Meet the Mushers

/Meet the Mushers
Meet the Mushers 2018-08-18T22:28:59+00:00

Marathon Mushers

This is for the past 2018 race, when registration for 2019 opens in the fall, this page will be updated to reflect the 2019 participants.

Matt Schmidt | Grand Marais, MN

Matt and his wife Erin and daughter Sylvia live with their 40 Alaskan huskies off grid in the deep woods outside of Grand Marais, MN. Matt ran the Beargrease last year for the first time and didn’t think he’d be back so soon, but the hills are calling his name.

Experience: Beargrease Marathon, CanAm, UP 200

Blake Freking | Finland, MI

Blake and Jennifer own Manitou crossing kennels and enjoy the lifestyle with their two daughters, Nicole and Elena.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Race, Iditarod, Yukon Quest, Race to the Sky, UP 200, Can-Am, Hudson Bay Quest

Nathan Schroeder | Warba, MN

Nathan Schroeder, 39, born and raised in Warba, MN. He graduated from Mesabi Range Community and Technical College in 1999 as a maintenance mechanic. He has worked as a millwright in Local 1348 for the last 17 years. Nathan was introduced to mushing at the age of 12, when he was given a ride at his elementary school behind a team of malamutes. He has been racing ever since. Nathan has completed many races all over the lower 48 states and has finished the Iditarod three times. He has entered the Iditarod in 2017 as well. He is a four time champion of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Nathan has 3 children, Gavin, 7, Sawyer, 4, and Kinley, 3. Outside of mushing, Nathan enjoys fishing, the outdoors, and being with his family.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Race, Races all over the lower 48 states and has finished the Iditarod four times.

Sponsors: Duluth Trading Company

Colleen Wallin | Two Harbors, MN

I would not be here today if it were not for my husband Ward and my sons Ian and Ero. Their support is great. Running and training my dog team is what I love to do. Our team this year is young and I am looking to new leaders to bring us accross the finish line. Those leaders are: Jazz, Marlin, Nemo, Miss Kay, Happy, Silas, Man Cub, Chickadee, Shypoke, Freeze. For all of you Waldo lovers, come see him at our truck.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Race, John Beargrease Sled Dog Mid-Distance, WaWa Gold Quest, UP 200, Can Am 250, Gunflint Mail Run, Esslinger Classic, Mid Minnesota, Wolf Track Classic, Empire 150, Great Trail Sled Dog Race, White Oak Classic, Gitchee Gamee Race, MidNight Run, Grand Portage Passage Race.

Sponsors: Julies Variety Hardware Store, John’s Sanitary, Betty’s Pies, Zup’s Food, North Shore Oil and Propane

Ryan Redington | Wasilla, AK

Born into the sport. My Grandpa is Joe Redington Sr, he founded the Iditarod race in 1973. Excited to be racing back in Minnesota this year. Looking for this race as a great training and build up for my team for the Iditarod in March. I want to thank all the volunteers that put on the John Beargrease.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Race (2nd Place in 2017 Race),  and 14th in the 2017 Iditarod.

Sponsors: Redpaw Dog Food,, AlaskaX, John Nunnes, Mary Lee, Juliette Foulds Walters


Denis Tremblay | St. Michel des Saints, Quebec, Canada

Denis started dog sledding 1989. He had known his first dog to help him with trapping. By the following year, 1992, he discovered dog races. In 2008, he started thinking about the mid-distance race.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Race, 2017- UP 200, Can-Am 250, Défi Taiga 200

Sponsors: Produit MF Lajeunesse

Blair Braverman | Mountain, WI

Blair lives in Mountain, Wisconsin, with her husband Quince Mountain and 21 Alaskan huskies. She is a columnist for Outside magazine and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. The Beargrease marathon will be her longest race yet!

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Race, John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, UP200, CopperDog 150, Apostle Islands, IronLine

Sponsors: We want to thank UpNorth Processing, Morgan Taxidermy, and our Patreon sponsors, who keep our team going. We couldn’t do it without you!

Keith Aili | Ray, MN

Keith Aili has 30 years of racing in his past experience.

