2017 Pedigree® Stage Stop Sled Dog Race – John Stewart
What can we expect from this year’s Stage Stop race? Fireworks!
I’ll start things off by saying that there WILL be new champions in both of the classes. Our 7-time Stage Stop champion, Bud Streeper, made the decision a few weeks ago to step off the runners for this year’s race leaving the team in the capable hands of his wife Lina. We welcome Lina back to the ranks as the last time she competed was in 2010.
So let’s continue on from this and have a look at the fields.
Our first of 3 women in this year’s Pedigree Stage Stop is Alix Crittenden. Hailing from Bondurant, Wyoming she’s driving the race team from Frank Teasley’s Jackson Hole Iditarod. Of all the teams in this year’s race (apart from my own and Liz’s) I have been able to spend a lot of time looking at this team. Alix trained and raced with us last year finishing 2nd in the 8-Dog Classic and back in 2014 ran a team for Bill Kornmuller finishing 6th in the Pedigree Stage Stop. Her team is in the building process with a lot of new acquisitions. As we all know it’s not an easy job piecing a race team together but Alix has done a good job. Expect her to soar through the ranks in the coming years.
Next up is Jerry Scdoris from Bend, Oregon. In my opinion, Jerry makes any race better just by being in it. I always look forward to catching up with Jerry. There was some talk that possibly Rachael would come and race this year but maybe this will happen in the future. Jerry has shown fantastic improvements in his team’s performances over the last few years and I don’t see any reason why he won’t improve again.
Jeff Conn comes from Ester, Alaska to compete in his 5th consecutive Stage Stop. Jeff has spent most of his sled dog career in Alaska working his way through the classes. When he retired it gave him more time to train for longer distance races and we are always happy to see him down here competing.
Chris Adkins and his son Jeff are both competing this year. I had the pleasure of catching up with the pair of them this past weekend at the Pinedale Sled Dog Classic. Last year, Chris ran down here himself with nearly a completely new kennel of dogs. With another year under their belts and a new lightning fast Danler sled I’m sure we will see Chris climbing the ranks with Jeff running the younger of the teams and setting them up well for future years. It’s clear that Chris has his heart set on making waves in this race.
From Leadville, Colorado we are happy to have Austin Forney back. After competing in the 2015 8-Dog Classic and in last year’s Pedigree Stage Stop it’s clear he enjoys racing here. His kennel is situated at just over 10,000 feet elevation, which makes for an easy adjustment for his team of dogs.
This next musher I am very excited to see in the main stage race this year. Laura Daugereau is a tough competitor. This may be her first Stage Stop but it “ain’t her first rodeo.” She ran last year’s 8-Dog Classic and then we met up with her again at the West Yellowstone Special. She has a very well trained team. She lives in Washington but moves to Montana in the wintertime to train and race there. I hope she becomes a familiar face at the Stage Stop.
Does the next musher need any introduction? Bruce Magnusson has competed in this race more times than anyone else and doesn’t settle for anything other than a top class performance. 12 stage stops in as many years, Bruce comes with only one team in the Main race and with his wife Monica competing in the 8-Dog Classic. Will Bruce think with this more streamlined operation and the fact that Bud is not on the runners that this could be his year? We will find out February 4th.
Dave Torgerson from Red Lodge, Montana is a veteran of this race having competed in the late 90’s. He was Race Judge last year and is now running the Streeper’s B-team. Currently he is in West Yellowstone with the Streeper Machine getting in the last few runs before heading to Jackson to take part in the race again for the first time in 16 years.
Lina Streeper is flying the Streeper flag out of Fort Nelson this year. She has spent all season with the team never missing a drop or a run. Lina was last here in 2010 and she has competed all over North America and Alaska in some of the sport’s most prestigious races since. Bud and Lina are down here this year leaving their wonderful girls, Alva and Clara, at home with Mormor (Lina’s mother Maria) who I am sure will be following the race carefully and cheering there mother on.
Jerry Bath is from Lander, Wyoming and started out this event organizing the Lander stage of the race. Now Jerry is one of the race’s most consistent high-place finishers. Training has hardly been ideal in Wyoming this year as I know all too well, but I’m sure his team will be ready for anything. Jerry always seeks improvement from his team so expect him to keep the top 5 honest.
JR Anderson is a musher who has shown an impressive progress in this race and is my “musher to watch” in this year’s race. Expect consistency from his dogs that stems from the well-drilled backroom staff of his wife Anna and her sister Elizabeth who do a fantastic job of keeping his team in full working order during the race.
Frank Moe was last here in 2014. He placed 12th that year but I fully expect him to finish higher this time around. We were able to spend some time with Frank at this past weekends race in Pinedale and his dogs showed that they have considerably more speed than the last time he raced the stage stop. If they have the endurance to match, expect Frank to be somewhere in the top 10.
Dennis Laboda is a musher I first met many years ago. We couldn’t have been any further south as we were both racing in Ushuaia, the city furthest south on the South American continent. I was very happy that our paths crossed again and it is always great to see him here at the Stage Stop. After last year’s race, Dennis went on to win the 2016 Copper Dog. His team is capable of much, much more so I’d say look for Dennis to be much improved this year
With only 2 rookies in this year’s race, it’s a hard field to judge. I always like to try and pick out who will place where, so here are my Top 5 picks:
Lina Streeper — I have had the opportunity to race with Lina. She’s an incredible musher.
Dave Torgerson — Dave is a seasoned veteran dog driver and as I know all too well the Streeper second team is set up to succeed.
JR Anderson — JR and his crew I expect to repeat what they did last year. I’ve been looking at his videos and his team looks great.
Bruce Magnusson — Hard to decide between Bruce and JR. They have been battling it out for the last few years so it’s anyone’s guess.
Jerry Bath — Jerry will round off the Top 5 this year but it might close due to this year’s training conditions down here.
Stay tuned for my Eukanuba 8-Dog Race pre-race write up to follow!