WolfTrack Classic set for Feb. 27

by Micah Larson
For the 14th year and running, mushers and their dogs from across the continent and spanning all age groups will converge here in Ely, “The Sled Dog Capital,” for the annual WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race.
The race is back from a COVID-restricted version of the event which completely prohibited spectators and scrapped the musher’s dinner which always preceded the event on the day before the race.
All normally scheduled features of the event are back up and running, beginning with the mushers spaghetti dinner on Feb. 26, at Vermilion Community College this year and is sponsored by VCC’s Wilderness Club. Both mushers and the public are welcome with tickets available at the door.
Race day is Sunday, Feb. 27 and features around 50 teams participating in both the six and eight-dog team races.
Mushers will begin the race at the Ely Softball Complex and eight-dog teams will race the 50-mile course which follows the Taconite Trail out of town, crossing both Hwy. 1 and Hwy. 21, and winding through the surrounding Ely woods before returning to the finish line.
Six-dog teams will race a similar course, but a shortened 30-mile version and should make their way to the finish line by about noon, all dependent on weather and course conditions.
There are some familiar names taking to the trails next weekend, including the reigning eight-dog WolfTrack champion, Mike Bestgen, coming off an excellent second place run in the Beargrease 120 and the Minnetonka Klondike Dog Derby. It will be a tight race for the title, with Nick Turman and Ero Wallin close contenders.
Racing alongside the veterans will be some junior mushers including 11-year-old Elyite Elena Freking, running a spectacular team of Siberian Huskies. She is looking great going into her second race ever, after a strong performance at the Minnetonka Dog Derby.
She will be running her dogs along with her mom, Dr. Jennifer Freking. 14-year-olds Maddoux Erickson and Kara Granroth will join the junior mushing lineup as well.
Ely Chamber event director Ellen Cashman stressed the history and one-of-a-kind spirit of the race, along with the importance to Ely that the race has gained over the years.
“This is an exciting community event unique to Ely. Ely was proclaimed the ‘Sled Dog Capital’ by Mayor Grahek during the once-famous Ely All American Sled Dog Race. When the All American was at its height, 100 teams arrived from all over the US including many from Alaska.”
All of these racers need some cheering, and spectators are encouraged to cheer at the start and finish lines, as well as congratulate mushers at the awards presentation at the Grand Ely Lodge, following the races.
Cashman urged, “Please give the teams a big, warm Ely welcome!”