Kevin Mathis | Monona, IA

I live in Monona Iowa with my wife Tera and sons; Kashton, Holden and Lincoln. I work at Walgreens as a pharmacist and I have a few beef cows also. Tera is a personal trainer/nutrition coach and we are Advocare nutrition advisors. This is my fourth year having sled dogs. My first race was the Beargrease mid-distance and I am excited to be entering my first marathon.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, Midnight Run, Copperdog 150

Ryan Anderson | Ray, MN

My wife and I have about 40 dogs in our kennel. I have been coming to the Beargrease since the late 80’s as a handler for my dad and racing myself since the early 90’s. I am a member of Carpenters local 606 and work as a carpenter when I have too but our dogs always come first in the winter.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Race, John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race

Mid-Distance Mushers

Nick Turman | Two Harbors, MN

Nick is retired and lives in Two Harbors with his wife, Joy. They have 2 kids and 12 grand kids. He started handling dogs in 1988 and then running them in 1992.

Experience: Beargrease Mid Distance, Beargrease Marathon, Apostle Island, UP200 and Midnight Run.

Dusty Klaven | Togo, MN

I am returning for my 6th Mid Distance Beargrease, the dogs and I are super pumped to test our skills and training this year. I am a 28 year old musher living in Togo MN, with a 30 dog kennel. I enjoy the relationship I have with my dogs and value what they teach me, both in the kennel and on the trail. Currently, I work as part of the bar staff at Fortune Bay Resort Casino. I’d like to thank my sponsors, Bain Yains and my awesome handlers. We got this!

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance, Tahquamen, Mid-Night Run, White Oak Classic, Apostle Islands, Wolf Track Classic

Sponsor: Bain Yains

Lynne Witte | McMillan, MI

Lynne is a retired elementary teacher who started skijoring in 2004, running dogs recreational in 2006, and is also a marathon canoe racer.

Experience: Midnight Run, CopperDog80, Yukon Quest 300


Jim Ward | Duluth, MN

I started running dogs in 2014. Last year beargrease rec was my very first race, I also competed in the mid minnsota and copper dog. I will be running a young group of dogs for Maple Ridge Kennels.

Experience: Wolftracks, Copperdog 80

Alex LaPlante | Esko, MN

Alex has been running dogs for Maple Ridge Kennel for the last nine years. She has participated in the Beargrease Mid several times. She loves playing with the dogs and the puppies.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race

Mike Hoff | Silver Bay, MN

I am running a team of silver creek kennel canines. thanks to the Wallins for the opportunity to run them. Thanks to all who donate their time for the event.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race (2010-2016), Can Am 250 (2016, 2017)

Frank Moe | Hovland, MN

Sherri and I live in Hovland, MN with our 40 dogs, cat, mouse and a pig named Petunia.  This will be our 8th Beargrease, 4 Marathons and now 4 mid-distance.  We missed last year and are excited to be back.  Thank you to all the volunteers that make this race possible and to our sponsor NutriSource Performance Dog Food made right here in Minnesota.

Martha Schouweiler | Irma, WI

I have an interest in sled dogs that was sparked on a trip to Alaska with my parents in the 70’s. Three decades later, owning one Siberian and a one dog sled was a start. Son, Chads, fire of an interest gradually made way to this crazy life gone to the dogs. Martha and son, Chad, work together raising and training Alaskan Huskies that make up a small kennel near Tomahawk, Wisconsin. My husband, Mark, and I have 3 grown daughters besides Chad, and 5 granddaughters. This is our 15th year of racing!

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, Many midwest races over the last 14 years.

Liza Dietzen | Wallace, WI

When I was in kindergarten, my librarian read our class “Balto” and I said I was going to do that (the Iditarod) someday! She didn’t believe me, but that’s okay, she does now! We are 2/3rds qualified to go to Iditarod and hope to finish our last one up soon. The Seney300 is my trademark hat … I don’t know that anyone recognizes me without it! Musher photo by Gavin Gibson.

Experience: Tahquamenon 6 and 12 dog, Jack Pine30, Midnight Run, UP200, Apostle Islands 8 dog, CopperDog 6 and 10 dog, IronLine 4, 6, and 10 dog.

Sponsors: Northern Michigan University, Centerline Machining and Grinding, Jean Kays Pasties and Subs, Benish Consulting and Facilitation

Mike Bestgen | St. Cloud, MN

Still working at Miller Chevrolet in Rogers, MN. Married to Vicki, and we have 4 adult children, and 10 grand kids. No future mushers yet. Started Handling at the John Beargrease some 25 years ago. Ran the 6 dog race, and was hooked. I’ve done the Marathon, and now back to the Mid Distance. Looking forward to heading up the trail.

