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Willow teen wins Junior Iditarod by 52 seconds

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: March 2, 2018
  • Published March 2, 2018

Bailey Schaeffer, who learned to mush as a child growing up near Kotzebue, won the 150-mile Junior Iditarod by less than a minute last Sunday.

Schaeffer, 17, triumphed in her third appearance in the race for mushers under 18. She placed third in her rookie year and fourth last year.

A senior who lives in Willow now and studies at Mat-Su Central, Schaeffer edged Chandler Wappett of Fairbanks by 52 seconds.

The two checked in and out of the Old Hunter Trail Head checkpoint at the same time Sunday, a little before noon.

Eighteen miles and two hours later, Schaeffer reached the finish line at the Willow Community Center at 1:47 p.m., 52 seconds ahead of Wappett.

Schaeffer, who finished with nine dogs, finished in 17 hours, 25 minutes, 23 seconds. She won a $6,000 scholarship.

Wappett, a 17-year-old who finished with 10 dogs, won a $4,000 scholarship for finishing in 17 hours, 26 minutes, 15 seconds.

Despite the close battle between Schaeffer and Wappett, it wasn't the closest race in history. In 2008, Jessica Klejka eked out a two-second victory over Cain Carter.

Third place and a $2,500 scholarship went to third-place Colby Spears, a 15-year-old from Wasilla. Spears, last year's runner-up, reached the finish line nine minutes after Schaeffer with nine dogs.

Rookie-of-the-year honors and a $2,000 scholarship went to Wasilla's Grace Nolan, 16, who placed fourth. She and her nine dogs finished at 2:08 p.m.

For two of Nolan's dogs, the race was a mere warmup — Grace's brother Andrew, the winner of last year's Junior Iditarod, plans to use them on his rookie run to Nome in this year's Iditarod.

The Junior Iditarod dates back to 1977. This year's race started last Saturday at Knik Lake and featured seven checkpoints. All mushers took a mandatory 10-hour layover at Yentna Station.