At 14, Ipswich sprint racer Lily Stewart is leader of the pack.
While many adolescent girls spend their free time obsessing over Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers, musher and Ipswich teen Lily Stewart is busy tearing up the trails with her beloved team of sled dogs.
How did you get into mushing? I got into mushing in first grade after reading a book about it from the library and watching
Balto a hundred times. Then we met up with aÂ long-distance musher in New Hampshire and she gave me rides on the sled with her team. Soon, I realized that I was more interested in sprint racing and met a sprint musher, Lis Bailey, who taught me about the sport and let me train and race a few of her older dogs.
How many races have you won? When I was in the three-dog junior classes for several years, the competition pool was smaller and I won…probably six races a season. I also won the 2009 World Championships for three-dog junior, the 2009 NewÂ England championship, and the International Sled Dog Racing AssociationÂ gold medal in 2009 and the silver in 2008.
Tell us about your dogs. I race with four to six dogs per race. This year I am racing Barq, Monopoly, Slice, and Beck. They are all German Short Hair Pointer crosses and are not the big fluffy sled dogs that you would imagine. They are much faster for short (four- to six-mile) distances and tend to be more social with people.
What’s the best part of sprint racing? The best part is being on the trail with the dogs, and everything is quiet except for the sound of the feet tapping the snow and the shoosh of the runners gliding behind them. Also, I just love being able to go so fast-up to 25 miles per hour!Â My relationshipÂ with the dogs becomes so strong in such a short period of time. . . There is much more to sled dog racing than simply jumping on for the ride.
How do you train? I train for races starting in early October.Â We train with aÂ four-wheeler, cart, and bikes when there isn’t any snow, which keeps [the dogs] in shape and strong for when snow does come.Â Training is not for the musher’s benefit, but instead to get the dogs ready and peaking for the season.
What do you do when you’re not training or racing? When I’m not racing, I ride horses, play the cello, unicycle, and mountain bike.Â However, sled dog racing is by far my favorite sport, and it is actually a lifestyle. -Lindsay Lambert