Casavant and Quito among award winners

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The 2013 Yukon Quest officially wrapped up Saturday with the Finish & Awards Banquet, held at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

Mushers, handlers, officials, volunteers and fans gathered to recognize and thank everyone associated with the 30th running of the race. Dinner, live entertainment by the band Rock Bottom, and a silent auction were some of the highlights, as well as the annual awards.

A total of seven awards were given out, starting with the coveted Vet’s Choice Award, for exceptional dog care on the trail. Head Veterinarian Kathleen McGill presented the award. This year’s winner was Whitehorse musher Normand Casavant.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” he said. “I’m really proud. Thanks to the vets who were always there. It was great to have their help.”

Hugh Neff took the stage to collect his four ounces of gold, for being the first musher into Dawson City and then completing the race. The gold was courtesy of Joe and Wendy Fellers.

“I’m going to Norway in the morning!” he told the crowd, speaking about his plans to race there in the next couple of weeks. “My main goal when I go to Norway for this race is to talk about the Quest.”

Allen Moore was the first musher into Pelly Crossing, so he took home a pair of traditional beaver fur gloves from the Selkirk First Nation. Moore paid tribute to all the communities and their volunteers along the trail.

Rookie of the Year went to Scott Smith, who finished fifth in his first year running the Quest. He thanked all the other rookies in this year’s race, saying he felt like a representative of all of them.

Darrin Lee of Chistochina, Alaska was chosen for the Challenge of the North Award, which goes to the musher who best exemplifies dedication and perseverance during the race. The race officials choose this award winner.

For a third year, Brent Sass claimed the Sportsmanship Award. Sass helped fellow musher Jake Berkowitz and his team up Eagle Summit, and it wasn’t the first time he’s given a competitor a hand on that peak. Moore presented the award on behalf of the Quest.

“This is what the Quest is all about, helping each other,” said Sass. “Anybody in my same position would have done it too.”

One of the most heart-warming moments of the night was when the Golden Harness Award for champion dog was announced. Allen Moore’s dog Quito was called to the stage, where she received a delicious steak dinner and some well-deserved love.

“This dog is truly a rock star,” said Moore’s wife Aliy Zirkle. “She’s six years old, she’s done three Yukon Quests and four Iditarods, and she probably has a lot more in her. She doesn’t do it for you she does it for her and that’s probably what makes her more special than anyone else.”

The final award of the night went to this year’s final finisher – Dyan Bergen. When accepting the Red Lantern Award, Bergen proclaimed, “I’ve got a lot of these!”

“But this one is definitely the most special one,” she added. “Thank you.”

Twenty-six mushers started this year’s race and 20 of them finished. Moore, of Two Rivers, Alaska, was first across the finish line. He won with a time of eight days, 19 hours and 39 minutes.

We’ll see you Saturday, February 1, 2014 for the 31st running of the Yukon Quest!