Iditarod 2023

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2023 Iditarod drawing near

WASILLA — The 2023 Iditarod is fast approaching.

The ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage is traditionally set for the first Saturday in March. With a big cheery welcome from around the world to inspire them for the race, mushers embark on the long and arduous journey from Willow to Nome the following day. The Willow Community Center is traditionally where the official race startbegins.

The Iditarod draws dedicated athletes from across the world and the 2023 race is no exception.

According to a recent press release, veteran musher Ramey Smyth made a late registration but still made it in time to participate in this year’srace.

Smyth was born and

raised in Alaska. His parents are none other than the iconic Iditarod mushers Bud Smyth, who raced in the first Iditarod, and the late Lolly Medley who raced in the secondIditarod.

Smyth has participated in the 26 Iditarods and placed in the top 10 on12occasions.

“I am entering the Iditarod because I love working with sled dogs. Mushing is a great way to connect to my historical Alaska roots and to challenge myself. My family loves sled dogs and this gives us an opportunity to work together on a common goal,” Smyth stated in thepressrelease.

According to separate press releases, veteran Iditarod mushers Travis Beals and Lars Monsen, decided to withdraw fromthisyear’srace.

Iditarod Trail Committee officials indicated that they’re looking forward to welcoming

Wade Marrs and all the otherveteranandrookie mushersinthe51strace.

The 2023 Iditarod mushers will follow the SouthernRoute.

The annual Iditarod Banquet will be held at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center to

commemorate the history of The Last Great Race and look towards thefuture.

The Iditarod Trail Committeeishostingthe first Musher Meet and Greet since 2020, giving fans the opportunity to minglewiththemushers


Visitors will also have the opportunity to acquire posters made by longtime Iditarod photographer Jeff Schultz. They can even bring their own items to be autographed.

The meet and greet

will feature light appetizers and a no-host bar from4to5:30p.m.

The second half of the evening is the 2023 Mushers Banquet Gala, featuring a tribute to iconic musher Lance Mackey, live and silent auctions, appearances from famous Iditarod athletes, 2023 Iditarod merchandise, dinner, drinks, and the first in-person Musher Bib Draw since 2020. The Gala runs from 6 to 5:30 p.m. and the doors openat5:30p.m.

All proceeds raised at this annual fundraiser will go toward the general operations of the Iditarod.

Follow the Iditarod on social media and visit the recent center on their official website for updates.

For more information,

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.

2023 Iditarod: Meet the mushers



Anna Berington, 38, has been loving life in Alaska since 2007 racing sled dogs, commercial fishing, building and constructing homes, landscaping and competing in running races. With her sister, they are Seeing Double Sled Dog Racing. Being able to raise and train dogs together has been a dream come true, and racing the Iditarod is a perfect fit for these endurance racers. These dreams have been made possible because of help and support from friends, family and sponsors.

Anna started mushing when she was only nine years old. The twins have come a long way from mushing their pet dog in Wisconsin to giving tourists rides in the Sierras, to training with former champion Dean Osmar, and many mushing friends like Scott Janssen here in Alaska. Now dog mushing is a family affair with visits and help from Mom, Dad, and sister Kat, and of course their fur children, 30 amazing dogs!

Anna lists her hobbies

as running, triathlon, biking, swimming, canicross and skiing.

Kristy Berrington

Kristy Berington, 38, operates Seeing Double Sled Dog Racing with her twin sister Anna, and her husband, Andy Pohl in Knik, Alaska. Mushing dogs has become part of family life. Andy races and trains the dogs, Kat Berington manages their website, Vicki Pohl sews harnesses and dog coats, Ray Pohl runs trail support, and the entire family supports and sponsors from the sideline all the way from Wisconsin to South Carolina. This is Kristy’s 14th running of the Iditarod. She moved to Alaska 14 years ago to learn more about mushing from 1984 Iditarod Champion Dean Osmar in Kasilof. Since then she has raced all over Alaska and into Canada competing in the Yukon Quest, Kusko 300 and Copper Basin 300, just to name a few. “I love endurance sports and adventure!” says the ultra-athlete.

“What better way to

combine those two factors than running sled dogs in the most beautiful place in the world.” Never sitting still, in the off season Kristy competes in many running races from half marathons to ultra-distances and triathlons with Anna.

“Anna and I are always in friendly competition. I’m so proud of her in her mushing and athletic career. And to be a part of it all with her is amazing.”

