ELY - The roster is full for the Ely WolfTrack Classic sled dog race on Sunday. By early this week, 39 mushers and their dog teams were on the way to Ely for the 13th annual event.“We have 21 …
ELY - The roster is full for the Ely WolfTrack Classic sled dog race on Sunday. By early this week, 39 mushers and their dog teams were on the way to Ely for the 13th annual event.
“We have 21 six-dog teams and 18 eight-dog teams scheduled,” said race coordinator Ellen Cashman. “And 26 of those 39 teams are just coming off the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, so we have lots of top-notch competitors this year.”
The first racer will pull up the anchor hook at precisely 9 a.m. Sunday from the Ely Softball Fields.
The race is running in accordance with the Stay Safe Minnesota COVID-19 guidelines and the Wolf Track Classic COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that limited the number of teams to 40.
“We had a total of four team scratches,” Cashman said. “Some teams decided to be removed from the wait list, and we just went down the list to the next name. We are not adding any more teams, but teams can scratch or change from the eight-dog to the six-dog race up until the mandatory musher meeting on Saturday afternoon.”
The 2021 WolfTrack Classic, along with last month’s Beargrease marathon, are the only races to take place in Minnesota this year because of public health concerns over the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
“This year’s race will be different, but it was decided that it was important to run the race rather than cancel it,” Cashman said. “In spite of the challenges that accompany planning and organizing a race during this pandemic, the race will run, unless additional restrictions are put into place before race day.”
With COVID-19 restrictions recently easing rather than increasing, the dogs will be yelping in Ely this weekend.
To comply with COVID-19 guidelines, including limiting public gatherings at outdoor activities to no more than 250 people, this year’s race will be run without allowing spectators at the start/finish or any other points on the race route or musher parking area. The easing of recent sub-zero temperatures is not necessarily welcomed by the mushers or their dogs, who prefer racing in cold temperatures, close to zero degrees, rather than conditions approaching the freezing mark. “Either way, they need to be properly hydrated and that is just as important in cold weather as warm weather,” Cashman said.
Live race coverage will be provided by IFan-TV Sports Network (https://www.ifan.tv/page/show/872605-channel-6), according to Cashman, along with live streaming by Mushing Midwest. Locally, WELY Radio will also be broadcasting the race live.
In this challenging year, the WolfTrack Classic sled dog race needs sponsor support more than ever.
“Tens of thousands of dollars are needed to run these types of events, not including the extra money needed for the COVID-19 precautions. We have many major sponsors this year that stepped up to the plate,” Cashman said.
“NutriSource Pet Foods, a division of KLN Family Brands, evolved from Tuffy’s Pet Foods, and back during Ely’s All American Race days, they were always a major sponsor,” she said. “They are still doing great things for dog sled racing. In fact, each of our racers will be receiving a 50-pound bag of their professional dog food at our musher’s meeting.”
As many as 90 volunteers are registered to help with the running of the dogs this year.
“We had a great volunteer campaign considering the times we’re living in right now,” Cashman said. “We are quite reduced this year because of the COVID restrictions. We are running with a skeleton group. As always, the most important parts are our road crossings to keep the teams safe.”
Communications will again be provided by the Vermilion Range Amateur Radio Club. The Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital assisted race organizers with developing the COVID-19 plan. Outward Bound and Wounded Warriors are contributing to road crossing safety.
For more information and race results, go to www.wolftrackclassic.com.