The tiny town of Clam Gulch was a hub of activity this past weekend as the Clam Gulch Classic sled dog race kicked off with plenty of chills, thrills and even a few spills.
The 56-mile race was split over two days and started and ended at the Clam Shell Lodge but took the mushers and their teams through the rugged terrain of the Caribou Hills.
"Oh, it was a fun race," said Dean Osmar, who finished in first place and was described by onlookers as poetry in motion this weekend.
"I ended with a substantial lead on Saturday, so I just cruised on Sunday morning and then asked the team to give a little more at the end," he said.
Osmar is quite familiar with the Classic, despite not having raced in it the last few years. He used to be an organizer for the race back in the 1980s, and he's won it on seven previous occasions.
Leading his team were two experienced 5-year-old dogs named Shark and Fancy. Osmar said he's particularly happy with the performance of his team since he recently scaled down the size of his dog lot to between 20 and 30 dogs.
"I've got a good core group and a couple of yearlings that I'm very proud of," he said.
Osmar also spoke well of several of the other mushers in the race.
"There was some good competition this year," he said. "Lance (Mackey) and Jon (Little) are tough competitors."
Mackey finished in second place, and Little came in third.
Little, known in dog circles for being a consummate professional, seemed more focused on what his dogs got out of the race than on where he finished in the final standing.
He said things with his team did not go quite as well as he would have like Saturday, but Sunday brought some improvement.
"I rotated a few dogs around and then they really moved the way I knew they could, so I'm very happy with their performance," he said.
His leaders were SunBear and Skeet.
Jon Little of Kasilof harnesses his team prior to the start of the Clam Gulch Classic on Saturday. The 56-mile race was spread out over two days and started and finished at the Clam Shell Lodge.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Little said being in races is always good training for the dogs.
"They learn about check points and passing and being passed. It's also good for the dogs to be around all the other dogs, dog trucks and strangers at the starting line. It teaches them that it's all OK," he said.
Like Osmar, Little also spoke highly of his fellow competitors.
"Dean had a beautiful looking dog team, and Lance looked good out there and was a real gentleman on the trail," he said.
Not everyone in the Classic was a veteran musher, though. Brennon Norden was one of a handful of rookies out this past weekend.
"I had a great experience," Norden said. "I learned a lot about racing. It was quite a bit different than the training runs I've been doing."
He received the Red Lantern award for being the last musher to finish, but his spirits remained high.
"I'm happy with the lantern," Norden said. "I've only been mushing dogs in my own lot for four months now, so I was happy just to compete and run with several Iditarod mushers."
Almost all mushers agreed that the Classic ran smooth, safe and on time, thanks to the work of Will Faulkner, who organized and competed in the race.
"I really love this race and people here look forward to it," Faulkner said, in regard to why he volunteered to organize it this year. "It went off without a hitch, thanks to the folks at the Clam Shell Lodge and other people from the Clam Gulch and Kasilof area."
Faulkner also thanked several community businesses for sponsoring the Classic, which made it possible to not only have a cash purse of more than $600, but ensured that everyone took home a prize.
This also included the entrants who signed up to run in the touring class. These mushers ran the same course as the racing class participants, but for fun and experience rather than for competition.
Under the supervision of Tim Osmar, the Classic also featured children's dog races Sunday, and all entrants took home a prize, as well.
Clam Gulch Classic Results
1. Dean Osmar 4 hrs. 12 mins.
2. Lance Mackey 4 hrs. 22 mins.
3. Jon Little 4 hrs. 30 mins.
4. Bill Haines 4 hrs. 33 mins.
5. Jason Young 5 hrs. 03 mins.
6. Ed Pearson 5 hrs. 13 mins.
7. Jason Cameron 5 hrs. 34 mins.
8. Eric Nyholm 5 hrs. 43 mins.
9. Will Faulkner 6 hrs. 12 mins.
10. Brennon Norden 6 hrs. 14 mins.
1. Nicole Osmar
2. Paul Gauthier
3. Brenda Cameron
4. Greg Bagle
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