HUNTINGON RULED MUSHING IN THE '70S
By Beth Bragg
Daily News Executive Sports Editor
To appreciate what Carl Huntington pulled off in the 1970s, consider
the improbability of a runner winning the 100 meters at one Olympics
and the marathon at another.
The Athabaskan musher from Galena became the king of sprint mushing
in 1973 by winning the Fur Rendezvous World Championship. One year
later, he became the king of distance mushing by winning the Iditarod
Trail Sled Dog Race. Not a single musher has duplicated Huntington's
''I was young, I had a lot of energy, and I had a good sponsor,''
Huntington said by way of explanation.
But there's another reason.
It's the dogs.
Or, to be more precise, it's the sprint dogs.
A sprint musher first and foremost, Huntington twice entered the Iditarod
''because it was there.'' When talk turns to his Fur Rondy-Iditarod
double the conversation invariably gravitates toward the common denominator
in his dissimilar championships: the village-raised sprint dogs that
demonstrated 25 years ago, and continue to demonstrate today, that
they are good in the long haul, too.
Huntington, 53, likes telling the story about a sprint dog from Huslia
who became a leader on two of Jeff King's championship Iditarod teams.
And he likes getting the opportunity to give credit to sprint mushing
for opening the door for distance mushing, which enjoys the popularity
and profile today that sprint mushing enjoyed in Huntington's heyday.
''The dogs that run in the Iditarod now come from sprint dogs,'' he
said. ''If there wasn't a Rondy or (Open) North American, there wouldn't
have been an Iditarod.''
Huntington swears by sprint dogs raised in Bush communities because
years ago villagers raised dogs out of necessity, and in doing so
they developed strong bloodlines.
''These dogs were bred and raised and trained for the sole purpose
of providing a living for people who lived in villages. They couldn't
afford to keep bum dogs,'' he said. ''... Before snowmachines came
along, everyone had a dog team, but it was for making a living. Good
dogs were bred to good dogs.''
Huntington believes a good dog is a good dog regardless of the distance
being raced. As proof, look no further than Tex, a female who was
a leader on both Huntington's 1973 Fur Rondy championship team and
his 1974 Iditarod championship team.
Tex retired following the 1974 season, but several of her Iditarod
teammates became members of Huntington's sprint team in 1977, a season
in which Huntington won just about every sprint race in the state,
including Fur Rondy.
Huntington doubts that anyone will match his back-to-back Rondy and
Iditarod victories, mostly because things have changed so much in
the last quarter century.
''It's probably impossible today,'' he said. ''As things grow from
the pioneer state to high technology like it is now, there's just
a fine line between failure and success sometimes. If you don't do
it full-time on one or the other, you're not going to be on top.''
Executive sports editor Beth Bragg can be reached at email@example.com.
Anchorage Daily News