49th Running in the 49th State – Trail Reporting: Thursday, March 11th

Thursday, March 11th



As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about Iditarod vocabulary and terminology, another common point of confusion for my students comes with some of the more common language used throughout the race. We have had many class discussions about different homonyms like the bib “draw” and “scratching”. No, mushers do not have to draw a picture of a bib, but rather pull a number out of a mukluk. And the term “scratch”, in the mind of a 3rd grader, immediately makes them think about being literally scratched – usually a younger sibling.


Aliy Zirkle drawing her bib number from the mukluk. Photo Credit: Terrie Hanke


So what does it mean to scratch, and how do we make it easy for a 9 year old to understand? Also, what is the difference between when a musher scratches vs. withdraws vs. gets disqualified. Here is the short version presented in more “kid-friendly” terms:


Withdraw – Before the race, it means the team is unable to participate after registering. This year there were a lot of Covid related issues and travel complications. When a team withdraws during the race, it means  “involuntarily eliminating the musher and team from the race” This could mean that the team is not staying competitive enough during the race or other possible causes. Just today, Gunnar Johnson was withdrawn due to a positive Covid test unfortunately. 

Scratch – A musher voluntarily eliminates themselves from the race due to any number of factors including the health and safety of themselves and their team.

Disqualified – Breaking a rule.


There are more technicalities with some of these, but for the purpose of the classroom, these help explain the difference to students. 


Screenshot taken from Iditarod Current Race Standings.


Teachers: This leads to a great lesson option about homonyms! In addition to the word “scratch”, and “bib draw”. What other Iditarod homonyms can you and your class come up with?