GWINN - Changes made to the Jack Pine 30 route this year appear to have been successful, according to race officials.
"I thought the race went really well," said Jack Pine Mushers Association President Darlene Walch. "The changes to the trail were great."
Fifteen six-dog teams departed from Gwinn Saturday morning in the 10th running of the race, bringing big excitement to the sportsman's class race.
Like the U.P. 200 and the Midnight Run, the Jack Pine 30 was rerouted from its usual course due to lack of snow around the Marquette area. Those changes, however, made for a great trail.
"The changes in the trail allowed the mileage to be almost the same," Walch said.
Usually running 30 miles from Gwinn to Marquette, the revised route ended at County Road 480 near the Lindberg and Sons gravel pit. An added loop brought the length up to 26 miles and cut out several road crossings that are usually required on the way into Marquette.
Musher Anthony Cronick of Florence, Wis., takes off from the start of the Jack Pine 30 in Gwinn on Saturday. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Jack Pine 30 musher Niina Baum goes through the required pre-race bag check with volunteer Anais Fischer. Fischer, a French student studying at Northern Michigan University this semester, is part of an event management class at the university that volunteered with the race. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"It added something like eight miles," Walch said, adding the extra loop was charted thanks to volunteers Kent Koehn and Paul Nelson.
Taking first place in the Jack Pine this year with a time of two hours, 20 minutes and 16 seconds was Ailena Baum of Kennan, Wis. A former Midnight Run competitor, Baum said the Jack Pine this year was "awesome."
"The trail was fast and hard and the dogs were just flying," she said.
Leaving second out of the starting gate, Baum soon found herself out in front.
"It's very much just you and the dogs," she said. "You've got this pressure from behind."
Coming from a family of mushers, Baum's younger sister Niina Baum, 16, also ran the race, coming in fourth with a time of two hours, 30 minutes and 20 seconds.
"It's a family sport," Ailena Baum said. "Everybody is involved."
Taking second in the Jack Pine this year was Laura Bontrager of McMillan, with a time of two hours, 26 minutes and 2 seconds, followed by Jackie Winkowski of Gwinn with a time of two hours, 28 minutes and seven seconds.
A six-dog race, the Jack Pine is a competitive venue for smaller kennels and less experienced mushers. Teams in the Jack Pine often move up to longer races, such as the Midnight Run, in following years.
Assisting at the Jack Pine, and at the other races this weekend, were students from the event management class at Northern Michigan University, including four international students from Finland and France.
"We are here to help and see what it takes to get these events happening," said Atte Ahapainen, one of the Finnish students.
The class allows students to get involved in planning and carrying out large community events, such as the U.P. 200 and the Noquemanon Ski Marathon.
"It's a totally new experience for us, so it's great," Ahapainen said.
The four students, including Emmi Hyvarinen and Saara Hautajarvi of Finland and Anais Fischer of France, are business students here for the semester.
Following the race, competitors gathered for an awards ceremony at UpFront & Co. in Marquette. The top eight finishers received wood burned plaques.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.