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Schroeder wins Beargrease, Fraboni wins mid-distance

Despite frigid temperatures, Nathan Schroeder was first to cross the finish line to win this year’s John Beargrease sled marathon. His son, Gavin, jumped on his sled after the race. Photo by Lisa Johnson.

Forum Communications staff

Nathan Schroeder was the first to arrive at the finish line at Billy’s in Rice Lake Township, at 1:19 p.m., after four days of brutal racing, to become the 2014 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon champion.

The Chisholm resident finished about two hours ahead of the next musher, Keith Aili of Ray. It’s Schroeder’s third win and a repeat of last year. He also won in 2010.

Schroeder said the race probably was the toughest he’d ever run, with wind and drifting snow slowing the pace by five or six hours.

“That wind,” he kept repeating while working on just an hour of sleep for the day. “It blew you right off the trail.”

The worst spot on the downbound was north of the Finland checkpoint. But Schroeder said his dogs were doing well and he “turned and burned” the checkpoint, scarcely stopping.

“Sorry, I have to keep these guys going,” he said in video of his early-morning run through Finland provided by race officials. Rest would come at the next stop, the required four-hour break north of Two Harbors.

Schroeder said he had an idea that he had the race won after Finland.

“It was about then,” he said, “but I still didn’t know where Keith was.”

Aili was about an hour behind. Schroeder ended up at the Lake County Highway 2 stop two hours ahead of Aili. The final run, 36 miles to Billy’s, took just more than four hours. Schroeder said he slept for only an hour during the required stop.

“It wasn’t a very good sleep,” he said.

Today’s finish was sort of an oddity, with teams coming in during the afternoon and evening as mushers were slowed by conditions

“This year it was the drifts,” Schroeder said.

And it was cold and windy. He used everything in his sled pack to keep warm, shoving hand warmers in his gloves and boots. By the time of the finish today, the temperature had fluctuated from the teens below zero during the heart of the race to the teens above.

After crossing the finish line, Schroeder was met by his family, including his young son Gavin who he scooped up in his arms.

“Daddy,” Gavin said, “congratulations.”


Ross Fraboni won the John Beargrease mid-distance sled dog race Monday. It was the second time he ran the 113-mile race along the North Shore.

“It was really warmer the last time,” the Two Harbors musher said after crossing the finish line in Tofte just after 9 a.m. “This is definitely one of the hardest things I’ve done.”

Shortly before sunrise Monday, the National Weather Service reported temperatures of 17 degrees below zero in the Tofte area, with a northwest wind gusting to 41 mph.

His dogs “don’t seem to mind” the weather at all, Fraboni said.

“The dogs did really good,” he said. “They just plug through it.”

As for Fraboni, he said: “You dress for it.”

Fraboni helped stay warm, and helped his team along, by using a ski pole and kicking a leg. He finished at 9:04 a.m., race officials reported, with a total time of 10 hours, 50 minutes, 31 seconds.

Finishing second, five minutes later at 10:55:56, was Joshua Compton, Fraboni’s teammate at Ten Squared Racing. It was Compton’s first Beargrease and second sled dog race.

“I’m really happy for him,” Fraboni said. “He did wonderfully in the most-difficult conditions.”

Compton said there were times on the trail when blowing snow made it difficult to see the trail.

“You were just shooting for an opening in the trees,” he said.