Whitehorse Daily Star

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DEPARTURE ORDER SET – Alaska musher Tim Pappas drew bib No. 1 on Thursday night at the Yukon Quest’s Start and Draw Banquet in Fairbanks. Photos by ROBIN WOOD/FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWSMINER

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Katherine Keith will start the race in 11th place tomorrow. Photos by ROBIN WOOD/FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWSMINER

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Ed Hopkins.

Rookie to lead Quest pack; Hopkins is 19th

The starting order for the 35th running of the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race is set.

By Whitehorse Star on February 2, 2018

FAIRBANKS — The starting order for the 35th running of the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race is set.

A newcomer, Tim Pappas, will lead the pack out of Fairbanks on Saturday.

Pappas, a 28-year-old rookie from 17th Dog in Willow, drew bib No. 1 on Thursday night at the Start and Draw Banquet held in the Gold Room at the Westmark Hotel.

“It’s my first Quest, and I’m first,” Pappas said.

“I’m a little overwhelmed. I wasn’t expecting to be No. 1.

“I’m actually racing a relatively young team of dogs, and because of that, I’m going to be resting more than a lot of the veterans will be.

“I’m probably going to be passed by a lot of people, but that’s fine. I’m just looking forward to enjoying the trail and having a good time.”

Swedish veteran Torsten Kohnert and Whitehorse rookie Claudia Wickert’s teams will leave Fairbanks behind Pappas.

Kohnert was the 10th musher to draw her starting position and picked No. 2.

Wickert drew bib No. 3 after being the seventh musher to take the stage and draw in front of the room packed full of mushers, their families and handlers, Yukon Quest officials, volunteers and fans of the sport.

Hugh Neff, a two-time champion (2012 and 2016), drew bib No. 9. He was the first champion to draw, picking second after veteran Rob Cooke started things off by drawing No. 5.

The only other two-time champion in the field, Allen Moore, who won the race in 2013 and 2014, drew No. 23.

Last year’s champion, Matt Hall, will wear bib No. 7 as he tries to become the first musher to repeat as champion since Moore accomplished the feat.

Although Pappas admitted he was overwhelmed by the reality of leaving first, some of the mushers were pleased with their starting positions.

They include veteran Katherine Keith from Team Baker Kennel in Kotzebue, Alaska.

After finishing seventh last year, Keith was the final musher to sign up for this year’s race.

She couldn’t have been happier with picking bib No. 11 when she was the final musher to draw.

“I think 11 is a great number,” Keith said. “I like to have a sufficient number of teams ahead, because we’ll go off nice and slow. It won’t be too chaotic, and 11 is a good number.”

Keith will be running a combination of the same dogs she used last year and some of John Baker’s dogs, too.

“I’ve got a phenomenal team of dogs from both John Baker and my team last year,” she said. “They’re some of our best dogs from both teams, and they’re all way more experienced than I am.”

Another veteran who was pleased with the draw results was Yukoner Ed Hopkins from Tagish Lake Kennel.

After finishing third in 2015 and fifth the past two years, Hopkins said, he’s excited to start 19th.

“I actually like my number,” he said. “I like starting somewhere in the middle of the pack. It’s just where I like to sit.”

Now that the mushers know where they’ll start the race, the excitement for Saturday’s start of the race can continue to grow.

Enthusiasm was on display for most of the mushers as they drew their bib numbers, though Hopkins said the thrill of running the Quest for a 10th time hasn’t set in yet.

“I’m not getting as fired up as I usually do. But it’ll come,” he said.

“Hopefully it doesn’t hit me too hard when it does.”

By Brad Joyal
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Comments (1)

Up 0 Down 0

Debbie Amson on Feb 3, 2018 at 2:15 pm

Thanks for covering the YQ 2018!

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