Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for February 17, 2014

Rookie musher steals the show at awards night

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race fixed its eyes on the future Saturday night, as rookie musher Matt Hall swept up the lionʼs share of awards at the annual post-race banquet in Whitehorse.

By Marcel Vander Wier on February 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm


Photo by Vince Fedoroff

HAPPY VALENTINES – Fort St. James musher Jerry Joinson gets a kiss from his wife, Lisa, after finishing the Yukon Quest Friday. Joinson was assessed an eight-hour penalty at the finish, making him this year’s Red Lantern winner.

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race fixed its eyes on the future Saturday night, as rookie musher Matt Hall swept up the lionʼs share of awards at the annual post-race banquet in Whitehorse.

The 22-year-old from Two Rivers, Alaska took home top rookie honours, the vetʼs choice award, and was named the musher who best exemplifies the spirit of the 1,000-mile race.

Hall, who finished the race in third place, humbly took his place in the spotlight.

“It was absolutely amazing out there,” he said of the historic trail from Fairbanks to Whitehorse. “It was a blast. I had a great time and Iʼm looking forward to many more years.”

Race champion Allen Moore received the Dawson Award – four ounces of gold worth $5,000 – for being the first musher to reach Dawson City and finish the race. His lead dog, Quito, won some gold of her own, as she was fitted with a golden harness.

The Two Rivers musher also received a $1,000 cheque from Northwestel, for donation to a charity of his choosing.

Moore signed the cheque over to Special Olympics Yukon.

Other special awards saw Dawson City musher Brian Wilmshurst honoured for his sportsmanship, while fellow Canadian Jerry Joinson received the Red Lantern for finishing last. Joinson, who was hit with a second eight-hour penalty for using a replacement sled in the race, accepted the last-place trophy with grace.

“Anyone interested in buying a couple of used sleighs?” he asked the crowd to laughter.

The night belonged to Hall, however.

As the first novice musher to cross the finish line, Hallʼs rookie of the year award was an automatic. On the other hand, the Veterinarianʼs Choice and Challenge of the North awards came after a vote by race officials.

Hall said he took pride in winning the vetʼs choice award, which came with $2,000 in cheques to be used for veterinarian services.

The award is presented to the musher who best demonstrates outstanding canine care while remaining competitive during the entire race.

“Though Iʼm proud of this award, I have to say that every musher who gets their dogs across the finish line obviously does a wonderful job in caring for their dogs,” he told a sold-out crowd at the Yukon Convention Centre. “Itʼs a huge accomplishment.”

The youngest musher to run the 2014 Quest was following in his fatherʼs footsteps. Hallʼs father, Wayne, previously ran the Quest three times, in 2002, 2006 and 2009. His top finish was 10th in 2006.

Race marshal Doug Grilliot called the young musher “the future of this race.”

Hallʼs big night came after two-time race champion John Schandelmeier pleaded with the raceʼs braintrust to change the way they market the race to up-and-coming mushers.

“We had 18 entrants and 11 finishers, and as a long-time participant of this race, thatʼs not really very acceptable,” the 61-year-old told the crowd.

“I think we market this race in a way that doesnʼt do it justice. We market this race as the toughest race in the world, and itʼs really not. We need to market this race in a more true light. It runs through the most hospitable group of people, probably anywhere in the world. People take care of you out there.

“Itʼs not tough. Itʼs really not tough,” he said. “The toughness is a mirage. We do this stuff every day.”

Schandelmeier said in order to market the race to younger mushers, things need to change. He added he would like to see 30 mushers back in the field by next year.

“We need to get us some more competition,” he said. “I canʼt do it, so youʼve got to get somebody out there that can do it.”

While awards dominated the evening, the night also included some farewells to key members of the race.

Longtime head veterinarian Kathleen McGill announced her retirement from the position, tearing up as she discussed her memories from the trail.

Outgoing Yukon executive director Marie Belanger was also honoured, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.

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