ELY – Michael Bestgen repeated as winner of the 2021 WolfTrack Classic eight-dog race this year with a faster time than his 2020 victory.The veteran WolfTrack Classic musher and his team were …
ELY – Michael Bestgen repeated as winner of the 2021 WolfTrack Classic eight-dog race this year with a faster time than his 2020 victory.
The veteran WolfTrack Classic musher and his team were the first ones out of the chute, by way of a random drawing of starting positions, on Sunday morning and took advantage of the fast track for the 13th annual event.
He finished the 50-mile race in 4:06:31, beating his own 2020 record of 4:36:26 by 30 minutes. In fact, the first three eight-dog finishers this year posted faster times than Bestgen’s 2020 time. Nick Vigiante, the final eight-dog musher to leave the starting line was second with a time of 4:20:38, followed by Joanna Oberg at 4:22:02.
And, according to Race Director Ellen Cashman, the first racers last year were some 45 minutes faster than in many recent years. Following sub-zero temperatures just a week earlier, the race conditions on Sunday started out relatively mild as Bestgen left the Ely softball field starting line at 9 a.m.
Temperatures rose steadily under cloudy skies and light snow was falling throughout the day. Ely musher Scott Edgett said the trail was in great shape this year.
“It was warm, and the trail actually got better on the way back with the light snow,” he said. “There wasn’t much snow but just enough to make it a little more slippery.”
The race was again organized by the Ely Chamber of Commerce, and this year the added challenge of COVID-19 was put in the mix. The event adhered to the Stay Safe Minnesota COVID-19 guidelines and the Wolf Track Classic Covid-19 Preparedness Plan that limited the number of teams and prohibited spectators.
“We saw a few more spectators out along the trail, which was really nice, but we did miss all the excitement the fans brought in previous years,” Edgett said. “I’m glad we could get a race in.”
The 2021 WolfTrack Classic and last month’s Beargrease marathon were the only races to take place in Minnesota this year because of public health concerns over the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Bestgen missed a couple of years of the WolfTrack Classic following a recent knee replacement, and is now a repeat winner.
“This is really a beautiful race and I hope to be back again next year,” he said.
Seventeen mushers competed in this year’s eight-dog race, compared to just eight teams last year.
Other eight-dog mushers and their times included: Anna Hennessy, 4:39:47; Erin Altemus, 4:41:38; Ero Wallin, 4:43:32; Blake Freking, 4:47:26; Kristen McCarty, 4:57:22; Frank Moe, 4:57:42; Ryan Miller, 4:58:21; Jen Freking, 5:04:47; Jodi Reineccius, 5:04:47; Mary Manning, 5:15:44; Tim Anderson, 5:19:24; Bucky Tippet, 5:19:28; and Jim Ward, 5:22.53. Ward was the 2020 WolfTrack Classic six-dog winner. Robin S. Fisher dropped out.
Twenty-one mushers competed in the six dog race this year, and 19 teams finished the 30-mile course. The field was led by Nick Turman, who crossed the finish line in 2:17:54, almost 10 minutes faster than the 2020 winning six-dog time. Turman came in second in 2020.
Dusty Klaven posted a time of 2:25:37 for second place, followed by Billie Diver Thompson, 2:28:35, in third place.
The other top 15 six-dog teams and their times included: Taylor DeBoer, 2:29:26; Ann Stead, 2:31:51; Amy Flakne, 2:36:18; Ashley Thaemert, 2:36:52; Susan Serifini, 2:40:41; Neal Seeger, 2:48:35; Eva Robinson, 2:50:56; Scott Edgett, 2:57:41; Andri Duval, 2:59.13; Sherri Moe, 3:00:50; Elana Morgan, 3:10:01; and Marina Fuhrman, 3:14:40.
One eight-dog team and two six-dog teams did not finish.
“Some teams got a little tired because it got a little warm out,” Edgett said. “Those mushers, of course, don’t want to keep pushing their dogs, and they made the right decision to pull out of the race. As far as I know, everyone stayed safe and we had a great day.”
Communications were provided by the Vermilion Range Amateur Radio Club. Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital assisted race organizers with developing the COVID-19 plan. Outward Bound and Wounded Warriors contributed to road crossing safety.
For more information and complete race results, go to www.wolftrackclassic.com.