Former Olney Resident Makes Her Iditarod Debut

Josi Thyr is fulfilling a 20-year dream of competing in the Iditarod and will draw on string of successful results during 1,000-mile race

By Micah Drew
Josi Thyr of Olney competes in the Flathead Classic sled dog race on Feb. 26, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Former Olney resident Josi Thyr is currently 130 miles from civilization and heading deeper into the Alaska wilderness with 16 canines as companions. Thyr is making her rookie debut at the Iditarod, the iconic 1,000-mile sled dog race that stretches from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, and has been turning heads in the sled dog world with an impressive string of results leading up to the race. The race began this weekend

The 30-year-old grew up in northern Idaho and first thought about running in the Iditarod when she was just 9 and got her first Siberian husky named Nakota. She began racing seriously as a teenager, helping veteran Iditarod racer Aaron Burmeister in Alaska during the winter. She lived for several years in Olney, where she competed around Montana and other western states, while running sled dog tours around the Flathead Valley and Seeley Lake.

With more than 15 years of mushing experience, Thyr moved to Fairbanks last spring to better train for the sport’s marquee event with her own 25-dog kennel. Leading up to this year’s Iditarod, she made an impression on the state’s mushers with competitive finishes at two “mid-distance” races — seventh place at the Copper Basin 300 and a third-place finish in the Yukon Quest 300.

For her first year at the Iditarod, Thyr is looking to complete the race with a healthy team of dogs and see how she fares against the field in such a long event.

“Really I’ll just be looking at my team, making sure I’m setting them up well for the end and continuing to build our bond and trust and get to the finish line,” Thyr said on the Alaska Musher podcast last week. “Next year, and the years after that, then we’ll see.”

Thyr said that she would consider a 10-day Iditarod finish a success for her first run, but acknowledges that there are numerous outside factors including trail conditions and weather that could impact the race. Last year’s winner, Ryan Redington, won the race in eight days, 21 hours.

“We’ll just take it as it comes and tackle one challenge after another,” Thyr said.

Another Montanan, Seeley Lake’s Jessie Royer, is also competing in the Iditarod. Royer has run the race 21 times, recording eight top-10 finishes, including back-to-back third-place finishes in 2019 and 2020.

Follow Thyr’s progress during the 2024 Iditarod here.

Thyr’s dog Tide awaits the start of its race at the Flathead Classic dog sled races in Olney on Feb. 26, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon