Dr. Jereld Rice is not a quitter.
After finishing dead last in the grueling 2018 Eagle Cap Extreme 200-mile race, Rice changed tactics and won this year’s 100-mile event.
Only a second year musher, he beat a field of eight experienced mushers with a time of 18 hours, 20 minutes on Jan. 25. “It was a real race,” he said.
Second place winner David Hassilev of Priest River, Idaho was only six minutes behind Rice, with third-place finisher Roy Etnire of Seeley Lake, Montana another 20 minutes behind.
Rice also took home the ECX Veterinarian’s award for the best-kept team in the 100-mile race. “This award considers the musher’s organization, efficiency of care for their team, how well the musher can quiet the dogs and get them to rest when they need to,” said head veterinarian Dr. Kathleen McGill. “But most important is the respect the musher has for the dogs. When we can see a connection, we know there is something special going on.”
In the closely-contested mid-distance race, a total of 62 miles over two days, local favorite Morgan Anderson tied for second place with Dina Lund of Okanagan, Washington, both with times of six hours 53 minutes. They were just two minutes faster than fourth place finisher Jane Devlin of Bend. Race winner Miriam Osredkar won with a time of six hours, 28 minutes. Osredkar won the 200-mile race last year, but decided to run the shorter event this year as a training event for her “puppy” team of one and two year-old Alaskan Huskies.
The father-son teams of Brett Bruggeman and Spencer Bruggeman, both of Great Falls, Montana, dominated the premier 200-mile event. They ran most of the course together, averaging almost 20 mph for the first half of the race. Spencer won the event in a time of 31 hours 51 minutes, while his father, Brett crossed the finish line in 31 hours, 57 minutes.
“I want to thank our dogs,” Brett said. “I think of our dogs as champions. When we are back in the kennels and we look at each other, we all know that we have given our very best.”
Best-kept team award in the 200-mile race went to Gabe Dunham of Darby, Montana, who placed third. “I think this is more coveted than winning first place,” she said.
Weather and trail conditions seemed ideal for the race. However, the relatively warm sunny weather, particularly for this time of year, proved a challenge for some teams, causing the active dogs to overheat and mushers to rest their teams or drop dogs more than in cooler years. Brett and Spencer Bruggeman, 200 mile winners, rested their dogs by carrying one or two in their sleds for the last 50 miles of the race.
Every year a hero emerges in the Eagle Cap Extreme. This year it was Roy Etnire. Roy, who finished third in the 100 mile race, rounded a corner on the trail and found that Hugo Antonucci’s sled had gone off the trail and tipped over. Hugo was fine, but his dogs had vanished. It took an eight-mile run to find and corral Hugo’s dogs, plus more time to return them to Hugo’s sled.
Two Oregon Public Broadcasting crews filmed the race, focusing on local musher Morgan Anderson, and the father-son duet of Brett and Spencer Bruggeman. The story will air on Oregon Field Guide later this year, according to producer Ian McCluskey.