Junior Yukon mushers hit the podium in Fairbanks

Three weeks ago, Ben Kinvig took gold and his sister Rachel took fifth in their respective fields at the Junior World Championship Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, Alaska. Last weekend they both made the podium.

Three weeks ago, Ben Kinvig took gold and his sister Rachel took fifth in their respective fields at the Junior World Championship Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, Alaska.

Last weekend they both made the podium.

Racing in the Junior North American Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska, Rachel, 12, finished first in the four-dog event while Ben, 15, took third in the six-dog competition.

“I had a much better race (than in the World Championships),” said Rachel.

Anchorage’s race last month took mushers through an urban setting that caused both Rachel and Ben complications, with dogs being distracted by spectators. Rachel also encountered setbacks with her dogs hesitating to cross bridges or enter tunnels.

“My dogs didn’t stop (this time),” said Rachel.

In the days leading up to the Championships, Fairbanks had about 20 centimetres of fresh snow dumped on the trails, causing difficulties for both Ben and Rachel.

“Going out of the start chute it looked like a Ski-Doo trail – there were Ski-Doo trails all around the field,” said Rachel. “I didn’t really know where I was going cause the trail didn’t look like a trail. But my dogs took me the right way.”

“It made the trail a lot deeper and punchier and it’s a lot tougher for them to run fast in it,” said Ben. “So the first day was pretty slow going.”

Deep snow continued to be an issue the second day when one of Ben’s dogs went off the trail and sunk deep into the white stuff.

“One of my dogs fell into the deep snow at the side of the trail and all my dogs ended up getting tangled up,” said Ben. “But I was able to untangle them pretty quickly and get going again.

“The last day I had a pretty clean run and everything went well.”

However, Mother Nature’s influence was not limited to weather. Ben was forced to use a different dog-team than he did in Anchorage, leaving three of his female dogs at home because they were in season.

“They’ll try to get bred while you’re racing them,” said Ben. “That wouldn’t be good.

“For the dog team I had, I thought it was pretty great.”

Winners in Fairbanks were determined by adding up mushers’ times from the three days of racing. Rachel raced 7.2-kilometres the first and second days and 9.5 on the third day. Ben covered 9.5-kilometres the first two days and 12.7 on the final day.

Currently they are undecided whether they will attend, but Ben and Rachel might be competing at another meet in Taylor, BC, called the Taylor Sled Dog Races at the end of the month.

“It’s against adults and they sometimes race that one,” said Darren Kinvig, president of the Junior Association of Mushers in the Yukon and father of Ben and Rachel. “It’s usually held in December, but it was postponed due to lack of snow.”

Then at the start of April they might travel to Tok, Alaska, for the Junior Tok Race of Champions.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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