GRAND MARAIS & MARQUETTE, Mich. — On Saturday, cheers and excitement could be heard all across Grand Marais. It was all for mushers and their sled dogs making it to the second checkpoint of the UP200, according to a report from NBC affiliate TV6.
Through the frigid and snowy conditions, Ryan Anderson of St. Croix Falls, Wisc. was the first to cross the line.
“For most of the run, it was really nice and pleasant,” said Anderson. “It was about maybe two hours before we got to Wetmore when it started snowing and blowing pretty good. It was a hard time even seeing the dogs.”
Over 100 people showed up at the Frank W. Mead Community Center to witness the conclusion of the race’s second leg. Among those was Jeannie Kain, the owner of Grand Marais Outfitters who moved to the area in November. This was her first UP200.
“It’s like nothing I ever saw before,” Kain stated. “You never hear about this race downstate. I’ve lived my whole life not even knowing about the UP200, and it was so exciting.”
Mushers did not start arriving until around 2:30 in the afternoon. Meanwhile, spectators were able to buy apparel and have some food, while also keeping track of the race.
Ann Stevens of Ann Arbor was in town for the weekend and enjoyed the race for the second time.
“It’s just a fun experience,” she said. “I love watching the dogs. It’s just really exciting to watch them come towards the end after they turn the corner by Woodland Park.”
Anderson has participated in the event since 2004. He likes seeing the spectators before taking a rest.
“It’s always nice to see the spectators out, even when the weather is not so good,” he said. “It’s always good to get here. It’s always good to get a little nap, too.”
The mushers will complete the third leg of the race in Wetmore overnight. They will finish at Lower Harbor Park in Marquette midday Sunday.
Ryan Anderson was the victor Sunday, crossing the finish line in Marquette at 1:28 p.m. This is his ninth first-place finish at the event.
The Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association says he was the favorite to win. “Everybody knew when Ryan registered it’s like, ‘Okay, you’ll get a run for your money,’” UPSDA President Darlene Walch said.
Wade Marrs from Willow, Alaska took second, coming in 19 minutes later at 1:47 p.m. This was his first UP200.
The UPSDA adds the competition this year has been intense. “There was about an hour this morning when it was quite interesting because we were watching the spot trackers and realized that Wade and Nick Vigilante were running in front, and you never know how it’s going to turn out,” Walch said.
Nick Vigilante from Ely, Minn. rounded out the top racers, finishing in third place at 2:04 p.m.
The UPSDA says the weather in Alger County made this year’s 228-mile event one of the most challenging yet. “The east side picked up anywhere from 12 to 20 inches of snow on our groomed trail so that made it very challenging, and then the winds were just howling,” Walch said. “It was visibility as well as deep snow that made it tough.”
Five of the original 12 racers withdrew due to weather conditions. The race marshal also decided on a split finish, meaning Ashley Patterson and Brian Kandler finished outside the Ojibwa Casino in Chocolay Township.
The remaining five crossed at Mattson Lower Harbor Park. “I wanted to have the finishers be able to successfully get into Marquette, but if they are running later, as everybody is running later this year, then we start to have safety concerns,” Walch said.
First, through third place take home a combined $10,800. The money will be presented at Monday morning’s awards ceremony which is only open to mushers and their families.