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2014 Quest Will Go Down as One of the Toughest

Whitehorse, YK - The 31st annual Yukon Quest came to a close Saturday night with the finish banquet and an awards ceremony.

Only eleven dog teams finished this year’s Yukon Quest. It’s one of the smallest fields in the race’s history. Fifth place finisher John Schandelmeier told a crowd during the finish banquet he’d like to see that number change. “This race is run by a bunch of old guys," he says.  "Most of us qualify for AARP.  One of the oldest guys in the race won it.  These guys are damn good, right? We need to get them some more competition. Let’s get ahold of some mushers out there and add them to this race - some younger people.  Let’s bring them in.” The 62-year old says the race has changed drastically since his rookie run in 1986.

"We market this race as one of the toughest in the world and it’s really not. I’m out there on the trail.  My straw is brought to me, my food drops are brought to me, I got chocolate chip scones to eat," says Schandelmeier.  "The way we need to market this race is in its true light.  It runs through the most hospitable people in the world.”

Of the 18 mushers who started the race only five are under the age of 40.  The youngest is 22 year old Matt Hall.  He claimed third place and the Rookie of the Year Title.  The ever-smiling Hall also won the Challenge of the North award and the Veterinarian’s choice award for exemplary dog care. “There was only one dog on the team from the start line that I hadn’t raised from five months or younger so I had just a really good connect with the dogs and I felt like they’ll do anything I ask them to out there," Hall says.  "They’re just incredible athletes and I love them to death for it and they would take me anywhere.”

Hall says his performance is a successful start to what he hopes is a long mushing career. “I’d like to make a career out of racing and working with dogs.  I’ve been trying to take it to a new level.  Just in this race alone what I have learned has just been tremendous and especially with veterinary care.  Right now, I’d like to think I’ll be out there for many more years.”

32 year old Brian Wilmshurst is also planning a long-term career with the Quest.  He won this year’s sportsmanship award for his positive attitude and willing ness to help out on the trail. “If you get the opportunity to help someone, that’s how you get it I guess, but any of us who have the opportunity would definitely take advantage of it,” says Wilmshurst.

This year’s sole woman Mandy Nauman, says she didn’t hesitate to vote for Wilmshurst when t  the Sportsmanship award. ”He is one of the most positive people I have ever met," she says with a smile. "We got caught in a snow storm out on the Yukon river and it took us about five hours to go 15 miles and I was like ‘what are we doing out here?’ and he’s like ‘ we’ll get there, we might have to drag our dogs and it might not be till next Saturday, but we will get there.  I would probably still be out there if it wasn’t for Brian.’

Champion Allen Moore also says he would have had a tough time finishing the race, were it not for his long-time leader and the golden harness award winner, Quito. “Quito is a dog that we would all like to have," he choked up as he spoke. "She’s run the Yukon Quest and Iditarod back to back four  years in a row and she finished with me in single lead this year.  There’s now quite in Quito, I’ll tell you that right now.”

This year’s will go down as one of the toughest in the race’s 31 year history. Open leads on the Yukon River, high winds, subzero temperatures, and rock hard ice threw plenty at mushers, the majority of whom say they’ll be back. The 32nd annual Yukon Quest will start in Whitehorse on Saturday, February 7th, 2015.