Finish and Awards Banquet brings closure to 37th Yukon Quest

Brent Sass poses with his lead dogs after crossing the finish line in Whitehorse on Feb. 11 to win his third Yukon Quest. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Swedish rookie Nora Sjalin was all smiles after finishing the 2020 Yukon Quest on Feb. 13 in Whitehorse. Sjalin crossed the finish line at 7:59 p.m. with 10 dogs on the line in seventh position. As the top finishing rookie in this year’s field, Sjalin won the Rookie of the Year Award. She also won the Challenge of the North Award. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Two Cody Strathe’s dogs wait impatiently to continue to the dog yard after arriving a the Dawson City checkpoint on Feb. 6 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. Strathe won the Veterinarians’ Choice Award for outstanding dog care. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

The 37th annual Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race wrapped up on Feb. 15 with the Finish and Awards Banquet, held at the Coast High Country Inn and Convention Centre.

Once all the opening ceremonies were over and dinner was served, mushers were introduced to the crowd in reverse order of finish and given an opportunity to share their thoughts on the race.

The 2020 winner Brent Sass thanked his sponsors, handlers and family, as well as second-place finisher Michelle Phillips of Tagish.

“Michelle, thank you so much for an awesome race. It was really a blast,” said Sass. “Definitely it’s nerve-racking when you’re out there. Our schedules were different in the second half … and I’d be camping for two hours and she’d come flying by with her dog team and I’d be like, ‘I’m going to sit here for three more hours? How in the heck am I going to do that?’”

Sass won the race, finishing at 2:51 p.m. on Feb. 11 – four hours ahead of Phillips who finished at 6:51 p.m.

Phillips, too, had kind words to say about her closest competitor in this year’s race.

“Thank you Brent for the amazing race,” said Phillips. “We had a lot of fun out there. We had two very evenly matched teams and it was great. I always had a smile when I saw him, even though my dogs were all over the trail.”

She said the trail’s solitude gives her time to reflect.

“Often when I’m out there, especially on the Yukon (River) and those long stretches, I think about all the ancestors and people who have been on the land for many years and travelled these miles with their dogs and the dogs that have been out there,” said Phillips. “It’s such a cool experience.”

In addition to recognizing the finishers and giving them a chance to thank their supporters, the banquet included the presentation of seven special awards.

Swedish musher Nora Sjalin won both the Rookie of the Year Award, as the top rookie finisher, and the Challenge of the North Award, given to the musher who exemplifies the spirit of the Quest.

For winning the Rookie of the Year Award, Sjalin won a hand-made knife, and for winning the Challenge of the North Award, she won a pair of wolverine gloves.

Olivia Webster, granddaughter of race founder LeRoy Shank, won this year’s Red Lantern Award as the last finisher in this year’s Quest. She arrived at 7:58 p.m. on Feb. 15, roughly halfway through the banquet.

Rob Cooke won the Sportsmanship Award — the second year in a row for Cooke — in large part due to his willingness to give Richie Beattie a lift into the Dawson checkpoint after Beattie fell off his sled.

“He jumped on and we set off towards Dawson,” Cooke told the banquet crowd. “The reason I’m a real fraud in accepting this is I didn’t actually do anything. It was the 14 dogs in front of me that brought my fat ass and Richie’s fat ass into the checkpoint.”

Third place finisher Cody Strathe won the Veterinarians’ Choice Award in recognition of his dog care.

“This is the award our kennel looks for,” said Strathe. “We love working with the vets. We talk about the dogs with the vets and figure out the best way to get these dogs to the finish line.”

Strathe’s wife, Paige Drobny, won the award in 2017.

The final two awards were the Joe Fellers Dawson City Award, two ounces of Klondike placer gold, won by Sass as the first musher into Dawson who also finished the race, and the Golden Harness Award, given to Morello and Woody in honour of “their loyalty, endurance and perseverance throughout the race.”

Sass’s 2019 Golden Harness winners, Jeep and Sluice, were also part of his team for this year’s race.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

Yukon Quest

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 27, 2021

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres centre Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals, scores in win against Rangers

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read