Mush! High school senior Greta Thurston is dog sled race champ
Forget the dog days of summer. Local high school senior Greta Thurston will take the dog days of winter.
That’s because Thurston’s passion is pooches, in particular, racing them. And she’s doggone good at it.
“She did three dog sled races around the country last year and won all of them, competing against adults,” says father Tom, a four-time Iditarod racer. “And on one of them she set a course record.”
On that one, the Bachelor Butte Dog Derby, in Bend, Oregon, she blistered the course in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 35 seconds, minutes ahead of the next closest racer.
“We weren’t expecting to set the record,” she says. “On the first day, we were four minutes off, so on day two I calculated that for every six miles, we’d need to shave off a minute. I didn’t want to push the dogs but the trail conditions were good and my team had great energy, which helped everything fall into place.”
Greta did nearly as well at 100th anniversary of the American Dog Derby in Ashton, Idaho, finishing in 1:38:47, five minutes ahead of the second-place finisher. And she kept the streak going at the Colorado Mountain Mushers Snow Mountain Ranch II race, which she also handily won.
“I think it’s because of all the extra time we put into training,” she says. “I knew my team inside and out and they knew me. I could tell if a dog was having a bad day or if her gait was off. At the races, I knew that we’d worked as hard as we could; the only thing left was to have fun and do our best.”
With her dog team including such faithful trotters as Faith, Gretzsky, Heath, Hobbs, Katness, Kiersten, Maurice, Muenster, Pippin and Sam, Thurston plans to compete in four big races this winter.
“I’m excited to do some harder races and train some new dogs,” she says. “And I know more what to expect.”
Her father feels she can expect more wins if she keeps at it. “It comes naturally for her,” says Tom. “Plus she has the dedication. Add our caliber of dogs and my own experience, and it’s a great combination.”
Most importantly, it’s something she loves.
“It’s not just about racing,” she says. “It’s everything leading up to it — the 365 days a year of feeding, watering and caring for the dogs, and waking up at 5 a.m. to take them on a training run before school. It’s hard work but it pays off.”
And the bottom line is being out there with the dogs themselves.
“I love spending time with them doing what they love to do,” she says. “The most rewarding thing is the bond created between the musher and the dogs. It’s an amazing feeling to rely on your dogs and have all your practice pay off.”
This story originally ran in Steamboat Living magazine.
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