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Teaming up the action
Arviat hosts snowmobile races, dog mushing on same weekend

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A number of the region's top dog mushers were in Arviat to compete in the Haqihaqtiit Society's three-day race earlier this month.

NNSL photo/graphic

Shawn Maley of Rankin Inlet battles through difficult conditions to take third place in the three-day Haqihaqtiit Society dog-mushing race in Arviat earlier this month. - photo courtesy of Olivia Tagalik

The race saw 12 mushers leave Arviat each day at two-minute intervals to travel the 40 miles to Qajugvik and back to Arviat.

Darryl Baker of Arviat won the event with a combined time of 12 hours 23 minutes and 54 seconds, while Arviat's Andrew Panigoniak placed second (12:36:10) and Shawn Maley of Rankin Inlet took third (12:43:27).

Maley said the race was a challenging event.

He said the organizers did a great job, but each day featured different weather conditions, with days one and two being treacherous.

"The weather turned really, really warm on the first day and, being an inland race, everything started to melt and the dogs were breaking through into slush," said Maley.

"The second day, we just got started when a real blizzard moved in and hit us so hard you couldn't see a thing out there.

"I was amazed everyone made it back OK.

"The last day was sunny and the snow hard-packed, which was good for the Rankin teams because that's what we like to run in."

Maley said this was the longest race he's ever competed in.

He said Rankin races tend to be about 30 miles and the extra 10 miles, or so, made a big difference.

"You were allowed eight dogs, but I was forced to carry one on the first day and didn't use him again.

"I started with eight, then went down to seven and finished the race with six.

"Those extra 10 miles felt like a hundred because of the conditions we were in.

"It was tough slogging that first day and the extra miles were hard miles."

Maley only took a spot messenger with him in case his team got into trouble.

He said other than a checkpoint person, you're on your own out there.

"My son, Jeremy, came to race in the Junior Division of the Ski-Doo races.

"When he was done at his races, he would rush to help me with the dog races.

"We went to Arviat from Rankin by Ski-Doo with the dogs in a box.

"We took our time, letting the dogs out every couple of hours, and it took us about 12 hours to get down there and nine to get back."

The cost of travel is a factor when it comes to how many events a racer will attend in the Kivalliq each year.

The racers use about the same amount of gas whether they're hauling their dogs or their racing machine.

Maley said Kivalliq dog mushing has become quite advanced, and has really taken off during the past 10 years.

He said you see a lot better quality of dog today, as well as much better feeding, caring and training.

"I was impressed with what I saw in Arviat because they had quality dog food, they train hard and they take excellent care of their dogs.

"It's come a long way, and the level of competition shows that because most guys start training in September and continue right through until April for these races.

"If you don't do the same, you're not going to be in the top four or five racers.

"It's, definitely, not like the old days anymore."

Maley said three mushers, in particular, deserve a lot of credit for the gradual improvement in Kivalliq dog mushing.

He said the late Robert Tatty, along with Harry Towtongie and David Oolooyuk deserve a lot of credit for the improvements people see today.

"Those guys started with traditional dog teams and then started bringing racers in many years ago.

"They recognized, back then, the benefits of higher-quality dogs and training, so they adopted them.

"Those three guys are the real reason why things have advanced so much in dog mushing over the years.

"Robert passed away a few years ago, but Harry and David still race and they have some of the best dogs, the most knowledge and the best training among all our racers."

Arviat Racing Club president Ryan St. John said it was a good marriage to have dog mushing run the same time as the Sam Napayok Memorial Challenge snowmobile race.

He said the first benefit to hosting them at the same time is the number of people from across the Kivalliq who come to the races.

"We had quite a few out-of-towners here, especially from Rankin Inlet, for both events," said St. John.

"It's always good for Arviat, as far as a bit of an economic boost, when you can bring in new money.

"A lot of guys would finish at one race and head right over to the other because, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you're racing, people who are into it are always interested in anything to do with racing.

"It was definitely a good combination to have in our community for a weekend."

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