Mushers, handlers, volunteers, and organizers gathered last night at the Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse to celebrate the success of the 2022 Yukon Quest.

Yukon Quest President, Susan Rogan, welcomed and congratulated everyone on their efforts — especially the mushers and their support teams — for a great race. Doug Grilliot, race marshal, acknowledged mushers from the YQ100 and YQ300 who received their awards and purses. Impressively, every musher in the race crossed the finish line this year, no easy feat given the tough conditions. One by one, mushers came up to the mic to give short speeches to the room, acknowledging those who helped them along the trail.

Paul Hamlyn was first up to the mic. Hamlyn received the Red Lantern for the YQ300. He expressed his gratitude to the amazing volunteers who helped out at time stations and check points.

For Iowan/Alaskan musher, Deke Naaktegeboren, it was a joy to make it back to Canada. “I realized once again how awesome Canadian mushers are — it was fun to share the trail with you,” said Naaktegeboren. He placed 5th in the YQ300 and 2nd in the Yukon Quest Cup Award.

YQ100 musher, Katherine Lapointe, gave a big shout out to her community of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. Lapointe and her support team traveled over 2000 kilometres to make it for the event. “I need to thank all of Fort Smith,” she said. “They’re the reason I’m here.”

Aaron Peck, who placed 4th in the YQ300, acknowledged the huge efforts of his handler, Mayla Hill, who also competed in the race. “Mayla worked hard all season long — I’m proud of her,” said Peck. “Thank you for taking such good care of my dogs.” Peck is now gearing up to race in the Iditarod next month.

There were many first time Quest racers this year, including Illana Kingsley, who placed 3rd in the YQ100. “I’m happy to be here and to have finished,” she said. Jonathon Alsberghe, who received the Red Lantern in the YQ100, thanked Quest organizers for putting on the 100 mile race this year. “It gives new mushers to get experience on the trail,” said Alsberghe.

Nathaniel Hamlyn and Martine Le Levier placed 1st and 2nd in the YQ100. They both thanked all of the mushers for cooperating out on the trail to make for easy passes. Hamlyn and Le Levier came flying into the finish in Braeburn, arriving within minutes of one another. “The passes were all perfect,” said Hamlyn. “It’s a testament to how well you’ve trained your dogs.”

Mayla Hill, who placed 3rd in the YQ300, received the Rookie of the Year Award. Hill is a handler for Aaron Peck of Elevation Sled Dogs, based in Grande Prairie, Alta. Hill kept an impressive pace from start to finish. Her 9-dog team finished strong, only 15 minutes behind Michelle Phillips. “Thank you to Aaron for letting me run your dogs,” she said. The 18-year-old musher reflected on being out on the trails. “The bumps kept me awake,” she laughed. “And the wind hits you in the face so you can actually talk to people, even without coffee,” she said, which made everyone laugh.

Seasoned musher, Michelle Phillips, placed 2nd in the YQ300 and also received the Sportsmanship Award, presented by veteran musher Frank Turner. “Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped to bring the Quest back,” said Phillips. “It was so incredible to see our community out and the excitement at the start line,” she said. Turner echoed Phillip’s words. “The Quest is a family,” said Turner. “And part of family is keeping tradition alive."

Connor McMahon placed 6th in the YQ300, and won 3rd place in the Yukon Quest Cup Award. McMahon also raced in the YQ200 event in Alaska. He kept his speech short and sweet, “Thank you,” he said with a tired smile.

There was big applause for Brent Sass, winner of both the YQ300 and the YQ350 event in Alaska. He was 1st in the overall Yukon Quest Cup award. “It’s so good to get back to Whitehorse,” said Sass, reflecting on the race. For Sass, the highlight was pulling to the Mandanna Lake time station. “It was an amazing place — wall tents, hot chilli, I think all of the mushers will agree!”

Head vet Dr. Christina “Nina” Hansen gave out the Veterinarian’s Choice Award, given out to a musher for demonstrating excellent dog care while remaining competitive. Brent Sass was this year’s winner. He started and finished the race with all 12 dogs. “This is the most important award you can get,” said Sass. “It way better than winning.”

The Golden Harness Award went to Brent Sass’s lead dogs in the YQ300, brother Woody and Slater. “I couldn’t be prouder than them,” said Sass, accepting the golden harnesses for his dogs.

The Honorary Finisher Award, given out to a key Quest sponsor and supporter, went to Gordy Ryder of Builders Supply Land. Ryder has supported the Quest since 1986. “We wanted to give him recognition because he’s the person who avoids it,” said Quest board member, Anne Taylor.

Grilliot closed up the evening’s ceremony, offering best wishes to mushers Michelle Phillips, Brent Sass, Deke Naaktegeboren, and Sebastien dos Santos Borges who will all be racing in the Iditarod next month.

Then Grilliot delivered the words everyone has been hoping to hear about the Yukon Quest.

“We are firmly committed to putting on a 1000 mile race next year,” said Grilliot, prompting applause. “I’d like to see a multi race format. I think we have an excellent opportunity here in Whitehorse.”

Once more, congratulations to all of the YQ100 and YQ300 mushers and their support teams. And to echo the words of the mushers, thank you to our amazing volunteer team who made every step of the way of the 2022 Yukon Quest a huge success!

See you out on the trail in 2023…

(Content: Trina Moyles / Photo: Jason Wolsky Photography)