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Northwestern Ontario musher heads to Beargrease after Gunflint victory

Jan 24, 2018 07:02AM ● Published by Editor

Joanna Oberg, who lives north of Ignace, Ont. is a 2018 Gunflint Mail Run champion.

A northwestern Ontario musher is hoping to repeat her success in the recent Gunflint sled dog race in Minnesota, when she competes at the upcoming John Beargrease Mail Run. 

Joanna Oberg exceeded her own expectations at the Gunflint Mail Run, in Cook County, MN earlier this month, when she and her team of canines claimed victory in the 8 dog, 112 kilometre (70 mile) race. 

"I actually didn't honestly expect to win the race, but it was a nice surprise" said Oberg, from her home north of Ignace, Ont. where she runs the Agimac River hunting and fishing lodge, along with her parents.

Although Oberg has claimed 2nd and 3rd place titles in the race in previous years, she was racing a team of young dogs, and was up against some tough competition, she said. 

'She could have saved my race'

She got off to a good start, but in the final stretch of the race, Oberg said she ran into a potential problem. With darkness falling, the batteries on her headlamps were running dangerously low. 

That's when her main competitor  — a friend with whom she was neck and neck — stopped to offer help.

"She said 'oh no! Do you want to use my spare?' And she very graciously offered me the use of her spare headlamp."

"And she could have saved my race, for sure." 

It was an example of one of her favourite aspects of sled dog racing, said Oberg: the sense of community.

"And the whole mushing community, is really, there's a lot of great sportsmanship and camaraderie," she said. "We're all just really good friends."

Beargrease bound

She'll face off against many of those same friends at the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, which kicks off the weekend of January 26, in Duluth, MN. 

Oberg will compete in the two-day mid-distance race, which begins on Sunday. 

It will be challenge said Oberg, who said she'll once again be running with a young team, including a yearling that's never raced before.

She said her Gunflint victory does give her hope that she can give the front-runners "a run for their money," but winning is not her sole focus. 

"My goal is always to finish with all members of the team healthy and happy," she said. "After that you just kind of let the chips fall where they may."   

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