Stage 3 – Lander, WY
By: Jake Berkowitz
We are in a day in age that loves rooting for the underdog and with the impending Superbowl coming up next weekend, that sentiment is felt around the world – you are either a Patriot fan or a fan of the “Other Guy”. Stage 3 of the Pedigree Sled Dog Race found itself with a big win for the “Patriots” or in the Sled Dog world, the Streepers.
Standing at the finish line of the 42-mile leg in Lander, I was able to catch up with Terry Streeper – Streeper Kennel Patriarch. As I do every day after all the teams are on the trail I ask Streeper how long the run will take the Kennel’s A Team. With the utmost confidence and an aura about him, similar to Babe Ruth pointing to the fences, Streeper responded, “somewhere between 3 hours 8 minutes and 3 hours 10 minutes”. Sure enough 3 hours and 9 minutes later Lina Streeper who was the 12th Musher to leave the starting line, roared across the finish line in 1st position and claimed the coveted Yellow Bib (given to the fastest team of the leg). Streeper has been running well within her dog’s comfort zone and feels that the team is far from full capabilities (this is done by design – asking the dogs to perform at 70%-80% of their athletic ability allows for consistency throughout the race, which we’ve seen as she has stayed within .8mph throughout the first 3 legs). Streeper was followed by the Kennel’s B Team, driven by Dave Torgerson (6 minute off the pace), closely followed by Bruce Magnusson (10 minutes of the pace) who rounded out the Top 3 for the day and 3rd place overall.
As Streeper’s lead began to grow with every minute that Jerry Bath (Race Leader going into Stage 3) was still on the trail, we saw a very impressive team driven by Jeff Conn come across the finish, as well as JR Anderson who took 5th in today’s stage. Anderson was perhaps the happiest Musher to cross the finish line. As Anderson was coming to the starting line of the race he was attempting to navigate a high berm near his truck, unfortunately in a freak incident his sled stanchion snapped in half. Anderson being the ultimate competitor didn’t miss a beat and he and his handle crew went to work in a fashion that would make the best Nascar Crew jealous. Anderson was able to use the handle of shovel and a roll of Duct Tape to brace his stanchions. The fix wasn’t pretty, but aside from some great stories to tell, Anderson seemed unscathed by the whole incident.
Bath, the race leader coming in to today’s leg and hometown hero of Lander (however the cheers for Lina Streeper from the hundreds of school kids that showed up by the bus loads, did give Bath a run for his money) had a difficult run coming off his 1st place performance in Alpine. Bath who was 30 minutes off the pace set by Streeper, was slowed by the need to carry a few dogs in his sled throughout the 42 mile run. If Bath has a shot at chasing down a top finish he will need clean runs throughout the remaining 4 stages.
Although the Streepers have built their lead and they are always difficult to catch, the race is far from over and as the old saying goes, “anything can happen in a dog race”. However, if the chase pack wants to catch the dynamic duo of Streeper and Torgerson they will need to start picking away at their lead as the race reaches Pinedale tomorrow.
Author: Jake Berkowitz was a long distance musher and one time Fur Rondy competitor. He has run both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod sled dog races. He won the Iditarod Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian award in 2013, and after finishing fourth in the 2012 Yukon Quest he was named Rookie of The Year.