Lance Mackey Wins Top of the World 350

Lance Mackey took first place on Sunday in the inaugural running of the Top of the World 350 race from Eagle to Tok. Following Lance in for second place was Gerry Willomitzer. Jake Berkowitz took third.

22 mushers made a memorial run from Tok to Eagle starting on the 27th and then they raced from Eagle back to Tok. The memorial run and race was held to honor the late traditional chief Issac Juneby who died last summer and was from Eagle.

Race manager Jody Juneby Potts is Issac’s niece. She says the night before her uncle Issac died last summer, he talked to her about the importance of the tradition of dog handling.

“He and my mom, just like I was, grew up on a dog sled out on the country in the upper Yukon, 40 mile area and the night before Issac died, we were sitting around in the hospital. He talked to me a lot about mushing and growing up running dogs with him family and what that meant and how it’s important to our culture to hold on to that. There’s a lot of kids today that don’t know what it’s like to go travel by dog team from cabin to cabin and be out there in the country.”

Mackey said the last couple race seasons hadn’t been very stellar for him so it was great to start this season off with a positive finish.

“Snow was as perfect as you can get for as many options and varieties of terrain we had to deal with, you know, three passes. A little bit of wind but the trail overall was really nice. The race layout was exceptionally nice.”

Mackey says he will be running both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod this year, calling the Iditarod the Super Bowl of dog racing.

“I love the Yukon Quest and the format and the terrain and all that stuff but unfortunately it doesn’t have the finances like the Iditarod, so you know , this is our job and I feel that I have to take the work while it’s available, whether it’s two weeks apart or two months apart, so, I’m down, I’m going again and we’ll reassess what happens at the end of this season for next year.”

The top three finishers will receive hand-made Athabascan beaded artwork and winter gear. A banquet will be held this evening at the Tok Dog musher’s association hall.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori