March 14, 2007


All in the family for Iditarod winner


Associated Press/Al Grillo
Lance Mackey, of Fairbanks, Alaska, kisses one of his lead dogs, Larry, left, after his Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race victory in Nome, Alaska Tuesday to become the first musher to win both the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in the same year.

Associated Press Writer

NOME, Alaska — Lance Mackey won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, becoming the first musher to win major long-distance North American sled dog races back-to-back.
Mackey crossed under the famed burled arch in downtown Nome early Tuesday evening, completing the 1,100-mile Iditarod in nine days, five hours and eight minutes.
He celebrated as he came down Nome’s Front Street, alternately waving a fist in the air, then high-fiving some of the estimated 1,000 fans who lined the street, braving subzero temperatures. His family mobbed him at the finish line.
“Dreams do come true, Mama, they do,” Mackey said after the race, fighting back tears.
“This is my passion,” he told reporters, adding he was proud to follow in his father’s footsteps and joked about being thankful his father was a musher and not a lawyer.
“It’s our lifestyle, it’s something we breathe, eat and sleep,” he said of the Mackey family’s love of mushing. “This is what we do.
“This is a damn dream that I’ve been living, you know, dreaming about since I was a little, little boy when my dad won this race,” he said.
On Feb. 20, Mackey won his third consecutive Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, a 1,000 mile race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon.
With only 12 days rest, Mackey took 13 of his 16 dogs from the Yukon Quest to Willow for the March 4 official start of the Iditarod. In the two races, the dog team covered a distance equivalent to mushing from Boston to Salt Lake City.
Mackey, 36, joins his father, Dick, and brother, Rick, as Iditarod champions. Both won the race wearing bib No. 13 and each the sixth time they ran the Iditarod. Lance Mackey camped out for days at the Iditarod headquarters last June to be the first person to sign up for this year’s race in order to select the No. 13 bib.
“I didn’t know exactly what this bib was going to do for me, but what an honor,” said Mackey, also competing in his sixth race.
“This is the most cherished piece of memorabilia I’ll ever own,” said Mackey, with frost hanging off his goatee.
Many mushers have long believed it would not be possible to win both races in the same year with the same dogs because the animals would need more time to recover from one grueling race before launching off on another. But Mackey said he wasn’t pushed much in the Yukon Quest, and it served as a good mental and physical training run for the dogs.
“I kept saying I want to be the one to prove that wrong. For those who don’t believe it can be done, I thrive on underestimation. Don’t ever doubt that I can’t do something, I lived through cancer,” he said.
Canadian Hans Gatt, 49, a three-time Quest winner who was also runner-up to Mackey twice, said Mackey’s team was the best-looking team on the Iditarod trail this year. Instead of tiring, his team recovered faster than any of the others after long runs between checkpoints and maintained their speed.
“I can’t run my dogs like that,” Gatt, of Whitehorse, said Tuesday, almost 100 miles back on the trail. “He obviously has figured out something we have not figured out yet.”
Mackey was the first musher early Tuesday morning to the White Mountain checkpoint, about 80 miles from the finish line and where mushers must take a mandatory eight-hour rest. He built a two-and-a-half hour lead over the second musher into White Mountain, Paul Gebhardt, 50, of Kasilof.
Sled dog racing is a sport where mushers perform more for glory than big-time payouts, having to rely heavily on sponsorships to continue feeding their dogs.
For winning the world’s longest sled-dog race, Mackey will pocket $69,000 and be handed the keys to a $41,000 pickup.
Mackey has been thinking about that truck along the trail and for good reason. One year, when he was trying to get to the start of the Quest, he was fined $500 for missing a meeting for mushers. The reason he was late was that the two trucks he was driving broke down. One lost an engine and the transmission went out in the other.
Just before this year’s race, he splurged on a used, 14-year-old pickup.
Thrusting both arms high in the air, he yelled out an elongated, “Yeah! Oh, the truck!”
He plans to paint the truck, but is not sure yet what color would look best with his dogs in it. “They’re going to look good in silver, black, blue, I don’t care if it’s hot pink, I’d be proud to drive it.”
Mackey, who has named his kennel Lance Mackey’s Comeback Kennel, was diagnosed with neck cancer in 2001 and underwent surgery and radiation.
With a feeding tube into his stomach and still undergoing cancer treatment, Mackey started the 2002 Iditarod but was forced to scratch in Ophir more than 400 miles from Anchorage. Mackey now is cancer-free. Mackey’s father, Dick Mackey, is considered one of the founders of the race, which began in 1973. Dick Mackey won in 1978. His brother, Rick, became champion in 1983.
This year’s Iditarod has been marked by poor trail conditions, causing an inordinate numbers of mushers — 21 — to scratch. One musher also took a wrong trail, prompting a search, and one dog died during the race.


