The Juniors Gear Up

Paws Along the Trail with the Teens

Last night, the teen mushers racing in the Junior Iditarod got their briefings at  Iditarod Headquarters.  Their families gathered along with them.  As the meeting began, the racers were asked to sit across the front row.   Several looked stoic or apprehensive, others relaxed, but I would say everyone was serious.  When I plopped down to talk with Christina, I asked her if she minded if I asked her a few questions.  She smiled.  “What are you most looking forward to?”  brought hesitation. She admitted to being nervous but excited.  Her wise quote was, “I’m not racing, I’m finishing.”

Front row seats for these junior mushers

This morning, 14 – 17 year olds race approximately 150-miles starting from Willow Lake.  Once they reach the checkpoint at Yentna Station, they have a mandatory 10 hour stop.  Depending on their starting position, a time differential is added onto the 10 hours.  For instance, Bib #12  would have left 20 minutes later than Bib #2, so #12 needs to stop for 10 hours, 20 minutes.  There is no bib #1.  That goes to this year’s honorary mushers.   After their mandatory stop, the race is on once again!  The teens run teams of 10 dogs, and the 2018 race has 11 participants:  3 guys and 8 girls.  States represented are Alaska, New Hampshire, Washington, Wisconsin, and Montana.  

The Junior Iditarod officials gave talks on trail markers and how to interpret the stakes along the route, discussed the proper use of their GPS trackers and emergency signal, gave out gift packs donated by various businesses, and served pizza and soda.  Parents were told what contact they could have with their children, and what was not allowed.  Suggestions for racing strategies is banned.  The teens must make their own decisions in this race.

Parents seem excited for their kids and very supportive.  “We’ve planned for this for a long time.  We couldn’t have gotten here without a lot of support from others as well.”  Even the school has been understanding of Talia’s absence to live this dream, saying  “The school won’t stand in the way of the education she’ll get from this adventure.”  

One father said training for the Jr. Iditarod is better for his son than just taking out the snow machine.  “He has to put a little more work into this,” he added with a twinkle in his eye.

At 10:00 AM this morning, the junior mushers will leave the starting line in two minute intervals.  Hopefully, their nerves will have calmed and they can have the time of their lives!

You can read about these brave students and their progress today and tomorrow at: