WATERVILLE — Asa Szegvari hopped on his mountain bike at the starting line, his dog yelping and jumping, anxious to bolt forward.

They took off with the dog’s harness attached to the bike via rope and bungee cords. The 5-year-old European hound, Shiva, plunged ahead while Szegvari, 13, pedaled as fast as he could over two miles of hilly terrain at Quarry Road Recreation Area.

Several minutes later, they crossed the finish line, both boy and dog splattered with mud.

“She did good,” Szegvari said of the dog’s performance.

They were one of many teams from all over New England that competed Saturday and Sunday in the Central Maine Dryland Challenge, a competition and training event for dog sledders preparing for winter contests.

Over the weekend 72 people and 250 dogs, including pointers, greyhounds, Alaskan huskies and Siberian huskies, took, according to Lindy Howe, the race marshal. The event was sponsored by Down East Sled Dog Club.

“This is a single dog heat,” Howe said just before Szegvari competed Sunday morning.

The contests included several categories, including four-dog teams that used carts with wheels, six-dog teams with carts, one-dog bicycle teams, two-dog bicycle teams and one- and two-dog teams using scooters.

Competitors could use the mileage and points they earned Saturday and Sunday toward qualifying for an upcoming world championship event in Canada, Howe said.

Szegvari, of Carlisle, Mass., has been dog sledding seven years, he said. His father, Ingo Szegvari, said their home town has a long history of breeding dogs, and children in school study Alaska and the Iditarod. The Carlisle public school mascot is the husky, he said.

“This is a great way to get winter dogs to slowly build up mileage,” he said. “We do sleds on the snow, and he (Asa) competes in four-dog pro class.”

The family, including Asa’s sister, Emma, are members of the New England Sled Dog Club and compete all over New England and Quebec with their four racing dogs.

“They’re an awesome team,” Ingo Szegvari said. “We’re very lucky. They were a top team for what we did last year in snow racing”

Asa Szegvari said the course at Quarry Road was very technical with hills and turns. The eighth-grader says he loves racing.

“It’s just fun to be outside all day, and you get to go faster than you could on your own, and it’s quiet when you do it,” he said.

He placed third in Saturday’s event and, after Sunday’s contest, placed fourth overall for the weekend.

Lynda Knowlton, who teaches law enforcement at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, brought four students to the event. A former Alaska resident, Knowlton owns dogs and has competed in hundreds of dog races.

“I think the trails here are awesome,” Knowlton said. It is a fun trail so I think they did an excellent job setting it up.”

She said she and her students — Todd Gustaitis, 16, Jensen Griffin, 17, Austin Black, 17, and his brother, Matt Black, 16 — visited Quarry Road to scope it out before the event and liked it so much they want to come back to do dog sledding in the snow.

“One of the things I like about the sport is how friendly everyone is toward each other and how, yes, we’re competing,” Knowlton said, “but the love of dogs is what brings us here.”

Meanwhile, Caroline Mathes, treasurer of Central Maine Ski Club and vice president of Friends of Quarry Road, was working at a lunch booth raising funds for the middle and high school ski programs.

She said more than 100 people attended the dog sledding events Saturday and about 100 more attended Sunday.

“I think it’s another successful event,” Mathes said.

She said a dog sledding event was held in February at Quarry Road, but this was the first dryland event held there. Another dog sledding event is scheduled for March.

The recreation area has had a lot of exposure in recent months, according to Mathes. Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce held its Business After Hours gathering there last month, and another recent event, Let’s Go Family Fun Day, drew about 500 people, many of whom had never seen the site, she said.

Central Maine Ski Club on Sunday, Nov. 2, will host the Paintball 5K Run Biathlon at Quarry Road, which will include a fall open house from noon to 2 p.m. that will feature hayride tours of trails, light refreshments, and an opportunity to buy season ski passes at discounted rates. Those wanting more information may call 680-4744.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

Facebook comments

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.