Women of the Iditarod 2018

Women Iditarod Participants in 2018

Photo Credit: Arctic Warrior

Welcome to the 2018 Lady Roster for the “Last Great Race on Earth”! If you read last years article, you already know a bit about the race and some of the fine female participants. This year I’ll try to bring you a few NEW fun facts about the racers as well as introduce you to the five rookie women participating in the  2018 Iditarod.

Anna and Kristy Berington, age 34 • from Wisconsin, USA

The twins are back at it again! These inseparable sisters, with the help of a lot of family and friends, have already completed 14 Iditarods between the two them. Can they finish off 15 and 16?

Of course they can.

These 6″ tall ladies are the epitome of outdoorsy and adventurous. After high school, the girls joined the Army National Guard together, then tried the college thing for a stint, before eventually making their way up to Alaska in 2007. When not mushing, they run marathons (here they are in Runner’s World!) and work as carpenters, commercial fishermen, and dog handlers.

The Berington Sisters Website: http://seeingdoublesleddogracing.com

Women of the 2018 Iditarod

Tara Cicatello, 26 • Buffalo, NY

After getting a degree in English, Tara moved to Nome, Alaska in 2013 to volunteer for KNOM Radio in. It was at the radio station where Tara was first introduced to mushing and saw her first Iditarod finish.

This year is her rookie run, but she has a pretty strong support system. Tara is running the Bacon Acres dogs! Kristin Bacon (read about Kristin in last years line up) has completed a couple of Iditarods, but this year, she says she’s happy to take on a mentoring role for Tara and the team.

When not mushing, Tara likes “dancing, beach combing, and making people smile.”

Bacon Acres Website: http://baconsacres.com

Zoya DeNure, age 41 • born and raised in Wisconsin, USA

After 13 years working in the fashion industry, Zoya decided to run away from it all: she packed her Siberian husky, Ethan, and headed for Alaska. Zoya readily admits it was a bit of a stretch going from modeling to mushing, but when she goes to work now, she says she feels like she’s being greeted by 40 of her best friends (the dogs). She is now married to musher John Schandelmeier and they have two daughters. Her family runs a rescue facility for unwanted sled dogs.

This will be Zoya’s 8th Iditarod.

Zoya’s Website: http://www.dogsleddenali.com

Marcelle Fressineau, age 63 • born in Switzerland, lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Marcelle was born and raised in Switzerland. After receiving her degrees in Mathematics and Science in Switzerland, she eventually made her way to Canada in 1995, because it was a good place for mushing.

It was only 4 years ago that Marcelle ran her rookie Iditarod… at the age of 59! She is second oldest lady in this years race (see DeeDee below!). She says her original goal was to enter the Iditarod once. But like so many mushers, she can’t quite seem to get enough. This will be her third go.

She enjoys the outdoors and writing books: Ces Extraordinaires Chiens de Traîneau and TRAINEAU DE LA LIBERTE -LE

Marcelle’s Website: http://www.marcelle-fressineau.com

DeeDee Jonrowe, age 64 • born in Frankfurt, Germany

DeeDee is the oldest lady on the course again this year. Only 77-year-old Jim Lanier, coming back from a hiatus, beats her as the oldest overall in 2018.

She ran her first Iditarod in 1980. She has 16 top-ten finishes. See all the stats HERE and check out that half-million dollars in winnings at the bottom! In 2003 she placed 18th… three weeks after finishing chemotherapy for breast cancer. DeeDee is the published author of Iditarod Dreams. And if you keep digging around on Amazon, you’ll see that she even has her own trading cards and posters.

This will be DeeDee’s last year running the Iditarod. As the Iditarod is often referred to as “the last great race on earth,” Deedee is calling this, “her last great race.” She says she will continue to run shorter races in the future. Watch DeeDee talk about some of the obstacles she’s overcome… and how the race brings her JOY in the video below.

DeeDee’s Website: http://www.deedeejonrowe.com

Katherine Keith, age 38 • born in Minnesota, USA

At age 21, Katherine drove an old ice cream truck up to Alaska to pursue her dreams. Once in Alaska, she got a job giving dog sled rides to tourists. Katherine graduated from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks with a degree in Renewable Energy Engineering.  She is a proud mom, rock climber, hiker of the PCT (before Wild made it cool), ironman triathlete, licensed pilot, EMT, and is now competing in her 5th Iditarod. Overall, she’s a badass. When not training for dog races, she uses her pilot license and education to meet the energy needs of rural Alaskan communitees via Remote Solutions. Wow.

Katherine’s Website: http://www.katherinekeith.com

Meredith Mapes, 24 • Born in Texas, raised in Palmer, AK

Meredith was first introduced to dog sledding through Girl Scouts at the age of six.

By 2008 her dog racing career was off to a great start with a 14th place finish in the Junior Iditarod. That December, however, her team was hit by a snow mobile and her two lead dogs were injured. Meredith was shaken.

After high school, she declared herself retired from dog sledding and went on to get her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre with an emphasis on Dance. But as fate would have it, Danny Seavey offered her a job working with dogs in Seward, Alaska. Within a week of being around with her new furry friends, she said she would soon run the Iditarod. 2018 is that year that she makes it happen.

