Mushers, parents, friends, supporters and volunteers gathered to celebrate the 2013 Junior Iditarod about 100 yards from the finish line at the Willow Community Center on Sunday evening. The banquet was a celebration of the accomplishments of the thirteen contestants who ran the 150 mile route from Knik Lake to Yentna Station to Willow Lake.
Not one, but two featured speakers congratulated the Juniors. Kelly Griffin of Knik, Alaska was followed by the ever-popular musher from Jamaica, Newton Marshall. Kelly told the teenagers that mushing gives them plenty of opportunities to hone their problem solving skills. She congratulated them for making it to the starting line as she considered that to be the hardest part of every race. Finally she told the teenagers they were light years ahead of her at the same age with regard to mushing experience and expertise. As a youngster, Kelly had a poodle. Wanting to get into mushing, she went to the pound and bailed out every dog that looked like a sled dog and that’s how her long distance mushing career began.
Newton Marshall told the Junior Mushers that he was proud to be doing something few Jamaicans do – mushing. People from his home in Jamaica understand warm temperatures but cannot begin to fathom temperatures that are below zero, wind chills and ground blizzards. In becoming a professional musher, Newton’s message to kids is that if you want something, you have to go after it yourself and if you do, the results can be endless.
Lynden Transportation presents scholarships to the top five finishers of the Junior Iditarod. Ethan Bradford said about the scholarships, “Lynden presents scholarships to help young people live their dreams. Lynden Scholarships range from $1,500 for the fifth place finisher to $5,000 for the winner.
Veterinarians consider how the mushers work with their dogs and the overall condition of the dog teams then choose the recipient of the Humanitarian Award. For the second year in a row, the award went to Jenny Greger of Montana. Greger’s dogs finished the race with so much energy, it was hard to get them to stop at the finish line for bag check and sign in.
The Blue Harness Award was presented to Jenny Greger’s lead dog McGee. McGee is an 18-month-old dog that loves to run, thrives in the position of leader and inspires his teammates. This is the second year in a row that Jenny’s leader has received the Lead Dog Award. Greger was the top female finisher and received a fur hat made by former Iditarod Champion, Libby Riddels.
Jonathon Biggerstaff was chosen by his fellow mushers to receive the Sportsmanship Award. Jonathon received a handcrafted custom designed snow hook. Biggerstaff also received the Red Lantern award for perseverance.
Noah Pereira was the top finisher in the 2013 Junior Iditarod. Along with the Lynden Scholarship, As champion, Noah received a hand crafted Bernie Willis dog sled. He’s also the rookie of the year. Pereira, a junior in High School has been mushing for 6 years in his home state of New York. For the past two years, he’s trained with Iditarod Champion, Dallas Seavey. Asked if he’ll continue to mush after high school, Noah answered with a definite yes.
Congratulations to all of the Junior Mushers for a job well done. Many thanks to the volunteers and Board of Directors who make the race happen.