Training for Dogs and Youth - Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Race

Roughing It In the Far North

Dog sledding 1954. Photo shot in Manitoba (public domain photos this page).
Dog sledding 1954. Photo shot in Manitoba (public domain photos this page).

Almost Springtime and Snow Is In the Air

Winter sports are held even past the Spring Equinox and in the Alaskan March of each year, the Iditarod runs in order to commemorate a long-ago dog sled team. Those working dogs delivered vitally needed anti-toxin to an isolated place at the end of what is now the Iditarod Trail. Without that medicine, hundreds of people might have died in the Winter 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska.

Much controversy surround the teams of working dogs that delivered the anti-toxin and those that pull mushers in the Last Great Race today. One point of contention is which dog leader should be credited with saving Nome.

However, credit is shared by the more well known sled dog Balto, who led the way into and through town, and the dog Togo, who ran the great length of one-third of the entire journey. In Nome, visitors can see a statue of Balto, but the entire figure of Togo is stuffed, mounted, and displayed in the Iditarod HQ.

In Nome, visitors can see a statue of Balto, but the entire figure of Togo is stuffed, mounted, and displayed in the Iditarod HQ.

End Points of the Adult Iditarod

show route and directions
A markerAnchorage AK -
Anchorage, AK, USA
[get directions]

B markerNome AK -
Nome, AK, USA
[get directions]

The Junior Division Sled Dog Race

A lesser known event among the Iditarod venues is the Junior Iditarod, in which young people that are raising their own sled dogs with supervision of parents and community train and run a shorter version of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The junior division is held in the weeks previous to the Last Great Race and the young winner is granted an honorary start with the full Iditarod, alongside the annual Honorary Musher - in 2010, renowned Alaskan aviation pioneer Orin Seybert. The Junior Winner wears the eye-catching #1 Bib and honored after the adult Iditarod at the Iditarod Finisher’s Banquet held in Nome. It’s quite an accomplishment, on par with Olympic Gold.

Orin Seybert understands youthful ambition like that of the Junior Iditarod mushers. He was only 19 years old in 1955 when he founded Peninsula Airways in Alaska at Pilot Point. He was a pilot himself and owned a 1946 two-seater Taylorcraft.

One year later, he obtained a Piper Tri-Pacer four-seater and chose the name Peninsula Airways, which became PenAir in 1991. By 2010, PenAir had become Alaska's second largest commuter airline with 40 planes and service to 36 communities in SW Alaska. It was the second airline in Alaska to receive the Medallion Shield Award.

160 Miles of Life Experience

The 2010 160-mile race, The Jr. Iditarod of 13 mushers and their dog teams was held at 10:00 AM Alaskan Time (1:00 PM EST) on February 27, 2010 and was available live at Iditarod http://idtarod.com.

Archive video may be seen online at the Iditarod site and in the charvies of the Junjior Iditaord Site listed below. A new feature for 2010 was the GPS Tracker device carried by the young mushers to enable the Iditarod web site to track them on their runs and flash the information onto the webpage. Technology is adding to the safety and excitement of the sport without taking away from tradition.

On the other hand, Iditarod adult mushers such as the legally blind Rachael Scdoris (musher 2005 – date) might prefer to race as always, with a colleague mushing ahead of her to radio pertinent course information back to her. She scratched from her first attempt in the Iditarod, but has finished the race in future years, providing excellent car to her dogs as well. Sledding blind through wilderness blizzards, she is truly remarkable.

Iditarod Dream: Dusty and His Sled Dogs Compete in Alaska's Jr. Iditarod
Iditarod Dream: Dusty and His Sled Dogs Compete in Alaska's Jr. Iditarod

15-yr-old Dusty Whittemore of Cantwell, AK and the 1995 Jr. Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Dusty is an excellent model of a young Alaskan athlete, and the text shows his concern for his dogs - his trusted partners - and his love for the sport.

 

Inuit Sleds Manaufactured in Nome, 1913

These dog sleds srived an Artic Expedition in 1913 - the StefanssonAnderson Canadian project.
These dog sleds srived an Arctic Expedition in 1913 - the StefanssonAnderson Canadian project.

A Cold Overnighter

The youth that train for the Junior Iditarod are just as formidable and remarkable in their talents and determination. They learn early on to care well for their dog teams, their equipment, and themselves. If there is ever a disaster that swallows them in life, they will be well prepared not only to cope with it and its aftermath, but also to help others. This is life training not available to everyone.

The youth mushers in 2010 mushed to Yentna Station, Alaska, within the 160 miles of looping trail of their junior race. There, they cared for their dogs and themselves in an overnight stay Saturday, February 27.

On Sunday, the last day of the month, they arose, readied their teams, and left in the order they arrived to proceed along the trail to Willow Lake.

Junior mushers may spend an overnight in a roadhouse similar to this one: the Cape Nome Roadhouse on the Nome-Council Highway near Nome, Alaska.
Junior mushers may spend an overnight in a roadhouse similar to this one: the Cape Nome Roadhouse on the Nome-Council Highway near Nome, Alaska.

In 2010, both divisions of the Iditarod Trail Alaskan Sled Dog Race provided an encore in new excitement to carry on after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

The Story of the Junior Iditarod

The history of the junior division of the sled dog race is longer than many people imagine. In 1975, seven young men and woman though or competitive mushing and researched the possibilities for a youth training program. Other s joined them and from 1975 – 1977, the youth experimented with mushing and camping trips in the wintry Alaskan landscape. An experienced adult musher, Joe Redington Sr., felt that they were on their way to a big accomplishment and became a mentor.

With hard work and help from parents and the community of adult mushers and local government and business, the opening of the first Jr. Iditarod Trail Race occurred for these dedicated young people in March, 1978. In 2010, that date is 32 years in the past. International entries began in 1992. today, youth as young as 14 can compete for scholarships and gain lifelong potential and skills in this program.

In 2010, both divisions of the Iditarod Trail Alaskan Sled Dog Race provided an encore in new excitement to carry on after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

Denali National Park

A dog feed house and sled storage at Denali HQ in Alaska.
A dog feed house and sled storage at Denali HQ in Alaska.
The Last Great Race
The Last Great Race

More by this Author


Comments and Additions 10 comments

sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

This was really good, and I especially loved the photos.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Thanks. Those young people surely work hard and most take extremly food care of their animals.

In another part of the noth, I just read that in Greenland, the climate is losing snow on a yearly basis so much that sled dogs can not be used nearly as much as previously, people cannot afford to feed them, so dog shooters are hired to kill them. This is hard to accept.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for writing an interesting hub of the life we hardly hear or read otherwise.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Interesting new facts about dog races. we recently had a part Siberian Husky dog and they are an interesting breed.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

dahoglund - And a very attractive breed, too. They're great dogs.

Hello, hello - Glad you like it; the extreme climates are fascinating.


myawn profile image

myawn 6 years ago from Florida

Excellent hub I enjoyed learning about the junior sledracing I love the sleddogs they are great.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

I have always had some interest in the Iditarod although only as an observer. I didn't know they had a jr. version. Very good hub.


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

These dogs must work so, so hard. Very interesting hub, Thank you.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 5 years ago from Southern California, USA

Interesting info about the junior iditarod. Thanks for sharing!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for commenting! - Both races, junior and adult, were here before I even knew it this year. Luckily, I receive emails from the iditarod.com site to remind me to watch. Pretty exciting - and I hope no dogs get sick this year.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working