Lead dogs Bashful II and Pig charge Dave Hampton's team out of the starting chute during the start of the T-100 at the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof on Saturday. Hampton went on to finish the race in ninth place.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Two Rivers musher Jessica Hendricks made it two in a row by crossing the finish line first again this year in the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race on Sunday.
“It feels really good,” Hendricks said after her win. “I think I worked for it more this year than last year. It was a war right to the end.”
With 11 dogs in harness, Hendricks crossed the finish line at 6:23 p.m. to the cheers of the crowd of onlookers at the Tustumena Lodge. Just days before at the veterinary checks for the race, Hendricks commented on how hard, icy trails in the Two Rivers area had caused injuries to core members of her dog team. She doubted if the dogs she brought would be enough to defend her 2005 title.
“I scraped this team together. I had to leave a lot of dogs back home I wanted here, but these guys had more in them than I thought. They held up good,” she said.
Jessica Hendricks of two Rivers takes off from the starting chute of the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race at the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof on Saturday. Hendricks went on to win the race Sunday for the second year in a row.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Hot on Hendricks’ heels at the finish line was Dean Osmar of Clam Gulch, who came in at 6:31 p.m. eight minutes behind Hendricks, who is a third his age. Osmar didn’t site her youth or her lighter weight as the factor that led to her victory.
Instead he said, “She’s got some really good dogs.”
Osmar said this year’s race was one of the most fun he’s participated in in recent memory, and that while he was happy with his second-place finish, it means he’ll have to come back and race next year.
“Well, I’ve come in fifth, fourth, third and second, so I guess I’ll have to come back and do it again one more time,” he said.
Much like Osmar came in close behind Hendricks, Denali musher Jeff King came in not far behind Osmar at 6:36 p.m. carrying a dog in his sled basket.
The T-100, which wrapped up almost 12 hours earlier in the day, was an equally close race. Fairbanks musher Eric Butcher was able to stay out front, finishing first at 5:14 a.m.
“That was a nice 100 miles that will help prepare my team for the (Yukon) Quest in two weeks,” Butcher said.
Like Kasilof musher Jon Little won the T-100 last year prior to competing in the Quest, Butcher said he wanted to use the race for distance training, instead of risking an injury by pushing the dogs the further distance in the T-200.
Eric Butcher crosses the finish line at 5:14 a.m. on Sunday to claim victory in the T-100 Sled Dog Race.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Butcher, a two-time Quest 250 champion and 2005 Iditarod contender, had a team of largely 4- to 6-year-old dogs that had run in the Last Great Race. He was considered the team to beat by many in the T-100. Other mushers didn’t make his win easy for him.
“I had some tough competition,” Butcher said.
One of the toughest competitors for Butcher was Jon Little’s handler, Timm Nelson, who ran a team of seven yearling pups and three adult dogs, yet managed to finish one minute behind Butcher. Nelson had overcome a few hurdles to get within striking distance of Butcher.
“I had kind of a slow start. I got a bad tangle on my first pass. I lost a dog and got it back and had to switch out leaders, but after that I started moving fast,” he said.
Nelson, who has been mushing less than a year, said he was satisfied with his second-place finish.
“I’m happy with how it turned out. The dogs moved as fast as I wanted them to go,” he said.
Not far behind Nelson, Kasilof musher Colleen Robertia finished third at 5:22 a.m., and like Nelson, Robertia also was running a team comprised of young dogs eight yearlings pups and two adults. She, too, was happy with her dogs’ performance.
The fourth place position the last spot to pay out in the T-100 was a race within the race as Sterling musher Jeremy Malloy and Kasilof musher Ed Pearson battled it out, the latter claiming fourth in the end.
Malloy said that, despite the two mushers kicking and pedaling like madmen, it was a gentleman’s race to the end. He described how at one point Pearson’s team got off trail and cut across a lake, which ended up being a bit of a shortcut. When the trails reconnected and Malloy met back up with Pearson, he had stopped his team to make up the time difference to Malloy, so things were fair.
“It showed a lot of sportsmanship,” Malloy said.
Robertia told a similar tale of Pearson, describing how he held back his team while she dealt with a tangle in a section of trail that wasn’t safe for passing.
“I’ve been in that situation before and had people pass me and I swore I would never do that to someone,” Pearson said.
Pearson’s weren’t the only acts of sportsmanship in the 100-mile race. Three mushers Will Faulkner and Joshua Hudson of Kasilof and Trese Sweden of Denali held back their teams for 15 minutes to shine their headlamps toward Kasilof musher Dave Hampton, who had gotten off trail in the highcountry of the Caribou Hills during a wind storm that had drifted snow over the trail in several sections.
“He was in a quandary, so we shined our lights so he could see where the trail was. We shined them until he started coming down,” Faulkner said.
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