Two Harbors musher takes seventh in Maine dog sled raceFor Ward Wallin, 13 turned out to be a pretty lucky number. The Two Harbors musher, wearing bib 13, finished seventh overall at the annual Can Am Crown International 250 Sled Dog Race this past weekend. Wallin, 50, covered the racecourse with a run time of 34:24:29, just seconds behind fellow Minnesotan and sixth place finisher Vern Schroeder of Warba.
By: Julia Bayly, Lake County News Chronicle
For Ward Wallin, 13 turned out to be a pretty lucky number.
The Two Harbors musher, wearing bib 13, finished seventh overall at the annual Can Am Crown International 250 Sled Dog Race this past weekend.
Wallin, 50, covered the racecourse with a run time of 34:24:29, just seconds behind fellow Minnesotan and sixth place finisher Vern Schroeder of Warba.
The two men had traveled to Maine with Ryan Anderson of Ray, who earlier Monday morning crossed the Can Am Crown 250 finish line in first place.
“I’m very happy with my finish and with my dogs,” Wallin said at the finish line Monday morning. “Everything was really clicking for us.”
Two days earlier Wallin and his team of 12 Alaskan huskies headed out of Fort Kent at the start of the race and into an early March snowstorm that ultimately dumped 10 inches of snow on the trail.
Just a week earlier a major storm had left volunteers with more than two-feet of new snow to groom into a racecourse.
“We have snow at home, just not this much,” Wallin said as he prepared his team and gear Saturday morning. “We were able to train all season on some snow on a hard (packed) trail and it’s nice to see the big snows here.”
Wallin said he had 1,900 training miles on his team and his only goal was to start and finish the race.
“We had done a lot of training this year for the (John) Beargrease (Marathon) which got cancelled,” he said.
Given the conditions, Wallin said it was his plan to take it easy on the first 69-mile race leg into Portage Lake, Maine.
“From there it’s going to depend on how they look after we get there,” he said Saturday. “With this race there are such short (mandatory) rest times built in I will not hesitate to take more than the minimum.”
Wallin has made a bit of a reputation for himself thanks to the colorful fleece outerwear he sports on race day, compliments of some fashion advice from his children.
This year his two sons – Ian, 13, and Ero, 9, presented their father with a Star Wars Clone Fighter to ride along as a good luck charm.
After leaving Fort Kent Wallin said he passed Anderson – who had departed just ahead of him – several miles out of town.
“I told him I’d see him later,” Wallin laughed at the finish. “And I did in Portage four hours later and that was it.”
Overall Wallin said he was happy with his race – save for a few of what he termed “putzy mistakes.”
Toward the end one of his dogs appeared overtired, so Wallin said he removed him from the team and placed him in the sled bag.
Wallin credits a surprise performance from his dog Bootstrap Bill Turner with getting them over the final miles of the race to the finish.
“I’d not run him in lead but last night when we were all tired I put him in lead and he’s the one that really wanted to go,” he said.
Wallin and Schroeder ended up running those final miles into Fort Kent together and, knowing Anderson had finished long before, were joking the top placer among the three would do all the driving the entire way back to Minnesota.
As for Schroeder, who is five years older than Wallin, passing him in the last few miles to come in ahead of him, Wallin joked, “It was senior citizens’ day so I held back for Vern.”