The Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race is changing leadership. Bethel Native Madelene Reichard is taking over as the new race manager starting April 1.
“K300 is always a very exciting time. Even when you’re a little kid, going out and seeing all the teams and seeing all these great mushers and the relationships they have with their dogs and each other. It’s just a lot of fun,” Reichard said.
Having grown up in Bethel, Reichard has been involved in the K300 most of her life.
“We’ve been housing mushers for as long as I can remember,” she said. “We used to have friends come down from Aniak. I’ve been volunteering every year, getting more involved. I mushed briefly. From about age six until I was 14. I used to run dogs with the Klejkas.”
The Klejka family owns a kennel in Bethel and has competed in many of the K300 sponsored races.
Reichard has a long history of volunteering with the race—from helping with the banquet to selling raffle tickets. For the past few years, she has served as a headquarter coordinator.
“So every year it just gets a little more and more responsibility,” she said.
Reichard takes over for current Race Manager Zach Fansler and Assistant Race Manager Christina Garvey. Fansler managed the race for five years, and Garvey assisted for three.
Under Fansler’s tenure, the entire race expanded—the field size from the teens to the thirties, sponsorship, volunteers, and of course, the purse.
Fansler says when he started managing the race in 2011, the K300 purse totaled $100,000. Six years later, the 2017 purse will hit $150,000.
“I would say that’s significant growth and something that we take pride in. But I think we take equal pride in that we’ve grown the purse for every race. The Bogus Creek has gone up. The Akiak Dash has gone up. Our local races have gone up,” he said.
During their terms, Fansler and Garvey revived the February 50 race and started a new race, the 100 Mile Challenge, meant to run in December as training for the K300. But due to warm winters, the race has never run before the 300-mile event.
Both Fansler and Garvey say local musher Pete Kaiser’s back-to-back K300 victory as well as Richie Diehl and Mike Williams Jr.’s high K300 finishes stand as highlights during their terms.
When asked individually what they learned during their tenures, both Fansler and Garvey say the race affirms Bethel’s overwhelming generosity.
“The community is so giving,” Garvey said, “and it’s tremendous that if you need something, someone will give it to you. We need food at headquarters; someone will bring it. I need a volunteer at whatever time; someone will do it. I need truck or snow machine or whatever, and it will happen.”
The transition between managers comes as the K300 is dealing with another passage. Long-time board member Gary Vanasse, better known as Potts, died earlier this month. Fansler says the board is filling but not replacing Potts’ position.
“Because you just don’t replace somebody like Potts. He did so much for our sport, so much for our community, and the whole Delta. Just truly a caring, wonderful, generous person, and he really is irreplaceable,” Fansler said.
Fansler will overlap as dual race manager with Reichard until May 1 when Reichard will fully take over the race.