Harry Houdini was said to be the world’s best magician but as it stands, North Dakota may now be the home of the next great famed magicians.

Harry Houdini was said to be the world’s best magician but as it stands, North Dakota may now be the home of the next great famed magicians.

When mom is a physical therapist, dad is a veterinarian, both own their own businesses, and they have five children, one a toddler, it may take a magician to find time for two children to compete in dog sled races.

Malinda, 15, daughter of Pete and Jodi Tjelta of Sheyenne., is a competitor in this year’s Alaskan Junior Iditarod.  “It’s one of those things,” says Pete, “where you have to teach your kids responsibility and independence a lot quicker than you would for most things. It’s been great watching Malinda grow up as she continues to compete in races and become more independently responsible.”

Malinda and her father say  schooling has proved a challenge this year as a good deal of Malinda's learning has been online, leaving her to learn and interpret a lot of things for herself but that she has done very well.

Recently a steak dinner fundraiser/sendoff  was held at the New Rockford Golf Course for Malinda who will make her first trip to the Junior Iditarod to be held in Wasilla, Alaska, next month. This will make her the first teenager in North Dakota history to perform in the Junior Iditarod.  

Malinda has been performing in open sled dog competitions for the last five years, competitions that have consisted from people her own age to adults. She said she has done well, coming out in the top 10 or 15 racers. Though she has jitters as always about the upcoming race, she is looking forward to meeting everyone and expects that she will do well.

With the help of her coach, a four-time winner of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Competition, one of the oldest and longest dog sled races, Malinda will continue to get more hands-on practice prior to going to Alaska as she will perform Jan. 12-23 in the Voyagers Classic Sled Dog Race (see VoyageursClassic.Com) in Northome, Minn., and Feb. 2 in the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race in Kasilof, Alaska. (tustumena.com).

The Junior Iditarod (see jriditarod.com), originally created in 1977 by a group of teens too young to perform in the actual Iditarod, will take place Feb. 22 and 23 in Wasilla, Alaska, one week before the actual Iditarod. This year’s race will feature 10 mushers competing against each other over a distance of between 148 to 158 miles. Each racer will start with 10 dogs and carry all of the same equipment that racers in the Iditarod are required to carry including two pounds of dog food and all survival necessities for the musher and their team of dogs. The winner will take the honorary first position out of the chute during the ceremonial start of the longer race the following week in Anchorage.

Given this year’s mushers, most rookie first timers to this race, continued forecast of light fresh snow in Wasilla during February, and a cast of sponsors, Malinda looks to have a great chance at leading the mushers the following week in the 2013 Iditarod.

Used by permission.

Editor’s Note: Pete Tjelta is the owner of the Devils Lake Animal Clinic PLLC located at 8321 Highway 2 East in Devils Lake.