With a field of more than 20 teams, the Tustumena 200 sled dog race is just around the corner. For a second straight year, there’s been plenty of snow and race director Tami Murray says they’ve added a third checkpoint in the race that takes teams from Ninilchik to McNeil Canyon School in Homer and back through the Caribou Hills.
“The last couple years we’ve been going from Freddie’s Roadhouse to Homer, back to Freddie’s and doing that twice. This year we’re going from Freddie’s Roadhouse to Homer, back to Freddie’s, then we’re going to go down to Centennial, then back to Freddie’s for the finish. So we’ve added that lower section back into the race, which we’re really excited about. The dogs get bored doing the same trail twice, so the mushers are excited as we are.”
The field includes several past T-200 winners, including last year’s winner, Nic Petit, who is fresh off a victory at the Copper Basin 300 a week ago and a 4th place finish at the Kuskokwim 300 this weekend.
“There’s going to be a really good race at the front of the T-200. Cim Smyth, who has won it four times, the second most victories in our race. Tim Osmar is not running this year, but he’s won it six times. Mitch Seavey is back, he’s been gone a couple years. He’s got (about) four teams in the race this year so depending on how his teams are broken up, they’re all from his kennel. (So) you may see some of those unknown mushers doing well because they are running with Seavey dogs.”
Lance Mackey is also returning to run the T-200. He won the race back in 2008. Murray says one team she’s keeping an eye on is that of Travis Beals out of Seward.
“(He’s) really a strong musher. Someday he is going to win the Iditarod. And then Dave Turner, who has come in second and third the last couple years, really exceptional. He’s a former sprint musher, so he knows how to run those dogs at a quick pace. Then, of course, Wade Marrs. There’s some really good front runners in this race, and the Berington twins are back. I love watching them run as well.”
A pre-race vet check will happen Friday at noon at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. The official start is at noon on Saturday at Freddie’s Roadhouse at the end of Oilwell Road in Ninilchik. The T-100 will start immediately after the big race.
The lead teams should arrive back at the start some time Saturday evening with the rest of the field trickling in throughout the day on Sunday. An awards banquet will be held Monday in Kenai. Murray says with the added checkpoint, they could use more volunteers. You can find volunteer opportunities here.