Ellis Wins Su Valley Championship
In the first championship sprint race of the season, Willow's Egil Ellis won the open class. The 34th Susitna Valley Championship sled dog race held over January 6th and 7th saw Ellis finish with a total time of 60 minutes 30 seconds, just 42 seconds better than Seward's Daryl Hollingsworth.Ellis trailed Hollingsworth by nine seconds after Saturday's first run. The soft deep snow slowed many teams on the Saturday, but the second day saw a packed fast trail, and Ellis posted the fastest run over the 10.5-mile course on Sunday, averaging 21.6 mph with his 14-dog team. Ellis' win earned him $960 out of the $10,000 purse that was split among four classes. Last year's champion, Bill Kornmuller of Willow, was also close behind in third.Kris Rasey of Anchorage won the 5-mile, 4-dog race, finishing in a two-day total time of 28:59.Jennifer Probert of Fairbanks claimed the 6.5-mile, 6-dog race, finishing in 37:57 and averaging 20.8 mph on her second-day run. Beverley Stevens placed second, and three mushers – Amanda Byrd, Bud Rice and Jennifer Payne, tied for an overall time for third, a result rarely heard of in dog racing.Helen Lundberg of Willow averaged 21.1 mph on her second-day run to win the 8.5-mile, 8-dog race in 48:57, followed by Jeff Conn of Fairbanks with a time of 51:54 over the two days, averaging 20.2 mph on the second day. The race attracted a large field due to both the snow conditions in other areas of the state and the large purse offered. The trail was well marked, the race was well organized and all mushers were very pleased with the race. Trail groomers had worked tirelessly over the preceding week to prepare the trail after the record snowfall in early January.