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Mushing couple wins sportsmanship, humanitarian awards

Mike Campbell
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

For many dog mushing kennels, earning an honor at the Iditarod's post-race banquet is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.

But on Sunday, Allen Moore and wife Aliy Zirkle of Skunk's Place Kennel in Two Rivers earned two of the race's most coveted awards. Zirkle, who finished 11th in the 1,000-mile race to Nome, walked away with the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award, while Moore took the Fred Meyer Sportsmanship Award.

Moore, running his fifth Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, encountered Karin Hendrickson of Willow near Golovin on the Seward Peninsula coastline a week ago.

"She was soaking wet because she ran over the hill," Moore told the Fairbanks News-Miner. "She started getting cold, cramping and started getting hypothermic."

Facing a powerful wind, Hendrickson's team had stopped on the sea ice and stayed there several hours.

When Moore reached the disoriented Hendrickson, she had trouble walking and her efforts to get into her sleeping bag to ward off the cold were only partly successful. Hendrickson only got the bag up to her knees.

"She asked for help," said musher DeeDee Jonrowe on Sunday night at the Iditarod Awards Banquet in Nome before presenting Moore with his award. "We actually had a musher that felt that their life was at risk -- and they called out for help.

"This driver stopped, assessed the situation (and) saw that she had slurred speech and was ... unable to take care of herself, unable to deal with the situation at hand."

Moore helped Hendrickson up, walked her around and got her to drink fluids. The pair then rearranged their teams and attached Hendrickson's dogs to the back of Moore's sled."

They made it to White Mountain in a couple of hours, where Hendrickson scratched. Moore went on to finish 24th, his best ever.

"If she falls asleep out there in that wind, you could die easily," Moore told the News-Miner.

On Sunday, Moore was typically soft spoken.

"I didn't do anything special," he told the gathering at the Nome Recreation Center. "Most people would stop and help someone, especially when they see a musher in trouble. Hopefully, somebody will pick me up one of these days, which I'm sure I'll need."

If Moore's reaction was low-key, Zirkle was moved to tears after her name was announced, and she asked for a moment to compose herself.

"There's nothing I want more than that," said Zirkle of the Seppala award. "There's nothing. These dogs are so special to all of us.

"The neatest part about racing these dogs is to raise them from puppies. To see them grow, see them learn and see them cross the finish line and come under the burled arch and to know they'll do it with you or they'll do it without you out there. But to know that you helped them to do the best they can."

Zirkle didn't bring her dogs to the podium with her. John Baker did.

The Iditarod champion and race record holder urged lead dogs Velvet and Snickers to the podium after they won the Lolly Medley Golden Harness Award, which was originally presented by the late Lolly Medley, a Wasilla harness maker and one of two women to in 1974 first run the Iditarod.

"These two dogs have been leading the team the last couple of years," Baker said. "They're exceptional dogs, so willing to please."

Other awards From 39th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

PenAir Spirit of Alaska: Martin Buser of Big Lake, the first musher to McGrath, won a spirit mask created by Bristol Bay artist Orville Lind and a $500 credit on PenAir.

GCI Dorothy Page Halfway: Trent Herbst of Ketchum, Idaho, who took his 24-hour layover later than other mushers, earned $3,000 in gold nuggets.

Millennium Hotel First to the Yukon: Hugh Neff of Tok chowed down on a seven-course dinner in Anvik and took home $3,500 as the first musher to reach the Yukon River.

Wells Fargo Alaska Gold Coast: John Baker of Kotzebue won $2,500 and a trophy as the first musher to Unalakleet.

Nome Kennel Club Fastest Time from Safety to Nome: Lance Mackey earned $500 for covering the final 22 miles of trail in 2 hours, 25 minutes. By winning, Mackey joined brother Rick Mackey as a winner of the award. And the Mackeys joined the Smyths (Ramey and Cim) as the only families with more than one winner.

Horizon Lines Most Improved Musher: Trent Herbst took his second award, this one with a $2,000 prize, for finishing 25th, a year after he came in 49th.

Jerry Austin Rookie of the Year: Nicolas Petit of Girdwood earned $2,000 and a trophy. Petit was a handler for Chugiak veteran Jim Lanier and he stepped in at the last moment when Lanier needed hip surgery. Petit finished 28th.

Exxon Mobil Mushers Choice: Rick Swenson was chosen by fellow mushers as the most inspirational after suffering a broken collarbone early in the race but continuing on to Nome, where he finished 20th. "I'd like to thank (race officials) John Anderson and Art Church for not telling me I had to stop," Swenson said at the banquet, his left arm in a sling. "I still had a lot of fun." Swenson, the five-time champion, earned a 1.25-ounce gold coin valued at $3,300.

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Northern Air Cargo Herbie Nayokpuk: Paul Johnson earned $1,049 and a freight allotment for an attitude on the trail that resembled that of Iditarod legend Herbie Nayokpuk.

Golden Stethoscope Award: Samantha Yeltazie was chosen by the Iditarod Official Finishers Club as the most-helpful veterinarian.

Wells Fargo Red Lantern: Ellen Halverson of Willow became the first two-time Red Lantern winner, which goes to the race's last finisher.

Reach reporter Mike Campbell at mcampbell@adn.com or 257-4329.


By MIKE CAMPBELL
mcampbell@adn.com