Baltimore teen-ager recounts visit to Alaska, ride in Iditarod

April 01, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

D'Antoine Webb, a North Baltimore youth who had never been away from the East Coast, recently went to Alaska, where he snowboarded, did cross-country skiing and saw the famous Iditarod dog-sledding race up close.

After winning an essay contest sponsored by the Baltimore Police Department PAL program, Webb traveled to Alaska to accompany Dan Dent of Roland Park, who was driving a sled in the world-famous race.

"The Iditarod was spectacular," said Webb, 14.

Webb was accompanied by police Officer Roderick S. Henry, who helps operate the Central Rosemont PAL Center, which Webb frequents. During their seven days in Alaska, Henry and Webb were among the people chosen to ride with the 56 racers -- each of whom drove a 16-dog sled -- during the 1,161-mile race.

The winner of the race finished in nine days. But for Dent, 57, a financial adviser, the finish line in Nome was never in sight.

During the first day of the race, March 7, Dent was attacked by his dogs while trying to stop a fight between them. He tried to continue but had to scratch the evening of the second day.

"I'm disappointed I had to scratch early in the race," Dent said. "But I got my hands pretty chewed up."

Since returning to Baltimore on March 8, Webb said questions about his trip have been nonstop.

"When I went to school, I was constantly asked where the pictures were and `What did you bring me back?' " said the eighth-grader at Pimlico Middle School. He said he didn't buy gifts for any of his friends.

More questions were hurled at him last night at a welcome-home party sponsored by the Police Department at Crispus Attucks PAL Center, 1601 Madison Ave.

Police officers, friends and neighborhood children, who participate in after-school programs at the center, heard Webb and Dent talk about their trip and saw a slide presentation.

It was Dent who came up with the idea of taking a Baltimore child to the race. He also funded the trip and created the contest as a way to help students achieve goals that appear beyond their reach.

About 7,000 children in the PAL program's 27 after-school programs participated in the contest. The "I Did It for PAL" contestants read three books about the Iditarod, Arctic exploration and Alaskan dogsled racing, all provided by Enoch Pratt Free Library. Each then wrote an essay touching on three topics: "The reasons I want to be an Idita-Rider," "Who was the greatest lead dog ever?" and "Who was the greatest Maryland musher and arctic explorer?"

Webb said he spent about two hours writing his winning essay, earning a trip that took him 4,000 miles from home.

Dent, who has been racing dogsleds for four years, said this was his first time racing the Iditarod.

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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