First-year Mushing Club gains racing experience

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette Tom Bauer, a musher from Pelkie, runs alongside his sled to help his team across the finish line. His team finished in 13th place.

CALUMET — The Mushing Club at Michigan Technological University was pleased with their first showing at the Copperdog, despite not all its competing teams finishing.

“All our teams are happy and healthy,” club president Adam Schmidt said.

The club’s two competitors in the Copperdog25, Kady Gehrke and Ty Longstreet, finished 10th and 11th, respectively. Their times were 2:28:52 and 2:38:00, about 40-50 minutes slower than the first-place finisher, Geri Minard whose time was 1:51:58.

“They had a great run and they finished happy,” Schmidt said.

Colie Flemming, the club’s lone entry in the Copperdog80, was unable to finish the first leg of the race on Friday night. Flemming ended up stopping the team on the trail to start a fire to warm and feed his team to try to keep them going.

“They didn’t have a ton of motivation,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said running four teams out of one kennel, the Otter River Sled Dog Training Center, which included kennel owner Tom Bauer’s team, meant a lot of dogs that wouldn’t always get the chance to race were on the trail.

Inexperienced dogs on Flemming’s team were slower and less confident once they were along on the trail without confident leader dogs. Schmidt said the important thing was that they got the entire team home safe.

Bauer finished 13th, just two minutes ahead of Al Borak, who finished last in the 150.

Krissy Kovachich, this year’s volunteer coordinator, said the race ran smoothly.

“We had fantastic staffing,” she said. “We can’t do this race without all of them.”

On Sunday, teams were running faster than expected, but Kovachich said they communicated that to the volunteers, who showed up early and in full force, despite the bitter subzero temperatures and wind chills, which reached minus 20.

“This was a lot of fun,” said Canadian musher Kevin Vandenbussche of Vandenbussche Kennels in Moosonee, Ontario.

It was his first time competing to the Copperdog and said the weather was perfect for his team on Friday and Sunday but a little warm on Saturday.

“I think every musher here probably agrees it was the best organized event of the season,” Vandenbussche said. “It’s like a big mushing family here.”

He said the organizers and volunteers were personable, trails very easy to navigate and well-covered with snow, and the care of the dogs clearly foremost in everyone’s mind.