Klondike Dog Derby begins, young leader shows the future of dog sled racing

Elena Freking has been leading her own sled dog teams since she was just 4-years-old.

"First off, it's a rare sport. Not too many people do it. To those who don't do it, it's pretty cool," said Freking.

Now at 12 years old, she'll be competing against mushers who are several times her age.

"It's pretty cool running with older people who are more experienced and who are big in the sport," said Freking.

The Finland Minnesota resident is one of four mushers under 18 years old, and the youngest, who will take part in this year's Klondike Dog Derby around Lake Minnetonka.

Organizers say 35 teams will participate in the 40-mile sled dog race that starts and ends in downtown Excelsior, with mushers ranging in age from 12-to-75.

"It's a pretty amazing sport for a young person to compete in because you are on equal footing with everyone else. You can enter in a race just like our young mushers are here today and they can win. They are not in a separate classes. So it's an amazing kind of equal opportunity sport for all ages," said Klondike Dog Derby founder Bethany Hway.

16-year-old Morgan Martens from Brule, Wisconsin already has a winning record in the sport of mushing.

"It's really fun to be competing against some of these mushers that I've looked up to my entire life being competitive with," said Martens.

He came in first place in the Junior Iditarod in Alaska a couple of years ago and is hoping for similar success in his second Klondike Dog Derby this weekend.

"It's great to keep mushing alive and knowing that you're part of the next generation of mushers. It's awesome to be a representative of the mushing community," said Martens.

This is Freking's second Klondike as well where she will also compete against her dad.

It's clear she and the other young mushers are ready to be the face of the sport in the future.

"It's just another generation of dog mushing being continued and being part of the sport," Freking.