Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:40 PM on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

T200 halfway point at McNeil Canyon



By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Temperatures in Homer were hovering around zero degrees Sunday afternoon, but at the Tustumena 200 volunteers' meeting at Captain's Coffee enthusiasm for this weekend's sled dog race was anything but chilly.


 

Musher Jeff KIng's dog team comes alert as he lets them know they are minutes away from leaving the McNeil Canyon checkpoint and head for the finish line in Kasilof

In 2012, the 200-mile race incorporated McNeil Canyon Elementary School as a checkpoint. Southern peninsula spectators took advantage of the accessible location to be on hand as 16 teams arrived on their way from the Kasilof starting line to the halfway mark, and a second time as they made their back to the Kasilof finish line.

At Sunday's meeting, volunteers listened and asked questions as Tami Murray, race director and president, described a new course that places McNeil in the center of the action.

"After the success of last year's race we decided to change the distance between checkpoints, making them 50 miles instead of 25," said Murray. "It makes things so much easier for everyone ... but should be a lot nicer for the dog teams. Most mushers will tell you that having a dog team run the same trail more than once is tough on the dogs, they get bored and confused on why they are returning to the same spot. Some think they are done. I know the mushers will be happy with these changes."

The change means Homer area enthusiasts have one opportunity to view the teams' arrival and departure at McNeil instead of two. The teams also can be seen at the Kasilof start and finish, and the 50- and 150-mile checkpoint at Freddie's Roadhouse on Oilwell Road in Ninilchik.

With an11 a.m. start time in Kasilof at mile 112 on the Sterling Highway, Murray anticipates the teams will begin arriving at McNeil around 10 p.m. Saturday at the earliest.

"We encourage everyone to follow them online," she said. "Each musher will be carrying a GPS tracker so you'll know when they are getting close to the school and can head out to greet them. ... The teams will be arriving all night and leaving Sunday morning into the early afternoon."

The school is reserved for mushers and volunteers in need of a quiet place to get some much-needed rest, but there will be plenty of outdoor space for spectators to view the action. Portapotties also will be provided for the public.

Joined by checkpoint manager Chris Donitch, race marshal Kevin Fulton and board member Cathy Davis, Murray also described what volunteers can do to ensure everything is ready for as many as 40 teams and an estimated 700 dogs that will pass through the checkpoint.

"We have 50-plus volunteers helping with the race, from our volunteer board that is planning the race well in advance to the folks that are putting in the trail, setting up yurts, tents the starting line chute, folks come out for vet checks, the starting line, the checkpoints, the finish, our awards banquet and then there is tearing id all down," said Murray. "Some people take a couple weeks off work for this event and, believe me, we couldn't do it without them."

To volunteer at the start, finish, McNeil Canyon or Freddie's Roadhouse, visit www.tustumena200.com and complete the online registration form.

"We are always looking for volunteers," said Murray. "You can sign up online until race day. If you don't hear back, just show up at the starting line and we will put you to work. ... There are lots of jobs for everyone."

As of Tuesday, 37 mushers had registered, more than twice the number of contenders in 2012. They include big names from the Iditarod, previous T200 entrants, mushers from the Lower 48 and foreign countries and some new to mushing. Murray said a $25,000 purse and the Tustumena 200's growing reputation helped attract this year's larger field of teams. The T200, as it is known, also is a qualifier for the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest.

"Rookie mushers in both events need a certain amount of qualifying miles to run in either race," said Murray. "The Iditarod requires 700 miles, two 300-mile races and one 150-mile race. We give qualifying mushers the 150 miles they need."

The Iditarod Trail Committee also requires qualifying events to include layovers, a certain degree of difficulty and adherence to Iditarod rules at checkpoints, gear in sleds, number of dogs at the start and finish and the race needs to be credible.

"The T200 meets all of those," said Murray. "Many say it's like a mini-Iditarod. Except for the coast and the extreme cold we have a lot of similar terrain giving mushers great training and experience needed to run in the Iditarod. "

This is the fifth season Murray has helped organize the Tustumena 200. She fell in love with dog mushing after seeing her first Iditarod in 1997, and after moving to Alaska in 2000, she served as an Iditarod volunteer. While she doesn't have her own sled dogs, she did have the opportunity to run a team of 10 dogs across Norton Sound.

"It was amazing, but it didn't take me long to realize how much work was involved," said Murray. "The dogs are like children. They need 100 percent of your attention, their needs come first and at minus-40, it's not an easy job. I love the sport, but I'm a realist and know I could never own a dog team."

In light of the reception the southern peninsula gave Tustumena 200 mushers in 2012, Murray once again extended an invitation to the public back to witness what she has come to love.

"Come to the start in Kasilof, head out to Freddie's or take a nap before heading out to McNeil Canyon (Elementary) School to welcome the mushers to Homer," she said. "Homer has a reputation now and we'd love to see that warm welcome continue for many years to come."

For more information about the Tustumena 200, visit www.tustumena200.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

2012 Tustumena 200 mushers

As of Tuesday, the following 37 mushers had signed up and been given their starting order for this weekend's Tustumena 200. With room for a maximum of 40 racers, that left three openings to be filled by the Jan. 30 deadline. For any last-minute entrants, visit www.tustumena200.com.

Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof was born and raised in Minnesota. He came to Alaska in 1989 and began mushing in 1992. His race experience includes the Iditarod, the Tustumena 200 and other events.

Kristy Berington of Morning View Kennel in Kasilof grew up in Northern Wisconsin. This is her fifth season mushing. Her race experience includes the Iditarod, the T200, T100 and other events.

