Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

THE SECRET TO HIS SUCCESS – Allen Moore, who won his third Yukon Quest and finished the race with all 14 dogs, holds up his special button at Saturday night’s awards banquet.

Champ gets standing ovation at awards banquet

The 35th annual Yukon Quest wrapped up Saturday evening with the finish and awards banquet at the Yukon Convention Centre.

By Dustin Cook on February 19, 2018

The 35th annual Yukon Quest wrapped up Saturday evening with the finish and awards banquet at the Yukon Convention Centre.

It was a chance for mushers to share stories from the trail and to recognize the achievements of the race finishers.

None more so than Allen Moore, who won his third Quest and finished the race in unprecedented fashion with all 14 dogs.

The clear favourite for the Vets’ Choice Award, Moore received a standing ovation. He praised his team from SP Kennel and his wife, Aliy Zirkle, for doing 80 per cent of the work to keep the dogs healthy.

“We have a lot of people in our kennel that strive to do the best. So I want to thank all of them,” Moore said to the sold-out banquet crowd.

“Without them, we wouldn’t have this.”

Moore was also awarded the Joe Fellers Dawson City Award for being the first musher to reach Dawson and finish the race. For this, he received two ounces of Klondike placer gold.

“Can’t beat gold,” Moore said while holding up his poke of gold.

But his lead dogs may beg to differ.

For leading the team to victory, Dutch and Commando received the Golden Harness Award with a custom-made golden harness, as well as steaks provided by the Coast High Country Inn.

They were led on stage by Zirkle and devoured their meals before licking the face of their leader.

With several opportunities to speak, Moore praised the partnership between the United States and Canada to host this international race.

He then revealed to the hushed crowd that he had a secret throughout the race that helped him through.

“I would like to say I had a secret that not many people know about and I want to tell everyone because I got it with me right now,” the 60-year-old veteran said.

And then suddenly the words “That was easy” as Moore pulled a Staples easy button out of his pocket.

“It’s an easy button,” he exclaimed to roaring laughter.

Moore also presented the Sportsmanship Award as selected by the finishing mushers after a delay where the winning envelope couldn’t be found.

Natalie Haltrich, the executive director-Yukon, came to the rescue and rookie Riley Dyche was honoured with the award and received beaver mittens – which he said will go to good use because he wore out his old pair during the race.

But Dyche also gave a shout-out of his own to another finishing musher for their sportsmanship on the trail.

He thanked Tim Pappas for giving him a pair of gloves along the trail. Pappas also gave gloves out to Yukon musher Luc Tweddell.

Third-time musher Tweddell told a story of Dyche’s sportsmanship on the trail helping him through the overflow just outside of Braeburn.

Tweddell wore bib #26 on the Alaska side which was the Joel Switzer memorial bib.

Switzer was a long-time handler on the Quest, and Tweddell said he didn’t know him but felt his presence with him on the trail.

The banquet honoured those who have been lost from the Quest family, with Switzer as well as Jessica Simon, who was a volunteer at the Scroggie Creek dog drop.

Simon, a Whitehorse resident, died suddenly in September 2017. Her death came as a shock to the community.

Quest veteran Rob Cooke spoke of his wanting to honour her in some way after he heard the news, and the Quest said it’s working on a way to do that.

Cooke said at the banquet he then stopped thinking about it until the starting banquet, where he drew bib # 12 – sponsored by the Jessica Simon Memorial on the Yukon side.

Whitehorse rookie Nathaniel Hamlyn took home two major awards.

It was already known Hamlyn won the Red Lantern Award for being the last official finisher.

Hamlyn finished the race with seven dogs after only starting with 12.

He had to drop four very early in the race due to injury, but preserved to the finish.

This also led the 23-year-old musher to win the Challenge of the North Award for best exemplifying the spirit of the Quest.

He received a hand-blown glass sculpture from Lumel Studios. It was based on drawings of two Whitehorse children depicting their summers at the Stepping Stone hospitality stop.

Rookie of the Year Award honours went to Vebjorn Aishana Reitan. The 21-year-old was the first of six rookies to finish the race, which began Feb. 3 in Fairbanks.

The 13 mushers who started the race received recognition before the 13 finishers were invited to the stage to be honoured and have the opportunity to speak.

Moore, the 2018 Quest champion, was able to have the last word. He echoed the sentiment of the 12 finishers who spoke before him: “Was that a good race or what?”

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