Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Capturing dogged determination — Documentary follows Junior Iditarod musher from training to finish

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

What’s it like to be 14 years old on the runners of a dog sled mushing in the most prestigious junior mushing race in Alaska?

For 26 minutes, audiences can find out.

“Trails North — One Girl’s Quest to Run the Junior Iditarod,” is a 26-minute documentary film following Meredith Mapes, a young musher from Wasilla, as she trains for and races in the 2008 Junior Iditarod. The film will be shown at 4 p.m. Saturday at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Admission is free.

Joe Rizzo, president of Triumvirate, got a grant to film the documentary with his daughter, Miranda, who is a junior mushing fanatic herself. Bob Mabrey, who has a production studio in Nikiski, helped with the filming.

The documentary follows Mapes as she trains for the race in the summer of 2007 up through running the Junior Iditarod on Feb. 28, 2008.

“We wanted to do something on the Iditarod and have a way to teach kids about the Iditarod in a way that would capture their interest and attention, so we thought by documenting someone their age in the Junior Iditarod race we could also convey information about the big race to them,” Rizzo said.

There are interviews with Mapes, her parents, one of the founders of the Junior Iditarod, and a special guest appearance by musher Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. During the race, the Rizzos took a snowmachine out to Yentna Station checkpoint and filmed and interviewed mushers as they came in to rest.

Meeting the mushers was the highlight for Miranda.

“It was really fun. I got to meet Meredith, she’s my new friend now. It was fun meeting Libby and going on a dog sled ride and learning lots of new stuff. It was exciting to see Meredith coming in. I waited out there until she got in,” Miranda said.

She said the film would be especially good for other young mushers to watch, because they’ll learn about what it’s like to be in Junior Iditarod and about mushing in general.

Rizzo said he was impressed to learn the determination the kids have in training for and competing in a 140-mile, two-day race.

“That’s a tremendously long way to go on a dog sled. It’s a long ways on a snowmachine, much less dog sled,” he said.

Copies of “Trails North” are on sale for $10 and will be available at Triumvirate.

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