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      Mushers gather for bib drawing

      The 24th Annual UP 200 start is Friday. Festivities started with a mushers' banquet and bib drawing at the YMCA race headquarters on Thursday.

      For many, it's the most anticipated part of the evening. Mushers, their families and handlers anxiously await the bib drawing.

      This year, first out of the chute for the UP 200 is Troy Groeneveld from Two Harbors, Minnesota.

      "You know, honestly, I think I got a number one or number two team. I have a couple of friends here who have some really good teams. So, we'll see how that works. I wish they were ahead of me and I wish they weren't behind me, but we'll see what happens. This team won a couple big races a couple weeks ago. They're a good team; we'll see if we can hold it together," said Troy Groeneveld.

      Going first for the Midnight Run is Jerry Trudell from Calumet. He says it's his favorite race.

      "The early bib numbers are great because you get a little more rest at the checkpoints. With all the snow that was coming down today, though, it was kind of like I'm not sure I want to go out first. You like a few more dogs out on the trails, maybe knock the snow down a little bit," said Cathy Sleeter, Trail Boss.

      Volunteer crews have been grooming the trails for weeks. According to officials, trail conditions are looking good for the big race.

      "I was out there yesterday and they were tightening up well. There was some other volunteers out there that were helping. They pulled a groomer down in spots to help cut the air and take some of the bumps out," said Jerry Trudell.

      This year, 13 teams will be racing in the UP 200 and 29 in the Midnight Run. Some mushers will be racing for the first time ever.

      "I've done about one week of training with Iditarod veteran Al Hardman. I've got about 100 miles on the sled and now I'm going to do a 90-mile race," said Joel Paul Reisig.

      The race starts at 6 p.m. from downtown Marquette.