FORT KENT, Maine — A New Brunswick musher made history Monday morning by becoming the first woman ever to win the Can-Am 250 sled dog race.
Katherine Langlais, 39, of Glenwood, New Brunswick, crossed the finish line at Lonesome Pine Trails in Fort Kent at 8:24 a.m. Monday.
“It’s a dream and it happened,” Langlais said. “You always want to be competitive, but you never know when you’re going to win. It’s the ultimate goal, but was it this year, next year, in 10 years, nobody knows. It wasn’t something I expected but it was something I’ve been working on.”
She beat out 13 other competitors, including 10-time Can-Am 250 champion Martin Massicotte, to win New England’s longest sled dog race.
Langlais spent the last leg of the race in a heated battle with Massicotte and second-place finisher Keith Aili of Ray, Minnesota.
Canadian women won all three Can-Am Crown Sled Dog races this year, the event’s 30th running.
Florence Shaw, 17, of Fermont, Quebec, won the In Memory of Willard Jalbert Jr. Can-Am 100-mile race on Sunday.
Diane Marquis, 68, of St. Medard, Quebec, crossed the finish line Saturday afternoon to win the Pepsi/Native Dog Food Can-Am Crown 30-mile race.
An emotional celebration ensued as Langlais’ daughter, dog handler and friends took turns embracing her at the finish line. Her husband, Remy Leduc, was still mushing the 250-mile race.
Langlais nearly won the Can-Am 250 in 2020, coming in just 35 seconds behind champion Denis Tremblay. Last year she scratched from the race. which tangled with her confidence.
“This year was the first time I was nervous,” Langlais said. “I didn’t want to push too hard, I didn’t want to not do enough. It’s like I didn’t know how to run dogs anymore, so yeah, I was a little jittery before the race.”
It took Langlais 28:38:53 to complete her historic run. Trails were punchier than usual this year due to what Can-Am President Dennis Cyr described as “a strange winter.”
The area received a lot of fluffy, dry snow, but never really a storm that hardened the trails. Snow depth is about 36 inches, so anyone getting off the trail would sink to their waist, he said.
Cyr said he was not surprised Langlais planted a female flag on the mountaintop of Can-Am 250 championships, nor that women won all three races at the event this year.
“Women have been competitive for years,” Cyr said. “They are all mushers; they are all part of our family.”
Langlais was humble about her history making Can-Am win.
“It’s an accomplishment for anyone to finish the 250 race; it’s a really hard race,” she said.
For some, Langlais’ accomplishment was all the more meaningful because she is a woman.
Female vet tech and Can-Am volunteer Rhonda Welcome was teary-eyed as she hugged Langlais after the race.
“I’ve been coming for 30 years. I’ve been waiting for a woman to win this, so thank you,” she said.