In sports, achieving dominance is the ultimate goal — not just winning the championship once, but claiming that title year after year. The teams that do so work extremely hard and don’t take it for granted. In the sport of sled dog racing, there’s no team more dominant than Fort Nelson’s Streeper Kennels.
The Streepers started their season with a win in Fort Providence in December, but the heart of the season begins this Friday with the 2019 Pedigree Stage Stop Race in Jackson, Wyoming, and runs from Jan. 25 to Feb. 2.
This race is the longest of the season, and helps the Streepers prepare for the Fur Rendesvous Open World Championship in Anchorage, and the North American Championship in Fairbanks later in the season. Not surprisingly, the Streeper team has won this race nine of the last 10 years, and five in a row. Last year, Lina Streeper finished first, while Dave Torgerson, who rents out the Streeper’s second team at this race every year, finished second.
“This is our most lucrative race of the year. The world championships are more prestigious, but this is our cash crop of the season, and a good test for our dogs,” said Buddy Streeper, Lina’s husband, who was in Montana training the dogs a week before the race.
The altitude in Jackson is around 10,000 feet, compared to 1,400 feet in Fort Nelson, so the Streepers like to have at least seven days before the race for the dogs to acclimate.
“They’re almost 100%, as good as I’ve ever seen them leading up to the race,” Buddy said.
As successful as the Streepers have been, if there was ever a time the team could be challenged, it’s this year. The race organizers drastically reduced the length of the race for 2019. Instead of racing between 45 and 60 miles each day, teams will race between 30 to 35 miles a day.
As a result, the amount of entries doubled from a year ago, with 26 teams making the trip to Wyoming instead of 13. It’s not only made the race more competitive, but is drawing teams from places like Saskatchewan and Quebec, and growing awareness of the sport in those locations.
“They needed to make a change, and the bigger field is really exciting. We don’t know quite what to expect with some of the new mushers. We won’t win by an hour, but we’ll still be dominant,” said Buddy.
Buddy’s confidence is fueled by his claim that the changes are perfect for his team.
“Our kennel’s focus for 40 years though has been sprint and speed style racing. We have the fastest dog team in the world, and can really maximize our ability,” Buddy said.
One things for sure, mushers all over the world will be tuning in on Jan. 25 to see if the Streeper’s dominance will continue.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.