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Racing Continues Even in Back

Emily Schwing

Iditarod, AK - Iditarod mushers running outside of this year’s top twenty are just as competitive as the front of the pack, but, they have different reasons for traveling the trail.

It takes a lot of effort to develop a competitive dog team.  That’s exactly what Chatanika musher Jodi Bailey is doing with her group of young dogs.  This is Bailey’s third Iditarod.  “I’m still learning a lot about the mechanics of the race and in a lot of ways, Iditarod is like a chess game," says Bailey.  "There are so many checkpoints and possibilities.  But in general, we’re having a lot of fun, they seem to be keeping good spirits and good weight, so all in all that’s what I was hoping to be able to say at this point in the race.” 

Bailey is running in the middle of the pack, but that doesn’t mean she’s not running competitively. “You can be in this part of the race and still say I want to beat this person or this time and that’s still just as valuable as being at the front of the race.” But she doesn’t have plans to push young dogs for a high placement.  “It usually happens that there are some people that overestimate what they are capable of, but don’t expect Jodi Bailey to go busting a move.  I just want to keep having fun and I want to make sure these dogs keep having fun.”

Kristy Berington is running the race for the fourth time.  She has successfully pushed a young team.  “I remember a couple of years ago, I was getting competitive because I really wanted to be in the top 30 and I got 29th," she recalls.  "Kelly Maixner was right around the same place as me, and it was between me and him who was gonna get the 30th spot and I remember he came up on me and passed me and I felt this defeated feeling and then I saw his head light and I was like ‘We’re not giving up, we’ve got this thing.”

This is twin sister Anna’s second Iditarod.  She says she’s usually closer to the finish line before she starts racing in the middle of the pack.  “I think the closer we get to the end people start to look at the standings and think they can pick off a couple people.  They start to get that bug.”

The Berington’s are also training dogs for future Iditarods... competitive dogs that will eventually need to know how to get their mushers to the finish line as quickly as they can.