Kristy and Anna pay the bills by doing carpentry work and landscaping. “Thank you to

the many fans, friends, family, volunteers and sponsors for making all of this possible. We couldn’t do this without you!” “I’m looking forward to running another Iditarod with my incredible canine athletes! Best of luck to all the mushers and their amazing dogs.” Kristy lists her hobbies as running, cycling, hiking, keeping up with her husband and canicross.

Eddie Burke Jr.

Eddie Burke Jr was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He

is 33 years of age and trains out of Alaskan Wildstyle Racing Kennel in Nenana, AK. Eddie started racing dogs in 2021. His career highlights include taking 3rd place in the 2022 Kobuk 440 and winning a 200mile Iditarod Qualifier in 2021. He has also completed the Kusko 300, Yukon Quest 300, Willow 300 and several other races. When Eddie is not running dogs he enjoys spending time with his daughterEmilia.

Eddie would like to thank his mentors Tony Browning, Aaron Burmeister and his spon-

sors for making this all possible.

KattieJo Deeter

KattiJo (pronounced Katie Jo) Deeter is originally from northwest Wisconsin. She moved to Alaska in 2010 after graduating from UW-La Crosse and working seasonallyaroundtheLower 48 for several years. Her first job in Alaska was working for a dog sledding tour company in Juneau. While there she met her now-husband Jeff Deeter. Falling in love with Jeff, his dogs and the state of Alaska was enough to keep her here. KattiJo says, “Alaska is so big and mushing is so complex, there is always something new to learn, see or do.” But the interest in running the Iditarod was not immediate. KattiJo says, “That seemed like too much. I didn’t know if I would ever have the skills to be able to do that and I didn’t know if I wanted to either.” Eventually though, racing became a natural progression after years of helping Jeff train his Iditarod team.

Sunday, February 26, 2023 8 Frontiersman
DAVID POYZER/IDITAROD Brent Sass won his first Iditarod title in 2022. FRONTIERSMAN FILE PHOTO
Knik musher Kristy Berington leaves the starting chute during the 2020 Iditarod restart in Willow.
See MUSHERS, Page 9

KattiJo ran her first Iditarod in 2022. She has the unique distinction of being one of the only mushers to ever run all the way to Nome but not be considered an official finisher. She says, “Several of us mushers got trapped in a terrible ground blizzard between White Mountain and Safety. Some wind gusts must have been nearly 80 mph. My sled was getting blown over and somersaulted off the trail, down the side of the mountain. Eventually we had to call for help because we couldn’t make any forward progress, and it was a dangerous situation for us and our dogs. Jeff and I were taken with snowmachine assistance three miles ahead down the trail to the Topkok shelter cabin. At one point there were four of us mushers in that cabin with 32 dogs! We spent roughly 24 hours there, and then Jeff and I were able to mush the rest of the way to Nome. When I was in the storm, and in the cabin, I told myself I was selling all of my dogs and moving to Hawaii!” She laughs. “But of course after I

made it to Nome and got some good sleep, I was able to get some perspective, and I started thinking about my next Iditarod.” KattiJo is not considered an official finisher of the 2022 Iditarod because of the snowmachine assistance she received. She is hopeful that 2023 will be different.

Richie Diehl

I’m 36 years old. When I’m not mushing dogs, I enjoy going for boat and snowmachine rides with my wife Emerie. My greatest accomplishment is mushing-winning the 2021 Kusko 300.

Riley Dyche

Riley Dyche grew up in Farragut, Iowa and started running dogs in Leadville, Colorado in 2010, while he was attending college there, with a major in Outdoor Recreation Leadership. He moved to Alaska in the spring of 2013 to work for Alaska Icefield Expeditions. While there he met Matt Hall. He handled for Matt that year and then a year with Ryne Olsen and then a year with Sven Haltmann, before he started his own kennel, Dark Horse Racing Kennel, in 2016. In the winter he focuses on

training and racing at his home north of Fairbanks with his 25 dogs. “I’m looking forward to running the 2023 race.”

Matthew Failor

Matthew Failor is a veteran Iditarod musher, Kuskokwim 300 Champion, and multi-time humanitarian award winner in mid-distance racing.

He and his wife Liz own and operate Alaskan Husky Adventures in Willow, Alaska, where they offer locals and visitors a chance to meet their Iditarod team and experience the joy of dog mushing for themselves.

