Saturday, March 29, 2008

All Alaska Sweepstakes - Seavey Shatters Record

March 28, 2008, Nome, Alaska - photos generously shared by Jan DeNapoli
Unofficially, at 11:29:45 pm, Mitch Seavey of Sterling, Alaska, finished the 2008 Centennial running of the All Alaska Sweepstakes Race in 61 hours, 29 minutes and 45 seconds.
The race will be officially certified by the race judges according to the rules 24 hours after
3 teams have finished the course....ADDENDUM: The check for $100,000 was issued immediately after the race, so evidently they have ditched this procedure...lots of confusion over the rules.

Mitch has shattered the previous record, 74 hours, 14 minutes, and 37 seconds, held since 1910 by John “Iron Man” Johnson. This race has not been run since 1983. This year is the 100 year anniversary run, of the what has come to be known as the inaugural race to the sport of long distance dog racing. Prior to the 1910 running of this race, dogs and dog sledding were viewed solely as utilitarian tools to survival in the back wilds of Alaska. They were not considered useful in long distance, speed runs. This race initiated the birth of the sport of Dog Mushing as we know it today.Notice in the 1st image of Seavey completing the race above, there are NO plastic fences to guard the "chute" and spectators themselves form the chute through which the runners pass. It is an organic event, with lots of local flair, and is truly in a class of its own. One interesting element to this race is that drivers are not allowed to drop any dogs. All dogs are signed over to the Nome Kennel Club prior to the race, and the Official Vet determines if they are sound enough to run. If a dog gets pooped out, or injured, the musher must haul him in the sled bag. Here is a VIDEO of the finish, from Josh's Blog, and an Anchorage News sports article.Jeff King (above) arrived second, and Lance Mackey (below) showed up third. These awesome shots of the AAS are by Jan DeNapoli. She has kindly given me permission to use them. Thank you Jan! Temps at the close of the race were hovering around zero; notice the abundant ice crystals that have formed on the dogs faces. The Queen contest determines the payout for the non-1st place winning finishers; Purse details are HERE.
An interesting story within this story is the Tuluksak School dog driving team. Tuluksak School is the only school in the United States with a dog mushing team. Their teacher, Fred Mo Napoko, pictured below, is representing them in the All Alaska Sweepstakes. As mentioned earlier, the students act as his handlers and support team. Photo by Jan DeNapoli, my new lens peeping hero...."The Dog Mushing Club consists of students from ages 10 to 19. The school’s special education instructor and cheerleading coach, Brita Steinberger, wrote in a letter last month, "Tuluksak is a village on the Southwest Alaskan tundra with a population of 428. The school is 99.3% Alaskan Native (Yupi’k Eskimo). The native population maintains a subsistence lifestyle, primarily living from hunting and gathering, as they have for thousands of years. The village does not have plumbing or running water. Despite this inconvenience, Tuluksak has a strong sense of community and really comes together behind the dog team." This story came from HERE.On a side note, I am reading yet another mushing book; Sled Dog Trails, by Mary Shields. In the wee hours of the morning, vicariously completing yet another Iditarod from the comfort of my bed, I was stunned to learn of a rookie musher in 1974, who shares my name! Joel Kottke, raced in the Iditarod just once, but he became well known in Alaska for his development of a wolf line of racing dogs. He was also honored by the Alaska Legislature in 1998.

One Year after his death at age 84, Joel Wesley Kottke has been honored with a memorial legislative citation.

"The twentieth Alaksa State Legislature honors the life an accomplishments of Joel Kottke, whose love of sled dogs and contributions to the mushing community helped preserve a unique element of our state´s culture for modern Alaskans and for the world." the citation reads. Kottke came to Alaska in 1951. He and his wife Martha homesteaded in Anchorage and he became a "fixture at the early Fur Rendezvous races, checking out all the dogs and interviewing racers before the start," according to the citation. Kottke was race marshal in 1967 for the Iditarod Trail-Leonhard Seppala Memorial Race, the first modern dog race along the Iditarod Trail. Kottke ran the race in 1974 with a wolf-dog team. In 1977 he was again the Iditarods race marshal. Kottke died Oct. 1, 1997, and was honored posthumously by the Iditarod Trail Committee by being named Honorary musher for the 1998 iditarod.

Sadly, the most frequent reference to him on the net, is about the unsuccessful, long and costly legal battle over his estate, that was waged by his step children and siblings after his death. It was taken all the way to the supreme court of AK! Here's to Joel Kottke, may he rest in peace.

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