Local mushers among early Iditarod sign-ups
Alaska’s in some of its hottest days of the summer yet. But some mushers already have winter on the brain.
Saturday was the first day to register for the 2023 Iditarod and 21 are already signed up, including last year’s champion, Brett Sass of Eureka.
Two on the roster hail from the Kenai Peninsula.
Travis Beals — who’s been in the race nine times — has already put his name in the ring.
Beals placed 12th in last year’s Iditarod and fifth place in 2019. He and partner Sarah Stokey – also an Iditarod veteran – run dogsled tours out of Seward.
He said he was thinking of taking a year off to focus on other races and have a more laid back winter. But he said he was already in Anchorage on Saturday when there was a draw for free Iditarod entries.
“So I thought, heck, if we’re going to go, might as well sign up for the first day," he said.
He got the free entry and now he’s in.
That doesn’t change much in his routine for now. This summer, he’s focusing on the dogsled touring business.
“But it does, you know, give you a little sense of motivation and kind of get you excited about it," Beals said. "Once you’re signed up, all the energy gets flowing and it kind of gets real, that’s for sure.”
Grayson Bruton, of Sterling, is also planning on running this year.
Bruton’s from Willow and his father was a longtime Iditarod volunteer, according to his Iditarod biography. His first race was in 2020, when he came in 23rd place.
He trains with the Seavey family in Sterling. Mitch Seavey won the Iditarod three times and has run the race almost every year since 1982. When he won in 2017, he was the oldest musher to win, at 57.
Seavey said he’s not planning on racing this year to take a bit of a break and let his body heal before maybe coming back in a year or two. He cited similar reasons for not running in 2021 before coming back this year.
And he says it’s a good opportunity for Bruton to take the champion dog team.
“He’s an excellent musher," Seavey said. "He’s been training with me for years. And he’s very excited about making a competitive run. He’s already run our puppy team before, as a practice run for him and the dogs. And so he’ll be taking the main champions and so he’s excited about it. I think it’s a good opportunity for him to do that.”
Seavey said Bruton’s working with a great team. And he’s excited to follow Bruton and the other mushers, even if he’s not racing himself.
“We’re hoping that there’s going to be more sign ups and get a little bit bigger field in there, so that’s something to keep an eye on," Seavey said. "But we’re excited for next year."
Mushers have until Nov. 30 of this year to register for the 2023 Iditarod.
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