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Professional Dog Sled Racer Visits Highland Schools

Writer, public speaker, and professional dog musher Karen Land visited Highland on March 18 to speak with Elementary and Middle School students about her adventures participating in the famous Alaskan Iditarod. 

Land, who competed in the annual 1,000-mile sled dog race several times throughout her career, shared some interesting facts about the event and how it has changed over the years. For example, the first Iditarod was held in March 1973, and took nearly three weeks to complete. These days, the race from Anchorage to Nome is finished much faster—in as little as eight or nine days!

“Sleds have gotten smaller and lighter, so races have gotten faster,” Land told a group of Grade 8 students, explaining that the quality of physical and mental care the sled dogs receive has also improved, giving mushers and their four-legged teammates a much better chance of success. 

“The dogs are the real athletes,” she said. “They burn 10,000 calories a day running in the race. Everything is important, from the food they eat to the booties they wear to protect their feet.”

Speaking of the dogs, the Highland students were delighted to see that Land brought two of her sled dogs with her to the presentations—an Alaskan Husky named Noggin and a Corgi-Spring mix named Chloe. Noggin, who was no doubt happy to meet a few fellow “Huskies,” stayed close by Land’s side as she showed off her sled and racing gear, and regaled students with first-hand accounts of what it was like racing on the Alaskan trails. She even described one harrowing moment when a few leading members of her 16-dog team fell through frozen ice and she had to jump into the icy water to rescue them. 

“My snowsuit was so frozen that it could stand up on its own after I took it off,” Land said with a laugh. 
Highland Middle School (HMS) Principal Meghan Colburn said she is happy to have in-person assemblies return to the building after a two-year hiatus caused by COVID.

“We have waited a long time to finally have an assembly and a guest speaker experience for our students and staff,” she said. “The students were excited to listen and learn about the many experiences Karen Land has had racing in the Iditarod. This was a wonderful opportunity, and our students enjoyed every minute of the presentation.”

Thank you to HMS Librarian Michael Davis and Highland Elementary School Librarian Marilyn Petreshock for coordinating this amazing experience!