Thirteen Junior Mushers are registered and set to start the Junior Iditarod on the last Saturday of February. The field for the 2013 Junior Iditarod is composed of an international entry, four lower 48 entries and eight Alaskans. Rookies outnumber the veteran mushers by one. All together the veterans bring eight years of Iditarod experience to the starting line on Knik Lake. Conway Seavey has completed two prior Junior Iditarod races and is back to defend his 2012 championship.
Jenny Greger from Montana returns for her third run to Yentna Station. She’s looking to better her 5th place finishes over the last two years. Ben Harper, looking to improve his 3rd place finish in 2012 has only been involved in the sport of mushing since moving to Alaska two years ago. Other veterans include Alaskans, Jonathan Biggerstaff and Alea Robinson. Annika Oleson of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territory of Canada rounds out the returning list of veterans.
New to the race are Bethel residents Joshua Klejka and Caleb Miller. Klejka has been running dogs since a young age while Miller is fairly new to the sport. Abby Brooks from Fairbanks has a long family history of mushing and hopes to complete this Junior Iditarod after becoming sick and scratching last year. Jimmy Lanier of Chugiak says he began mushing before he was born. Jimmy likes to sing and play baseball. From the lower 48 are rookies Noah Pereira from New York, Taylor Steele from Pennsylvania and Malinda Tjelta from North Dakota all have several years of experience standing on the sled runners behind a dog team.
Now it’s time for a little Junior Iditarod history. The first year of the race, there were two divisions of mushers. The senior division contestants, ages 15 to 17, ran 10 dogs for a distance of 40 miles. The junior division, ages 11 to 14, ran 6 dogs for a distance of 36 miles. The next year the race was changed to only one division of ages 14 to 17 and ran 90 miles with a maximum of 10-dogs. For the past 30 years, the juniors have run a distance of about 150 miles. Generally the route runs from Knik Lake out to Yentna Station where the teams take a required ten-hour rest plus the starting differential before heading to the finish line at Willow Lake. Five mushers have won the Junior Iditarod in back to back years. The only musher to win three Junior Iditarod races in a row was Tim Osmar.