Experience: John Beargrease Marathon, John Beargrease Mid-DistanceWest Yellowstone Rodeo Run, Up 200, Midnight Run, Apostle Island, Gunflint Mail Run, Copper Dog, Iron Line

Joanna Oberg | Ignace, Ontario, Canada

Got hooked on dogsledding in my mid-teens and been living the life of adventure ever since! Love the companionship with the dogs, enjoying the outdoors, thrill of competition, and seeing how much the dogs love to travel down the trail! Very blessed to be able to do what I love! Been a few years since I have raced Beargrease, excited to see the trail again!

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-DistanceMidnight RunGunflint Mail Run, Copper Dog, Iron Line

Sponsors: Agimac River Outfitters, Home Hardware

Erin Becker | Little Falls, MN

I work full-time for the Minnesota National Guard. The last time I ran the Beargrease Mid-Distance I was the rip old age of 14, so we’re excited to be back to one of our favorite races for the first time in a long time! I’ll be missing my #1 Handler as this was his favorite race.

Experience: Mid-Minnesota 150, Empire 130, Ironline, Midnight Run, CopperDog 150, John Beargrease Mid-Distance, Winter Warrior Sled Dog Race

Sponsors: Tischler Wood Products and Davis Family Farms

Mary Manning | Hovland, MN

I live in Cook County, Minnesota and have been running dogs for 20 years. I bought a used sled and got a “free” dog – I thought it was a cheap way to spend some time in the wilderness! My dogs and I have camped and raced from the BWCAW to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to West Yellowstone, Montana. I am thankful for the organizers, sponsors and volunteers who allow me to have amazing and wonderful race adventures!

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, Gunflint Mail Run, Midnight Run, Copper DogWolf Track, Apostle Islands, Taquemenon, Yellowstone Special, Hinckley Great Trail, Mackinaw Wilderness

Jennifer Freking | Finland, MN

I love sharing my passion for mushing the beautiful snowy trails with family and friends! Blake and I own Manitou Crossing Kennels were we work hard and have fun keeping up with our two daughters as we raise and train our Siberians Huskies. I am also lucky to share my love of all creatures great and small with the wonderful staff and clients of the Ely Veterinary Clinic.

Experience: John Beargrease Marathon, John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, Iditarod, UP 200, Can-Am 250, Hudson Bay Quest

Elizabeth Nelson | Togo, MN

I am a third generation musher from Togo, MN and have been training my own team for 7 years. There are 16 dogs in my kennel. My team is all young dogs and I’m looking for a positive race experience for them! A big THANK YOU to our sponsors, Ponsse and Northern State Bank of Virginia.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race

Sponsors: Ponsse and Northern State Bank of Virginia

Anna Carpenter | Isanti, MN

I have been mushing since I was 12 years old. My mother and I used to volunteer for the Beargrease as road cross helpers. Ever since then this has been a dream of mine to compete in this race. Looking forward to getting on the trail and a special thank you to my parents and husband for supporting me.

Experience: Ham Lake Snowbowl Race, White Oak Race, Mid Minnesota 150

Andrea DeBoer | Grand Marais, MN

I am doing it! My first Beargrease Mid distance. I have been to many Beargrease races but to help my mom and cheer her on. This year it’s my turn to run. I am a mom of 3 wonderful children. Tanner (15), Taylor (13) and Talon (9). My husband and I have been slowing taking over the kennel of 40 pups and raising our kids on the amazing North Shore.

Christine Richardson | Canaan, NH

I am excited to visit Minnesota again and bring my great group of dogs to the Beargrease. My home is in New Hampshire where I live with 23 dogs and a very supportive partner, Kip, who is holding down the fort while I adventure into the wilds of the north. “Bring home wild rice” is his only request!. I have been running dogs for almost 20 years and look forward to sharing the Beargrease trail with many great mushers and friends.

Experience: CanAm250 – 5 finishes, CanAm 100, CanAm 30, Gunflint Mail Run, UP200, Eagle Lake 100, Mahoosuc 100

Travis Vanderhoof | Shell Lake, WI

I grew up on a dairy farm in shell lake wi, where my family raced sled dogs. My wife and I recently started our own kennel. We enjoy training and running dogs with our 7 kids. We are looking forward to many years of racing dogs.

Experience: Grew up racing all the local sprint races

Ryan Beaber | Pound, WI

Started with sled dogs in 2000, started racing in 2017 with my daughters. With help from fellow mushers Lloyd Gilbertson and Frank Moe we are a racing Kennel.