Baseball squad stays perfect

The SUNY Cortland baseball team stayed perfect this spring with a Tuesday victory in Florida, while the softball team dropped a pair of games in California.
The baseball team, ranked sixth nationally in Division III, is now 6-0 after a 10-4 romp over Anderson (Ind.) in Port Charlotte, Fla. The softball team, ranked 20th among Division III squads nationally, fell to eighth-ranked host Chapman (Ca.) 4-3 and Biola (Ca.) 3-1 in the Sun West Tournament in Orange, Ca.
SUNY Cortland 10, Anderson (Ind.) 4
The Red Dragons scored four runs in the first inning and never looked back en route to the victory. Anderson Gardner (two doubles) and CHS alumnus Sean Caughey (two stolen bases) both went 4-for-5, while Anthony Coromato went 2-for-4. Starter Jon Rockfeld got the win in his first decision of the season, giving up eight hits and two earned runs with two strikeouts in six and a third innings.
Cortland was slated to play Carthage (Wis.) this afternoon in Port Charlotte.
Chapman 4, SUNY Cortland 3: The Red Dragons overcame a 3-0 deficit to tie the score at 3-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh and final inning, when Chapman pushed across the winning run.
Cortland scored both of its sixth-inning runs on the same play as Kate Yaun singled to shortstop, plating Annemarie Nelson, who had singled, and Kim Whitman, who was pinch-running for Shara Evanter, who had also singled.
Tina Milani walked to lead off the seventh and later scored on a single by Nicole Fredericks to tie the score. Nelson went 3-for-3 with a double and a run for the Red Dragons, while Fredericks was 2-for-4 with the RBI. Ang D’Amboise was the route-going losing pitcher.
Biola 3, SUNY Cortland 1: The winners were already up 3-0 when Cortland scored its only run in the top of the fourth on two of its three hits in the contest. Stefanie Cola singled to lead off the frame and two outs later scored when Nelson singled to shortstop and got caught in a rundown trying to advance to second. Milani’s first-inning single was the Red Dragons’ only other hit.
Katie Finch allowed only six hits but took the mound loss for Cortland (1-3), which was to face Puget Sound (Wa.) and Wesleyan (Ct.) today in the Sun West Tournament.


TC3 softball team drops pair of games

COCOA, FLA. — Tompkins Cortland Community College softball team’s spring training trip to Cocoa, Florida continued Tuesday morning with a doubleheader against Division II County College of Morris (N.J.). The Panthers looked sharp while falling 2-1 in the opener before getting sloppy and dropping the second game 16-2. TC3 is now 0-4, with all four losses coming to D-II teams.
TC3 played its best softball of the young season in game one. After allowing a run in the bottom of the fourth, TC3 answered in the top of the fifth. Samantha Lafer reached with a double and Laura Cushing pinch ran. Brittney Wilson delivered the run with a RBI single, tying the game. Unfortunately for the Panthers, an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth proved to be the difference.
Wilson took the loss in the circle despite striking out six and allowing just five hits over six innings. Wilson led the team at the plate by going 2-for-3.
As good as game one was, game two was the opposite. TC3 fell behind 7-0 before coming to bat in the first inning en route to a lopsided loss. The team collected just three hits while committing six errors. Amber Coulthart provided a bright spot with two stolen bases and a run scored while Cortland High graduate Rose Dovi ripped her second triple of the season. Pitcher Sarah Helm received little help while taking the loss with just five of the 16 runs she allowed being earned.