Here’s proof dog sled racers are the coolest Montanans
If you were the defending champion of the state's premier sled dog race, do you think you'd have the generosity to help your closest challenger?
If you're multiple Race to the Sky champion Jesse Royer that's exactly what you'd do, as she swept to her second consecutive victory in the 300-mile race on the trails and roads between Seeley Lake and Lincoln Monday evening.
Royer, the Seeley Lake native, has won the race a total of 7 times, starting when she was just 17 years old and finishing the 500-mile race back in the day. That victory started her training for Alaska's famed Iditarod, the grueling 1,100-mile challenge where she's had several third-place finishes in recent years.
Royer was in fine form Monday night, as she swept across the finish line at 7:40 pm, after actually picking up speed on the final leg. That qualifies her for another shot at the Iditarod next month.
Yet, one of the real stories was close on her tracks this year
Erik Oline came in second after a final day on the trail, finishing just over an hour after Royer at 8:48 pm with all 12-dogs in his team. Oline is a fishing guide and college student in Missoula, who is originally from Ashland, Oregon.
Here's the connection with the champ
Oline has spent this winter running sled dog tours in Seeley, running dogs from Royer's J Team Kennel, and working for the champ, learning from her 31 years of experience. This was only his second Race to the Sky, and the first time running the 300. His strong finish shows he's been taking good notes!
That shows not only the closeness of the sled dog team racers but also the true Montana spirit.
Two other Montanans also made great showings
Bozeman's Charmaine Morrison finished the course in third place with 8-dogs. A musher for 8 years, she started as a Junior at Race to the Sky, finishing 3rd in both 2019 and 2020. That's the same year she was the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown 8 dog champion. Her 3rd place also qualifies her for the Iditarod.
And special note should be made for racer Clayton Perry, of Power, Montana who wasn't able to leave the mandatory 6-hour rest stop at Whitetail Ranch until 11:15 Monday night, mushing through the cold, dark night and making it to the Lincoln Finish line just before 7 am.
READ MORE: Lincoln woman wins Race to the Sky 100