Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

A TOP FINISHER – Musher Matt Hall waves to the crowd as he arrives in Whitehorse on Tuesday afternoon to finish the Yukon Quest in second place.

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Quest means family to second-placer Hall

The Yukon Quest is more than a race for veteran musher Matt Hall,

By Dustin Cook on February 14, 2018

The Yukon Quest is more than a race for veteran musher Matt Hall, who cruised into Whitehorse with his 10-dog team in second place Tuesday afternoon.

Growing up in Eagle, Alaska, Hall has been surrounded by the race for as long as he could remember.

His mother helped run the Eagle checkpoint. His dad ran the race three times.

Having grown up around dog mushing, Hall got started in the sport from a very young age, and the Quest had always been something on his radar.

So what does the 35-year-old race mean to him?

“It’s a good question. Family, I guess,” he said to the large crowd gathered at Shipyards Park after he crossed the line.

“Since I was a little kid, the Yukon Quest has been the thing, so soon as I was ready, I ran it in 2014 and I’m hooked.”

Hall had quite the stellar rookie year. Natalie Haltrich, the Quest executive director for the Yukon, quizzed the crowd on it before Hall’s arrival.

In 2014, he placed third and was awarded rookie of the year.

He also won the Challenge of the North Award and the Veterinarian’s Choice Award, which he also won in 2016.

After placing fourth in 2016, Hall won the Quest in 2017.

Hall talked about the toughness of the race conditions, especially the brutal cold for the first two-thirds, but said that won’t stop him from returning to the race he loves.

“Every year, by the time I’m two days into the race, I say ‘I’m never doing this again,’ and now here, I am saying, ‘yup, I’ll be back next year,’” he said.

The defending champion had a younger team for this year’s race, including three two-year-olds.

He said it was a great training experience for these younger dogs and one of the most memorable moments for him throughout the gruelling race.

“Probably coming in towards the end here with the puppies. This is the future of the team for sure, and it’s incredible seeing what this team’s turning into,” he said.

Six hours after his finish, Quest champion Allen Moore – who finished at 7:59 Tuesday morning – came out to the finish chute to congratulate Hall.

Hall joked with Moore that one of the perks of following someone in is usually there is a trail to follow.

But with the snow coming down Tuesday afternoon, it was all covered back up when Hall passed through.

It was the weather conditions that made the Quest a tough one for Hall.

“This whole race was this year as we just talked about the cold early on, that was tough,” he said.

“And the last run into here with fresh snow and warm weather is just as hard.”

To take care of his dog team out of Smokin’ Aces Kennel during the extreme cold, Hall said it’s about keeping them fed and responding to their cues.

“They’ll let you know if something’s up,” he said.

Unfortunately for Hall, he didn’t take quite as good care of himself, and faced some frostbite during the first half of the race on the way into Eagle.

“I’m losing a little bit of skin off my finger tips, so I didn’t do a very good job of keeping myself covered,” he said.

Hall and his team will now wind down from the gruelling race and keep training in preparation for their first Iditarod in March.

The Quest began Feb. 3 in Fairbanks.

See more Quest coverage.

Comments (1)

Up 0 Down 0

Julie on Feb 15, 2018 at 11:44 am

What happened to the other four dogs?

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