Susan Butcher, born December 26, 1954, grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, began dog mushing in Colorado, and became a legend in Alaska with four victories in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race between 1986 and 1990. Tutored by race founder and good friend Joe Redington Sr., who announced to the world Butcher would become a champion, the hard-nosed competitor was renowned for her single-minded focus and checkpoint acumen.
Her run of victories between 1986 and 1988 marked the first time a musher won three consecutive Iditarods. Twice Butcher set speed records in the 1,100-mile race between Anchorage and Nome. She made her Iditarod debut in 1978 in 19th place. She placed second four times, third once, fourth once and fifth twice before retiring after the 1994 race.
In 1979, Butcher and Redington, accompanied by a photographer and aided by mountain guide Ray Genet, performed the seemingly impossible feat of driving dog teams to the summit of 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America. In three of Butcher’s Iditarod triumphs, the key lead dog was Granite, perhaps the most famous canine leader in race history.
She won three years in a row, from 1986 to 1988, and again in 1990 before retiring from competition to raise a family with her husband and fellow musher, David Monson, in the mid-1990’s.
Butcher’s careful training and treatment of her dogs revolutionized the sport. She went on to raise and train dogs with her husband at Trail Breakers Kennel near Fairbanks, Alaska. Butcher was known as a focused and confident competitor, who loved her dogs and insisted they remain fit and disciplined.
“She never thought there should be any barriers for women,” Monson said in a telephone interview yesterday. “She was the first woman ever to dominate and be the best in the world at a sport where men and women compete equally, and the men did not like that.”
“I don’t think she ever thought of herself as a pioneer.”
Her husband said. “She lived more in 51 years than some people do in a life time.”
SOURCE: Alaska Sports Hall Fame; New York Times; Achievement Acqdemy
Four-time Iditarod Champion, including three in a row ——-Two-time National Women’s Sports Foundation’s Professional Athlete of the Year ———U.S. Victor Award for Female Athlete of the Year two years in a row Named as one of the “100 Greatest Female Athletes” by Sports Illustrated