From Brockport to Alaska: an Iditarod odyssey
Since its inception in 1973, The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has been an annual event across Alaska. In mid-March of 2016, Brockport teen Noah Pereira participated in “The Last Great Race” for the first time.
Pereira, a 19-year-old musher who was born and raised in Brockport, has been dog sled racing since 2009. As a participant in the Junior Iditarod in 2013, Pereira was the first non-Alaskan to win the event in the race’s history. This year, he made the jump to the Iditarod, finishing in 55th place out of 85 participants with a time of 11 days, 10 hours and 41 minutes.
“I was really fortunate through the people I met to be able to get a good start,” Pereira said. “The first time I experienced sled dogs was in 5th grade in Brockport. That was where I was convinced. From then on, doors started opening up and I was lucky enough to take advantage of the opportunities. Now I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
According to Iditarod.com, “The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route … In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in; again by intrepid dog mushers and their faithful hard-driving dogs. Throughout the years, the sled dogs were important to day to day life in the villages and throughout Alaska.”
The Iditarod Trail, which spans over 1,150 miles across Alaska, begins in Anchorage and consists of 21 subsequent checkpoints, concluding in Nome.
Pereira was the youngest participant in the race this year and was accompanied by a young team of dogs; he wasn’t looking to be a front-runner. Rather, his goal was to finish the race while continuing to build a bond with his team.
“Mushers have different views, but in my mind the more you trust your dog team, the more your dog team trusts you and the better you’re going to be in the race,” Pereira said. “You can get them to do things they’re not quite sure about because they trust you and that you’ll get them through it.”
Even though he hasn’t been able to return home since finishing his rookie Iditarod March 18, Pereira felt support from the Brockport community.
“The community support has been great,” Pereira said. “I’ve had people all over sending me congratulations. There’s been a lot of support back home and I’m really lucky for that. Spreading awareness and anything like that helps. Most of the ‘big time’ mushers, kind of like NASCAR, get major sponsors and they display them all over. So all of the publicity I can get locally really helps.”
Going forward, Pereira plans to continue participating in either the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race for the next five years, all the while continuing to build his own team of dogs. This year, five of Pereira’s 16 dogs were his own, with the rest owned by Iditarod fourth place finisher Wade Marrs.
“All year prior to the race I was training with the dogs I used,” Pereira said. “I had been feeding them, cleaning up after them and building up that bond every day. So it wasn’t like they were new dogs to me, they were just owned by somebody else. Next year my plan is to have all my own dogs and hopefully become more and more competitive as they get older. I think I have a pretty solid core group of dogs coming up and my goal within five years is to finish in the top five of either the Iditarod or Yukon Classic.”
Pereira says he plans to stay in Alaska for the time being to continue training his team of dogs full time in preparation for the upcoming races. He says there is a chance he will return to Brockport later this year to visit family and friends, but in the meantime he is remaining focused on bettering himself and his team for the future.
Those interested in learning more about Pereira and his dogs can visit noahpereirakennel.com for more information.
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