Yukon Quest mushers leave Whitehorse today

Wasilla's Kelly Griffin draws No. 1 starting spot; Skagway musher also in 2005 field

Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2005

• the yukon quest is a 1,026-mile sled dog race between whitehorse, yukon territory, and fairbanks, alaska.

• there are 21 mushers competing this year, the race's 22nd running.

FAIRBANKS - Wasilla musher Kelly Griffin drew the No. 1 spot out of the chute at the 22nd Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

The race begins today out of Whitehorse.

"I'd rather have my entry fee back," joked veteran musher Kelly Griffin after she drew the No. 1 bib for the Quest at Friday night's start banquet and draw at the convention center of the High Country Inn.

Griffin also drew first in the start order four years ago when she was a rookie on the Quest. She said that this time around things will be a little different.

"I know the trail a lot better," Griffin said. "That's going to make a big difference."

All 21 mushers in the Quest gathered with friends, sponsors and fans of the race for the banquet. Hans Gatt, the Atlin, British Columbia, musher who won the past three consecutive Quests, was master of ceremonies and helped race marshal Mike McCowan conduct the draw.

"I really miss not running this race," Gatt said. "I made my mind up after last year's race that this year I would only run the Iditarod, and I have to focus on that.

"But at this moment," Gatt said, "it feels really awkward not to be drawing my own name right now."

The Yukon Quest is a 1,026 mile sled dog race that retraces gold rush and mail routes between Whitehorse and Fairbanks. The start alternates each year between the cities.

Gatt and McCowan commenced the draw, introducing each musher to the crowd of enthusiasts, which was estimated at about 400 strong.

"I enjoy it. I've been seeing a lot of new faces," said Griffin. "People are just packed in here. It's good for the Quest; if you're not growing, you die, and it's good to see some interest growing."

Also in this year's field is Quest veteran Hugh Neff, who now lives in Skagway. Neff finished eighth in the 2003 Quest. Last year, Neff placed 22nd in his first try at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a 1,112-mile race from Anchorage to Nome.

For more on the Yukon Quest, and this year's mushers look on the Web at www.yukonquest.com.

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