Junior Iditarod Week – The Roots of the Race


Junior Iditarod week is upon us! The Junior Iditarod is a great event that has helped pave the way for many mushers to go on and compete in the Last Great Race. It is a place to see the up and coming mushers and is a great sneak peek into the future of the sport. The 44th running will begin this Saturday and finish on Sunday.

I want to give teachers a look at the junior race to see how they can incorporate THIS into their classes as well. So throughout the week, I will be posting and providing possible activities to use in your classrooms, which will serve as good practice for your students, especially leading up to the Iditarod in 2 weeks. Check out the website here! www.jriditarod.com


The Junior Iditarod race is a 150 mile event for aspiring mushers ages 14-17. It has been running since 1978 and has a great history of mushers who later went on to race in the Iditarod. Interestingly enough, when you look back at the race archives, there is a race winner listed in 1977. This is due to the fact that in 1978 there were 2 divisions for 2 different age groups. The current Iditarod mushers who early on in their careers ran the junior include Jeff Deeter, Travis Beals, Aaron Burmeister, Wade Marrs, Dakota Schlosser (Iditarod rookie this year), Dallas Seavey, Rayme Smyth and Ryan Redington (2x Champion). The last names of Smyth, Seavey, Mackey and Redington are seen throughout both the Iditarod and Junior Iditarod with multiple family members participating in each.

Mikah Whitehead during the start of the 2018 Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Knik Lake in Southcentral, Alaska. Saturday February 24, 2018
Photo by Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com (C) 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


The Redington family name has become synonymous with the Iditarod. Joe Redington Sr., “The Father of the Iditarod” started the race in 1973. However their family can also be found in the annals of the Junior Iditarod, dating back to that first race. Barb Redington (then Barbara Ryan), raced in the first Junior Iditarod in 1978. Then her sons Ryan Redington, and Ray Redington Jr. have also raced in the junior. Ray Jr. even met his future wife, Julia Flodin, at the 1991 Junior Iditarod.  And even THIS YEAR, their daughter Ellen will be racing in junior event! Check out more information about each of the junior mushers here: www.jriditarod.com/race/2021/mushers


The Redington family Ryan, Robert, Raymie, Barb, and Ray, Jr. Photo Credit: Terrie Hanke

Here is a brief (and probably incomplete) history of the Redington family that I have been able to put together.

Teachers: This got me thinking about doing a family tree activity with students! As mentioned above, there are quite a few mushing families with strong ties to these 2 races. For upper grades, take a look at one of the families listed above, and try to put together their family tree. For younger grades, make a family tree for your own family. See how far back you can go. Have fun!