Their race team name, 17th-Dog, is a tribute to their supporters. For many years, mushers could take 16 dogs on the Iditarod. Family, friends, and fans of the team are symbolically dubbed the 17th-Dog that make it possible to race.

Originally from Ohio, Matthew’s passion for Alaska’s official sport started with a summer job at a dogsledding camp in Juneau. There, he adopted his first Alaskan Husky, Fionn. Matthew’s love for mushing eventually grew into a full-time profession when, with the

help of friends, family, and mentors Martin Buser and Matt Hayashida, he established hisownkennelin2013.

Fiveyearslater,theIditarodTrailleadMatthew to his biggest prize yet. HemethiswifeLiz,aformer news anchor, while competing in Iditarod 2018. Their wedding, which included their 53 dogs, was featured in TheNewYorkTimes.

Through racing, Matthew strives to empower and support young people to pursue their dreams. He remains heavily involved as an Ohio State University alumni,inCatholiccharities, Boy Scouts, and localschools.

Matthew would like to thank his handlers, the 17th-Dog Booster Club, Alaskan Husky Adventures, Powerstroke Performance, K2 Woodworking, Dr. Carson’s All Natural Products, WoolX, O’Machearley Custom Knives, Phillips Tube Group and Emerson Tibuni for their sponsorshipoftheteam.

Matt Hall

Matt Hall, 31, was born and raised in Eagle, Alaska on the Yukon River, where he worked his trap line with his sled dogs and guided week long expeditions for his parents company, Bush Alaska Expeditions. He started

mushing when he was just two years old that began his dream of racing. The first generation of pups that would create the foundation of his future race team was then born the summer he turned 16. He moved to Two Rivers, Alaska, to pursue competitive racing and completed his first long distance race, the Yukon Quest 1000, at the age of 22. His kennel, Smokin’ Ace Kennels, sits on a 40 acre parcel of land next to the Chena River. He maintains an offgrid life style by hauling water and firewood with his Smokin’ Ace family of 31 Alaskan Huskies. For the last 13 summers, he has lived and worked for Alaska Icefield Expeditions on the Denver and Mendenhall Glacier. Winters are spent training, guiding tours and enjoying this encompassing life of mushing with hisdogs.Attheageof26 he was the Yukon Quest 1000 champion of 2017 and continues his racingcareerbycompeting in his 5th Iditarod of 2023.

Jessie Holmes

Jessie Holmes, 40, was born and raised in Alabama. He left there at the age of 18 to go see Alaska. But he ended up in Montana where he worked as a carpenter

for three years. He came to Alaska in 2004 looking for adventure and found it running dogs on a remote trap line on the Yukon River. This love for the wilderness and dogs eventually led to his competing in many races, both sprint and distance. He won the Kobuk 440 in 2017 and placed seventh in the 2018 Iditarod, taking home the honor of being the “Rookie of the Year” in that Iditarod. A subsistence resident of Nenana, Jessie is currently works as a carpenter and TV personality, appearing the Life below Zero, a documentary television show about the daily lives of people living in remote Alaska. He lists his hobbies as running ultra-marathons, hunting andfishing.

Joanna Jagow

I am excited to run in Iditarod 2023 and hopefully get to see the entire Iditarod trail! My goal is to finish with a happyandhealthyteam! I grew up running dogs on my parents trapline on the Porcupine River and was never quite about to get rid of the dog mushing bug. I love spending time on the trail with my favorite four-legged pals.

See MUSHERS, Page 10

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Thanks to all of my family and friends for making this possible and my soon-to-be-husband for supporting me onthisdream!

Dan Kaduce

Dan Kaduce, 53, was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. He moved to Alaska in 1993 “for fun.” He began mushing in 1994 and did many races in Alaska and Canada, including multiple Yukon Quests, before he just “ended up running the Iditarod.” He and his wife, Jodi Bailey, also an Iditarod veteran, own Dew Claw Kennel in Chatanika, Alaska. Dan says that where they are now is the “perfect place for training dogs.” In his first Iditarod in 2010, Dan was the Rookie of the Year. For the last eight years he has been an equipment operator and says he enjoys construction and woodworking as well as hunting.