Women Iditarod Participants in 2018

Emily Maxwell, age 33 • born and raised in Iowa, USA

Emily’s interest in dog mushing started when she met a guy in a Girdwood bar. That guy, Nicolas Petite, is her partner now and will be running his 9th Iditarod this year. He finished third overall last year, so I think it’s safe to say this lady’s got some insider veteran knowledge on her side. For the last two years, she has worked at the Iditarod as a dropped dog volunteer, but this will be her first race.

She has worked as a pilates instructor, bartender, and long-haul truck driver and has degrees in Spanish, Journalism, and Literary Translation. And my parents think my resume is a mess!

Emily’s Website: http://www.teampetit.com/mushers.emily.html

Michelle Phillips, age 49 • born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada 

Michelle spent many years training as a figure skater and traveling the world before meeting her partner Ed Hopkins. He originally introduced her to the sport of dog mushing, though it wasn’t until after she ran her first Yukon Quest (you know, that other 1,000-ish mile dog sled race) that she was hooked. Michelle and Ed live in the Yukon with their 18-year-old son and up to 90 (90!) Alaskan Huskies at any given time. Their son, Keegan, has type 1 diabetes. When not training for races, Michelle and Ed work tirelessly to raise money to help find a cure. She has run six Yukon Quests and this is her ninth Iditarod.

Michelle’s Website: http://www.tagishlakekennel.com

Anja Radano, 43 • Born outside Munich, lives in Talkeetna, AK

Worked as a nurse in Germany for ten years before coming to Alaska as a tourist. And as it always does, Alaska took a little piece of her heart. In 2008 she started her own kennel. She went back to school in the US and now works as a licensed Vet Tech in Talkeetna. She loves horses, hiking and camping.

Anja’s goal for her rookie year is simply to complete the race with a happy, healthy team. She admits, however, that it would be nice to not be the “Red Lantern” (the last one in before they turn out the lights).

Anja’s Website: https://www.facebook.com/SwampDawgKennel/

Jessie Royer, age 41 • born in Idaho, USA

As far as we can tell, Jessie was meant to be a dog sledder. As a child, she harnessed her border collie to her goat with a horse harness and tried to get them to pull her around the Montana cattle ranch where she grew up. At age 17, she become the first female and youngest person ever to win Montana’s 500-mile Race to the Sky. She spent many years working with Susan Butcher and Dave Monson’s Riverboat Discovery demonstration in Fairbanks, AK. She was rookie of the year in 2001 with her 14th place finish and this year marks her 16th run in the Iditarod. With six top-ten finishes and a 5th place position in 2017, Jessie is definitely one to watch.

Jessie’s Website: http://www.huskypower.com/jessie

Women of the 2018 Iditarod

Shaynee Traska, 29 • Gladwin, MI

Shaynee’s aunt and uncle met Joe Redington, Sr when she was just 9 years old. As soon as young Shaynee heard about the massive dog sled race, the determined child declared that one day she too would run that race. And here she is, in her rookie year… fulfilling that little girl’s dream. She lives with her Husband Jeremy Traska and their 40 children (AKA dogs). Shaynee calls the Iditarod their biggest adventure yet!

Shaynee’s Website: http://www.howlingridgekennel.com

Misha Wiljes, age 49 • Prague, Czech Republic

Do you ever suspect that someone you know with a totally normal day job leads a wild double life?? Misha is that person. Originally attending trade school in graphic design, Misha is now a postal worker by day and badass endurance athlete by… well, in March anyway. She has already successfully completed the Yukon Quest, and 2018 marks her second Iditarod. Misha lives with her husband Gerhard, a cat named Lucy, a handful of chickens, and of course, a whole lot of dogs. Misha is passionate about traveling, sewing and fishing.

Misha’s Website: http://wwsleddogkennel.com

2018 Iditarod Dogs Mushing

Monica Zappa, age 34 • born and raised in Wisconsin, USA

Monica’s father’s dream was to run the Iditarod, but he died before making his dream come true. Monica, however, has completed the race every year since 2014. She holds a bachelors degree in Meterology and a masters in Geography. Since 2012, she has been mushing for a cause: to save the wild salmon populations of Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine. See: www.SaveBristolBay.org for more on that.

Monica was  Alaska’s Activist of the Year last year for her commitment to preserving the Alaskan way of life.

Monica’s Website: http://teamzappa.com

Aliy Zirkle, age 48 • born in New Hampshire, USA

Aliy graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in Biology and Anthropology. She won the Yukon Quest (the “World’s Toughest Sled Dog Race”) in 2000 and has come in 2nd in the Iditarod three time in a row! She has been married to co-musher Allen Moore for 12 years and is incredibly passionate about her morning coffee (that’s my girl!).

Aliy has finished in the top ten for the last 6 years in a row and says that her goal this year is to WIN.

I personally think it is time for this lady to take home the gold!

Aliy’s Website: http://www.SPKDogLog.com


That’s it, folks. What do you think of the women Iditarod participants in 2018? Who’s the most inspiring? Favorites to win?

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2018 Iditarod women

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1 Response

  1. Laszlo Szelle says:

    Nice write ups !
    My cousin is there now.
    Very exciting time !

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