ELY – Thirty sled-dog teams were greeted with perfect racing weather Sunday morning for the 2016 WolfTrack Classic. Teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada, with racers aged 15 to 65, took part …
ELY – Thirty sled-dog teams were greeted with perfect racing weather Sunday morning for the 2016 WolfTrack Classic. Teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada, with racers aged 15 to 65, took part in the annual winter event in Ely and Tower.
Board president Theo Theobald said she couldn’t have asked for any better conditions. “We had lots of great racers and the trail was in excellent condition,” she said. “We had lots of spectators, especially at Bear Head (State Park). I think what really helped was it wasn’t negative 20 out there.”
Temperatures flirted near the 40-degree mark on Saturday and the trails were used heavily by area snowmobilers. A light snow fell overnight, Saturday, and temperatures Sunday morning were about 20 degrees. “The DNR groomers did a bang-up job overnight and the trails were as perfect as they could be,” she said.
Scott Edgett, of Babbitt, one of the local racers to take part in the event, said the trail was in great shape. “It was a little fast to start out and it slowed down some on the 30-mile trek to Tower,” he said. “The fresh snow was welcome and the temperatures were perfect. It was a perfect day.”
Last minute registrations on Saturday pushed the number of six-dog teams up to 17. There were 13 eight-dog teams that made the 50-mile round-trip race from Ely.
The 30-team field was down a bit from previous years, largely because the 10-dog race was eliminated this year due to low signups. There were four rookie racers this year.
“Many racers were watching the weather and decided at the last-minute to participate this year,” Theobald said. “This has been a very fickle winter for the racers.”
WolfTrack board member Linda Sutton said some of the larger teams were participating in the rescheduled Copper Dog races in the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last weekend, and some racers are finding it harder to field such a large team. “There is such a small window of weekends to race and so many races, that the teams are forced to choose where to participate,” she said.
Clayton Schneider, of Dryden, Ontario, Canada, is no stranger to the WolfTrack Classic winner’s circle. The 64-year-old veterinarian and hobby farmer took first place again this year in the six-dog race. He completed the 30-mile course in two hours, 10 minutes and 32 seconds.
He has participated in every WolfTrack Classic and now has five wins along with a second- and fourth-place finish.
In a sign of good-sportsmanship, Schneider donated his $1,200 winning check back to the WolfTrack Classic board of director. “It is such an honor to be able to race here all these years,” he said during the awards ceremony at the Boathouse Brew Pub Sunday afternoon,” that I want to donate this check back to the organization to help them for next year.”
Schneider has many top finishes under his belt, including: Crosslake, Manitoba, Canada, 2012 10-Dog, winner; Canadian Open, Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada, 2012, 10-Dog, third place; Pas World Championships, 2013 10-Dog, sixth place. “Plus I have raced numerous smaller races in and out of Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” Schneider said.
When he is not working as a veterinarian in his hometown of Dryden, he likes to work on his farm. “I have 25 cattle, three horses, a few pigs and numerous varieties of waterfowl and poultry,” he said.
He has about 25 dogs in his kennel. During the veterinarian checks at Vermilion Community College on Saturday afternoon, Schneider was making some last-minute decisions on which of his dogs would be on his team. “This dog is named ‘Ely’ and I’m making sure her paws are in good shape for tomorrow,” he said. “Some of my dogs have names like “Steger’ and ‘Fargo.’”
The top eight teams in the six-dog 30-mile race, and finishing time, include:
#2 - Devon Carr, 2:21:23
#3 - Al Krause, 2:23:45
#4 - Darcy Stanley-Nord, 2:33:14
#5 - Neal Steeger, 2:33:14
#6 - Ann Stead, 2:35:18
#7 - Andrea DeBoer, 2:45:32
#8 - Linus Meyer, 2:46:14
Dusty Klaven, 27, of Togo, won the eight-dog, 50-mile race in a time of four hours, 20 minutes and three seconds. She is no stranger to the winner’s circle at the WolfTrack Classic, having come in first last year. She also placed fifth in the 2014 six-dog and finished fourth in the 2013 six-dog races in Ely.
Klaven has been racing since 2007 and has about 25 dogs in her kennel. She has also raced in the Tahquamenon, Apostle Islands, WhiteOak Classic, Midnight Run, Gunflint Mail Run, and Voyageurs Classic races.
Rounding out the top eight teams and their finishing times are:
#2 - Ryan Anderson, 4:21:19
#3 - Scott Olsen, 4:38:34
#4 - Mel Mickelson, 4:40:43
#5 - Krystal Hudachek, 4:43:50
#6 - LeAnn Bergen, 4:47:28
#7 - Jennifer Freking, 4:51:31
#8 - Colleen Wallin, 4:58:48
Fun and surprises
The 2016 Steger Mukluks WolfTrack Classic this year featured a surprise by race sponsor Patti Steger during the bib presentation Saturday night. “Patti surprised us all, by giving each of the mushers a $150 gift certificate to Steger Mukluks,” said board president Theo Theobald. “That was quite a generous gift.”
New this year, names of participants from each race were also entered into a drawing for an anorak from Wintergreen Northern Wear. John Ward, of Duluth, and Rhonda Heerschap, of Nolalu, Ontario, Canada, were the lucky winners. “We thank Wintergreen for this wonderful giveaway,” Theobald said.
Following last year’s Best Bag Check award, mushers were encouraged to include a totally useless, but fun item, in their equipment bag onboard their sled. “Every racer must follow the required list of equipment, such as a first-aid kit and other items they may need,” Theobald said. “And last year, we added a category for each racer to bring along something totally useless. Last year, a racer brought an actual kitchen sink on the trail. How do you top that?”
The Best Bag Check awards this year went to Adam Treeful from the eight-dog race with everything needed to visit an outhouse, toilet seat, toilet paper and two bags of Crapola. For the six-dog race, Linus Meyer won with farm fresh eggs. “Judges checked at the finish line and there was not one egg broken,” she said.
The Red Lantern Award, given to the last racer to cross the finish line, went to Claire Hendricks, 22, who crossed the finish line of the six-dog race in three hours, fifty-nine minutes and 47 seconds.
Hendricks, the only Ely racer in the field, is a student in the natural resources program at Vermilion Community College. She finished in sixth place in the 2015 WolfTrack Classic. She is a dog handler for Alice White at Wolf Moon Kennels, in Ely.
For complete race results, go to, www.wolftrackclassic.com.