2016 Mushers

2016 Musher Profiles

Who are these crazy-wonderful people?

12 Dog Race

[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Brian Bergen[/image_frame]

Brian Bergen

Sioux Lookout, Ontario – Gone to the Dogs Racing Kennel

Brian is back for the 2016 race. Together with his daughter, Leanne, he has a kennel in Northwestern Ontario. He has had sled dogs since 1991 and this is his fourth year of running mid-distance races. He loves being in the bush and working on the trails. When he’s not out with his dogs, Brian works as a property manager. He has previously raced in the Gunflint Mail Run, John Beargrease Mid-distance, Midnight Run, Voyageurs Classic, Wolf Track Classic and Copper Dog 150.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Leanne Bergen[/image_frame]

Leanne Bergen

Sioux Lookout, Ontario – Gone to the Dogs Racing Kennel

We are excited to have Leanne, the winner of the 2015 Gunflint Mail Run, back for the 2016 race. Leanne and her dad, Brian, have a kennel in Northwestern Ontario. Leanne has been around the sport for as long as she can remember. She loves being out in the middle of nowhere with a team of dogs. In the summer she is a forest firefighter with the Ministry of Natural Resources, so she gets to enjoy the outdoors year round. She is very excited to be coming back to the Gunflint Mail Run. Besides the Gunflint Mail Run, Leanne has previously raced in the John Beargrease Mid-distance, Midnight Run, Voyageurs Classic, Wolf Track Classic and UP200.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Jennifer Freking[/image_frame]

Jennifer Freking

Finland, Minnesota – Manitou Crossing Kennels

Manitou Crossing Kennels, owned by Blake and Jennifer Freking, is home to approximately 65 AKC Siberian Huskies which race competitively in long distance sled dog races throughout the US and Canada. They are devoted to the future of the working Siberian Husky and focused on the health and well being of their dogs. Jen and Blake both began running sled dogs about 25 years ago. In 2002, they built their log home together on 120 remote acres in Northeast MN and developed excellent training conditions for their sled dogs. Jennifer is a veterinarian at the Ely Veterinary Clinic and Blake works for the US Forest Service. Today they have two children who share their love of mushing in the northwoods, Elena, 5 and Nicole, 3. Jen has previously competed in the Hudson Bay Quest, the WolfTrack Classic (taking 1st in 2012), the Iditarod, the UP200 and the John Beargrease.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Frank Holmberg[/image_frame]

Frank Holmberg

Newberry, Michigan – Holmberg Racing

Frank is another first-timer to the Gunflint Mail Run. He works as a corrections officer for the State of Michigan and began racing in the winter of 1998-99. He and his wife Laura maintain an active kennel of 35 dogs and Frank races throughout the upper midwest. He has previously raced in the Tahquamenon, Iron Line, John Beargrease, CopperDog, and Voyageur’s Classic. Frank would like to thank his sponsors, Oswald Bear Ranch, Hilary S. Newby, DDS, and Cliff & Shirley Fitzpatrick of Sacred Heart Religious Goods.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Picture of a dog licking Mark Luttinen's nose[/image_frame]

Mark Luttinen

Grand Marais, Minnesota – Moetown Kennels

After four years of handling and training a mix of hunting dogs and Alaskan Huskies to pull, Mark started training/handling and racing with Moetown Kennels in 2012. He and his wonderful wife Lisa relocated to Grand Marais to be able to spend more time in training and racing. Mark tells us, “Thanks to the incredible support of my wife, I spend a majority of my winter outside with some very close furry friends. Thanks to Frank and Sherri Moe for letting me spend time in caring for and running their incredible dogs. I’ve fallen in love with every dog in the kennel and have watched some pups grow into unbelievable athletes. It does take me a lot longer to go through chores, as every dog gets a bit of a pat, belly rub and a story before moving on. Gotta take care of your friends as they are your lifeline on the trail.”


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Picture of Frank Moe riding a sled at night with his wife Sheri behind him[/image_frame]

Frank Moe

Hovland, Minnesota – Moetown Kennels

Frank and his wife Sherri live in Hovland with their 44 dogs, one cat, and a pig named Petunia. Frank says, “We want to thank Stone Harbor and all of the volunteers for again putting on this race. We also want to thank our sponsors, NutriSource Performance Dog Food, made right here in Minnesota and The Superior Trading Post in Grand Marais.” Frank has also competed in the Gunflint Mail Run, the Gichigami Express, the UP200, the John Beargrease, The Apostle Islands, the WolfTrack Classic (first place in 2004) and the Mid-Minnesota 150 (first place in 2013).