Nancy Johnson of Evergreen Kennels, Devils Lake, N.D., was born in Baltimore, Md., raised in Minnesota, and began mushing in 1998. Her race experience includes the John Beargrease in Northern Minnesota, the UP200 in Northern Michigan, Race to the Sky in Montana and the White Oaks Classic in Northern Minnesota.

Roger Johnson of Devils Lake, N.D., was born in Kennewick., Wash., and has been mushing since 2002. His race experience includes the John Beargrease in Northern Minnesota, the UP200 in Northern Michigan, Race to the Sky in Montana and the White Oaks Classic in Northern Minnesota.

Jeff Hemann of Willow is originally from Iowa. He began mushing in 1998. His race experience includes the Tustumena 200.

Travis Beals of Seward has been mushing since he was four. His race experience includes the Tustumena 200, Jr. Iditarod and other events.

Jamie Nelson of Togo, Minn., was born in Tacoma, Wash., and began mushing in 1968. Her race experience includes the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest and other events.

Sarah Stokey of Seward is originally from Falmouth, Mass. She has been mushing since she moved to Alaska in 2010. Her race experience includes the Tustumena 200.

Robert Bundtzen of Anchorage, moved to Alaska from New Mexico in 1960. He began mushing in 1994. His racing experience includes the Iditarod, the Tustumena 200 and other events.

Ray Redington of Wasilla was born and raised in Alaska. He is the grandson of Iditarod co-founder, Joe Redington, Sr., and son of Iditarod veteran, Raymie Redington. He began racing in 2000. His race experience includes the Iditarod, the Tustumena 200 and other events.

Jo van Randen of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory Canada, has been running dogs in the Yukon since 1994. His race experience includes the 1996 Percy de Wolfe and the 2002 Quest 300.

Mitch Seavey of Sterling moved to Alaska from Minnesota in 1963. He began mushing in 1963, has run 11 Iditarods and won the race in 2004.

Christian Turner of Willow is originally from Australia. He began mushing in 2007 and is currently working toward qualifying for the Iditarod. His race experience includes many sprint races, the Sheep Mountain 150, Don Bowers 300 and Northern Lights 300.

Robert Bear of Cooper Landing, was born in North Dakota, grew up on Ohio and came to Alaska in 1986. His race experience includes the Serum Run.

Ellen Donoghue of Denali is originally from the San Francisco Bay area. She began mushing dogs in 2003. This is her rookie year in mid-distance racing.

Philip Walters of Eagle River is from Lanham, Md., and came to Alaska in 2004. He began mushing in 2007. His race experience includes the Tug 120, Eagle River Classic and the Don Bowers.

Marilyn Storey of Willow is originally from New Zealand, where she began mushing dogs. Her race experience includes the YF 300 and the Don Bowers 100.

Vern Halter of Willow began running the Iditarod in 1983 and has been in it 17 times since then, finishing as high as third place.

Lisbet Norris of Willow.

Dean Osmar of Clam Gulch has been mushing for as long as he can remember. He is a founder of the Tustumena 200, won the Iditarod in 1984 and has run the T200 six times.

Clifton Cadzow was born and raised in Fort Yukon. He began mushing when he was a young boy. His race experience includes the Iditarod.

Cindy Abbott is from Beatrice, Neb., and divides her time between California and Alaska. She began mushing in 2011. Her race experience includes the 2012 Yukon Quest 300.

Braxton Peterson was born in Bermuda, raised in Alaska and lives in Fairbanks. He began mushing as a teenager. His race experience includes the Iditarod, the T200 and other events.

Karin Hendrickson of Wasilla came to Alaska from California in 2003 to begin mushing. Her race experience includes the Iditarod, the Tustumena 200 and other events.

Miriam Osredkar of Wasilla was raised in Ohio and began mushing in Wyoming in 2006. She moved to Alaska in 2011. This is her first race.

Robert Forto of Willow moved to Alaska from Minnesota in 2010. He began mushing in 1994. His race experience includes many sprint and mid-distance races in the Lower 48.

Curt Perano of Itasca, New Zealand has been mushing since 2000. His race experience includes the Iditarod and other events.

Michael Suprenant of Chugiak was born in Germany and moved to Alaska in 1997. He started mushing in 2000. His race experience includes the Iditarod.

Adam Lang of Chugiak was raised in Texas and came to Alaska with the military. The Tustumena 200 will be his first race.

Wade Marrs was born and raised in Knik and began mushing when he was a kid.

His race experience includes the Iditarod and other events.

Anna Berington of Kasilof is originally from Wisconsin and came to Alaska in 2007. She began mushing when she was 10. Her race experience includes the Tustumena 200 and

other events.

Bruce Linton of Kasilof is originally from Pennsylvania. He began mushing in 2001 and moved to Kasilof in 2006. His race experience includes the Iditarod, the, Tustumena 100 and other events.

Kelly Maixner of Big Lake was raised in North Dakota. He began mushing in 2007 when he moved to Alaska. His race experience includes the Tustumena 200, the Iditarod and other events.

Cliffy Ward of Big Lake is originally from Washington. He began mushing two months ago.

Alex Buetow of Big Lake was born and raised in Fairbanks. This is his first year mushing.

Nicolas Petit of Girdwood is originally from Normandy, France. His race experience includes the Iditarod.

Debbie Moderow of Anchorage is originally from New England and came to Alaska in 1979. She began mushing 10 years lager. Her race experience includes the Iditarod, the Tustumena 200 and other events.

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