Eye on the Trail: Rookie Review Pt. 2

Vet Check at Iditarod HQ 2020 (Photo Terrie Hanke)

With only a few days before the race, mushers are ready and their teams are finely tuned for the 1,000 run to Nome.  On Wednesday of race week, mushers convene at Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla for Vet check unless their dogs have been certified by their own veterinarian.  Previously all dogs have had blood work and an EKG.  Vet check is the pre-race physical.  Mushers can bring up to 20 dogs for physicals and then on race day decide which 16 will get harnessed for Nome.  Now, let’s meet four more rookies from the class of 2024.

Calvin Daugherty was just 12 years old when he helped his father train for the Iditarod and he’s been mushing ever since.  In 2020 at the age of 17 he ran his rookie Jr. Iditarod with a team of Northern Whites under the tutelage of his father Larry Daugherty and veteran musher Jim Lanier.  He’s wanted to do the Iditarod ever since reading about it as a kid.  Watching his father leave the start line on his Iditarod runs really fueled Calvin’s desire to make the 1,000 mile run to Nome himself.  He says, “I love the sport of mushing.  It’s all about the dogs for me.”  Calvin extends his sincere thanks to the mentors who have helped him accomplish his qualifiers and get to the 2024 Iditarod start.  The list is long and includes his father Larry Daugherty, Jim Lanier, Becky Lewis, Gerhardt Thiart, Christian Turner and Mitch Seavey.  Calvin enjoys ice climbing, rock climbing and mountaineering.  He grew up in Eagle River, AK and graduated from Chugiak High School where he participated in wrestling.  He now calls Sterling, Alaska home.  Earlier in 2024 Calvin earned 10th in the Copper Basin 300.

Lauro Eklund grew up in Alaska near the Yukon River.  He now resides in Two Rivers near Fairbanks.  His father, Neil, is an Iditarod veteran of the ‘80s.  Lauro and his father operate a tour business, race dogs and use dogs for hunting, trapping and fishing in their subsistence life style.  During tours, the Eklunds share the ins and outs of the mushing lifestyle from caring for and training dogs to what it takes to live in Alaska’s bush.  He always knew he wanted to drive dogs but it was driving a finely tuned dog team from a kennel in Galena that pointed him toward racing.  Earhart, Mackey and Swingley bloodlines are the basis of the Eklund kennel.  Lauro is a veteran of the 2023 Yukon Quest 550 and also received the sportsmanship award for that race.  As he looks forward to Iditarod, he hopes to run a competitive race and is focused on keeping his dogs healthy and happy.  Eklund completed the Copper Basin 300 in 24th place back in January.

Benjamin Good is originally from Greenville, Pennsylvania.  In 2002, Ben and his bride moved to Alaska for what they thought would be two years.  Twenty-one years later, they are still in Alaska, living in North Pole near Fairbanks.  It all started innocently enough with skijoring.  Ben took two of Aaron Burmeister’s dogs for a short jaunt on the Chena River.  He was hooked on dogs even though his feet got cold.  He solved that issue by getting more dogs, enough to pull a sled so he could wear warmer boots.  He began running and training dogs in 2008.  By 2012 Ben was entering races to challenge himself and his 20-25 dogs.  Ben, along with his wife and three children, are living the Alaska dream.  He is thankful for the support of his wife, Kim, and their children as he prepares for and races the Iditarod.  Good captured 8th place in the Yukon Quest Alaska 300 in early February.

Anna Hennessy was born a lover of winter.  Then, she became a lover of sled dogs after taking her first run behind dogs at Camp Menogyn in northern Minnesota.  She knew her life was forever changed.  Anna began working with sled dogs in Alaska and Minnesota as a guide and found great pleasure in sharing her love of mushing with others.  For three years, she trained with Erin Altemus and Matt Schmidt of Sawtooth Racing in Grand Marais, MN.  Iditarod has been her dream since she started racing.  To make the dream into reality, Hennessy moved to Willow, Alaska in 2022 to train at Kathleen Frederick’s Shameless Huskies Kennel.  Anna completed her 800 miles of qualifiers in 2023.  During the “off season,” Anna works as an ER nurse.  As a wilderness guide, she is passionate about sharing outdoor experiences with youth, specifically female, non-binary and BIPOC youth.  She looks forward to being on the trail with fellow Minnesotan and dear friend Erin Altemus.  Anna earned 13th place in the Knik 200 earlier in January.

Come back soon for Part 3 of Rookie Review.  Is your Insider subscription up to date?  Have you signed up for GPS tracker?