Kaiser of Bethel wins Kobuk 440
April 17th, 2011 | Alex DeMarban
Pete Kaiser, 23, low-key and part-Yup'ik, emerged from the fog Sunday morning near Kotzebue to win the Kobuk 440.
Nine dogs pulled him in at 9:50 a.m. to give him his first mid-distance triumph.
Kaiser, from Bethel, borrowed a page from Iditarod winner John Baker's playbook, giving his team longer rests toward the end of the 438-mile race that covers a chunk of Northwest Alaska.
"I've seen a trend in the past where if you have a strong team from Ambler to Kotzebue, you can pass a lot of teams and do a lot of damage. I've seen John do that the last two years," Kaiser said.
Ken Anderson of Fairbanks finished second at 10:45 a.m., followed by Cindy Barrand at 11:34 a.m., John Schandelmeier at 12:25 p.m. and Chuck Schaeffer at 12:44 p.m.
Kaiser's been mushing since he was a kid but began to take it seriously in high school, especially after winning the Akiak Dash as a senior, said his dad, Ron Kaiser, who welcomed his son at the finish line.
"He just has a pretty good sense about how to train them, how to care for them," said Ron Kaiser, a veteran musher of the Kuskokwim 300 from Bethel.
Pete Kaiser's just one of several new mushers making a mark in Alaska. He finished eight in the Iditarod this year.
Asked if he's going to follow in Baker's footsteps and win the Iditarod next year, Kaiser replied:
"I am by no means the favorite to win the Iditarod the next year. This is one step at a time and this is just another step."
The victory in the race - which heads from Kotzebue to Kobuk and back by way of Selawik - brings a $12,000 prize for first.
Seventeen mushers began the race Thursday afternoon, with 12 dogs apiece.
Kaiser finished with lead dog Frosty still pulling his team. He had help from a new lead dog belonging to fellow musher Mike Williams Jr. That dog, Kerry, took the lead after Kaiser dropped his other lead dog with a sore wrist in Ambler.
Ken Anderson of Fairbanks is expected to finish second in the race.