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New leadership optimistic about restoring Beargrease to former glory

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The new leadership team that's taking over control of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon hopes to return the North Shore race to its former prominence in the dog sledding world.

The musher who won the 400-mile marathon last year tells the Associated Press that two decades ago the Beargrease rivaled Alaska's Iditarod as the most prestigious race in North America. But a downward spiral of fewer sponsors, smaller purses, and a diminished reputation has hurt the race since then.

Now, even though this year's race has been revived, Nathan Schroeder of Chisholm tells the AP he won't be there to defend his crown because he's heading northwest for the Iditarod.

But the Beargrease's reversal of fortune in the last week has inspired its new organizers. Jason Rice, a former board president who is back as part of the new team, tells Northland's News Center "There are literally dozens of people rallying around this effort right now and the number is growing." The station says the new leadership group will elect board members Wednesday.

The Duluth News Tribune describes this week's change as a peaceful coup that occurred during Monday's board meeting.

The announcement by the former board that this winter's race would need to be cancelled while organizers tended to a ragged financial situation may have been a blessing in disguise. Musher John Stetson tells the News Tribune “There’s a huge upswell of people willing to help and keep it going.”

This winter's race is back on the calendar for January 26, 2014.

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