After placing third in last year's Tustumena 200 and being the last to start this year's T-200, the always-popular Dee Dee Jonrowe of Willow, Alaska claimed her first Tusty 200 Championship after 19 hours and 7 minutes on the trail. Just 8 minutes back from Jonrowe was Cim Smyth, a past T-200 champion musher from Big Lake, Alaska who actually was gaining ground at the end of the race despite the warm temperatures.
Coming off his near photo finish victory over Mike Williams at the Kuskokwim 300 race held in western Alaska January 21st, Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof came in first in the Tustumena 100 race ahead of Merissa Osmar of Clam Gulch. At the Kusko race, only 60 seconds separated Gebhardt and Williams, but in the T-100 event that was run in the Caribou Hills region of the lower Kenai Peninsula, Gebhardt added a 15 minute buffer to his lead as he trains for the Iditarod next month. Winning the 2011 Jr. T or the junior version of the race, was 13-year-old Conway Seavey - son of the 2004 Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey. "Conway is our youngest and he did us all proud," said Mitch whose father Dan ran in the first Iditarod race to Nome in 1973. "Our son Dallas will be running the Iditarod this year and he has his own kennel now in Willow with about 70 of his own dogs, and he'll be a fierce competitor, but I don't plan on letting him get ahead of me again this year. I'm focused and concentrating on picking up my second win this year," added Seavey
The Tustumena 200 was started in 1984 by Iditarod Champion Dean Osmar as a training race for local mushers preparing for the 1,100 mile trek to Nome. Comparing today's training techniques to the early years of the Iditarod Seavey said, "The first Iditarod of course that my Dad ran in, they didn't even know if they could make it. He was telling me a story last night about how he was running in the lead of that first Iditarod and in the dark and the moonlight he stopped abruptly running into the trail breaker and realized he was lost and they spent two days sorting out where they were while the rest of the field passed them by. But those were the old days and today we use GPS and can watch our speed real close and don't have to estimate how fast we are going anymore because we know exactly how fast we're going and where we are and of course the equipment and dogs have evolved as well."
Dee Dee Jonrowe and Paul Gebhardt will also be chasing an Iditarod championship when the "Last Great Race" gets underway March 5th in Anchorage. Thanks to the Tustumena 200, race sponsors, and all the volunteers that make the T-200 possible "Iditarod Fever" is now underway and highly contagious on the Kenai Peninsula.
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