Peter Kaiser

Peter Kaiser, 35, was born and raised in Bethel, Alaska. He graduated from Bethel High School in 2005 and has worked for Knik Construction/

Lynden for the last twelve years. He says, “Our family has always had dogs, and I’ve been mushing since I was a kid. Watching the Kuskokwim 300 every January sparked my interest in long distance racing, andafewyearsagoIdecided that I would give the Iditarod a try.” He has finished in the top 10 seven times including a first place finish in 2019. Peter says he enjoys boats, hunting, and fishing. He and his wife, Bethany, are the parents of Ari and Aylee.

Hunter Keefe

Hunter Keefe, 23 years old from Okemos, Michigan, has been dreamingofbecominga mushersincehewassix years old. He first came to Alaska to run dogs in August 2018 where he worked for the Girdwood Mushing Company on Crow Creek Road. He has since continued to grow his mushing career with Raymie Redington’s dog team and just came off his best season yet with a 5th place finish in the Knik 200, 5th place finish in Willow 300 and won his second consecutive Goose Bay 150. Hunter’s main dream has always been to run the Iditarod and can’t wait to join his fellow mushers on thetrailthisyear.

Eric Kelly

Eric Kelly age 52, was born in New Haven, Connecticut and grew up in Barnard, Vermont. He spent his younger years hunting, fishing, riding showmachines and exploring the Green Mountains. Later Eric traveled extensively chasing music and adventure before settling in Prescott, Arizona. After a chance vacation to Alaska in 2007, Eric and his wife Laura packed up the family and headed for the ‘Last Frontier’ where he took a job as a sprinkler fitter with Taylor Fire Protection. In 2013 Eric met Jamaican musher Newton Marshall and had the chance to help him prepare for the 2014 Iditarod. This experience created a passion for sled dogs and the sport of mushing. Eric spent the next few winters working with and training Kathleen Fredrick’s ‘Shameless Huskies’ from his property in Knik. In 2018 he decided it was time to start his own kennel and acquired his first 12 sled dogs with the goal of running the Iditarod.

The Daybreak Kennel has grown to over 30 dogs. Over the past several years he has enjoyed training for and running mid-distance

races, improving his skill set and bonding with his team of Alaskan huskies. Eric looks forward to taking part in his second Iditarod race.

A big thank you goes out to his wife and kids, as well as the handlers, sponsors and all who have supported the Daybreak dream. Follow us on Facebook @DayBreakmushing-Eric Kelly or @http//

Jennifer LeBar

I was born and raised in East Tennessee with bird dogs. I have always loved the outdoors and after hiking 1,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail one summer, I fell in love with long-distance adventures. In 2007 I came to Alaska and was introduced to sled dogs and long-distance racing and a dream was born. My first couple of winters in Alaska I worked for long-distance mushers learning the ropes and ultimately getting my first few dogs. Since 2015 I have been raising my own dogs and have completed several mid-distance races. My dream has been to run a 1,000-mile race with dogs I raised myself.

Jason Mackey

I have been running and racing sled dogs for 45 years and have run Iditarod seven times, the K-300, Kobuk 440, Copper Basin 300, Knik 200, Tustemena 200, Tug 120, Klondike 300, Yukon Quest 300, Two Rivers 200 , Mail Trail 120, and of course four Jr. Iditarods. After 2017 Iditarod I sold my kennel and two and a half years later I started the kennel over with a whole new group. I’m very excited to be back to Iditarod and the races. Pushing the re-set button was the best thing I could have done. I’m running Iditarod and the mid-distance races again with a whole new team and awholenewme.Kennel motto:“MackisBack”.

Kelly Maixner

Kelly Maixner, a native of North Dakota, has lived in Big Lake, AK since 2009. He started mushing dogs in 2008 during his pediatric dental residency. He loves going on adventures with his tolerant wife and five perfect children. Kelly’s hobbies include fishing, hunting, shrimping and building the perfect backyard zamboni. He owns Wee Care Pediatric DentistryinWasilla.

Wade Marrs

Wade Marrs, 32, was born and raised in the Knik area outside of Wasilla, Alaska. As a true “Knik Kid” Wade has been behind a dog team since he was born. His biggest influences for his mushing were his late uncle and the Redington family. Wade says, ” I was a quiet kid, learning the ropes of mushing, not asking many questions, just listening to the words from the many mushers visiting the Redington home in Knik.

