Numbers for sled dog races climbing just days before events

MARQUETTE – Sled dog race organizers are happy to see the total number of registered mushers at 57 this year. As of this morning, 14 teams are signed up for the U.P. 200, 24 will run in the Midnight Run and 19 are committed to the Jackpine 30.

Pat Torreano, president of the Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association that hosts the annual events, said she is pleased with the numbers.

“We’ve picked up like crazy the last few days. It’s been a riot,” Torreano said this morning. “They have until Thursday to sign up still, so who knows.”

Up until recently, the number of mushers registered for the U.P. 200 had hovered in the single digits, way down from the peak of 32 teams.

Torreano said the race had typically averaged between 26 and 28 teams, though as big name mushers began to get older, the number of teams began to drop.

“People don’t race with multiple teams, there’s an age to some of the mushers,” Torreano said. “That’s part of the story.”

Torreano attributed the late registration by several mushers to training – they wanted to run their teams in other races to gauge their abilities before signing up for the 240-mile Iditarod qualifier set to begin Friday evening in Marquette.

With 14 mushers, everyone racing will receive at least some of the purse, with pay-outs running down to 15th place. First place will earn $7,200.

Torreano said the Jackpine 30 has likely become more popular in recent years since it was changed from a trophy race to total purse of $1,000.

The first U.P. 200 musher is scheduled to leave the chute at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Midnight Run start time has been moved back. Rather than leaving at 8:30 p.m., Midnight Run mushers will take off from downtown Marquette beginning at 8 p.m.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.