Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

COMIN’ IN – Musher Laura Neese arrives in Dawson City Thursday morning with her team out of Nature’s Kennel in sixth spot. Inset Vebjorn Aishana Reitan.

Quest’s youngest racers overcome windy trek

One is a seasoned 1,000-mile veteran having finished the Yukon Quest in 2016 as well as the 2017 Iditarod.

By Dustin Cook on February 9, 2018

DAWSON CITY – One is a seasoned 1,000-mile veteran having finished the Yukon Quest in 2016 as well as the 2017 Iditarod.

The other is running his first 1,000-mile race ever. Both are only 21 years old and blew into Dawson on the Yukon Quest trail Thursday morning.

The two youngest competitors in the race arrived fifth and sixth respectively and are both looking forward to the second half of the race.

Rookie Vebjorn Aishana Reitan from Katkovik, Alaska arrived just 23 minutes ahead of Laura Neese based out of Nature’s Kennel in McMilan, Michigan.

“The team is doing good, it’s just me that gets cold,” Reitan said after arriving in Dawson noting an increasing headwind along the Yukon River on the way down.

“I have to stop every now and then and adjust everything.”

Reitan and his team out of Hulahula Kennel made very quick work of the 54-mile journey down from Clinton Creek travelling at a high speed the whole way down.

“They get energized once they see town,” Reitan said of his team picking up the pace in the final stretch to Dawson.

“They figure they’re going to rest for a little bit so they might put in a little bit extra effort at the very end.”

This may be the first Quest for Reitan, but it isn’t for many of his dogs. Many of them have finished the Quest or Iditarod and other 1,000 mile trips in 2016 and 2017.

“The dogs are doing a very good job I think,” the young musher said.

Although his first time running the Quest himself, Reitan was involved in 2016 as a handler for Torsten Kohnert, who is also running the race this year. He arrived in Dawson about 16 hours after Reitan.

Reitan was the first musher to arrive in daylight during a frigid Thursday morning in Dawson. He crossed the checkpoint with one of his dogs, Kent, in his sled.

Kent was working hard for the team, Reitan said, but was experiencing bad diarrhea and so he will talk with the veterinary team to plan a course of action before they depart.

With Kent still in board, Reitan remains with 13 dogs.

Meanwhile, Neese is down to 10 dogs, but it doesn’t seem to be having an impact on their performance as they strode into Dawson all in their red Nature’s Kennel jackets.

“It was beautiful. A super fun ride. Our team was cruising,” Neese said.

Neese went to every single one of her 10 dogs to give them a pat and thanks before she did anything else.

“We’re having fun. Doing some leader training as of late and working through some things. It’s going really well,” she said.

Neese is in her third Quest, having finished 13th in 2016 before scratching in last year’s race. She was only 19 in her first test.

The young musher said the cold weather isn’t impacting them too much on the trail, but they are ready for the cold snap to break during the 36-hour layover.

“We’re ready for warmer temperatures,” she said. “We’re 60 degrees below what we’re used to.”

For the four dogs dropped earlier in the race, Neese said most of them were due to returning shoulder and wrist injuries from earlier in the season.

How are the 21-year-old mushers going to spend their 36 hours in Dawson?

“Sleep,” Reitan said. “Sleep and eat.”

Neese also has catching up on rest on her agenda.

“Well love up some dogs first off,” she said. “Get them warm and cozy and a good meal in their bellies. Then take a nap.”

Comments (4)

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Maureen Pugh on Feb 11, 2018 at 11:59 am

So proud of these young mushers. They’ve done their homework and are taking great care of their pups. Go Laura and team! Bring them home strong! Your hometown in Ohio is cheering you on!

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Laura Haines on Feb 11, 2018 at 5:43 am

Following the Quest from IL. Go girl go! Hope to follow you Laura in the Iditarod! Great job all!

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Kimberlee Bushey on Feb 10, 2018 at 6:57 pm

I'm wishing Laura from McMillan Michigan the best of luck . I'm from Curtis Michigan and McMillan is 13 miles from me. So Laura you go girl. Special shout out to Jim Levine. He a dear friend.

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Marilynn Reynolds on Feb 10, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Glad to see some newspaper coverage. This event and its participants should get coverage like the Olympics !! These mushers and their incredible athletic dogs put in years of training and then face unpredictable conditions. Sure wish there was coverage in the lower 48 !! Wish a sports channel would get involved !!

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