nothing better than to see your kids succeed and do well an what they choose to do,” Mitch told the Dispatch in an interview before starting the T-200. Seavey credits his dogs with being the real champions, “We have a long history with my dad Dan running in the first Iditarod but we’ve studied the genetics and paid attention and done some creative things that have worked out for us we haven’t bred to all the best distance dogs out there we’ve kind of made our own, they’re a Seavey dog and they are champions,” he said.
Seavey like many former Iditarod champions had entered the T-200 mainly as a training run, but when he found himself in the lead leaving the last check point put his team into a racing mode with several fast teams on his heels and ended up keeping his lead to the finish line and winning his first Tustumena 200 ahead of Ray Redington, grandson of Iditarod legend Joe Redington, Jeff King multiple Iditarod champion and veteran T-200 winner Paul Gebhardt. In the T-100, the father of the Tusty-200 Dean Osmar’s wife My Dzung made dog racing history as she became the first Vietnamese woman to run a dog race in Alaska finishing third ahead of her husband Dean who came in 4th, Ben Harper finished 2nd. “She’s been here a year and a half and started training last year and is ready for the race today and it’s exciting having her run her first T-100, she’s starting 10 minutes ahead of me so I’ll have to hustle to catch her,” Dean told the Dispatch before the start of the race.
With two of the other Iditarod qualifier races being canceled the T-200 started a field of 34 mushers and the T-100 eleven. Warm temperatures made this year’s race challenging for the dogs, which do better in colder conditions and might have been a factor in the cause of two dog fatalities who died from fluid in their lungs. According to a report in the Peninsula Clarion Veterinarian Gary Kuchinka said, “It was nothing the mushers could have foreseen, it was pretty sudden, it was a pulmonary edema that was triggered some how and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” he said. Tissue samples have been sent to a forensics lab in Washington for further study.
On the day before the start of the race all dogs were given through examinations by qualified veterinarians, “We look for several different things during the exam in terms of the dogs overall health and ability to run a good race. We start with at the head area and look at the eyes and nasal passages for any sign of mucus discharge, we check teeth to be sure there are no dental issues, we check all the limbs to be sure they have no muscular issues and full range of motion and no swelling or pain, I look at the lymph nodes check to be sure they are the correct size and it is very important to check the respiratory system so I listen to the heart to be sure they have normal heart rhythm and no murmurs or arrhythmias and carefully listen to the lungs to be sure they completely clear,” explained Dr. Pam May in an interview at the Vet check on Friday.