Ellis takes Open North American sled dog race title

Super Swede with the doggy touch wins race, but Streeper earns respect

Posted: Monday, March 19, 2001

FAIRBANKS -- Egil Ellis walked away from the ACS Open North American Championship Sled Dog Race with the hardware. But the elation belonged to Buddy Streeper, second to Ellis in the world's oldest and most prestigious sprint race.

Ellis easily shattered another pair of records and took home his third straight open title. But that was expected.

Streeper won the race for second, the unofficial championship for a sprint mushing world demoralized by Ellis' dominance.

"I love coming here to Fairbanks," said Streeper, the youngest member of a storied family of racers. "There's not many places you get to race guys like Neal Johnson and Egil Ellis."

If Streeper, just 19, sticks with it, he might one day join the circle of Open North American champions. Second was good enough this weekend, with the rest of the mushers resigned to chasing the super Swede with the doggie touch.

Mushing fans shook their heads in wonder as Ellis' time was read. He finished the 27-mile run in 88 minutes, 45.9 seconds with 12 dogs, nearly two minutes faster than the standard he set last year at 90 minutes, 40.1 seconds.

With a total time of 207 minutes 13.8 seconds, that's a light-speed average of 3 minutes and 16 seconds a mile for the weekend.

"Just another day on the job," Ellis joked after his eighth straight major Alaska victory.

The only thing keeping him from being a prohibitive favorite to win his third straight "Triple Crown" -- the Fur Rendezvous, the ONAC and the Tok Race of Champions next weekend -- is the fact that the Rondy was canceled for lack of snow.

Ellis doesn't think his record times will sit around long.

"I'll break them next year," he said with a smile.

Both Streeper and fourth-place finisher Joee Redington Jr. of Manley used record runs to jump a place in the standings.

Streeper, whose father, Terry, shouted, "Yes," when he saw his son appear on Second Avenue, erased a deficit of more than 30 seconds and jumped past Neal Johnson with a run of 89:20.7 for a cumulative time of 211:23.2.

Johnson (90:47.3) was third overall in 212:18.9, while Redington became the top Alaska finisher after passing Curtis Erhart with a run of 89:18.4.

Redington, son of Iditarod founder and Alaska legend Joe Redington Sr., finished with a total time of 213:06.9 to Erhart's 214:56.1.

"I had a real good team this time," Redington said. "Everything was perfect. The trail was as good as it could possibly get, officials were everywhere on the trail. We have a great sponsor. You couldn't get a better run race than this. Except maybe we should get a little faster.

"My whole family is behind all of us in dog racing," he said. "We didn't become doctors or lawyers, but we all grew up to become pretty good dog mushers. I think my dad would be proud."

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