NMU Mushing Club is Ready To Race— and Ready To Pitch In

October 28, 2022

NMU Mushing Club co-captain/founder Alex Weeden gets ready to head out in the 1-dog bikejor at the 2022 Dryland Dash, while club co-founder and current UPSDA board member Abigail Marty acts as dog handler.

The Gang-Line recently had the pleasure of meeting Alex Weeden and Abby VanMeurs, co-captains of the NMU Mushing Club, at the Dryland Dash. These motivated NMU students are not only looking for opportunities to race and care for dogs, they’re also looking to give back to the community. The NMU Mushing Club was founded in 2020 by four students based on their shared interest in developing mushing skills and giving back to the sled dog community– as evidenced by the club’s volunteerism at races, founding member Abby Marty’s service as a UPSDA board member and other volunteer activities. After the Dryland Dash, we had the chance to talk with Alex to learn more about the club and her mushing aspirations.

How did the NMU Mushing Club come about?

The Mushing Club started in 2020, as a thing between my roommates and me. The other current captain and I had never run dogs before the fall of 2020 and Abby Marty, who is now a UW-Madison student, set up a run for Abby VanMeurs (my co-captain) and myself with Lara Renner (our other roommate) and Janis Boutwell (musher from Wisconsin) and got us hooked. So the founding members were Abby Marty, Lara Renner, Abby VanMeurs, and myself and there are currently ten club members.

What do you hope to accomplish with the mushing club during your time at NMU?

I’d really like for the club to have a steady group of club members who are active in the community. Having the club be known for being helpful and for being vigorous volunteers would be awesome!

If readers of the Gang-Line want to support the NMU Mushing Club, how can they help?

If readers want to support the club we’re always looking for kennels to visit and dogs to meet (and possibly run)! We always accept gear donations as well so that we can assist some of the mushers we work with (mainly gang lines and cable tie-outs). If people want to spend money to support the club, gift certificates to Mare-Z-Doats, Dunhams and REI are always welcome. Little things like insulated mittens and hats would do wonders for everyone. Having them helps us give back to the community that helps us. We also have a Bonfire site with t-shirt and sweatshirt designs for sale—the designs are created by me and Abby VanMeurs.

What was your first mushing experience mushing?

My first experience running dogs was a little wild! I ran a two-dog bikejor team from Janis Boutwell in early September 2020 with the rest of the club founders. We met up around five in the morning out in the Keweenaw after camping out in Baraga for the weekend. Needless to say, none of us had run the trails before and we quickly got split up. Janis and I ended up running pretty close together but quickly realized I didn’t have any brakes on the bike I was using (a trend that seems to continue to this day) and I decided that my safest choice was to bail on my downhill — a safer choice than eating it on the gravel that started on the upswing. So I called the stop, dropped the bike, and then ran to get the dogs where they waited for me.

What’s next for you in mushing?

I’m hoping to continue with racing dryland, and maybe try and get into some snow races this winter all things depending, nothing is set in stone. I’m hoping in the next few years to be able to purchase a dog or two of my own and keep doing the sport. Now that I’m here, I think I’m stuck!

Alex is majoring in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management and on track to graduate in spring of 2025. If you have questions about how to support the club or want to get involved, you can email her at aweeden@nmu.edu or reach out to the co-captain Abigail VanMeurs at avanmeur@nmu.edu

Good luck with your studies and your mushing, Alex and all NMU Mushing Club members!

NMU Mushing Club co-captain/founder Abby VanMeurs gets ready to head out in the 2-dog bikejor at the 2022 Dryland Dash.