Drivers, dog teams and all manner of wheeled conveyances met once again on the fields of the Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, MN, on Nov. 17 and 18, for the second East Meets West Dryland Challenge. Race participants and a fair number of spectators felt the bite of a strong, bitter north wind through their light jackets. A gray, cold sky hung overhead, but a blue and white circus tent, the neon colors of spectators’ jackets, and the bright yellows and reds of racing rigs added some color to the day. Seventy-three teams ran in the 14 events of pro and amateur canicross, bikejor, scooter, and 4, 5, and 6-dog rig races. Novice competitors and juniors made good showings. In fact, one junior competitor made the Energizer Bunny’s reputation into rabbit stew. Caleb Tysver burned through six of the 14 events, winning two of them. Since Caleb is only 15 years old, he was eligible for both junior and adult events. He took full advantage of his opportunity, competing in 1-dog Junior Canicross, 1-dog Junior bikejoring, 1-dog junior scooter, 4-dog pro adult rig, 2-dog adult scooter, and 2-dog adult bikejoring, winning the 1-dog junior canicross, and the 4-dog pro adult rig. “Remarkable!” observed Dave Steele, ISDRA Director, and chair of the race committee, especially since the 4-dog pro rig event fielded 13 competitors, several of who are well-known in the sprint racing world. Even more remarkable, several of these events were back-to-back, like the 1-dog Junior Canicross, Bikejoring and Scooter races. Caleb was actually racing a 1-man triathlon, leaping out of his belt or off his scooter, or bike, hooking up a different dog, changing his bib, and tearing out the chute yet again. Two events later, he charged through the same sequence for the 4-dog pro rig, and the 2-dog Adult Bikejor. Fortunately his family was there to help him with his transformations. No phone booths were available.This year, Caleb and other Minnesota and Wisconsin drivers at the Dryland Challenge were joined by entrants from Washington, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and South Dakota. The lone Canadian entry came from Mike Warnecke of Regina, Saskatchewan. For the second time the team from Ocho Rios, Jamaica, ran the 4-dog rig event. Damion Robb represented the Jamaican sled dog team, driving dogs supplied by Ken Davis.The trail was visible for at least a quarter of a mile both at the start and finish. Spectators could follow a team’s progress along much of the run as teams emerged in places where the trail twisted and turned. The track was in excellent shape this year, smooth and packed, yet loose enough for the safety of teams which traveled up to 25 miles per hour. Organizers were pleased that events over the two days produced no problems. Things went so smoothly that the announcer, Merv Hilpre, famous for his creative (and sometimes disconcerting) ad-libbing, spotted a number of quite non-local wildlife emerging onto the trail, just to stir up the crowd. Moose are common in northern Minnesota, but Brainerd hasn’t seen one since Paul Bunyan left.New events at this year’s race included a race that partnered the P.A.W.S organization (Promoting Abilities With Sled Dogs) with the Dryland Challenge; a sponsor’s race; the Heartland Animal Rescue Team’s (HART) toy toss fundraiser, and the North American Dog Sports Registry’s (NADSR) weight pull. “P.A.W.S., spearheaded by Sally Bair of Duluth, MN, is a joint effort between Special Olympics Minnesota and sled dog sports,” said Dave Steele. ”We were very pleased that they could participate this year.” Angela and Roberta Blomster drove the two teams entered in the P.A.W.S. race. Joel Nelson from Clear Lake, MN, supplied them with their teams. Each driver was given an award for taking part. The intramural sponsors’ race pitted an enthusiastic team from Zorbaz Restaurant on Gull Lake against their cohorts from Zorbaz Restaurant in Crosslake. The teams came from Joel Nelson’s and Mel Behm’s kennels, pulling carts supplied by Keith Omernick. The Gull Lake team won, and Zorbaz couldn’t lose.Heartland Animal Rescue Team (HART), the organization that operates the Brainerd Lakes Area animal shelter, set up a dog toy toss competition to entertain people on breaks and to earn some money for the shelter. For $2, a person could buy a dog toy and then try to throw it through a series of hoops for prizes. Regardless of throwing skill or lack of it, the individual could keep the toy for themselves or for their dogs.For full results of all the events from this weekend please visit www.isdra.org.


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