Experience: Midnight Run (2017), Copperdog 80 (2017)

Brian Bergen | Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada

I work full-time as a property manager. I have enjoyed running dogs since 1991. I have enjoyed running dogs with Leanne our daughter.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, Mail Run, Midnight Run, Voyager Classic

Sponsors: First Mate Pet Foods, Home Hardware Sioux Lookout, Corey Henderson Contracting, Days Inn Sioux Lookout

Leanne Bergen | Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada

I have been running dogs for as long as I can remember. My parents got their first sled dogs the year I was born, so I grew up loving the sport. In the summer I fight forest fires to support my addiction to the dogs. This will be my fifth time running the Beargrease Mid Distance, and I am really looking forward to it.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, Gunflint Mail Run, Midnight Run, UP200, Wolf Track Classic

Sponsors: First Mate Pet Foods, Home Hardware Sioux Lookout, Corey Henderson Contracting, Days Inn Sioux Lookout

David Gordon | Duluth, MN

Biography coming soon.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, John Beargrease Recreational Class Race, Copper Dog 150, Mid Minnesota, Wolf Track, Voyageur Classic

Alice White | Ely, MN

I have been running dogs for a number of years and handled and raced with Manitou Crossing Kennels for multiple seasons before branching off to build my own team. I currently have a small kennel of Siberian huskies in Ely, Minnesota, where I work as a veterinary technician.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, John Beargrease Rec Race, UP 200, Wolftrack Classic, Apostle Islands, Casper Mountain

Ingrid Pond | Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

This will be my first dog sledding race. I work with Leanne Bergen during the summer fighting forest fires and this year she successfully roped me into training and running a team with her. I am very excited for the experience.

Sponsors:First Mate Pet Foods, Home Hardware Sioux Lookout, Cory Henderson Contracting, Days Inn Sioux Lookout

Rita Wehseler | Tofte, MN

Rita & Bill on live on the beautiful North shore of Lake Superior where they own and operate Stoney Creek Kennels. They have 45 dogs in their kennel right now.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Race, John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, Can-Am Crown 200, Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race, Wolf Track Classic, Copperdog 150

Sponsors: Claire Seekins and Chris Johnson, Canine Health Forward

Adam Treeful | Grand Marais, MN

We’re a full time tour ride kennel up on the gunflint trail operating out of gunflint lodge. I work as a fishing guide in the open water season. The dogs and I enjoy entering a few races every winter when time allows.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Mid-Distace Race, Wolf Track Classic, Gunflint Mail Run, Mush for a Cure and a few sprint races

Sponsors: Gunflint Lodge & Outfitters, and a few generous long term clients

Rob Louters | Hollandale, MN

My family has been involved with dogs for 6 years. I enjoy the lifestyle and daily relationship with the dogs. It is fun to do this with our family because everyone pitches in to do chores, fix equipment and train dogs! It has been fun to do the rec race and I am looking forward to a longer trek down the trail this year.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Mid-Distace Race, Wolf Track 30, Voyageur 30, Mid-Minnesota 40

Peter Mc | Ely, MN

I run sled dog tours out of Isabella and sometimes go racing. I am looking forward to getting back on the Beargrease Trail.

Experience: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Race, John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, John Beargrease Recreational Class Race, Hudson Bay Quest, Beargrease Marathon

Brandon Blaine | Milaca, MN

When I am not building houses, I am out with the dogs. I use to race motocross and now i stand on skis behind the dogs. This will be my 3rd race

Experience: John Beargrease Recreational Class Race, 2018 Gunflint Mail Run

Sponsors: Zehnder Homes Inc, Blaine Const Inc.

Junior Mushers

Jasper Johnston | Ely, MN

I’m a freshman at Ely High School, and this will be my third year running dogs. I’ve done the Jr. Beargrease the past two years and am excited to move on to a longer distance. I compete in skiing and track. Peter McClelland has been extremely helpful teaching me about the sport of mushing and letting me run his dogs. I’m really excited to be a part of the Beargrease this year.

Experience: John Beargrease Junior Class Race, John Beargrease Recreational Class Race

Julia Cross | Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

My name is Julia Cross. I have been mushing since I was 5 years old, and started racing in 2014. I live in Thunder Bay Ontario, but spend my weekends training with Erin Becker at Prairie Winds Racing. I am usually found out with the dogs or volunteering at local vet clinics. I want to one day race the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. My team consists of dogs from Prairie Winds Racing, and two dogs from Ed Stielstra. Thanks to my dad for being my number one handler and dog truck driver!!

Experience: John Beargrease Junior Class Race, John Beargrease Recreational Class Race, Mid Minnesota 2017, Dog Days of Winter

Sponsors: Gear Up for Outdoors, Northwestern Ontario Sportsman’s Alliance, Milanis Outdoor Fabrics, Georges Market, Baffin Boots, K&S Contracting, Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, Mushing Midwest, Winter Fun 101, Natures Kennel, Prairie Winds Racing. As well as multiple individual sponsors! Thank you!!!

