Trio of Chugiak mushers among early Iditarod entrants

Thursday, July 13, 2017 - 12:01
  • Star file photo/Matt Tunseth Chugiak’s Jim Lanier leaves the starting chute during the start of the 2012 Iditarod on March 4, 2012 in Willow.

Three Chugiak mushers signed up for the 2018 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, June 24, the first day for entries into the annual race to Nome.

Among the 52 entrants who signed up on the first day to enter were veteran mushers Jim Lanier and Mike Suprenant, along with rookie Tom Schonberger.

Lanier, a 76-year-old retired doctor, has completed the race 16 times in five different decades, most recently finishing 35th in 2013. Lanier scratched in 2014, ‘15 and ‘16 and withdrew before the 2017 race in March due to a knee injury.

Raised in Fargo, North Dakota, Lanier came to Alaska in 1967 after graduating medical school and has been here ever since. He operates Northern Whites Kennel at his Chugiak home with his wife, fellow Iditarod finisher Anna Bondarenko. Lanier is also the author of “Beyond Ophir,” a book about his experiences in the Iditarod.

Suprenant has entered the Iditarod five times, with his only finish coming in 2009, when he was 49th. The 2018 race will be his first since 2013, when he scratched at the Iditarod checkpoint after more than six days on the trail.

A 52-year-old retired Air Force avionics technician who now works as a private government contractor, Suprenant moved to Alaska in 1997 with the Air Force and decided to stay, according to his official race biography.

Schonberger, 49, will be running his first Iditarod. Like Suprenant, he came to Alaska via the Air Force. He now operates TouchMeNot Kennel out of his home with his wife, Mary. A familiar face at Chugiak Dog Mushers Association events, Schonberger runs purebred Siberian Huskies, a larger, thicker-coated dog than the sleek, selectively bred mutts favored by most modern mushers.

To mark the occasion of the first day to sign up, the race held its annual summertime picnic at race headquarters in Wasilla. During the event, the race honored its volunteers with a sockeye salmon lunch and held a drawing for two free entries into the race. Winning the $4,000 entry fee were Two Rivers rookie Shaynee Traska and Willow’s Joar Leifseth Ulsom.

Entries into the 2018 event will be taken through Friday, Dec. 1.

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