1 Year Veterans

by Terrie Hanke

February 22, 2023

With the 2022 Jr. Iditarod being run as a stage race on the Denali Highway, veterans of that race will be more experienced as mushers for the 2023 race but the trail between Knik and Yentna will be a new experience.  Five teens come to the 2023 race with a year of Jr. Iditarod experience making their way to Yentna Station for the first time.


Emily Robinson of Nenana returns to defend her 2022 Jr. Iditarod Championship.  Emily was also honored as the Rookie of the Year.  Nenana is located in the interior of Alaska 60 miles southwest of Fairbanks.  In 2003, 2015 and 2017 Nenana was a checkpoint on the Fairbanks to Nome Iditarod route.  She’s a second generation musher.  Her father started mushing while in middle school living in Michigan.  He later moved to Alaska to work in a kennel.  In 2001 he finished Iditarod with all 16 dogs.  By the age of four, little Emily had her own sled and went tag behind her dad watching his every move.  She now has a race team and has participated in the Willow Jr. 100, the Alpine Creek Excursion and Minto Spring Carnival.  She says, “We love living in Alaska and exploring the state.  We go on long trips and rarely does the weather stop us.  Traveling long distances in cold temperatures with dogs is what we do for fun.”  The  high school freshman plays old time fiddle, runs a trapline with her dad and enjoys swimming and cooking.   Emily claimed gold in the 2023 Willow Jr. 100.  She thanks her parents, friends and family members for their support


Returning to the Jr. Iditarod is Katie Henry, age 16, from Kotzebue.  Katie earned 8th place in the Jr. Iditarod stage race run on the Denali Highway in 2022.  She has grown up in a mushing family, sharing the sport with four sisters.  They pride themselves in taking excellent care of their canine athletes.  Participating in a subsistence lifestyle, Katie hunts and fishes and enjoys camping and boating.  Henry’s previous racing experience includes the Junior Kobuk 440 and Women’s Sprint Race where she captured 1st place in 2022.  She is a junior in high school and hopes to become a veterinarian.  Inspired by Lance Mackey Katie intends to continue mushing.  Kotzebue lies 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle and about 180 air miles  north and slightly east of Nome.


Bristol Huffman, age 15, is a returning Jr. Iditarod veteran from Kotzebue.  Back in 2019, she attended the Kobuk 440 as a spectator.  It was a life changing experience for Bristol.  She began helping local mushers and has taken advantage of training with local musher Dempsey Woods, Jr.  The high School sophomore has been mushing for three years and now works with Aimaagvik Kennel in Willow.  Bristol ran the 2021 Junior Kobuk 440 and Women’s Sprint Race and finished in 12 in the 2022 Jr. Iditarod Stage race.  She says she decided to take up the sport of mushing because she likes to work and she likes to work with dogs.  Bristol enjoys cross-country, fishing, hunting, trapping, kayaking, swimming and listening to music.  While not sure of her career path, Huffman plans to attend college.  Her dream is to own her own kennel and race the Iditarod.


Makenna Vanderhoof splits her time between Shell Lake, Wisconsin and Willow, Alaska.  With the abundant snowfall and excellent trail system, Willow is considered by many to be the mushing capitol of the world.  Willow hosts the start of Iditarod as well as the Willow 300 and Willow Jr 100.  When her Alaska family got back into dogs, she quickly became interested and has been on the runners since 2016.  The 2022 Jr. Iditarod was her first distance race where she captured 9th place in a field of 15.  At the age of 15, she looks forward to the Jr. Iditarod and the trail out to Yentna Station turnaround.  In her spare time she enjoys 4-wheeling, music, lifting weights, hanging out with friends and playing with animals.  When she graduates from high school she plans to go to college and hopes to continue to running the family dogs and perhaps establish her own team someday.


Teitje Paveglio, age 15, a sophomore from Eagle River attends Chugiak High School.  Teitje placed 11th in the 2022 Jr. Iditarod Stage Race.  She’s a veteran of Chugiak Jr. races as well as a 3-time Willow Jr. 100 veteran where she placed 7th in 2023.  Paveglio started off as a sprint musher but has since transitioned to mid-distance racing.  Teitje is running dogs from McCann’s Lost Creek Kennel.  In her non-dog time she stays busy with Rifle Team, Family Career and Community Leaders of America, Gay-Straight Alliance and World Discovery Seminar.  After high school she plans on studying marketing in college and hopes to one day own her own kennel of sled dogs. 


Check back soon to meet the two-year veterans participating in the 2023 Jr. Iditarod.