Associated Press
Mike Williams Jr., currently in 11th place, hands his dog records to veterinarian Bruce Nwadike at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod.

Seavey Wins Second Iditarod Title, Williams Jr. Leading AK Native Contingent

Richard Walker
3/11/14

For Alaska Native mushers, the Iditarod is more than a competition; it’s a way to keep alive the traditional form of travel on the routes of the ancestors. “We have the dogs and we have the history,” Williams Sr. said.

Josh Cadzow, a 27-year-old Athabascan from Fort Yukon who had one of the most impressive performances of the 2013 Iditarod, sat out the 2014 race because “I have a young kennel and no money, no sponsors.”

Cadzow has 35 dogs. He estimates the cost of training his team for the Iditarod at about $30,000. That covers food, travel, veterinary care, and his time off work to train. He works construction, and in the off-season traps or hauls wood. With a sponsorship, he could quit working in September to train with his team.

Cadzow seems to be a good investment. In 2013, he finished 14th in the Iditarod as a rookie – ahead of past champs Martin Buser, Lance Mackey and John Baker. That year, he also finished eighth in the Kuskokwim 300 and ninth in the Kobuk 440. In 2010, he finished seventh in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest and was named rookie of the year, and finished third in the Copper Basin 300.

Cadzow has received support from his Alaska Native corporation, Doyon, but he said the corporation’s sponsorship funds are limited. “You need a corporate sponsor,” he said.  

Akiak got a half-day of snow in the winter months prior to the Iditarod, Williams Sr. said, which means that local training conditions were poor. “We’ve been training on glare ice all winter,” he said. Sponsorship money would have enabled Mike Williams Jr. and his team to travel farther so they could test their mettle in pre-Iditarod races.

“We limited our miles because of the cost,” Williams Sr. said.

Juggling training with an 8 to 5 job is no easy task. Williams Sr. used to train his dogs 100 miles a day. Before work, he’d feed and water his team, cook their food on his lunch break, feed them at 5 p.m., run them for four to six hours, and call it quits around midnight. Then, he’d get up in five or six hours and start over.

Despite poor local training conditions this season, Williams Jr. and team finished 11th in the Kusko 300 and likely 11th in this year’s Iditarod. One can imagine how they might do with the resources to fully train.

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