FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A 15-year-old musher from Chitina guided her young team of 10 dogs to victory in the 120-mile Junior Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race for the second consecutive year.
Ellie Claus and her team crossed the finish line on the Chena River at the Cushman Street Bridge just after 10 a.m. Sunday morning.
''I'm so happy,'' Claus said shortly after finishing at 10:13 a.m. Sunday to claim the title in the two-day race from Fairbanks to Twin Bears Campground and back.
''It was just awesome,'' Claus said. ''I had a young team and I didn't know how they would perform, but I finished with 10 dogs and that makes me very happy.''
Claus' lead dog Vanilla may have been most responsible for the winning effort as he led the team for the second straight year.
Claus led the field into the midway point at Twin Bears Saturday afternoon and was the first musher to head back toward Fairbanks when she began her return trip at 4:05 a.m. Sunday.
Half of Claus' 10-dog team were competing in their first race.
''Five of them had never gone on a run of more than 60 miles, but they were all absolutely wonderful,'' she said. ''I never would have guessed beforehand that they would have performed this well.''
Elisabeth Habermann of Soldotna finished in second place, just over 30 minutes behind the winner.
''It was a lot of fun, but a little cold,'' Habermann said after being checked in by race officials. ''The dogs did a lot better than I expected, but I really didn't know what to expect from the race so I'm thrilled.''
Adam Beebe of Delta Junction finished third.
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