Teen musher wins in Montana


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Alea Robinson, 17, won the 350-mile Race to the Sky sled dog race on Feb. 12 in Lincoln, Mont.

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Eagle River’s Alea Robinson, 17, won the Race to the Sky 350 Sled Dog Race Tuesday, Feb. 12 in Lincoln, Montana.

Robinson crossed the finish line at 9:51 a.m. local time, 30 seconds in front of Iditarod veteran Jessie Royer, to claim the top spot. Robinson’s mom, Lois Rockcastle, said her daughter was running a team of Royer’s dogs in the 350-mile race. She briefly had a chance to talk to Robinson over the phone following the finish.

“She was really excited,” Rockcastle said.

Rockcastle said her daughter was allowed a special excemption to enter the race, which normally only allows mushers age 18 and older.

Rockcastle planned to fly to Montana Tuesday to visit her daughter, who was a late addition to the race field. Robinson, a senior at Chugiak High, was actually in Malawi as part of the Alaska Pacific University high schol early honors program when Royer — her longtime mentor — called asking if she’d like to run.

“It’s great that Jessie let her have this opportunity,” Rockcastle said.

Royer has been Robinson’s mushing mentor since the Montana musher visited Robinson’s family in Bethel in 2000. There, Robinson helped take care of Royer’s dogs, and the pair have had a strong bond ever since.

“Virtually all of the dogs we have at home are from Jessie,” Rockcastle said.

Robinson isn’t the first teen to win the race. In 1994, Royer, then 17, became the youngest musher — and the first woman — to win the event when she crossed the finish line running a team of Doug Swingley’s dogs.

Rockcastle said her daughter’s professors in the honors program understood when Robinson told them she had to cut her overseas trip short to run dogs in Montana.

“They were pretty good about that,” she said.

Rockcastle said said her daughter finished with 10 of her original 12 dogs.

“I’m just really proud of her,” she said.

Robinson plans to return home to Eagle River later this week. Her next big race will be the Junior Iditarod next month.

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