BETHEL -- One of Alaska's premier mid-distance sled dog races is getting a new manager, and it's a homegrown woman who mushed as a kid.
Madelene Reichard, born and raised in Bethel, will be the Kuskokwim 300 race manager, race chairman Myron Angstman announced Tuesday.
Reichard has long been a race volunteer and starts work this week. She will have a month of overlap with current race manager Zach Fansler and his assistant, Christina Garvey, who are leaving their posts May 1.
Reichard, 23, is completing her master's degree in education from the University of Oregon in Eugene. She said she is ready to focus on the suite of Kuskokwim 300 races that she grew up loving. She started mushing around age 6 with her neighbors, the Klejkas, and training through their dog operation. She did youth races until age 14.
Serving as manager is "a really exciting opportunity," she said.
Fansler and Garvey have done great work increasing race purses and musher participation, she said, and she wants to continue that for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
"I would like to get more local mushers involved and more Y-K Delta mushers involved," Reichard said. And she'd like the purses to keep going up.
Fansler, who served five years as race director, will continue in Bethel as a math professor on the Kuskokwim campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He had been looking to ease out of the race manager job but said it was a great experience. Garvey hasn't decided what's next.
"It's such a part of life out here," Garvey said. "We're both sad to be stepping away from it. It was such a tough decision for both of us."
The Kuskokwim 300 main event has gone on despite recent weather challenges, including a lack of snow and jumbled river ice. This year, despite almost no snow, all of the races were held except the kids' race, which may happen Friday.
Next year's races will offer bigger purses than this year's races.