by Lori Tipton
Friday, March 13, 2009
UNALAKLEET, Alaska -- For the second year in a row the Alaska Army National Guard has sponsored an Iditarod musher.
Last year, the Guard sponsored a musher from Tennessee, but this time they recruited one of their own.
Harry Alexie's roots are deep in Alaska, the Guard and sled dog racing, which is why the Army National Guard recruited the 31-year-old from Bethel to compete.
"I've been into dog mushing since I was a child," Alexie said.
Alexie is a sprint musher who decided to slow down and compete in The Last Great Race.
"Just a great opportunity to be racing," he said.
The Guard gave Alexie the opportunity. He has been an Alaska Guardsman for 14 years.
"As far as we know, Harry is the first current Guardsman that's participated in the Iditarod," Sgt. Maj. Clinton Brown said.
The Guard paid for his team and his training. Alexie chose two-time defending Iditarod winner Lance Mackey to be his coach.
"When I told him what it was for, he totally agreed to provide me a team," Alexie said.
Alexie met Mackey while volunteering at the Kuskokwim 300. Not only did Mackey help train him, he also let Alexie borrow dogs from his kennel.
To help with Alexie's training, Mackey -- who was the four-time defending champion of the Yukon Quest and a member of its board of directors -- declined to run in this year's Quest.
Alexie says so far he has run the race conservatively.
"The first half of the race doesn't really matter, it's the second half," he said.
Alexie said he has taken long rests during the first half, which he considers his team's warm up to make it to Nome.
"I'm hoping to get there, working on it mile after mile," he said.
Early Friday morning Alexie passed through Ophir on his way to the halfway point at the ghost town of Iditarod. He sits in 42nd place and trails only Karin Hendrickson and Chad Lindner in the race for rookie of the year.
Contact Lori Tipton at firstname.lastname@example.org