Eye on the Jr: Meet the Mushers Pt. 3

You’ll meet the Jr. Iditarod veterans who are participating in the 2024 race in the next three segments of Meet the Junior Iditarod Mushers.  Kids come to mushing through many different trails.  Sometimes it’s a family affair and other times it’s purely coincidence.  Whatever brought them to dogs, these are dedicated conscientious young people who have worked extremely hard at becoming good at driving sleds, camping in the winter and caring for their beloved athletes.  There are 12 veterans racing in the 2024 Jr. Iditarod with a combined 23 years of Jr. Iditarod experience. 

Veteran, Tori Boulding claimed 4th place in the 2022 Jr. Iditarod and was honored with the Humanitarian award.  Boulding, age 16, says her parents were into mushing before she was born.  Some of her earliest memories are with sled dogs.  She is the daughter of Iditarod icon and veteran Charlie Boulding and Robin Boulding.  Tori’s father has participated in 13 Iditarod runs between 1992 and 2005.  He’s finished 11 and has been in the top ten 8 times including a 3rd place in 1998 and 3 fifth place finishes along the way.  Tori enjoys the opportunity to train and race young dogs for Brent Sass – Wild and Free Mushing.  From Manley, Tori is a sophomore through Raven Homeschool.  Manly was a checkpoint on the Fairbanks race route in 2003, 2015 and 2017.  Outside of mushing, she enjoys keeping busy breaking trail and cutting wood.  While she’s not sure what career she’ll pursue after high-school, she looks forward to time on the runners with dogs.  The 2022 Jr. Iditarod was moved to the Denali Highway due to overflow so this will be her first trip to Yentna Station. Tori recently finished 6th in the Jr. Willow 100.

Eva Robinson made her rookie Jr. Iditarod run in 2022, finishing in 14th place.    Now at the age of 17, Eva looks back to when she was 4 and began mushing with the family malamutes.  Since then, the Robinson kennel, Diva Dogs Racing,  has shifted to racing and includes Alaskan Huskies.  She’s had her eye set on Jr. Iditarod and racing in Alaska since the age of five.  As the only competitive musher in North Dakota, she is very proud to represent her state.  She’s no stranger to junior mushing events – Wolf Track classic, Klondike Dog Derby, Willow Jr. 100, Jr. Iditarod and holds a Jr. Beargrease  championship.  The Cavalier, ND resident is a senior in a homeschool program.  She enjoys art, cross country running, and videography.  She hopes to run the Beargrease 300 in 2025 and work on her qualifiers for Iditarod.  Upon graduation she intends to become a vet tech.  Even as a veteran, this will be Eva’s  first Yentna Station round trip, as the 2022 Jr. Iditarod was a stage race out of Cantwell.  Eva recently finished twelfth in the Jr. Willow 100 and received the Scooter Award for overcoming adversity.

Keira Irish, age 15, came to mushing through a dog powered but sled-less sport – Skijoring.  Shortly after that first experience on skies, she began mushing dogs at ReRun kennel.  ReRun’s dogs are rescue dogs which powered her first racing experiences in 2022 at the Two River’s Solstice Invite and the Jr. Iditarod where she finished in 11th place.   This year, she’ll be running dogs from Trail Breaker Kennel established by David Monson and the late Susan Butcher.  The sophomore at Lathrup High School in Fairbanks, likes to play flag football, skijor and she has earned her black belt.  Keira hopes to pursue a career in wildlife biology.  She plans to continue mushing  and establish a small kennel.

Mckenna Vanderhoof , age 16, is a dual resident of Wisconsin and Alaska.  During the school year she lives in Wisconsin with her mom, step-dad and four of her siblings then during the rest of the year she lives in Willow with her dad, step-mom and five of her siblings.  When her Alaska family got back into dogs, she quickly became interested and has been on the runners since 2016.  The 2022 Jr. Iditarod was her first distance race where she captured 9th place in the Jr, Iditarod stage race run out of Cantwell.  Her first attempt at Yentna Station in 2023 ended with a scratch.  Mckenna is a junior and attends Shell Lake High School in Wisconsin.  She enjoys working out, reading and chilling with friends.  After high school she’d like to move up to Alaska, continue mushing and become a vet tech.

Check back tomorrow to meet more of the veterans participating in the 2023 Jr. Iditarod.