ONAC

Marvin Kokrine runs his team toward the finish line in the 2017 Open North American Sled Dog Race. The Open North American Championship is the longest continuously run and unofficial “Most Prestigious” dog sled race in the world. The 75th running of it was scheduled for 2020, but it has been canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Robin Wood/News-Miner

The Open North American Championship sled dog race, scheduled to celebrate its 75th anniversary this weekend, was canceled Wednesday because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The ONAC is one of the top sprint mushing events in the world and it was set to start at 1 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Jeff Studdert Racegrounds behind the Mushers Hall off Farmers Loop.

The Studdert Racegrounds also was the finish line for the race which this year would have had heats of 20 miles each Friday and Saturday and 30 miles Sunday.

"It's sad. it's the first time in 74 years it's been called off. It will be the 75th again next year,'' Shannon Erhart, a board of the Alaska Dog Mushers Association, which conducts the race, said by phone Wednesday.

She added "It was time to put it at safety (first)."

Erhart anticipated 24 to 27 mushers participating in this year's race.

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.