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Matt Schmidt[/image_frame]

Matthew Schmidt

Grand Marais, Minnesota – Mush Lake Racing

Matt and his wife Erin live in the woods off the Gunflint Trial with their kennel of 27 dogs. He currently works at Voyageur Brewing and YMCA Camp Menogyn and sometimes swings a hammer–anything to pay for the dog food. Matt has previously raced in the Gichigami Express, Apostle Islands, Midnight Run, Iron line, and UP 200.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Amanda Vogel taken at night with her headlamp on.[/image_frame]

Amanda Vogel

Ray, Minnesota – Snomad Racing

Amanda was introduced to the sport of mushing in 2003, and after a few years of learning the basics from a recreational dog sledding club, she began building a kennel that would allow her to race professionally. Today, Amanda is the owner and operator of Snomad Racing. Snomad Racing also travels for exhibitions and speaking engagements, works on TV, film, and modeling projects, and puts winter and mushing products to extreme tests for sponsors committed to making the toughest gear and equipment on the market. When Amanda is not training and racing, she is found raising pups, exploring woods and waters, and laughing with good friends. She has also competed in the John Beargrease Marathon (taking Rookie of the Year honors in 2013), John Beargrease Mid-Distance, Gichigami Express, UP 200, Copper Dog 150, White Oak Classic, Midnight Run, Apostle Islands and Can Am Crown.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Colleen Wallin[/image_frame]

Colleen Wallin

Two Harbors, Minnesota – Silver Creek Sled Dogs

Colleen has been racing for 22 years. She has raced the John Beargrease, the UP200, Grand Portage Passage, Esslinger, Empire, Mid-Minnesota 150 and CanAm to name a few. She is the Recreation Director at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Silver Bay. She enjoys the time she spends on the runners each winter!


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Picture of Ward Wallin fishing with two young children[/image_frame]

Ward Wallin

Two Harbors, Minnesota – Silver Creek Sled Dogs

Ward and his wife Colleen has been racing for 22 years. When not training dogs, he is busy coaching baseball and football at William Kelley High School in Silver Bay. He and Colleen have two sons: Ian, 17 and Ero, 13. Ward works at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Silver Bay. He has previously competed in the UP 200, CanAm 250, and Wolf Track 60. When not hanging out with his dogs and his family, Ward is busy pursuing his literary passion and is currently working on a biography of his hero, veterinarian Dr. Nick Vukich, DVM.


8 Dog Race

[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Erin Altemus with iced eyelashes - boy that's cold![/image_frame]

Erin Altemus

Grand Marais, Minnesota – Mush Lake Racing

Erin and her husband Matt have 27 dogs in the deep woods off the Gunflint Trail. Erin currently works at the Care Center in Grand Marais as an aide and is in nursing school full time. She likes to write, play guitar and garden when not doing something with the dogs, which is her favorite thing. Erin has previously raced in the John Beargrease, Apostle Islands, Midnight Run and Gunflint Mail Run.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Mike Bestgen. Well, mainly just Mike Bestgen's eyes because everything else is covered.[/image_frame]

Michael Bestgen

Saint Cloud, Minnesota – Fugarwe Kennels

Michael has been running dogs for 20+ years and he loves it! He’s married to Vickie and together they have four children and nine-and-a-half grandkids. He has been working at Miller Chevrolet in Rogers, Minnesota for 30 years. Michael’s previous races include the Gunflint Mail Run, Gichigami Express, Midnight Run (1st place winner in 2013), John Beargrease, Copper Dog, Voyageur Classic and Apostle Islands.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Michael Betz[/image_frame]

Mike Betz

Minnetonka, Minnesota – Fugarwe Kennels

This is Mike’s first year running the Gunflint Mail Run. He has been involved in racing for eight years with previous races including the Midnight Run, Copper Dog, Ironline, TCSDR, and Apostle Islands. When not working with sled dogs, Mike enjoys Wisconsin cabin life, coffee, and playing guitar. He lives with his significant other Meagan, and their two house dogs, Harley (yellow lab) and Rango (Australian cattle dog).


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Picture of Michael D'Arcangelo showing off a fish he just caught. Both he and the fish have their mouths wide open.[/image_frame]

Michael D’Arcangelo

Finland, Minnesota – Manitou Crossing Kennels

Michael is extremely happy with the opportunity to learn this sport from Jen and Blake Freking, as it is his first season handling dogs. Originally from Ohio, Mike moved to Minnesota last spring to take a job for Voyageur Outward Bound. This is his first race, but hopefully not his last. What will you find him doing when he is not in the dog yard or in the BWCA? Eating or sleeping, fishing, reading, and spending time with his family and friends.



[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Maria Gaffney paddling[/image_frame]

Maria Gaffney

Hovland, Minnesota

This is Maria’s first entry in the Gunflint Mail Run. She has a small kennel of 10 Alaskan Husky sled dogs in Hovland, Minnesota. Maria started running sled dogs in 2009, first as a tour guide and later on she got into racing. She tells us, “I love learning from my dogs and fellow mushers!” She has previously raced in the CanAm 30, the Eagle Lake 30, the Wonalancet 15 and the Stratford 15/15.



[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Kalyn Holl wearing a University of Minnesota cap. Go Gophers! Go Kalyn![/image_frame]

Kalyn Holl

Finland, Minnesota – Manitou Crossing Kennels

The Gunflint Mail Run is Kalyn’s first race! It is also her first season with Manitou Crossing Kennels and while she has several years of experience working with dogs, this is her first year with sled dogs. She is very excited about the race and would like to thank Jen and Blake Freking for this opportunity and for letting her spend time with their fantastic dogs.



