Danny Seavey of Sterling leaves the starting chute during last season's Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race. This season's T-200 isn't until Jan. 27, but race organizers already are hard at work planning the event.
Clarion file photo
With so little snow on the ground it’s hard to imagine thinking about mushing, but organizers of the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race have already been planning this season’s race.
“Everything is right on track,” said Todd Stone, president of the T-200 race association.
Stone said this season’s race, which begins Jan. 27, will feature a few changes, one of which is the 100-mile out-and-back race that runs simultaneous to the T-200 had its name changed from the “Little T” to the “Tustumena 100” officially, or T-100 for short.
As T-200 competitor Martin Buser, of Big Lake, said in respect to the 100-mile racer during a finisher’s banquet a few years ago, “There’s nothing little about that race.”
Originally the T-200 had been for professionals and the Little T had been for amateurs, but those lines have blurred in recent years, Stone said.
“We really have moved away from what the image had been. Some professional mushers use the 100 for taking out a team of young dogs. Also, some mushers, not wanting something quite as grueling as the 200, run the 100 looking for race experience for their dogs,” he said.
Winners of the T-100 for last two years, Jon Little of Kasilof and Eric Butcher of Two Rivers, used the 100-mile race as conservative training leading up to their participation in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest.
Stone said there will be a new race this year for young mushers, 12 to 17 years old, that will begin after the T-200 and T-100 mushers go out. While it could have earned the “little” moniker, race officials instead opted to call it the “Junior T.”
Stone said the Jr. T. was proposed by Merissa Osmar, daughter of annual T-200 competitor Tim Osmar, as a way to provide young mushers with experience.
“There are also a lot of mushing families out there that the race might also attract,” Stone said.
The Jr. T race will likely be 50 miles, out and back with the Four Corners checkpoint serving as the halfway point where young mushers would take a mandatory rest with their team, Stone said.
“The rules are still being hashed out, but we hope to have them up on the Web site soon,” he added.
Others changes this season are the T-200 will be rerouted around, rather than through portions of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Lost Creek Lodge will not be a checkpoint. Instead, Rocky’s Straight Inn Lodge will likely take its place.
Stone said educational packets with the coloring contest to determine this season’s race poster have gone out to area schools.
“We agreed that this year’s winners will join last year’s winners and special need kids for rides at the ceremonial start,” he said.
With so much planning out of the way, Stone said the biggest concern for the race organization right now is the weather.
“We’re hoping for snow. Right now it sounds like its the same weather all over the state, but by the end of January we usually get some, maybe not as much as we would like, but enough to run the race,” he said.
Signup for the race opened Friday. For more information on the race and this season’s participants, visit www.tustumena200.com.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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