Nicole Grangroth | Menahga, MN

I am 15 years old and I have been mushing for the past three years. I have enjoyed training with many different people and learning from my mentor Janet Bahe. I had a great experience last year running the Rec race and I am looking forward to running the Jr. race this year. A huge thank you to my sponsor Smokey Hills Outdoor Store!

Experience: John Beargrease Rec Race, Apostle Island Sled Dog Race and Mid Minnesota

Sponsors: Smokey Hills Outdoor Store

Samuel Louters | Hollandale, MN

I started running dogs with our family Malamute named Star when I was 8. This turned into a trip to Mushing Boot Camp in Togo,Mn when I was 10. Since then I have been slowly gaining experience. I am really thankful for the opportunity these Jr races have provided me to work my way up to this race. Thanks to all who have worked hard to include those of us in the Jr Class. I also want to thank my brothers Mike an Levi and sister Annika for all they do around the kennel. Also thanks to my Mom and Dad for making this possible. A special thanks to Chad De Young and his family for the race support.

Experience: John Beargrease Junior Race, Voyageur 30, Wolf Track 50, Mid-Minnesota 40

Recreational Mushers

William Sima | Grandy, MN

I Have helped in handling of dogs for Manitou Crossing Kennels and thought it would be fun to try a race.

Linus Meyer | Melrose, MN

Started with 6 sled dogs and an old wooden sled in 1995 and entered my first race in 1997. My kennel of 22 dogs includes seven retired and three yearlings. Recently retired as a Conservation Technician with the local Soil & Water Conservation District and now have more time to spend training and racing the sled dogs. I live on a hobby farm in central MN near Meire Grove with my wife Ileta with numerous animals including dogs, cats, chickens, ducks and goats.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race, John Beargrease Recreational Class Race, MidMn 150, Apostle Islands, Winter Warriors

Lyle Piontek | Lakewood, WI

Let me start by saying that I’m a dog lover and have always had a great passion for the canine community. I’ve grown up around dogs my entire life and currently have my own seven year-old German Shepard/Labrador mix. I’m from a very small logging town in northern Wisconsin where cold weather/snow is common and work ethic is mandatory. I joined the U.S. Army at age 17 as a Cavalry Scout. At age 19 I changed to Military Police and was deployed to Iraq shortly after. After six years of service, I received an honorable discharge in May of 2012. Prior to my exit from the military, I began attending college at The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a major in Resource Management & Environmental Law Enforcement. I began working with sled dogs in 2013 and have been doing it since. I’m currently working as a bartender while mushing in my free time.

Sponsors: Patterson Dog & Cat Hospital

Darcy Stanley-Nord | Milaca, MN

Teacher by day, musher by, well, whenever I can fit it in. I love coming to this race. Sitting in on the musher meeting is always a special treat with some of the best mushers in the world sitting right next to me. Two Harbors is always gracious and welcoming. This race is always the first one of the season for us, so it’s the first time we get to see our mushing family for the year. Looking forward to another great race.

Experience: John Beargrease Recreational Class Race, Wolf track classic, Winter Warrior, Apostle Island, Mid-MN, White Oak classic, City of Lakes Loppet


Brenna Grangroth | Menahga, MN

I am a freshman at Menahga High School. I have been mushing for three years with my mentor Janet Bahe and my sister Nicole Grangroth. I enjoy spending time with the dogs and the outdoors. Last year was the first time that I raced and I enjoyed it. I’m excited for this season!

Experience: John Beargrease Recreational Class Race, Apostle Island Dog Sled Race and Mid Minnesota Dog Sled Race

Morgan McClelland | Ely, MN

I was mushing my own dog team by 2 with 1 dog. My brother and I like to go dog sledding. My favorite dogs are my leader, Scratch (brown), and my leader in training, Nail (point gray). I did not lose my team last race.

Experience: John Beargrease Recreational Class Race, Dog Days of Winter, Cub Race

John Ward | Duluth, MN

I’ve been mushing for 5 years. I run for Maple Ridge Kennel.

Experience: Wolf Tracks Classic and Copper Dog

Billie Diver | Cloquet, MN

I’ve been racing since I was 7 and currently co-own my kennel of 20 dogs with Richard Loucks.

Experience: John Beargrease Mid-Distance Race and many races around Minnesota and Wisconsin!

Sponsors: Fond du Lac Reservation, Empire Wool & Canvas