2017 Mushers

Gunflint Mail Run Musher Profiles

2017 Musher Profiles

And they’re off!

12 Dog Race

Blake Freking (Bib #1)

Finland, Minnesota – Manitou Crossing Kennels


Jake Leingang (Bib #5)

Finland, Minnesota – Manitou Crossing Kennels


Mary Manning (Bib #2)

Hovland, Minnesota – Doodle Dog Kennel

Mary is back at the Gunflint Mail Run for her second year (last year she and her team ran in the 8-dog race). Mary 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 West Yellowstone, Montana. Mary tells us, “I am thankful for the organizers, sponsors and volunteers who allow me to have amazing and wonderful race adventures!” Mary has been a handler for the Beargrease and Grand Portage Passage and has raced in the Hinckley Great Trail Sleddog Race, Mackinaw Wilderness Run, Tahquamenon Country Race, Beargrease Recreation Race, WolfTrackClass, Midnight Run 90, and Apostle Islands 80.

Ryan Redington (Bib #7)

Ashland, Wisconsin – Callin’ Trail Kennel

Ryan has been running dogs since he could hang on to the handle bars. His grandfather is Joe Redington Senior, founder of the Iditarod. Ryan has run many races across the lower 48 states and Alaska. Last year he won the Northern Lights 30. He and his wife, Erin, along with their two children, Eve 2 years and TJ 1 year, have a kennel of about 40 dogs. The team spend their time training in both Alaska and Northern Wisconsin.

Matthew Schmidt (Bib #4)

Grand Marais, Minnesota – Mush Lake Racing

Matt and his wife Erin live in the woods off the Gunflint Trial with 25 dogs and some puppies. They moved to the area because of the dog mushing opportunities and they love the trails around here. Matt works at YMCA Camp Menogyn as the caretaker year round, not too far from the race start line. He loves Trail Center for dog races because of the staff and the fact that Sarah never lets him go hungry. Matt has previously raced in the Gichigami Express, Apostle Islands, Midnight Run, Iron line, and UP 200.

Colleen Wallin (Bib #3)

Two Harbors, Minnesota – Silver Creek Sled Dogs

Colleen has been racing for over 23 years. She has raced the John Beargrease, the UP200, Grand Portage Passage, Esslinger, Empire, Mid-Minnesota 150 and CanAm to name a few. Their kennel has a nice mix of young and veteran dogs this year and she is looking forward to this year’s Gunflint Mail Run. When not running dogs, she is the Recreation Director at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Silver Bay. She and her husband, Ward, have two sones Ian (18) and Ero (14), who help out when they can. Colleen thanks Mike Hoff, who helps train and race when he can and wishes a good luck to all the competitors.

Ward Wallin (Bib #6)

Two Harbors, Minnesota – Silver Creek Sled Dogs

Ward has been racing for over 23 years. In his spare time he coaches high school baseball and football in Silver Bay. His rival and good friend, Race Marshall Arleigh Jorgensen coaches the Cook County baseball team. In addition to seeing each other on the “runners,” they meet on the baseball diamond regularly. Ward goes on to explain that “Unfortunately, he isn’t as gracious, as the Cook County 9 has dominated the Bay the last three years.” Ward is hoping to change that next spring!

8 Dog Race

Michael Bestgen (Bib #13)

Saint Cloud, Minnesota – Fugarwe Kennels

Michael is returning again to the Gunflint Mail run and he has the honor of being the first musher to register. He 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.

Mike Betz (Bib #15)

Minnetonka, Minnesota – Fugarwe Kennels

Mike is returning to the Gunflint Mail run for a second year, having had so much fun at last year’s race. He’s been involved in racing for nine years or so 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, playing guitar, and long walks on the beach. He lives with his significant other Meagan, and their three house dogs: Harley (yellow lab), Rango (Australian cattle dog) and Lily (golden retriever).

