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The North Wind

The North Wind

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Hi! My name is Hannah Jenkins, and I am one of the copy editors here at the North Wind. I am a sophomore at NMU, and I love all things writing and editing-related. I am proud to be a part of this great...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

U.P. 200 brings athletes from near and far

On Feb. 15, Marquette’s Washington Street was transformed into a scene from a Jack London novel as mushers from across the nation converged on the town in hopes of claiming victory in the 19th annual U.P. 200 sled dog race.

Mushers, ex-mushers and fans of the sport are drawn back to Marquette year after year to take some part in the race-an Iditarod qualifier. There are numerous reasons for the race’s drawing power, said Pat Torreano, president of the Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association (UPSDA).

“It’s the overwhelming welcoming that they get from this community and the surrounding communities,” Torreano said. “This is such a big deal and the Visitors Bureau tells us that it’s one of the biggest events of the [year].”

Of course, the mushers also have more practical reasons for running the race.

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“It’s toward the end of the season and everyone is really wanting to race,” said musher Rick Larson. “It’s a good distance to test out good dogs on and you can have a lot of fun on it.”

Larson, who lives in Sand Coulee, Mont., won the race in 2005 and has twice competed in the Iditarod. He added that the 240-mile U.P. 200 certainly allows a musher and his or her dogs to prepare for larger races, some of which may run 1,200 miles. The Midwestern location of the race also makes only a moderate trek for racers from the Rockies to the East Coast, Larson said.

Another major contributing factor to the success of the U.P. 200, largely considered to be the premiere mid-distance race in the lower 48 states, is in the tireless organization.

“It is one of a kind and it is a very well-organized, well-run race and it does draw a lot of mushers back,” said former U.P. 200 racer Rebekah Chapman.

Many of the U.P. 200 mushers have also taken a shot at the Iditarod. Those competitors often notice a similarity between the famed Alaskan start and the one that takes place in downtown Marquette.

“It’s amazing. At both of those starts, you can’t even hear yourself think,” Larson said. “It’s what makes dog mushing exciting. This is a very limited spectator sport and when you see 4,000 people out there watching it, that’s an amazing feeling.”

Stan Passananti, of Ely, Minn., has also taken dog teams into both the Iditarod and the U.P. 200, which he won in 2001. He said he has always liked the Marquette race, but added that the starts were, in fact, a bit different.

“I did the Iditarod a few years back,” Passananti said. “The Iditarod has a great start, but I’ll tell you what, I still like the U.P. 200’s start better than the Iditarod.”

The race has become an annual draw for mushers from across the country, with this year’s competitors coming from six U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. As the crowd of mushers grows, the U.P. 200 workers must continue to improve as well.

“We have grown in many respects,” Torreano said. “We have more veterinarians involved-we have 14 now. We have a huge network of HAM radio operators-this year there will be 94 HAM radio operators involved in this race and its safety.”

All that hard work and dedication doesn’t go unnoticed by the local race fans, or by the U.P. 200 racers.

“I think they put in a great year-round effort,” Larson said about the UPSDA. “I feel some races are kind of thrown together in three months. To organize a downtown start and all that, they have to have a year-round effort and put in all the effort to make it the great race that it is.”

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