Wade has served on the Iditarod’s Board of Directors, the Iditarod Official Finishers Club as president and the Iditarod Rules Committee. In 2021 Wade moved to the “Northwoods” of Wisconsin with his wife Sophia andtheirsonMack.



Deke Naaktgeboren was born and raised in Pella, Iowa. Deke, an alumnus of Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, earned dual degrees in Business and Recreation. Before moving to Alaska, Deke lived in Florida where he was a park ranger in Everglades National Park. His dream has always been to live in Alaska and compete in the Iditarod. Deke currently resides in the Goldstream Valley of Fairbanks, Alaska. He spends most of his summer in the 40 Mile Country near Chicken, Alaska and works for the Bureau of Land Management. He began mushing in 2008 and has run a number of distance and mid-distance races since then. Deke is the father of Nolan, 7, and lists his hobbies as “being a dad, fixing things, and mowing the lawn.”

Nic Petit

Nicolas was born in France, raised in New Mexico and moved to Alaska. He began racing in 2011. “My dogs and I enjoy showing off their amazing abilities while enjoying the wonders of the Iditarod Trail.”

Aaron Peck

Aaron and the Elevation Huskies continue to pursue excellence on the world stage of distance mushing. The Iditarod has the toughest competition in the sport so that is where Aaron and his team need to be in order to challenge themselves against the best.

Millie Porslid

Mille started mushing in 1992, running a team of Polar Husky sled dogs for polar explorer Will Steger on a three-month-long dog sled expedition in Canada. She was hooked. Ever since Mille has lived with her sled dogs to experience the people and places in the magical North while finding ways to be share the adventures with people around the world. She has slept more than 1,000 nights in a tent on the dog sled expeditions and feels very home anywhere in the circumpolar Arctic. Mille has executed 15 long-haul expeditions with her Polar Husky freight dogs. Each expedition lasted two to six months and was as long as 3,000 miles in Greenland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Alaska and crisscrossing Canada. In 2011 she entered her first sled dog race, running the 800-mile Nadezhda Hope race in Chukotka, Russia. Mille then moved to Alaska with Team Racing Beringia and her then partner. Together they trained and raced with great success that culminated in 2018 with his Iditarod championship.

Mille was born and grew up in Denmark until she came to America and did that first dog sled expedition at 18 years old. Her great-grandfather founded the world’s first Arctic research station in Greenland. His sons traveled Arctic North America by dog team and canoe in the 1920’s, the “normal” son being Mille’s grandfather who left Greenland to live back in Denmark. Growing up Mille would sit in his basement surrounded by drawings, mystical carvings and seal skin clothing, listening to his adventures as a kid across the ice with his sled dogs. That’s when Mille imagined she wanted to grow up to live her life with sled dogs.

The 2020 Iditarod Rookie of the Year, Mille in 2021 was the proud recipient of the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for her care of the dogs during the race, while she set a new time-record for mushers from outside the US. Mille lives in Alaska with her sled dogs, but she is still Danish. She will be racing the 2023 Iditarod for Team Racing Beringia.

See MUSHERS, Page 11

Sunday, February 26, 2023 10 Frontiersman

Ryan Redington

I am racing Iditarod because I love the Iditarod and the dogs. My grandfather is Joe Redington Sr. He is known as the ‘Father of the Iditarod’ for starting the race in 1973. My dad is Raymie who has raced in the Iditarod 14 times. My grandpa, dad and Uncle Joee are all in the Mushing Hall of Fame. I got big footsteps to follow and am glad to be racing in the 2023 Iditarod. In the 2021 Iditarod I had my best finish in seventh place. Henry, Ghost and Splint are my lead dogs. My daughter Eve and son TJ are also carrying on the family tradition racing. They love dogs and mushing.

Jessie Royer

Jessie Royer, 46, was born in Idaho. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana where she lived for 21 years. She worked on ranches as a horse wrangler and horse teamster. She says she got her first sled dogs when she was 15. She started learning about dogs from Doug Swingley whom she worked with for a couple of years. She had dogs in Montana seven years before moving to Alaska in the spring on 1998. She won Montana’s Race to the Sky when she was only 17, and she was the winner of the invitational La Grande Odyssée in France in 2005. She says her hobbies are horses, hunting and mounted shooting.

