Graduate of Texas university, medical school to compete in 2006 Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's a long way (more than 4,000 miles) from Texas to Anchorage, Alaska -- the starting point of the 2006 Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

But it is a journey that Randy Cummins, who spent several years in the Lone Star State during the 1970s and ‘80s, has taken with the dogs from his HuskyTown kennel.

Cummins, a resident of Big Lake, Alaska, and the dogs are competing in this year's race, which starts on March 4. He graduated with a biology degree North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) in 1982. Cummins then attended the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas to earn his medical degree. He moved to the Spokane, Wash. area to practice medicine.

During a visit to Alaska in 2001, he saw the start of the Iditarod sled dog race, which covers 1,150 miles from Anchorage to Nome. It has been called "The Last Great Race on Earth. "

"I was hooked," Cummins says.

He began mushing the next year, and sold his practice in 2003 to move to Alaska. Cummins started with three or four dogs on a sled, then decided to get more.

"Once I had eight or nine dogs, I thought I should get involved in racing," he says.

He eventually opened his own kennel, which has its own website at www.HuskyTown.com.

Cummins gained experience for the Iditarod by participating in smaller sled dog races, including the Aurora Dog Mushers Cheechako Race, the Klondike 300 and the Knik 300. He planned to participate in last year's Iditarod race, but dropped out before the competition began.

"I made some mistakes, and we weren't as ready last year. Hopefully, I've learned some lessons," he says.

Cummins says each of his race dogs has its own personality.

"I have dogs that are really rambunctious and playful, and others are shy. Two or three dogs act like they don't want to race, but once they are hooked up to the sled, they get over their pre-race jitters," Cummins says.

The dog sled travels at an average speed of nine or 10 miles per hour. Cummins says the dogs burn an average of 10,000 calories a day.

"I take the teams out on 40 or 50 mile runs. Most of the dogs have put on between 1,700 and 2,000 miles training since last May," he says.

To prepare for the race, Cummins has put aside 1,700 pounds of supplies -- 1,300 pounds in dog food alone.

The race will end in Nome. Over the last 10 years, it's taken the winning team less than 10 days to cover more than 1,100 miles.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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