Iditarod rookie musher, Sweet Briar grad Alison Lifka to speak at alma mater April 2

Posted on March 21, 2019 by Janika Carey

Alison Lifka and fellow alumnae with banner Alison Lifka (center) before the Iditarod with fellow Sweet Briar alumnae Mary Alexander ’12 (from left), Seanne Weekes ’12, Marisha Bourgeois ’99 and DeDe Conley ’72

Just two weeks after completing the 2019 Iditarod, Sweet Briar College graduate Alison Lifka ’13 will make the trip to Virginia to speak at her alma mater. Lifka will give a public talk about her experience training for and racing in the Iditarod at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, in the Boxwood Room at the Conference Center, followed by a reception. On Wednesday, April 3, she will meet with groups of Sweet Briar students.

After following the Asheville, N.C.-native’s 1,000-mile race through Alaska on social media, attendees are bound to have lots of questions. Some of them, Lifka may already have answered in a Q&A on the Sweet Briar news site published in October. But the media attention she garnered as she made her way from Anchorage to Nome, and her experience during the race, probably triggered quite a few more. Such as: What’s it like getting photographed for Vogue? Or: How does it feel racing 1,000 miles through snow, ice and slush with 13 dogs? And: Where do you get that unbelievable perseverance?

Lifka Iditarod

As KTVA reported, Lifka almost didn’t make it after crashing a third of the way into the route. Stuck with a broken sled, she took a fellow musher’s advice and rigged a temporary fix that would get her to Nikolai. There, she got lucky: Shaynee Traska, who had dropped out of the race, let Lifka borrow her sled.

“People are really nice out here, that’s for sure,” Lifka told KTVA. “We compete with each other, but we also like to help each other out.”

Lifka finished her first Iditarod in 13 days, 8.5 hours in 32nd place. Waiting for her in Nome were her parents, who had flown in from North Carolina and ordered a special Sweet Briar Fierce birthday cake to celebrate the momentous occasion. Of course, they weren’t the only ones rooting for Lifka.

Musher grams
A group of Sweet Briar alumnae were on hand in Anchorage to cheer Lifka on at the start of the race, and many more celebrated and cheered her all the way to the finish line. Led by Deirdre Conley ’72, who kept a constant stream of tweets going from the moment she touched down in Alaska, Lifka’s Sweet Briar support group on the ground also included Mary Rora Alexander ’12, Marisha Bourgeois ’99, Harriet Milks ’77, Seanne Weekes ’12, Nancy MacMeekins ’65, Vicky Barrette ’65, Betty Skladal ’58 and Abigail Adair ’13.

Alumnae and friends all over the country sent encouragement and birthday wishes through dozens of “musher grams” — phone calls recorded on paper and delivered at checkpoints along the way — as well as pizza. Conley’s group was there to meet — and eat — with Lifka before the race and to make sure she left Anchorage equipped with a Sweet Briar pin and flag for her sled. Lifka’s arrival in Nome two weeks later was just another example of that famous Sweet Briar slogan: There’s nothing that you cannot do. A true Vixen, Lifka did not disappoint.

For more information about the April 2 talk, email Linda Fink at