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Open North American events start today with race, draw

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Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 12:14 am | Updated: 1:44 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Activities leading up to the this weekend’s GCI Open North American Championship sled dog race begin this afternoon and continue this evening.

The annual Jeff’s Passenger race held in memory of Jeff Studdert will start at about 1 p.m. at the Jeff Studdert Racegrounds on Farmers’ Loop.

Mushers take a passenger in their sled basket for half the race, then the two switch positions for the second half of the event.

Registration and the draw for starting positions takes place at noon and the race usually gets under way between 12:30 and 1 p.m.

The big event today is the draw for starting positions and other festivities at the Northern Lattitudes restaurant in the Westmark Hotel.

Registration begins at 6 p.m., the draw for starting positions usually starts between 7 and 7:30 p.m.

Race organizer Kathy Fitzgerald expects between 15 and 20 mushers to sign up for the event.

The GCI Open North American is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the start/finish line on Second Avenue in downtown Fairbanks.

Teams race 20 miles the first and second day, then go on a grueling 27.6-mile jaunt on Sunday.

Egil Ellis is the defending champion and has 11 ONAC titles to his credit. He is the winningest musher in the history of the race.

More information on other activities will be published later this week.

Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.

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