KASILOF - Any Iditarod veteran knows it’s never a good idea to play favorites.
“I don't like to use the f-word for favorite, but yeah, I do. I don't like to say it in front of them,” said Kristy Berington of her sled dogs.
Kristy readied her team for a training run, mostly rookies and a few vets, all raring to go.
An Iditarod veteran herself with two races under her belt, Kristy will have one more pup tagging along on the trails to Nome this year—her sister Anna, who’s younger by all of five minutes.
“She kicked me out when she was born. Our mom didn't know she was having twins until she came along,” said Kristy.
Anna is now following in her sister’s footsteps, or rather sled tracks, taking on the thousand-mile journey.
“There have been a lot of family mushers, so we join the dynasty of the Mackeys and the Seaveys and the ones who've made it a family affair, so it's cool we get to call ourselves that too,” said Anna.
The six-foot tall, blonde braided beauties are identical in almost every way. They share the same laugh and also a love for sled dog racing that runs deep. The pair grew up in Port Wing, Wisconsin and got into the sport at an early age.
“We took a pair of downhill skis and tied a milk crate to it and took the handle off our dad's dolly and tied it to it. There were no brakes, but we didn't go fast enough. Our team consisted of two dogs and one sister,” said the sisters.
“I reminisce about all the times we've trained together, how many miles we've been out there on the sled from when we first started out on a milk crate with skis and two pet dogs to what we've come to know and now that Anna's doing the Iditarod, it's kind of coming full circle,” said Kristy.
Helping them complete the expedition is race veteran Dean Osmar. He says it might be fate that he won the Iditarod in 1984, the same year the Berington sisters were born.
He’s been one of their mentors since the twins moved to Kasilof a few years ago.
“I would rate these sisters right up there with any of them for toughness and as soon as they learn a little more about the dogs they'll be right up near the top on the Iditarod. They're quick learners, they're strong as a bull,” said Osmar.
The sisters have followed the same path in life and are nearly inseparable.
“We went to the same high school; we went to a small high school so we were in all the same classes, playing tricks on our teachers. We joined the Army after school together, the National Guard, did that together. Moved up here together, so we're really close,” said Kristy.
Now they’ll take on the Last Great Race together.
“Knowing she'll be out on the trail too and experiencing what I'm experiencing, it will be a comfort thing,” said Anna.
The twins’ love for each other won’t stop them from getting into the competitive spirit. While Kristy may lead the way in Iditarod experience, they’re both rookies when it comes to running the race side by side. Both are eager to see which twin comes out on top.