Adventurer ~ Dog Lover ~ Educator
Aliy Zirkle races SP Kennel's Red Team. Although her primary focus is the annual long-distance Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Aliy competes in a number of short- and mid-distance races during the season. These often include the Two Rivers 100, the Copper Basin 300 and the Yukon Quest 300.
Every year since 1998 Aliy has raced either the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race or the Iditarod. She has reached the finish line every time. In the year 2000, Aliy won the Yukon Quest -- "The World's Toughest Sled Dog Race." Following that win, she switched her focus to the Iditarod and has completed "The Last Great Race" fifteen consecutive years. Her best finish in the Iditarod is 2nd place -- three years in a row! (2012,2013 and 2014)
Throughout Aliy's career, she has been awarded numerous titles. Two of her most treasured awards are: the Yukon Quest's "Spirit of the North Award" -- awarded to her in 1999 -- and the Iditarod's "Humanitarian Award" for supreme care of her dogs -- awarded to her in both 2005 and 2011.
Donna Dewhurst/Scott Lawrence Photo
Aliy began dog mushing in a small Alaskan town north of the Arctic Circle called Bettles, population 35. There are no roads leading to this tiny town. The only way to get there is airplane or boat in the summer and snowmachine or dog team in the winter. So Aliy adopted six sled dogs: Skunk, Jack, Woody, Roller, Cedar and Flood. During her first winter in the arctic, Aliy and her dogs explored the Alaskan wilderness alone. They spent many nights camped under the Northern Lights. These six dogs taught Aliy much of the knowledge she has in dog mushing today.
While living in Bettles, Aliy entered into a short sled dog race in Allakaket, a village on the Koyukuk River. She loved the experience. When she left Bettles, Aliy moved to Two Rivers, Alaska -- outside of Fairbanks -- known as one of the dog mushing capitals of the world. It was then that she really started getting into racing sled dogs, and has become one of the premier mushers in the sport today.
Aliy was born in New Hampshire, then spent much of her childhood in Puerto Rico and St. Louis, Missouri. At age 20, she found her way north to Alaska and fell in love with the land. She met Allen 18 years ago and they have been married for 11 years. Aliy's family has always been an important part of her life. Mickey and Doug, her mother and father, have been supportive throughout her adventurous life. Her grandparents, Bob and Chevie McDonald, have always been her race sponsors ~ paying her entry fee ~ for every single Yukon Quest and Iditarod. Her sister, KAZ, and her family live just down the trail from the kennel.
Aliy graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with dual degrees in biology and anthropology. While at Penn, Aliy played college volleyball and threw the hammer on the University's Track and Field Team. Her college graduation present to herself was a 5-month long hike along the Appalachian Trail.
Besides Alaskan Husky sled dogs, Aliy is passionate about coffee. Her mornings always start by grinding select coffee beans and brewing a tasty cup.