Lina Streeper accepts her trophy at the Roundhouse in Evanston Saturday night. (HERALD PHOTO/Cal Tatum)
For 22 years Wyoming has been the home of the Pedigree® Stage Stop sled dog race. This race is now the second largest sled dog race in America. When you have a race this well recognized, it attracts the most prolific names in the sport, human names that is, but it is all about the dogs.
“The real athletes of this race, of course, are the dogs,” said Race Director Dan Carpenter at the awards ceremony held Saturday at the Roundhouse in Evanston. “The interesting thing about these athletes is that they are not interested in fortune or fame. They only want to work together as a team, pull their human around and run through the countryside.”
One team ran through the countryside exceptionally well, the team Streeper dogs.
Lina Streeper from Ft. Nelson, B.C., won the race by completing all stages in a little more than 23 hours and took home $12,000 plus. The name Streeper is not unfamiliar with fans of the Pedigree® Stage Stop race. Lina’s husband Blayne “Buddy” Streeper has won the event seven times.
Lina was in the lead on the last day of the event. The final leg started at Bear River Lodge just south of Evanston.
“I woke up and looked outside at nothing but white,” said media director Roger Carpenter. “I was told we were going to have strong winds all day on the last day of the race. Then the sky cleared and the weather warmed up just in time for the start. Out on the trail the weather varied all day.”
Despite the weather, the dogs were ready to go. They had the sleds tied up to snowmobiles to keep the dogs anchored. They pulled and barked and couldn’t wait to hit the trail and run more than 40 miles.
When the dogs returned at the end of the day their enthusiasm had hardly waned. The mushers were feeling much more tired than the dogs.
The dogs pull a small sleigh that can weigh between 30 and 50 pounds. There is enough food for the dogs — about a pound of food for each dog — water and some food for the musher.
Lina Streeper was born in Sweden and has always had a passion for dogs, especially working dogs.
“When I was young I would go hunting with my grandfather,” she said. “I just liked to go because he had a hound and it was enjoyable to work with the dog.”
When she was 12 years old, some people moved in down the road from her home and they had sled dogs.
“I started hanging out there all the time,” she said. “I would go and feed the dogs, work with them. It was so much fun. I guess I was working there but it didn’t seem like to work to me because I enjoyed the dogs so much.”
When she turned 15 years old, she talked her father into getting her a Husky so she could ski-journ.
“It didn’t stop there,” said Lina, “once you have one dog then you need another dog and then another.”
In Sweden, when a young person gets a little older, they can choose what school they want to go to that will best suit their career choice, Lina said.
“I decided I wanted to study space science,” she said. “Mostly because the school was above the Arctic Circle and there were more opportunities to work with sled dogs. The town the school is in is known as Sweden’s Fairbanks. In Alaska, Fairbanks is known for their sled dogs.”
Then fate stepped in and she met Blayne “Buddy” Streeper.
“Blayne and his father Terry came over from Canada to compete in a sled dog race,” she said. “We got to know each other and stayed in contact. Then I decided to move to Canada and work at their kennel. Now we have two lovely daughters, six and four years old.”
“Buddy” and Lina continue to compete successfully throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“We enjoy our life,” Lina said. “Everything we do is centered around our children and the dogs. It’s a passion we share.”
Her father-in-law, Terry Streeper, who is also a successful musher, is very proud of his son and daughter-in-law.
“I have been involved with sled dogs for more than 40 years,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything about my life. Everyone involved in this sport is like family. To have my son and now my daughter-in-law involved just makes it even better.”
Race Director Dan Carpenter said this year’s race was one of the closest races in their history. The Kemmerer leg had a difference of .01 of a second between first and second place.
Dave Torgeson from Red Lodge, Mont. was second. He competed in more than 50 races between 1989 and 2000. He stopped competing for a while but stayed involved in the sport. Finally, he decided to take up racing again.
Third place was Bruce Magnussen from Manchester, Mich. This was his 12th consecutive Pedigree® Stage Stop race.
Fourth place was JR Anderson from Buyck, Minn., whohas been involved in the sport for more than 20 years.
Another longtime racer was Jerry Bath, from Lander. He finished in fifth place this year but has always finished in the top ten.
Dennis Labota, from Hoveland, Minn., finished sixth. Dennis has had numerous wins and top ten finishes in his 40 years of compteting.
Jeff Conn from Ester, Alaska, finished in seventh place.
Alix Crittendon from Bondurant finished in eighth place. Crittendon and her husband work as hunting and fishing guides and run their kennel. Alix has been very competitive on the Stage Stop sled dog race.
All of the racers thanked all the host communities along the way and their numerous sponsors who make the race possible.