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Tweaked trail will give Fur Rondy dogs lots of runway time

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: February 23, 2018
  • Published February 22, 2018

66-year-old Roxy Wright kicks towards the Fourth Avenue finish line on the final day of last year’s race. Wright isn’t in this year’s race, which begins at noon Friday. (Bill Roth / ADN archive 2017)

Get ready for Project Runway, sled-dog edition.

Because of inadequate amounts of snow on parts of the traditional trail, the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship has revised the course for the 73rd annual sprint race across Anchorage.

The race will stay on the west side of Campbell Airstrip Road, race marshal Janet Clarke said. It will skip the Muldoon swamp and the Gasline trail and instead put two miles of the 25-mile race on Campbell airstrip, Clarke said.

The change will provide lots of runway time for the 21 teams — a field led by five-time champion Buddy Streeper — and lots of viewing opportunities for fans who head to Far North Bicentennial Park.

"They'll go all the way up and all the way back down," Clarke said. "Teams will be on full display."

And then, she said, "they will suddenly disappear into the woods for one-and-a-half miles of twisting, turning trail."

The extra time on the runway and the little loop right after the dogs leave it will help make up for the mileage lost by eliminating the loop east of Campbell Airstrip Road.

"We'll get our 25-mile race," Clarke said. "We had to do many hours of shoveling and moving snow. It was so skimpy we were having to rob fields of snow to get it on the trail."

The race starts and ends downtown each day at Fourth Avenue and D Street. There are heats on three straight days, with the first musher leaving at noon each day.

James Wheeler of Clam Gulch, the winner of last weekend's Raven Electric 10-dog Championships, will be the first musher to leave Fourth Avenue on Friday.

Streeper, whose five victories rank him as Fur Rondy's third-winningest musher along with Egil Ellis, will start third.

Streeper, who is from Fort Nelson, British Columbia, is the only past champion in the field.

Roxy Wright of Salcha, who last year returned after a 24-year absence to claim her fourth Rondy title at age 66, is not racing. She's retired again, Clarke said.

Streeper and his wife, Lina, finished second and third last year, are among the teams to watch this year. Wheeler is coming off a decisive victory in last week's Raven Electric race, the only race of the season so far due to poor trail conditions.

A victory by Streeper would leave him three short of George Attla's record nine titles and two short of Roland "Doc" Lombard's eight.

Fur Rendezvous Open World Championships

Friday's start order

1. James Wheeler
2. Michael Tetzner
3. Buddy Streeper
4. Nathan Sterling
5. Jeffrey Conn
6. Danny Beck
7. Dave Turner
8. John Erhard
9. Emilie Entrikin
10. Lina Streeper
11. Bill Kornmuller
12. Mark Hartum
13. Jason Dunlap
14. Nikki Seo
15. Marvin Kokrine
16. Greg Taylor
17. Gary Markley
18. Don Cousins
19. Dennis Kananowicz
20. Evan Hahn
21. Kourosh Partow