When the fifth-grade language arts students at Boardman Glenwood Middle School began reading a book on a dogsled racer competing in the Iditarod, they had no clue they would get to see the real thing. On Friday, Shannon Miller from Diamond, Ohio, brought her sled and one of her best dogs to the school to give a presentation on what it is like.
"The entire fifth grade is reading the book, 'The Junior Iditarod Race'," said Glenwood language arts teacher Jennifer Bartholomew. "The race was over the weekend so the timing was perfect to bring in a real musher."
A musher is the person who drives the dogsled over the course. Bartholomew, who lives in Columbiana, was at the Columbiana library when Miller was a guest speaker talking on her life as a musher. Afterwards, Bartholomew asked her if she would mind speaking to the Glenwood students. Miller agreed and the special assembly was set for for Friday.
Dogsled racer Shannon Miller and Miles, one of her 18 dogs trained to pull a sled, talks with Glenwood Middle School language arts teacher Jennifer Bartholomew prior to a special assembly for the fifth-graders.
Miller said she started racing the sleds in 1997. She had worked for a fellow named Frank Teasley in Wyoming who operated a dogsled touring company. He had 180 dogs and Miller got used to handling them while working there. When she moved to Diamond, she decided to open her own kennel. That was in 2006, and Miller now has 20 dogs in her stable that she named Diamond Dogs Racing.
Miller said she names her dogs after famous jazz musicians. The dog she brought to Glenwood was Miles, who was named after Miles Davis. The dog is not the bushy Siberian Husky that one may see at a dog show. Miller said the sled dogs are a hybrid with different characteristics bred in to give them more stamina and speed to compete in long races.
Although Miller has not competed in the actual Iditarod, she has participating in some grueling races. The most recent was a nine-hour checkpoint night race in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The race is called "The Midnight Run." She said someday she would like to run the Iditarod, but it takes a lot in preparation as well as funding.
"Entry fees alone for the Iditarod is around $4,000," Miller said. "Add that to the other expenses, travel and equipment, and it takes a lot just to get to the starting line."
While that may be in Miller's future, she enjoys talking about her involvement to groups of children. And Miles enjoys meeting them as well.
On top of the assembly and reading the book, the Glenwood teachers also created a contest for the kids.
"They picked a musher in the weekend race," Bartholomew said. "The winners got a special prize on Monday."