Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 3:23 PM on Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cim Smyth wins Tustumena 200

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


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 some 50 miles away.

In a three-way race to the finish, musher Cim Smyth of Big Lake pulled past Jeff King of Denali Park and stayed ahead of Dan Kaduce of Chatanika to win the Tustumena 200 Sunday afternoon.

"Those three were neck and neck," said Tami Murray, T200 race director. "It was a wonderful race."

In spite of minus-30 temperatures, Murray said crowds lined the starting chute at the race's Kasilof starting line at 11 a.m. Saturday. The course of this year's 200-mile race included a return to the Homer area. When the race began in the mid 1980s, Homer was on the map, but the course had since been rerouted through a Caribou Lake checkpoint, a halfway layover at Clam Gulch, back to Caribou Lake and then to the finish line in Kasilof.

This year, the course bypassed Caribou Lake for a 50-mile checkpoint and mandatory two-hour layover at McNeil Canyon Elementary School. The halfway point at Freddie's Roadhouse on Ninilchik's Oilwell Road included a six-hour mandatory layover for the teams and, like McNeil Canyon, an opportunity for spectators to get an up-close view of mushers and their dogs. From Freddie's, the trail returned to McNeil and another mandatory two-hour layover before continuing on to the finish in Kasilof.

This was Smyth's first T200 victory; however, he is no newcomer to dog sled racing. Smyth had raced the T200 in the past, won the Klondike 300 and has finished the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest.

In addition to four Iditarod championships and one Yukon Quest victory, King has won the T200 three times and is signed up to run in this year's Iditarod in March. Kaduce's racing experience includes the Yukon Quest, the Iditarod and the Copper Basin 300.

Saturday's race was not so wonderful for Dee Dee Jonrowe, an Iditarod veteran who won the T200 in 2011 and is entered in this year's Iditarod. Jonrowe scratched Saturday after losing a dog early in the race.

"She got in a tangle with another team and one of her dogs got loose. ... Her first concern was the dog, so she decided to scratch," said Murray.

The dog was found later, after the public was alerted of its disappearance via radio and Facebook. It made its way to the kennels of a musher living near the course.

"(Jonrowe) was disappointed she had to scratch, but very pleased we found the dog," said Murray.

Bill Pinkham, a Colorado musher who trains in the Homer area during the winter, scratched after reaching McNeil Canyon Sunday morning. In her first running of the Tustumena 200, Rebekah Ruzicka of Anchor Point decided to scratch after arriving at the McNeil Canyon checkpoint Saturday evening.

"The dogs just were not feeling well," Ruzicka told the Homer News. "They weren't performing properly. Kind of a lack of interest. I'm good at looking at them and I could tell."

Although Ruzicka doesn't plan to enter other races this winter, her team will be running in the Junior Willow 100 Feb. 10-11 and the 150-mile Junior Iditarod Feb. 25-26. Mattie Cobb, 16, of Ninilchik will be mushing.

"I'm training her and have been working with her since November," said Ruzicka, who is looking forward to being back on the T200 starting line in 2013.

Both new checkpoints — Freddie's Roadhouse and McNeil Canyon Elementary School — proved welcome additions to the T200.

"(The roadhouse) worked out wonderfully well," said Murray. "The owner fed everybody, kept them war and comfortable."

McNeil Canyon was prepared and operated by Snomads, a local club of snowmachine and outdoor recreationists

"They did an excellent job. Between them and the local area mushers and handlers in Homer, the checkpoint was outstanding. All the mushers were very pleased," said Murray.

"And we had more spectators come out to the Homer checkpoint. We've never had that many people come out to a checkpoint. It was unbelievable. We'll see you again for many years to come."

For complete results and other information on the Tustumena 200, visit www.tustumena200.com.

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