Y is for Young Mushers: Girl Power on the Trail

The Iditarod Alphabet 2017
Y is for Young Mushers

There are many young mushers out on the trail this year.  A musher must be 18 before the Iditarod starts in order to race.  This year’s youngest musher is Laura Neese, 20 years old,  who finished in 42nd place.  There are eleven mushers that are 30 years old or younger this year.  Dallas Seavey is the youngest person to ever complete the Iditarod in 2005—he turned 18 just days before the start.  Melissa Stewart is the youngest woman to ever finish the Iditarod—she finished in 2008 at the age of 18.

Y is for Young Mushers

Today I watched four women cross the finish line, and it was an amazing thing.  Karin Hendrickson finished her 8th Iditarod this year.  Karin first came to Alaska as a dog handler in 2003 and never thought she would race the Iditarod.  As time went on Karin began putting together her own dog team, and in 2009 she finished her first Iditarod in 40th place.  The next two women to cross the finish line today were twin sisters Kristy and Anna Berington.  Kristy and Anna grew up in rural Wisconsin, and began “mushing” with their pet dogs at a very young age.  In 2007 the twins made the move to Alaska, and began their mushing careers.  Kristy has finished eight Iditarod’s, and Anna has completed six Iditarod’s.  Laura Neese was the last mushers to come in today, and what a moment it was.  Laura’s parents and many others were there to welcome her and the dogs to Nome.  Laura will be the youngest musher to finish the race this year, and she has now fulfilled a childhood dream of completing the Iditarod. 

These women are great, strong role models, but a post on Iditarod women power would not be complete without mentioning a few others.  Mary Shields was the first woman to ever finish an Iditarod, which she did in 1974.  Mary finished the race in 28 days, and about 30 minutes ahead of the only other woman to complete the race that year, Lolly Medley.  Libby Riddles was the first woman to win the Iditarod.  Libby crossed the finish line in 1985 in just over 18 days after pushing through a big snow storm.  The next few years the Iditarod champion was another woman, Susan Butcher.  Susan won in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990.  Susan was such an icon in Iditarod and Alaskan history that the first Saturday of March (ceremonial start of the Iditarod) is known as Susan Butcher Day!

March also happens to be Women’s History Month!  A great lesson idea would be for your students to research a few of the women who have finished the Iditarod.  Here is a list of a few they could look up: Susan Butcher, Libby Riddles, Lolly Medley, Jesse Royer, Aliy Zirkle, Mary Helwig, Cindy Abbott,  Diana Moroney, Michelle Phillips, Jodi Bailey, Lisbet Norris, Anna Berington, Kristy Berington, and DeeDee Jonrowe.  Your students could also

check out the Iditarod website to find many more women who have finished the Iditarod!