Brent Sass

Brent was born and raised in Minnesota, he moved to Alaska over 20 years ago. After falling in love with the trails of Eureka, AK, Brent took over a homestead established in the 70’s and where he has lived with his dogs since 2012. He is a threetime Yukon Quest (1000mile) Champion (2015, 2019 and 2020) receiving the Vet’s Choice award for his dog care in 2015 and 2019. He is the Champion of the 50th running of the Iditarod (2022)!

Brent and his team are excited to be back on the Iditarod trail again in 2023! Mushing is a way of life for Brent – it gives him a chance to get out and explore Alaska, but most importantly it is all about the dogs and the relationship he has with each and every one of them. Getting to know each dog’s behavior and personality is what makes dog mushing such an adventure. Every day is exciting, whether it is traveling on a new trail or learning something new about the dogs. Living his dream as well as setting and accomplishing goals is what drives Brent

every day, along with all of his incredible fan support.

Ramey Smyth

Ramey Smyth, 47, was born and raised in Alaska. He is the son of Iditarod mushers Bud Smyth, who raced in the first Iditarod and the late Lolly Medley who raced in the second Iditarod. Ramey has lived all over the state but says he moved to Willow to put down roots and build a home for his family.

Ramey has raced the Iditarod 26 times placing in the top 10 twelve times. He won the Kuskokwim 300 in 1995 and has raced in, and won, many other events throughout the state. He began mushing “as soon as I could walk” and won the Jr. Iditarod twice before his first Iditarod in 1994. He is a full time log home builder and owns and operates Smyth Logwork and Construction in Willow. He says, “I am entering the Iditarod because I love working with sled dogs. Mushing is a great way to connect to my historical Alaska roots and to challenge myself. My family loves sled dogs and this gives us an opportunity to work together on a common goal. Ramey operates Smyth Racing Team-Homestretch Kennel, which is 70 dogs strong, with his wife Becca Moore and their children Ava, Banyan and Coral. Ramey says his hobbies are “family, hunting and reading”.

Jed Stephensen

Jed grew up in Germany as an American Army brat. In their home was a set of moose antlers his dad brought with him from Alaska. They seemed to always point to the northern country as the place he must go to for self discovery. His dad read to him a book about mushing by Gary Paulsen that convinced him that what those moose antlers were saying was true.

Later he learned how to train sled dogs working with Billy Snodgrass outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and then furthered his training in Alaska with Linwood Fiedler and Gabe Dunham.

After marrying his beautiful wife, Amy and having twin boys they settled down in Northern Idaho. He and his dad built a small cabin in the woods for his family, bought a couple of sled dogs and started working towards the dream of running the Iditarod.

As he and his dogs have grown together they have forged a bond of loyalty and trust through thousands of miles of travel in the mountains.

Jed has received the award, ‘Best Cared-For Team’ in Eagle Cap 200 and Idaho Sled Dog Chal-

lenge 300 and received the ‘Sportsmanship Award’ at the Race to the Sky 300 for catching a runaway dog team. He also is one of only four people to finish the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown which includes 800 miles of racing over three and a half weeks.

The journey to the Iditarod has been a pilgrimage into his soul where he has discovered the value of family, grit, loyalty and has found God.

Gerhardt Thiart

Gerhardt Thiart was born and raised near Cape Town, South Africa. After graduating from high school he joined the military where he obtained the rank of 1st Lieutenant Platoon Commander in the SADF Infantry with several tours under his belt. After military he joined a restaurant group where he met Al-Jo. AJ for short. They got married in 2003. In 2002 they became friends with André and Natalie van der Merwe, reputable and respected Siberian breeders. Gerhardt and AJ fell in love with the breed and got three. Being working dogs, they got the carts, the scooters, harnesses and other stuff and exercised their three Siberians on dirt farm roads under the guidance of André and Natalie. Gerhardt was introduced to the Iditarod through André. Gerhardt ordered his first Iditarod documentary in 2002. It was the beginning of the end. They were hooked. Gerhardt told his wife that he wanted to do the Iditarod “one day”.

Pursuing their Iditarod dream, they packed their bags, jumped the cliff and came to the United States in 2010 where they worked as handlers at a sled dog kennel in Michigan. To add more weight and credibility to their Green Card application, Gerhardt went back to school. Twice. In 2017 he graduated with a degree in Business Management and in 2019 he graduated with a degree in Financial Accounting. AJ graduated as a Veterinary Assistant in 2015.

