Congratulations, Mitch Seavey

Posted: Friday, March 19, 2004

"If you race, you race to win, and my goal is to win the Iditarod."

Seward musher Mitch Seavey

Way to go, Mitch Seavey.

Seavey's win of this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday is a victory that all Kenai Peninsula residents all Alaskans can celebrate.

Seavey crossed the finish line at 10:20 p.m. Tuesday nine days, 12 hours, 20 minutes and 22 seconds after starting the 1,100-mile race.

The Seward musher, who marked his 11th Iditarod this year, accurately summed up his victory: "I think everybody's happy to have an Alaskan boy win the Iditarod."

Yes, we are for lots of reasons.

Of course, there's the hometown pride factor. Seavey is only the second musher from the Kenai Peninsula to win the race. Twenty years ago, Dean Osmar of Clam Gulch claimed the honor.

Then, there's the Alaska pride factor. Maybe it shouldn't, but it does cause most Alaskans to wince at least a little when an "outsider" makes it to Nome first. It just makes sense to have an Alaskan be the first to finish the Last Great Race. It makes the victory sweeter for everyone when that Alaskan has dreamed of winning the Iditarod ever since he was a kid as Seavey has hearing his father, Dan, help plan that first Iditarod back in 1973.

There's also the fact that Seavey has worked hard for the honor. The 44-year-old Seavey began mushing as a boy in 1964, the year after his family moved to Alaska from Minnesota, where he was born. He's always run a respectable race, finishing all but two of his previous races in the top 20. His best finish was fourth place in 1998. This was no lucky win. It was the result of lots of hard work.

And then there's the way Seavey has turned mushing into a lifestyle. It's not just about the Iditarod, it's about a whole way of life. He not only has raced sled dogs competitively for most of his life, but he and his family also have operated a sled-dog tour business for the past 10 years. The entire family shares the mushing lifestyle with others who want to know more.

As Seavey told Clarion reporter Joseph Robertia a few days before the start of the Iditarod: "I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the lifestyle. I can't imagine not doing it. I intend to race it my whole life."

There may be nothing like the thrill of victory, but to enjoy what one does even when it means not finishing in the No. 1 spot well, that's the real victory.

Seavey's win teaches priceless lessons to anyone who has ever had a dream. Dreams rarely are easy to achieve if they were, they wouldn't be worth dreaming about. It may take lots of attempts before the ultimate goal is reached, but each of those attempts offers a new learning experience and can be enjoyed as an adventure in and of itself.

And sometimes on the road to reaching the dream, it may be necessary to do some things differently. For example, Seavey told Robertia that, among other things, he had made some changes to his training schedule this year. That courage to try something new paid off.

Of course, every Iditarod fan appreciates how Seavey credited his dog team with the No. 1 finish. "This dog team is awesome," he told The Associated Press. "I knew if I didn't make any big mistakes ... I knew they could do it."

Mitch Seavey, you did the peninsula proud. In winning the Iditarod, you offer a great formula for success for any worthwhile venture: Love what you do. Set your sights high. Never give up. Don't be afraid to try something new to reach your goal. And always share the credit for your success.

Congratulations on winning the 2004 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Congratulations also are in order to the other peninsula mushers who competed in this year's Iditarod: Tim Osmar of Ninilchik, who was 14th into Nome; Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof, who was 19th into Nome; Lance Mackey of Kasilof, who finished 24th; Jason Mackey of Kasilof, who finished 26th; Bill Hanes of Kasilof, who at this writing was at White Mountain; Rick Casillo of Sterling, who was at Elim; and Carmen Perzechino of Sterling and Judy Merritt of Moose Pass, who both scratched early in the race. You are all winners and hometown heroes in our book.

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