With the arrival of the last three mushers and the Finish & Awards Banquet, Day 15 brought the 37th running of the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race to a close.
Pat Noddin’s arrival at 2:34am PST began the day’s action. Ninth place Noddin said of his rookie run that the challenges of the Yukon Quest trail didn’t disappoint, and expressed his gratitude to his traveling companion of the previous three days, Rob Cooke, for all the advice and guidance he received. Noddin finishes with a total time of 13 days, 13 hours and 58 minutes.
Next in at 9:07am PST was Rob Cooke, finishing with all 14 dogs with whom he left Fairbanks a fortnight ago. The veteran musher’s total time for his seventh Quest was 13 days, 20 hours and 34 minutes, good enough for 10th place. Cooke said the demanding trail conditions— with the snow, wind and overflow— in the later stages made this one of the toughest of the seven Quests he’s run, but that those are exactly the challenges that keep people coming back year after year.
Red Lantern Olivia Webster reached the finish at 7:58pm PST. “I’m just happy that it’s over and that we’re all here,” said the rookie musher. Webster’s grandfather, LeRoy Shank, is co-founder of the Yukon Quest, and Webster remarked how much it meant for her to be able to follow in his footsteps and tap into his legacy. “I guess I’ve just always been a grandpa’s girl, and he’s my best friend so I just kinda wanted to be like him.” Webster had high praise for the performance of her dog Emily, who ran lead for the entire 1,000 miles.
Hosted by Northern Vision Development at their Coast High Country Inn and Convention Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon, this evening’s Finish & Awards Banquet offered a chance for mushers, dog handlers, race officials, dignitaries, volunteers and fans to take in awards, prizes, sponsor recognition, and stories from the trail.
The 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group opened the proceedings, leading a flag procession of this year’s mushers into the banquet hall. This was followed by a welcome and blessing from Bill Bruton, Elder Chair from the Ta'an Kwäch'än First Nation, and Councillor Jesse Dawson of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, and opening remarks from Yukon’s Commissioner, Member of Parliament, and Minister of Health and Social Services.
Next came a screening of the official trailer for the forthcoming full-length film of this year’s race. Captured by the Yukon Quest Visual Content Team, the full movie will be available in April.
Following a dinner featuring Icy Waters Arctic char, Yukon Executive Director Shayna Hammer gave recognition to the many generous sponsors of the Yukon Quest, race officials, vets, checkpoint managers, volunteers, and competitors.
Special acknowledgment was also given to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre Sewing Group. The group’s Quest-themed project this year was handmade beaded representations of the Quest sitting dog logo for each of the finishers.
Each of this year’s competitors was introduced in the reverse order in which they finished to give them an opportunity to share trail stories and give thanks to their friends and supporters. Full coverage of the speeches and award presentations is available on the Yukon Quest Facebook page.
In addition to their prize money and finisher’s patches, the top three mushers all received handmade knives courtesy of sponsor Alaska Rod’s.
Allen Moore took the stage on behalf of the Finisher’s Club to introduce a new trophy to be presented annually to that year’s champion. As the 2020 Yukon Quest winner, Brett Sass is the inaugural recipient.
As the first rookie musher to cross the finish line, Rookie of the Year honours went to Nora Själin. She received a hand-made knife from award sponsor Alaska Rod’s.
Själin also took home the Challenge of the North Award. Sponsored by Unorthodox, and selected by the Quest race officials, the award is given to the musher who best exemplifies the spirit of the Yukon Quest. Själin received wolverine gloves made by Rebecca Pokiak of Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.
The White Pass & Yukon Route Red Lantern Award went to Olivia Webster. Presented annually to the race’s last official finisher, the Red Lantern commemorates the tradition of keeping a light on for all mushers still out on the trail. For her perseverance, Webster received a decorative red lantern.
Decided by the mushers themselves, and presented to the competitor who demonstrates outstanding sportsmanship along the trail, this year’s Sportsmanship Award went to Yukon musher Rob Cooke. Cooke received an original artwork by Yukon artist Emma Barr.
Cody Strathe won Veterinarian’s Choice Award, sponsored by Alpine Veterinary Medical Centre. Selected by the Quest veterinary team and given annually to the musher who best demonstrates outstanding canine care while remaining competitive during the entire race, the award is good for $1,000 toward veterinary services from a veterinary clinic of the musher’s choosing.
As the first musher to reach Dawson City and finish the race, Brent Sass was the recipient of the Joe Fellers Dawson City Award, consisting of two ounces of Klondike placer gold. The award is sponsored (and pulled out of the ground by) Fellhawk Placers of Dawson City to commemorate getting to the Klondike and completing the journey home.
Presentation of the Golden Harness Award closed out the evening. In honour of their loyalty, endurance, and perseverance throughout the race, Brent Sass’ two lead dogs, Morello and Woody, received custom-made Tanzilla Harness Supply golden harnesses, and steaks prepared by the Head Chef of the Coast High Country Inn and Convention Centre.