With huskies Henry and Ghost leading the way, Ryan Redington of Skagway won the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Minnesota on Tuesday, capturing his second championship in three years.
Redington wore a neon green snowsuit and most of his dogs wore matching neon green booties. After the team finished, Henry was awarded a colorful garland as the winner of the Frank Bishop Lead Dog Award, named after a late, longtime race volunteer.
It was a triumphant day in more ways than one for Redington. His kennel enjoyed a 1-2 finish in the 36th running of the 300-mile race.
Redington and his team of seven dogs reached the finish line in Grand Portage at 1:36 p.m. AST Tuesday. Fourteen minutes later, Keith Aili finished second behind a team of 10 dogs.
Both teams were running dogs from Ryan and Erin Redington’s Callin’ Trail Kennel. The kennel is in Skagway but the Redingtons train their dogs in Wisconsin as well as Alaska.
Aili won the 2006 Beargrease and retired in 2018 after a long career in mushing, with his dogs — including Ghost — finding a new home at Redington’s kennel, according to a report by the Duluth News Tribune. Aili came out of retirement this winter to help train and race some of the Callin’ Trail dogs.
The kennel also entered a team in the shorter Beargrease 120, where Sarah Keefer of Burnsville, Minnesota, finished eighth.
The Beargrease is the best-known mid-distance race in the Lower 48. It’s an Iditarod qualifying race that follows the north shore of Lake Superior for nearly 300 miles and offers some 35,000 feet of elevation gains and losses.
It’s the first race in the new Arctic World Series of mushing, which also includes Norway’s Femundlopet, which starts Feb. 1, and Russia’s Volga Quest, which starts Feb. 8, before culminating in March with the Iditarod.
Third place in the Beargrease went to Wisconsin musher Ryan Anderson, a three-time champion whose last title came in 2017. Anderson finished at 2:17 p.m. AST, 27 minutes behind Aili.
Fourteen teams started the longer race Sunday morning at Billy’s bar in Duluth.