Andrea DeBoer (Bib #16)

Grand Marais, Minnesota – Amarok Kennel

This is Andrea DeBoer’s first year in the Gunflint Mail Run but it is her fifth season being the musher and her 20th year being around sled dogs. Her mom and step-dad, Robin and Greg Beall, started Amarok Kennel over 30 years ago. Andrea and her husband are slowly growing their own kennel with the guidance and insight from the experience of Andrea’s parents. Amarok kennel currently is home to 40 Alaskan Huskies. Andrea explains that between working full-time at the Public Health and Human Services Department in Cook County and taking care of their three children, Tanner(14), Taylor(12) and Talon(8), it is surreal at times that she is able to participate and race dogs. She says, “We might not have the fastest or most ideal training schedule but it is still a Dream come true!  I am looking forward to a successful year of running dogs and learning as much as I can from them.” Andrea has previously raced in the Wolftrack Classic 30, the JackPine 30, and the Winter Warrior 25.


Ross Fraboni (Bib #18)

Tofte, Minnesota – Stoney Creek Kennel

Ross Fraboni is competing for the first time this year in the Gunflint Mail Run but he is well known in the sled dog world. He won the 2014 mid-distance, the 2013 Gichigami Express and the 2011 Copper Dog. His wife may be the secret to his success. As Ross explains, “My wife got me into this a few years ago and likes to watch me shiver!”

Maria Gaffney

Hovland, Minnesota

This is Maria’s second 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.


Dusty Klaven (Bib #17)

Togo, Minnesota – Klaven’s Crazy K-9s

Dusty Klaven and her team are super pumped to test their skills and training again this year in the Gunflint Mail Run. She and her team have been busy in the last few years. Besides winning the 8 dog race for the Mail Run last year, they also came in first in the Wolf Track Classic and third in the Beargrease Mid-Distance race. In 2015, they won first place in the Wolf Track Classic and second in the Apostle Islands Six Dog Pro. And in 2013, they took first in the Voyageurs Classic. It’s hard to believe that Dusty is only 28 years old and already has a kennel of 30 dogs! She enjoys the relationship she has with those dogs and values what they teach her, both in the kennel and on the trails. When she isn’t training or racing with the dogs, she works at Fortune Bay Resort & Casino She would like to thank her sponsor, Barn Yarns in Greaney, Minnesota and her awesome handlers. “We got this!”


Joanna Oberg (Bib #14)

Ignace, Ontario – Run Silent Racing

Ignace, Ontario – Run Silent Racing
Joanna Oberg is back for her second year in the Gunflint Mail Run. A native Minnesotan, she moved to northwestern Ontario nine years ago and it is there that she helps her parents operate a fishing/hunting camp year round. Prior to moving to Canada, she and her father gave sled dog tours for 10 years in Ely. While they still give rides, they have been able to focus on racing and together they care and train the dogs. Their kennel, Run Silent Racing, maintains an average of 20-25 dogs, including retirees and puppies. With her dad staying back to manage the camp, Joanna’s mom handles for her at the races and she enjoys being part of the racing scene. 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). She placed third in the 2016 Gunflint Mail Run 8-dog race.

Chad Schouweiler (Bib #12)

Irma, Wisconsin – Otter Run Kennel

Chad has been racing dogs for 12 years and this is his second 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 last year’s Mail Run (he came in second in the 8-dog race), the 2006 Iditarod, John Beargrease Marathon, John Beargrease Mid-distance, Midnight Run, Copperdog 40, Copperdog 150. All of that experience has given Chad a great perspective on racing. “I have raced from 20 to 1000 miles but my favorite races are ones like the Gunflint Mail Run of 70 – 100 miles, as they are a great combination of speed, endurance, strength, and most importantly, fun.”

Adam Treeful (Bib #10)

Grand Marais, Minnesota – Da Muttley Crüe

Adam has lived and worked on the Gunflint Trail for going on 15 years now. Adam explains his interest in the Gunflint Mail Run: “This race is basically in my backyard so I’d have to have a good excuse to not run it. So ready or not, I’m running it. Here I am!” Adam wants to thank everyone that makes the race happen. He also thanks everyone who donated to his racing fund and his sponsor, Gunflint Lodge. “Without that support, I wouldn’t be lining up at the starting line this year.”

Rita Wehseler (Bib #11)

Tofte, Minnesota – Stoney Creek Kennel

Rita and her husband, Bill, own Stoney Creek Kennel in Tofte, Minnesota. Rita has been racing and training dogs for 17 years. She has previously raced in the CopperDog and the Apostle Island (she came in first place in 2015).



Photo credit: Nace Hagemann for the top picture and for picture of Colleen Wallin.