[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Picture of Dusty Klaven and her team racing in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Race.[/image_frame]

Dusty Klaven

Togo, Minnesota – Klaven’s Crazy K-9s

Dusty is new to the Gunflint Mail Run but she has been racing since 2007. In fact, she has raced in the White Oak Classic, Wolf Track Classic, Apostle Island, John Beargrease mid-distance, and the Tahquamenon Country. Dusty enjoys her dogs and all the challenges that come with them. She would like to thank her sponsors, Barn Yarns in Greaney, Minnesota and Vermilion Veterinary Clinic in Cook, Minnesota.



[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Mary Manning[/image_frame]

Mary Manning

Hovland, Minnesota – Doodle Dog Kennel

This is Mary’s first entry in the Gunflint Mail Run. She lives in Cook County and has been running dogs for almost 20 years. She and her dogs have camped and raced from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Mary tells us, “I am thankful for the organizers and volunteers who allow me to have race adventures.” Mary has competed in the Apostle Islands, Hinckley Great Trail, Mackinaw Wilderness Run, Tahquamenon Country, John Beargrease Rec and WolfTrack Classic.



[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Headshot of Joanna Oberg and an Irish Setter[/image_frame]

Joanna Oberg

Ignace, Ontario – Run Silent Racing

This is Joanna’s first time racing in the Gunflint Mail Run and it is one of her closest races, since she is coming from Northwestern Ontario. She helps her parents operate a fishing/hunting camp in the summer/fall. They keep a small kennel of around 20 dogs, including retirees and puppies. They are blessed with lots of trails to train on in their remote location, 18 miles from the closest neighbor, which would be the town of Ignace. When she is not spending time with her sled dogs, she enjoys fishing, swimming, kayaking, boating, reading, walking/jogging with her Irish Setter and participating in dog shows. Joanna has previously raced in the Midnight Run (winning first place and Best Cared for Team in 2012, Voyageur Classic (first place in 2014), John Beargrease Mid-Distance, Midnight Run and Copper Dog (Best Cared for Team in 2015).


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Picture of Jerry Papke carrying a young child on his shoulders. Jerry looks nice but the little one steals the show![/image_frame]

Jerry Papke

Kingston, Michigan – Alder Creek Kennel

Jerry Papke has owned Alder Creek Kennel since 1980 but has only been running sled dogs for 16 years. His family is also involved with training and racing (wife Ali, son Jesse, daughter Maichen and grandmas and grandpas). It’s a good thing all those people are helping out with the dogs because Alder Creek Kennel has 31 adult dogs and eight puppies. Jerry also works for the power company as a lineman. He has previously competed in the John Beargrease (Best cared for team award winner in 2011), Midnight Run (Tom Cooley award winner in 2011) and CopperDog 150 (Sportsmanship award winner in 2011).


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Picture of Christine Richardson wearing a vest from the Irving 250 sled dog race[/image_frame]

Christine Richardson

Canaan, New Hampshire – Seal Cove Kennel

Christine lives in Canaan with her partner Kip and 39 sled dogs. She’s been running dogs for 19 years, starting with sprint racing and working her way up to 250 mile races. Her company is Seal Cove Journeys, which does big community rides, musher training programs, and tours. Christine loves working with her dogs and watching them grow as athletes. She runs quite a few pointer crosses from sprint lines on her team, so when you look for them on the trail, they will be the ones with floppy ears and lots of clothes! What brings her to the Gunflint Mail Run? “Because we have had no snow on the east coast this December, I decided to travel to Minnesota to visit my friend Maria and have fun running the team. Turns out this race is right up the road so we are excited to race some new trails!” Christine has previously run the CanAm 250 and the UP200.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Picture of Chad Schoeuweiler holding a coffee cup and surrounded by puppies[/image_frame]

Chad Schouweiler

Irma, Wisconsin – Otter Run Kennel

Chad has been racing dogs for 12 years and this is his first entry in the Gunflint Mail Run. He owns a small kennel in Northern Wisconsin. He loves all aspects of the sport, especially raising and training up puppies. His previous races include the 2006 Iditarod, John Beargrease Marathon, John Beargrease Mid-distance, Midnight Run, Copperdog 40, Copperdog 150.


[image_frame style=”framed_shadow”]Picture of Adam Treeful from a sled dog race. His beard is covered with snow.[/image_frame]

Adam Treeful

Grand Marais, Minnesota – Da Muttley Crüe

Adam has lived and worked on the Gunflint Trail for the past 13 years. In the summer he’s a fishing/canoe guide and in the winter he gives dog sled tour rides. He’s been mushing tours for a living for around 12 years off and on. For the past six years he has been mushing with his own dogs. He has 17 dogs in his kennel as of right now. He looks forward to running the Mail Run and says, “It’s nice that it’s almost in my back yard. We won’t be the fastest or prettiest team, but we will be one of the happiest ones.”




Photo credit: Nace Hagemann for the top picture and for pictures of Brian Bergen, Leanne Bergen, Jennifer Freking, Odin Jorgenson, Frank & Sherri Moe and Colleen Wallin.