The first musher in the Tustumena Little T Sled Dog Race came in Sunday morning, hours before daylight. Jason Young from Oconte Falls, Wis., took first place in the 100-mile offshoot of the Tustumena 200, arriving at the Tustumena Lodge at 7:39 a.m.
The field of 11 mushers running the Little T Saturday afternoon started behind the T-200 teams, but Young said he got out to such a good start, he upstaged some of the 200 dog sledders.
"I passed about five or six of them going out," he said. "They came back past me later, though."
He said he had a pretty smooth run for much of the race, and only caught any true heat in the last 30 miles, as challengers overtook his leading position.
"Two teams passed me toward the end," Young said.
Dean Osmar, T-200 founder and Young's sponsor, said Young was able to catch the new leaders because he ran a smart race.
"He ended up passing them about 80 miles into the race," Osmar said. "He didn't push too hard at the beginning. That's why they were able to still have something at the end."
Young took home $400 of the $1,000 purse that was split among the first four finishers.
William Faulkner of Clam Gulch finished second, earning $300. Nenana's Dexter Kancer was awarded $200 for third place, and Dave Graham of Willow took fourth place with a $100 prize.
The Little T was Young's first 100-mile race and his second in Alaska. He ran the Clam Gulch Classic, a 50-mile race, in December, and he said he ran a short race last year in Minnesota.
He said he came to Alaska to learn about mushing, so he could contend in bigger races in the future.
Does this include eventual participation in the Iditarod?
"Of course," Young said. "Everybody wants to run that race. But I want to keep a level head about it."
He said he wants to gain as much experience as he can in smaller races.
"Then we'll think about the big one."
Osmar, the 1984 Iditarod champ, said he has been working with Young since the beginning of November and admits to at least one secret to Young's fast success.
"He had a good teacher," Osmar said smugly.
Osmar also gave credit to Young's dogs.
"He had a good team," Osmar said. "He ran with nine yearlings and an adult. The main thing is running the dogs a lot. Getting quality runs, starting with a little at a time and slowly building. He came into race with about 1,400 to 1,500 miles."
Young said he wants to own his own dog yard within two or three years, but he will continue to work with Osmar to train.
What's next on Young's plate, he said he can't say yet.
"I have no idea," he said. "It depends on what Dean lets me do."
But for now, the student said the lessons he is learning from a proven master are enough.
"I've learned what (the dogs) can do," Young said. "I'm learning their limitations."
The final results from the Little T are as follows:
LITTLE T -- 100
1st Jason Young $400
2nd William Faulkner $300
3rd Dexter Kancer $200
4th Dave Graham $100
5th Mark Newell
6th Katie Tongue
7th John Bramante
8th Jane Faulkner
9th Heather Zimmerman
10th Mark Robert
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