Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

END OF AN ERA – An emotional Yukon Quest race manager Alex Olesen (left) is hugged by assistant race manager Briana Mackay (right) during the awards banquet. Olesen was recognized for his longtime service to the race.

Race manager stepping away from Quest family

The Yukon Quest is more than a race for race manager Alex Olesen who is stepping down from his position with the family he grew up around.

By Dustin Cook on February 19, 2018

The Yukon Quest is more than a race for race manager Alex Olesen who is stepping down from his position with the family he grew up around.

Olesen grew up around the race from the very beginning with his dad as a race judge for the inaugural race in 1984 when Olesen was just four years old. His mother also served as the committee chair for the race and Olesen grew up around the race checkpoints.

“Our version of day-care and chores and everything was to help out the Quest. It was just part of life, you can tell it meant so much to my parents,” he said.

In his sixth straight year as race manager, Olesen said what made this year special was the element of family on display.

“Just one of those amazing camaraderie kind of years,” he said at the end of the banquet. “Everyone dropping what you think would be their priority to help with someone else’s misfortune. That was one of the best things about this race.”

Much of this included cars and dog trucks not starting along the trail because of the brutal cold during the race. Olesen and his team jumped into action to fix these problems no matter what.

Previously, Olesen served as the assistant race manager for both Yukon and Alaska, a past board member and a race volunteer.

Joined by assistant race manager Briana Mackay and Ryan Hughes, Alaska board of directors president, Olesen was gifted a commemorative sponsorship banner from the 2004 Quest of his father Leo’s old company.

With all three race officials emotional on stage, Olesen thanked his Quest family as well as his home family. He said his young daughter has started questioning why her dad goes off for a month to play with puppies.

When asked if he will be back, Olesen answered with an emphatic yes and was immediately given a look from his wife.

Unaware of the role or when, Olesen said it would be impossible for him to stay away forever.

“I don’t know how I’ll be back but I’ll always be around it,” Olesen said choked up and at a loss for words. “It’s family. It’s not an option.”

“This is the love we have for this family and that’s what’s so great about it and what I’ll miss most about it,” he said.

It wasn’t until after Hughes spoke about Olesen and his contributions and Olesen had the chance to address the crowd that it was announced by Yukon executive director Natalie Haltrich that Olesen will be taking a break from the race.

Olesen was immediately greeted with a standing ovation as he was overcome with emotions and was embraced by Mackay and Hughes.

Olesen also received a handmade patch by the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre Sewing Group as a memento before he steps away from his longtime position with the race.

As mushers were called up one at a time to talk about their race, Olesen hugged each one, even lifting some into the air with a big squeeze.

At the end of the banquet, friends and race followers came up to Oelsen to congratulate him on his time as race manager and to wish him well – making it clear the race will always be a part of him.

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