The White Oak Classic Sled Dog Race played host to the largest field ever Jan. 7-9. The 130 mile race took mushers from the White Oak Fur Post in Deer River to end at Gosh Dam Place, Squaw Lake, Northome or Marcell. This year's race featured nearly 90 teams.
Each race had over 20 competitors and features several past Beargrease champions, returning White Oak winners, several Canadian mushers and an Alaskan musher who competed in the 8-dog Pro Race and came in second.
"With the plentiful snow trail conditions were great, said race marshal, Dan Bergerson. "We were fortunate to have excellent vet staff returning this year and the continued assistance of the Itasca County Search and Rescue and the amateur radio club. The volunteers, along with volunteer judges and check-point officials, made the race safe and successful" he said.
The White Oak Classic was formed from the efforts of Dan Bergerson and Chuck Ogee when they were having a discussion about sled dogs and how they were used during the Great Lakes fur trade. They decided to have a dog sled race starting at the White Oak Fur Post to re-create the spirit of the dogs during the fur trade.
The inaugural race was local mushers and had only 15 participants. There was a great amount of interest from individuals and businesses in the area and from that organizers were able to expand the race to what it is today. The first race was an 18-mile run to Gosh Dam Place on Saturday and then a return run from Gosh Dam Place to the fur post on Sunday.
The second year of the White Oak Classic was expanded with the race length extending to 120 miles for the 10 Dog Pro class, 60 miles for the 6 Dog Pro class, 38 miles for the Trophy class and 18 miles for the Recreation class. Having these four classes allowed a lot of mushers to partake in a race length that best fits their dog team.
That year, the 10 Dog Pro class ran to Northome for a 6-hour layover and then mushed back to the fur post to the finish.
During the third year of the race, an additional trail was added that brought the 10 Dog Pro class along a new trail from Northome to Effie and then finished up in Marcell, a length of 130 miles. That same trail is still used today.
The 38-mile trophy race has been called the Bobbie Lundeen Memorial race.
Lundeen was a retired peace officer. The trail ran across his yard and he was very active to make sure all dog teams ran through the town of Deer River safely. He died the following year after the inaugural race and race organizers have since honored him in the trophy race.
The Pro Race trail is a scenic route that traverses varied terrain including forests, brooks, lakes, fields and populated areas. The distance, terrain and variable weather make this a very challenging race.
Due to the rigors of the course, drivers have to exercise good judgment in pacing themselves and their teams. Simply finishing is a great accomplishment. The course is run on all snowmobile trails and the course markings for the event include the markings associated with the snowmobile trails. The trails in use will be presented at the musher meeting.
10 Dog Pro
The 10 Dog Pro Class started in Deer River and ran through Squaw Lake then to Northome then to Effie and finished up in Marcell. The total mileage for the 10 Dog Pro class is 130 miles.
The top three winners in this class were Ryan Anderson of Ray, Frank Moe from Hoveland and Vern Schroeder of Warba.
Harry Lambirth of Blackduck competed in this class and placed 16th.
8 Dog Pro
The 8 Dog Pro began in Deer River and ran straight through Squaw Lake then onto Northome, a total run of 60 miles.
The top three winners in this class were John Hull from Elton, WI; Ryan Reddington of Wasilla, AK and Tara McGovern from Grand Marais.
The Trophy Class started in Deer River and ran to Gosh Dam Place for a two hour layover and then finished in Squaw Lake, a total run of 38 miles.
The top three winners were Ross Fraboni of Two Harbors, Dusty Klaven of Gheen and Brendon Scheider of Dryden, Ontario, Canada.
The Recreation Class began in Deer River and then finished at Gosh Dam Place for an 18 mile run.
The top three winners in this class were Elizabeth Chapman from Angora, Forrest Penner of Vermillion Bay, Ontario, Canada and Kelli Hansen of Angora.
Next year's race promises to be just as exciting as this year's was.
(Information was taken from the White Oak Classic website, http://www.whiteoakclassicsleddograce.com)