GCI OPEN NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIPS 2007

Downtown Fairbanks’ Second Avenue doesn’t look the same to me without dog trucks, orange snow fencing, banners across the streets, and mushers all decked out in their signature racing colors.Arriving at this year’s Open North American Championships was like coming home. The trucks were parked, the sleds were being prepared and the dogs were being painted. There were also the regular front runners who, almost eerily, were incredibly serene and composed before the most prestigious open class sprint race in the world.GCI stepped up to the plate again to be the main sponsor of the event, a support greatly appreciated by the entire Fairbanks Community. With a race that was almost destined to be as silent on the radio airwaves as this year’s Rondy, New North West took over the radio coverage of the event, with an enthusiastic crew of engineers and hosts, accompanied at checkpoints by seasoned mushers and skijorers. The coverage was wonderful, with just a few little teething problems, but nothing more than a few mis-pronounced names. The coverage was up to speed, and kept the avid world-wide listeners in touch with the race. Mushing Magazine provided daily pre-and post race video interviews with the racers on their website: www.mushing.com.The race itself was a face-off between Buddy Streeper and Egil Ellis. On the tail end of an almost faultless season, Buddy Streeper was feeling confident. And why shouldn’t he? He had his pocket rocket Dee leading his team. Fresh off the Rondy and Tanacross wins, Streeper was the team to beat.The defending champion, Egil Ellis had truck trouble the day before the start of the race, and his sponsor, Rob Downey from Annamaet, stepped in to loan him his truck for the weekend. Just getting over a sickness that went through the kennel, Egil was racing to claim his 5th consecutive title. If he won, he would have tied the greatest champion George Attla for 8 total wins. Other past champions including Neal Johnson and Eddy Streeper were also geared up to race. With one of the largest fields of rookies, the race was going to be tough throughout the field. Aaron Campbell, handler for the 1991 champion Ross Saunderson, was a fresh smiling face, feeling very privileged to race in the ONAC and with one of the best teams around. While nervous, he was thrilled. Another fresh face was Heather Hardy, a petite young lady with a team comprised of many purebred German shorthaired pointers, and a leader named Egil. Day 1The race started off with Blaine Streeper setting a new course record. The trail conditions were hard and very fast. The low snow created a firm surface with little give in the base. Blaine excitedly remarked after the first heat, “Super cold, fast conditions made for a new standard in sprint racing. I took that record and broke it into about 50 pieces, 40 seconds off the track record, 57 minutes, that’s destroying the record.”Egil Ellis: “I had a little stop at the road crossing, a dog had her foot over the neckline, that was no big deal. There was a lot of action on the slew, we had about 4 or 5 head-on passes.” Ellis finished almost a full 2 minutes behind Streeper, with Arleigh Reynolds finishing third, in his best ever ONAC showing. “I had a young leader, that by the 5th head-on pass wasn’t driving as hard,” Arleigh explained. Eddy Streeper finished well in 4th place followed by Mark Hartum and Aaron Campbell. Hartum had a passing issue with Shane Goosen, with Goosen eventually being disqualified. Aaron Campbell was all smiles though as he finished the first heat as the highest placing rookie, and in very good company. “That was tremendous fun, I tried waving to as many people as I could and I recognized a few faces out there,” said Aaron.Day 2A little bit of shuffling on the second day saw Eddy Streeper beating Arleigh Reynolds for 3rd place by 16 seconds, and a 2-day lead of almost 90 seconds. With Buddy still leading with a 1 minute 45 second lead over Egil, Aaron Campbell fell back a few positions making room for Bill Kornmuller, who was still on a high after finishing second in the Rondy.Day 3Day three saw the unthinkable – Egil Ellis, after finishing a far second on the first and second day, did his trademark push to break the third day course record, and beating Buddy’s day time by nearly 30 seconds. Not only did Ellis’ dogs run the 30 miles fast, a third day track record is almost unthinkable, it is one of the toughest records to pull off. Egil on day 3: “It was more or less a clean run. No stops. I had a leader who was a little tired towards the end and that slowed the pace a little, but otherwise the dogs did very well. I didn’t have to a load a dog, I am trying to shake that habit.” Yet even with Ellis’ heat win, Streeper still held on to win with just over 1 minute 40 seconds over Ellis. Arleigh Reynolds finished third in his highest ever placing ONAC, and was honored to be on the podium. Kornmuller finished 4th, followed by Eddy Streeper, Mark Hartum, Aaron Campbell, Rob Peebles, Neal Johnson and Michael Tetzner rounding out the top 10.Mike Cox, Heather Hardy, Josh Cadzow, Stewart Attla, Mike Sanford, Lester Ehart and Danny Beck, were all completing rookies, with their first ONAC under their belt, having raced with the finest in the world. They pledged to be back in the future with a wealth of knowledge and a desire to be running with the front of the pack. These rookies deserve special mention as they were all accomplished mushers and showed their ability to handle large teams in often difficult situations.

Share:

More Posts