While the big names in mushing are lining up this morning in Wasilla for the restart of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, their sons and daughters were finishing up the Junior Iditarod a week ago.
The names certainly sound familiar; Ryan Redington successfully defended his title, holding off Tyrell Seavey of Sterling down the stretch.
Redington, son of veteran musher Raymie Redington, completed the 150-mile course from Wasilla to Yentna Station and back in 13 hours, 10 minutes and 4 seconds, 10:07 ahead of Seavey, son of Iditarod musher Mitch Seavey.
Seavey, 15, was running a team of 10 dogs, the maximum number allowed for the race, that included four that his dad was training for this year's Iditarod.
"They're all my dad's dogs, and there's some from his main team," Seavey said. "He usually trains 20 dogs, and he's allowed to use 16 for the Iditarod, so these are his 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th dogs."
Seavey said he did most of the training on this team himself to prepare for the junior race.
There was plenty of racing behind the leaders as well. Max Warren, a 16-year-old musher from Kasilof, held off Ester Keim to claim fifth place in 14:58:01.
"She kept catching up and catching up," Warren said. "She really gave me a run for my money."
Warren was running a team that consisted of some of his own dogs, as well as some of his sister Wendy's dogs, themselves veterans of Junior Iditarod competition.
Both mushers used similar tactics for the race -- ride the break on the way to Yentna to keep the dogs from burning out early, but let them run all the way home.
Warren had to drop a dog at the Yentna checkpoint, and carried another in his sled basket over the last stretch of the race.
"One of overheating. It was really hot (for sled dogs) on the first day," Warren said. "The other had a bad wrist. The last section of trail was punchy, and if they punch through the snow it increases the chance of an injury."
Seavey said he dropped a dog for tactical reasons at the halfway mark, and also carried a dog during the last stretch of the race.
"I ended up having to carry a dog, and that put us about 10 minutes behind. That made the difference," Seavey said.
Warren and Seavey said they are good friends, and plan an annual a camping trip together during the Iditarod. While the pair is close in age, they vary in aspirations.
Seavey, born into a mushing family, has his sights set on joining his father and older brother, Danny, on the Iditarod Trail. Running the Junior Iditarod has been a great way to gain experience in one of just two distance races in Alaska open to younger mushers.
"I'll run a puppy team for my dad when I'm 18," Seavey said. "After that, I don't know. There's a lot of races you can do once you get to be 18."
Warren, on the other hand, has one more year of eligibility in the Junior Iditarod, and after that plans to enter a few of the mid-distance events once he's 18.
"I'll definitely run (the Junior Iditarod) next year," Warren said. "After that, I'll probably run the Tustumena 200 or the Copper Basin 300. I'll always have a few dogs. I'll probably be more of a recreational musher, though."
Warren already has the recreational side of the sport down. Junior Iditarod racers are required to take a 10-hour layover at Yentna Station. They're not allowed to go inside during the layover, and most of the mushers gather around a bonfire for most of the evening before their early morning return trip to Wasilla.
"I was planning on sleeping, but I was having too much fun," Warren said.
Warren will get a taste of serious mushing this weekend after being asked to handle for Kasilof musher Jon Little at the Iditarod start. That will give him one more chance to catch up to Seavey.
Junior Iditarod Final Results
Feb. 26 and 27
1. Ryan Redington, 13:10:04; 2. Tyrell Seavey 13:20:11; 3. Jessica Hendricks, 13:47:58; 4. Tran Smyth, 14:51:12; 5. Max Warren, 14:58:01; 6. Ester Keim, 14:58:05; 7. Andy Moderow, 15:34:58; 8. Ellie Claus, 16:16; 04; 9. Hannah Moderow, 16:56:00; 10. Lindsey Hansen, 17:30:44; 11. Kyla Boivin, 18:44:00; Niki Greer, scratch.
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