Kids come to mushing through many different circumstances. Sometimes, it’s purely coincidental and other times it’s a family affair. Some get into the sport after being introduced by neighbors or friends while others follow older brothers and sisters down the trail. Whatever brought them to dogs, these are dedicated young mushers who have worked hard at becoming good at driving sleds, camping in the winter and caring for their beloved athletes. Meet five of the seven rookies of 2021 through these brief biographies.
Jace Cogdill sort of sawed his way into mushing. Jace and his father were cutting wood on a neighbor’s property. The neighbor happened to have a recreational mushing team. She invited Jace to experience life on the runners behind a dog team and he was hooked! Before moving to Willow seven years ago, the Cogdill family moved to Willow seven years ago, having lived in both Wyoming and Idaho. He’s 14 and is home schooled. Jace is an outdoor guy who likes hunting, trapping, and fishing. He enjoys being out on snow machine and 4-wheeler runs. Cogdill has participated in the Willow Jr. 100 in 2019 and 20. He’s not certain about a career path but knows it will include time for mushing.
James Shawcroft has wanted to run the Jr. Iditarod ever since his sister, Emma, competed in 2017 and 2018. James, age 14, has been mushing since he was 6. Neighbors introduced the Shawcrofts to the sport and now they their own dog team. While James is a Jr. Iditarod rookie, he’s not new to the race circuit, as he’s run the Willow Jr. 100 three times, earning 7th place in 2021. Shawcroft is a freshman at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks where he participates in cross-country running and cross-country skiing. His career path is undecided but he’s looking forward to attending college and will mush until he graduates.
Hannah Wappett, age 14, is a freshman at Lathrup High School in Fairbanks. Hannah began mushing with her older siblings and parents when she was five. Older brother, Chandler ran Jr. Iditarod in 2016, 17 and 18. Hannah is a veteran of several sprint races and will have three Willow Jr. 100 runs under her belt by the time Jr. Iditarod rolls around including a 5th place finish in 2021. She has raised several litters of her own puppies and will have some of those dogs on her Jr. Iditarod team. Wappett is an avid cross-country runner, cross-country skier and not surprisingly enjoys skijoring with her dogs. She also likes riding horses, raising rabbits and camping. Hannah knows she’s headed to college. While her chosen career is uncertain, she expects to continue mushing.
Morgan Martins, age 14, is another musher who follows in a sibling’s sled tracks by doing the Jr. Iditarod. Morgan who is an 8th grader for northern Wisconsin comes from a mushing family and has been on the runners since a very young age. He and his sister, Talia who ran the JR. Iditarod in 2018, share in the care and training of their twenty huskies and four horses. Morgan is active in 4-H and enjoys woodworking, riding horses, camping and hunting. At school he participates in basketball, baseball, track, cross-country, band and choir. Morgan very much appreciates working with Iditarod veteran and Beargrease Champion, Ryan Redington. He says Ryan is generous, kind, teaches by example and his dogs are incredible.
Jessica Dixon, age 17, is set for her rookie Jr. Iditarod. She’s from Fairbanks and likes homeschool because it allows her the flexibility to spend lots of time with her dogs. As a junior in high school, she’s finished her first college class. Jessica has grown up around sled dogs and she’s very excited to be racing dogs that she has raised and trained from birth. She and her younger brother train their dogs and get help from their father when he is not gone for work. Jessica finished in 10th place in the Willow Jr. 100 this season. Dixon wants to become a veterinarian and plans to continue mushing.
The Jr. Iditarod will begin on Knik Lake at 10:00 am on the last Saturday of March. The race will run 75 miles out to the Yentna Station Roadhouse. Mushers will serve their 10-hour required rest camped in the wood along the Yentna River. Their start differential will be added to the ten-hour layover. Very early on Sunday morning the young mushers will return to the trail. The finish has been moved from the Willow Community Center to Martin Buser’s Happy Trails Kennels.