Congratulations are in order for a host of Kenai Peninsula athletes who saw the culmination of a season of hard work over the past few days.
Jane Faulkner of Soldotna was the last of nine Peninsula mushers to cross under the burled arch at the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race -- the 10th if we count four-time reigning champion Lance Mackey of Fairbanks, who launched his kennel and won his first Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race while living in Kasilof.
Likewise, high school basketball teams from Soldotna High, Cook Inlet Academy and Ninilchik School wrapped up the season at the Alaska School Activities Association state championships in Anchorage over the past week.
We know that these events -- the tournament and the trail -- present challenges in and of themselves, but we also acknowledge the seeds of success were planted long ago, and we commend all of these competitors for their long term efforts.
Indeed, the ingredients for success are put together not in front of the crowd or on the race trail, but during long hours spent training, away from fans and media.
We don't see a musher and his or her team until they pull into the starting chute, with the team of energetic huskies hammering in their harnesses to get out on the trail. We miss the countless hours spent training, the runs on four-wheelers in the rain when Mother Nature has delayed winter weather, the time spent caring for the dogs, the effort that goes into preparing for the Iditarod, which tests the physical abilities of driver in team, along with their mental toughness and even their logistical skills. Mushers this year faced blizzard conditions along the Alaska Range and extreme cold on the Yukon River. Sixteen of the 71 teams to start the race -- nearly a quarter of the field -- scratched before the end of the race. Congratulations to everyone who made it to Nome. It's a remarkable accomplishment, and one that doesn't happen without tremendous preparation.
Likewise, those basketball teams fortunate enough to win berths in the state tournament may have earned them in their conference tournaments, but the hard work started long before. We see the celebration on the court; we don't see the hours in the gym, the hundreds of free throws and jumps shots, drill after drill after drill, or the wind sprints at the end of every practice.
We don't see the hard work, but we know you've put it in, because goals aren't achieved by luck alone. So congratulations on your accomplishments this year. We know you've earned it.
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