In 2020 their Green Cards were approved and they moved to Alaska in the fall of 2020. In the winter of 2021 Gerhardt did all three of his qualifiers (Copper Basin 300, Willow 300 and Denali 200) under the guidance and watchful eye of Mitch Seavey, his mentor and coach.

In 2022 a 20-year dream came true. Gerhardt ran Mitch Seavey’s puppy team. Fifty miles from Nome, his race got short winded by hurricane arctic winds and a broken ankle. His words: “I froze my butt off for 12 days and all I needed was six more hours. Right place, wrong time. This is the Iditarod.”

Now, Gerhardt has “UNFINISHED BUSINESS” for Iditarod 2023. Gerhardt is the Executive Director of GAT FOUNDATION Inc., a non-profit supporting, bringing awareness, promoting, and raising funds for Military Veteran Service Dogs. For more information, please visit his website at or for any questions and comments, you can contact Gerhardt and Al-Jo at

Christian Turner

I’m a 34-year-old Australian born and bred dog musher that has been lucky enough to race the Iditarod a few times, and again lucky enough to be given a chance to race with Mitch Seavey’s dogs from Idida-ride Sled Dog Tours. I love the wilderness and landscapes of the Iditarod trail and couldn’t imagine a better time than enjoying the trail with great dogs and great people.

Bailey Vitello

I am a second generation musher from Milan New Hampshire I have been running dogs since I was three years old. Ever since I began mushing with my family I have aspired to one day take on the Iditarod Trail which is the ultimate test of mushing abilities and a true testament to the connection that I have with my dog team.

I have traveled throughout the USA, Canada and France competing in some of the world’s most famous and challenging races and I look forward to taking on the Iditarod trail which has its own demanding aspects. My current dog team ranges in age from 3-8 years old and quite a few have some experience on the Iditarod trail. I am excited to see their athleticism and determination on this

race and with a lot of hard work I hope to cross under the burled arch in Nome with a happy and healthy dog team.

When I am not running my dog team I am the owner of Northern Exposure Outfitters Dog Sledding Equipment which helps those who are new to dog mushing and seasoned mushers find the gear that’s right for their team. During the summer I am also a seasoned raft guide and carpenter/ entrepreneur.

Gregg Vitello

I began mushing about 25 years ago and was drawn to the idea of spending time with my dogs in the wilderness, along with my wife and family. My youngest son Bailey took to mushing the most and together we built a racing dog team, learning as much as we could from other mushers’ books and advice along the way. After realizing this was my son’s natural given gift I took a few years off from running to help support his team and training. Being back on the sled again these past few years building my own team with my now adult son has been one of the most gratifying things I have experienced in my life.

My current team is full of goofy and happygo-lucky Alaskan Huskies who are more than excited to take on any trail ahead of them. They range in age from 3-7 and about 50% of the team has some range of experience on the Iditarod trail which will be very helpful when the going gets tough. I am looking forward to experiencing the Iditarod trail not only with my dogs but with my son and finally being able to accomplish this long time dream.

Bridget Watkins

Bridgett Watkins was born in Arkansas and moved to Alaska at age

five when she got her first sled dog. Her passion and love of the sport began at an early age while competing in sprint mushing throughout her childhood across the great state of Alaska and Canada. She was introduced to mid and long-distance mushing by some of the greatest mushers ever, her father and step-mom; Allen Moore and Aliy Zirkle. She took a break from mushing to receive her nursing degree, marry her high school sweetheart Scotty, and raise a family of two lively boys, Timber and River. Her passion for the sport was more ignited after living in Nome for six years and being immersed in the history and culture of Western Alaska. After helping her family race for many years, her dream came true when she started her kennel in 2018, Kennel on a Hill. She has been raising and training her team in preparation to run ‘The Last Great Race’. Bridgett continues to work as an Emergency Room Nurse, enjoys everything about the outdoors and is working toward her Master’s in Nursing. Although she knows she will miss her kiddos while out on the trail, there will be no greater pleasure than seeing them under the burled arch watching their mama accomplish her childhood dreams.

Mike Williams Jr

We can do this race one more time. I plan to run this mostly to enjoy the trip across Alaska. I have a nice group of young, talented dogs and we will use this run as part of a training run possibly for next year’s Kusko 300. Dogs that make Iditarod no matter how long it takes, go home with a new toughness and a certain pride in their eyes, they accomplished a tough race.

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Sunday, February 26, 2023 11 Frontiersman