It’s finally going to happen: Whitehorse’s Scarecrow is going head to head with Anchorage’s Skinny Raven: Take No Prisoners team in this weekend’s Klondike Trail of ‘98 International Road Relay.
The two multiple-time open division champion teams will both leave the start line at midnight this Friday night in the 10-leg, 175-kilometre race from Skagway, Alaska, to Whitehorse.
“Talking to some of the people I was training with, I heard Skinny Raven is back,” said Scarecrow captain David Eikelboom. “So it’s exciting. I’m glad.
“I’m looking forward to … having a bit of a race. The previous couple of years we started all by ourselves. There was nobody there. And we ended up winning by 45 minutes last year.”
Skinny Raven: Take No Prisoners won the open division seven straight years between 2003 to 2009, the last time they raced. (There have been less competitive Skinny Raven corporate teams entered over the last few years.)
Then Scarecrow, whose name was inspired by the “Raven” in the Anchorage team’s name, has won the open division four times since 2010 when they first raced. In fact, Scarecrow was the first Canadian team to win the open division in 17 years in 2010.
Simon Lapointe, who will run Leg 4 for Scarecrow this weekend, is excited the long-awaited matchup will finally happen.
“It’s awesome. It’s exciting,” said Lapointe. “I’m guessing they are putting a pretty good team together because they are starting at the same time as us (at midnight on Friday night).
“For once we’ll be on real time, opposed to having a team start at 11:30 and the other 12 and not knowing where you stand in the race.”
Last year Scarecrow completely dominated the relay, setting the fastest times on all 10 legs.
They also posted the team’s fastest time to date, crossing the finish line at Rotary Park in 11 hours, 12 minutes and 44 seconds, averaging a speed of 15.8 kilometres an hour.
However, Skinny Raven: Take No Prisoners finished the race in 10:44:01 in 2008 for the team’s fastest time during their seven-year win streak. They came in at 11:28:59 the last time they won – and entered the race – in 2009.
Skinny Raven’s Andrew Richie says plans to bring the team out of retirement arose in December, when he was chatting with his friend, Corbyn Jahn, at the Anchorage sporting store that carries the team’s monikor.
“We were talking about Klondike, and he had never run it before, and we had this grand idea of trying to bring back the Take No Prisoners team,” said Richie. “So for the next 10 months we’ve been recruiting people and trying to bring back the excitement.”
As always, Scarecrow is stacked. The team roster is a who’s who of Whitehorse’s top runners and cross-country skiers.
This year’s team is Rodney Hulstein (Leg 1), Knute Johnsgaard (Leg 2), Dave Brook (Leg 3), Lapointe (Leg 4), Eikelboom (Leg 5), Logan Roots (Leg 6), Ray Sabo (Leg 7), Aidan Bradley (Leg 8), Graham Nishikawa (Leg 9) and Logan Boehmer (Leg 10).
“To make a meaningful prediction, I have to look at the individual people and I see guys like Ray and Rodney, who in my mind are fixed pieces, they are good runners, consistent runners,” said Eikelboom. “And then I see guys like Logan Roots, Logan Boehmer and myself, who have basically been getting faster and faster.
“I think I projected our time to 11 hours and 20 minutes … 11 hours flat would be amazing.”
Skinny Raven is still looking for a runner to do Leg 1. Currently the team consists of Anchorage runners Peter Kling, Andrew Richie, Corbyn Jahn, Dylan Peterson, Ryan Beckett, Eric Strabel, Zack Johnson and Lukas Ebner of Furtwangen, Germany. Strabel raced for Skinny Raven every year between 2004 and 2009.
“Eric Strabel was the first big step, he’s such a cog for that team,” said Richie, who running for the team his second time this weekend.
“I think our team is very strong. Our goal was to set the fastest Take No Prisoners time ever. I don’t think we’ll achieve that goal this year, but I think our team is very strong.”
This year’s relay has a total of 182 teams registered, surpassing the previous record of 161 set in 1998, Sport Yukon says.
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