Crystal Schick/Yukon News A musher and sled dog team cross Fish Lake during the first leg of the 100 mille (160 kilometres) 2019 Granger Grind sled dog race on March 9.

Martine LeLevier repeats as Granger Grind champion

LeLevier won this year’s race with a time of seven hours, 57 minutes and 53 seconds

The Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon (DPSAY) held the annual Granger Grind on March 9 and 10 near Whitehorse.

The 100-mile (160-kilometre) race started at the Mount Lorne Community Centre, continued on to Sky High Wilderness Ranch near Fish Lake and then back to Mount Lorne via a slightly different route.

Martine LeLevier won this year’s race with a time of seven hours, 57 minutes and 53 seconds. This was the second year in a row LeLevier has won the race.

In second spot was this year’s Silver Sled winner Katherine Scheck with a time of eight hours, 48 minutes and 30 seconds.

Third place belonged to Alex Rochat who finished with a time of eight hours, 39 minutes and 53 seconds but was also given a 30-minute penalty.

Like almost all short and mid-distance races this winter, uncertainty surrounding temperature and snowfall made for a lot of last-minute signups.

Race director Lisa Kozakewich explained all 12 registered teams signed up in the week leading up to the race, many of which raced the Silver Sled race the week prior.

“The unexpected part for me as an organizer was the fact nobody signed up until five or six days before the race actually started, which speaks to me a little bit about the nature of mushing,” said Kozakewich. “I think teams were all waiting to see how their teams did at the Silver Sled. … They were just waiting until the last minute essentially to see what the weather was like (and) how their teams were. It’s always a last minute thing.”

Temperatures at the start of the race were close to 0 C and only dropped a few degrees overnight.

“They ran half the course at night time and even then the temperature didn’t drop very much — it was still -3 C,” said Kozakewich. “A bit warmer than the dogs would have liked, I think, but I never heard any of the mushers complaining.”

The trail itself was in good shape for the race. Kozakewich said the trail crew put in the trail the week before and the lack of snow after that meant the trail had plenty of time to properly set for the race.

“Trail conditions … were good,” said Kozakewich. “The trail that the trail crew put in the week before lasted pretty well throughout the week. Trail conditions were hard and fast for both out and back legs of the race.”

Although the race is open to skijorers, no one signed up this year and Kozakewich said dropping the class entirely from the race is being considered for next year.

“It’s not really a good course for skijorers,” said Kozakewich. “That’s probably why we haven’t had any skijor teams sign up.”

Kozakewich also said organizers have gotten feedback that the mandatory five-hour layover at Sky High might be too long for a race of this length.

“We might have some changes next year in terms of shorter layover times,” said Kozakewich, adding that this year’s race was very similar to last year. “I think next year (there) will be … changes.”

The Granger Grind is designed to be a “stepping stone” into distance mushing, so Kozakewich said a longer 200- or 300-mile category isn’t likely.

“We like to keep it at this 100-mile approximate distance so it’s a good training experience for local teams that want to get their foot into longer-distance competitive mushing,” said Kozakewich. “That’s kind of our main mission statement.”

Kozkewich said DPSAY is planning another race in its Twister series for later this month. Whether or not that happens is largely going to depend on the weather.

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

2019 Granger Grind results

1 Martine LeLevier 7:57:53

2 Katherine Scheck 8:48:30

3 Alex Rochat 8:39:53 (+30 min time penalty)

4 Nathaniel Hamlyn 9:26:50

5 Luc Tweddell 9:28:24

6 Magnus Kaltenborn 9:31:45

7 Lori Tweddell 9:50:55

8 Lisa Joinson 10:07:48

9 Claudia Beer 9:59:38 (+30 min time penalty)

10 Melissa Schenke 10:42:44

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