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'It's freedom': Kuna teen to compete in Idaho Sled Dog Challenge

Seppa Francis will be the sole junior competitor in Thursday's Idaho Sled Dog Challenge.

MCCALL, Idaho — With a cumulative elevation change of 44,000 feet, it's been called one of the most grueling mushing competitions in the world.

The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge got underway Wednesday in McCall, with mushers from across the West competing in the 300-mile Iditarod qualifier race.

On Thursday, four Idahoans will compete in the 100-mile race.

And 15-year-old Seppa Francis of Kuna will be the sole competitor in the 37-mile Junior race, also happening on Thursday.

Seppa has been involved with sled dog racing for more than a decade.

"Started when I was like five in 2009 in Seely Lake, Montana," she explained during a recent training session outside of Idaho City. "Almost 11 years now, most of my life. Just down the road we had an Iditarod musher that would take me out when I was little and that's kinds how this all started."

RELATED: Idaho sled dog races near McCall get started

Seppa has some lofty goals when it comes to her chosen sport, including eventually competing in the famous Iditarod race in Alaska.

Competitions like Thursday's 37-mile trek are great experience for her and her dogs.

"This is my first technical race but I've been running forever," she said. "I think it's pretty cool, I like the opportunity to run and it's not that far."

As for why she loves sled dog racing, the answer is simple.

"It's freedom," she said. "I guess it's just where you can find your peace. There's nothing in the world that just kinda clears your head like this does."

Credit: Paul Boehlke/KTVB
15-year-old Seppa Francis trains with her sled dogs outside of Idaho City.

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