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Scott Valley Protect Our Water – POW – in Siskiyou County, California
Browsing the archives for the True Grit category.
Mar 3, 2013
And they’re off: 66 mushers begin trip to Nome
Published: March 2, 2013
Anchorage — Midway through the start order of this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, you’ll find the women’s division — six women starting back to back to back to back to back to back.
It was the luck of the draw that gave Jan Steves, Aliy Zirkle, DeeDee Jonrowe, Karin Hendrickson, Jessie Royer and Anna Berington consecutive bib numbers. Jonrowe, who is making her 31st Iditarod start, can’t remember such a thing happening before.
“Every year is something new,” she said, “and this is something new. And not only that, there’s some talented women in that six. There’s three of us — Aliy, Jessie Royer and me — who have all been in the top 10, and recently. I think it’s cool.”
Of course, there is no women’s division in the Iditarod. Like auto racing, this is one of those rare sports where men and women compete head-to-head, on a level playing field.
There are no ladies tees on the Iditarod Trail. Even if there were, these ladies wouldn’t play from them.
“It’s great that women are out here, but I don’t want to be the No. 1 woman,” said Zirkle, 43, last year’s runnerup. “I want to be the winner.”
Jonrowe, 59, says the same thing.
“I’m not a woman, I’m a 31-year veteran,” she said. “We’re all on equal footing. I want to the be the fastest team. I don’t want to be the oldest woman or the fastest woman.
“We’re not women. We’re mushers.”
Nearly one out of four of this year’s mushers are women — 16 of the 66.
Jonrowe, Zirkle and Royer are all top-10 contenders. Jonrowe placed 10th last year and 11th the year before; in 28 finishes, she has bagged 15 top-10 finishes. Zirkle’s second-place finish was her first top-10 in a dozen races, though she has been in the top 15 five times. Royer, 34, has three top-10 showings, including 10th in 2011 when she last raced.
Hendrickson was 36th last year and has two finishes in four starts; Berington placed 42nd in her rookie run last year; and Steves claimed the Red Lantern last year, finishing 52nd as a rookie.
“The one camaraderie thing with us is we don’t have a wife at home organizing, and some of us wish we did have a wife at home organizing,” said Zirkle, whose husband, Allen Moore, is also in the race.
Adventures in babysitting
James Volek is making his rookie run with a bunch of other rookies. He’s driving Martin Buser’s yearling team.
Volek, 25, said there’s a specific plan for his race.
“My goal is to get all of them in lead at some point,” he said. “We’ll rest more than we travel. I want to make it fun for the dogs. I don’t want them to not enjoy themselves on this trail.”
Volek is from Michigan but this is his second year working at Buser’s kennel in Big Lake.
“Some of these dogs, I’ve been with ’em since the day they were born,” he said.
He even named some — the “bird litter,” four pups that he named after birds: Thrasher, Swift, Nighthawk and Lark. Thrasher and Swift will be in harness when the team lives Willow on Sunday.