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The Girls Up Front

Pat Kane
Yukon Quest

Eagle, AK - Only six women signed up to run this year’s Yukon Quest.  Two of them are driving teams in the top ten.  Both teams are running close together, but they’re in the race for very different reasons.

Rookie musher Suzie Rogan never expected she’d be driving a team among the Yukon Quest’s top ten.  “It is a race, but I really didn’t care that much," she says.  "But now I’m in the top ten and I’m thinking 'Oh, maybe I can stay there and see what I can do.'  But for what?  So, that’s how I feel about it,” says Rogan.

Rogan, from Whitehorse, has watched for years as her partner, four time champion Hans Gatt, ran the race himself.  “If I don’t do it now, I’ll probably never get the chance because our dogs are getting older and we’re not gonna stay in this forever, that’s for sure,” she says.

Credit Emily Schwing / KUAC
Abby West makes her way down the trail under the Takhini River Bridge outside of Whitehorse.

Coming into Eagle, Rogan was running close with Two-Rivers musher Abby West, who’s finished in the top ten twice. “She’s not as efficient with her stops on the trail," says West.  "So she’ll stop and do something and then I’ll continue on and she’ll come and pass me again.” Rogan acknowledges her rookie status.  “She keeps catching up," Rogan says of West, "because I’m stopping all the time with crashes ad booties flying off.  She just keeps motoring along.  She’s way more experienced than I am.”

The two teams passed back and forth a number of times before West finally gained the lead.  She left Eagle two hours ahead of Rogan, who stayed behind for two extra hours of rest. "There’s just a lot of neat things and you just race through it and you’re tired all the time,” says Rogan.

Abby West is admittedly competitive.  She says it’s hard to run so close to another team.  But she’s training young dogs for a long successful future in the Quest. “It is hard to not just be competitive now, but I can show up with a team next year that has 14 finishers," she smiles, "which is something I’ve never had before.  I’m like ‘man, then I’ll really be able to race.’”

There are only four women left on the trail, driving teams toward Fairbanks this year.  Misha Pedersen and Dyan Bergen are also running close together in a possible race for the red lantern at the back of the pack.