WHITEHORSE, Yukon Territory -- The only Southeast musher entered in the only Southeast sled dog race went home with an award, though it wasn't for speed.
Jim Stanford, of Mosquito Lake north of Haines, won the Sportsmanship Award for a second time in the Trail of `98 sled dog race. The race started Friday in Skagway and ended Sunday in Whitehorse.
Stanford placed 12th in the field of 14 mushers, with a total time of 10 hours, 56 minutes, 7 seconds.
``It was basically a sprint race and me,'' Stanford said. ``It was like somebody called a gunfight and somebody brought a knife, and that was me.''
The $15,000 (Canadian; $10,271 American) purse of prize money drew some high-caliber mushers to the race. Dean Osmar, who won the Iditarod in 1984, brought a team that will head to Nome in a few weeks. Two-time Yukon Quest winner John Schandelmeier brought the same dogs he's run on the Quest, and is considering running some of them on it again next year.
But the race was won by top sprint mushers, whose small, wiry dogs are used to running short distances at about 15 mph. Brian MacDougall from Whitehorse put a 5-minute lead between him and the rest of the racers on the first day, which nobody was able to close. His team covered the 107 miles in 7:23:31 and he took home the $10,000 ($6,847 American) first prize.
Darren Kinvig, also from Whitehorse, managed to pull himself from third place to second with a fast run on the second stage of the three day race. He finished in 7:29:26. Dean Seibold of Delta Junction was two minutes behind him, placing third in 7:31:21.
Tim Robb of Fairbanks came in fourth, followed by Osmar of Clam Gulch and then Schandelmeier of Paxson.
The race is supposed to follow the White Pass Railroad tracks from Skagway to Whitehorse, retracing the trail goldseekers followed with their dog teams 102 years ago.
Low snow conditions forced the trail to be rerouted this year. Last year even less snow canceled the race, making this only the second running of what organizers hope will be an annual event.
After running a few blocks down Skagway's main street, mushers loaded their dogs back into trucks and drove to Carcross. There the dogs were harnessed again and set out on the longest stage of the three day race.
The dogs pulled their masters 25 miles, across frozen lakes and through bushy forests, to the town of Tagish. There they rested an hour before racing back, the last teams arriving in Carcross after dark, navigating with the beam of their headlamps.
On the second day the dogs also raced from Carcross, this time following the railroad tracks out, then circling back to complete a 25 mile circuit. Sun warmed the course, making some of the dogs ill as they ran in what were for them uncomfortably warm temperatures.
The mushers and dogs alike welcomed a cooling cloud cover for the third day, as they ran 32 miles from Mount Lorne into Whitehorse. The final two miles were run on gravel and cement, since Whitehorse has also been lacking in snow.
Despite the poor snow conditions, race organizer Jo Hopkins said the event went smoothly enough that it will probably continue.
``Our main hope was that it would go well, because last year we had to cancel and if we had to cancel this year it would be over,'' Hopkins said. ``But as it is, it's going well and we have lots of ideas and it's growing.''
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