Mushers from Two Rivers, Alaska don’t mind a little tough going on the trails.
The top four teams across the finish line at the 27th annual Copper Basin 300 dog sled race – billed as “the toughest 300 miles in Alaska” – were from Two Rivers.
At the front was Matt Hall. The 24-year-old completed the 300-mile race with a total elapsed time of 1 day, 22 hours and 42 minutes on Monday in Glennallen, Alaska.
“We just had a great run into here,” Hall told the News minutes after crossing the finish line. “This was my fourth year in a row running Basin. We got 14th, 11th and seventh last year. Then we made the big leap this year.
“It was just kind of magic the way the team came together,” said Hall. “It’s actually the exact same team that I ran last year and a couple dogs from the year before. They are just veteran dogs who know the scoop, and myself learning too over the years, and it just kind of happened.”
Hall outpaced 46 other teams in the race, which is a qualifier for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. Hall is registered for his third Quest next month, placing third in 2014 and scratching last year.
Winning the Copper Basin is a bit of a confidence builder as he prepares for the 1,000-mile Quest, said Hall.
“It sure helps, but the Quest is a very different race that I haven’t mastered by any means,” he said. “It’s running a little slower and longer for another 700 miles.
“It’s pretty exciting knowing what the team is capable of doing here, but I have to run them and train them very differently over the next month to prep for the Quest.”
It was a good day for young mushers as 26-year-old Ryne Olson of Two Rivers came in second, 17 minutes behind Hall. Olson placed third last year in her first Copper Basin.
“It went really well. The trail was hard and fast, the dogs were supercharged the whole time and no complaints,” said Olson. “The volunteers put on an amazing race. It was pretty perfect.”
Olson, who took 13th in last year’s 1,000-mile Quest, will race the Quest 300 next month followed by the Iditarod.
“The Copper Basin is a race of its own. It’s the race we’ve prepared for up to this point,” said Olson.
Two Rivers’ Allen Moore, 58, was denied a fourth straight Copper Basin title on Monday. The two-time Yukon Quest champ, who won the last three and six in total, came in 24 minutes back of Olson.
His wife Aliy Zirkle, who became the only women to win the Yukon Quest in 2000, placed fourth, just four minutes behind her husband.
Nicolas Petit of Girdwood, Alaska, took the fifth place spot in two days and 28 minutes.
Carcross’ Rob Cooke was Yukon’s top finisher in the race, placing 12th with a total time of two days, nine hours and seven minutes. The 49-year-old will race his third Quest next month. He placed 16th last year and 18th in 2013 in the race, which this year starts in Fairbanks and ends in Whitehorse.
Carcross’ Josh Skerritt took 15th, Whitehorse’s Sebastian dos Santos Borges 21st and Mendenhall’s Olaf Thurau 27th.
Ed Hopkins of 10 Mile outside of Tagish, who placed third in last year’s Quest, scratched.
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