Arctic mushers gear up for K300
Until earlier this week, the Kuskokwim 300 Dog Sled Race in Bethel was on track to be the best yet. It still may very well be, but race organizers are a little concerned about the warm spell that swept through the YK Delta on Sunday?
Temperatures hovered near 40 degrees Sunday and Monday, making short work melting the fast, somewhat snow-scarce, trails. But with two weeks to go until race day, organizers and mushers know that anything can happen, said race manager Zach Fansler on Monday.
The 31-musher field is the highest number of teams in two decades and the purse is up $12,000 from last year for a total o? $123,300. The winner of the 300-mile event gets $25,000.
Organizers of the remote race sweetened the pot even more this year by offering free entry into the 2015 contest, a savings of $400 for the often cash-strapped racers. And while Fansler admitted he didn't think the free entry would make that big of a difference, the race hasn't seen a turnout like this since 1994.
The 2015 K300 will mark the 36th race and starts on Jan. 16.
"Personally, we're really proud," Fansler said. "We're really excited about the purse and the numbers that we have now.?
He added that mushers can still register for the race.
The race roster boasts many big names in dog driving, including K300 champions and past Iditarod champs like Kotzebue's John Baker. Baker and partner Katherine Keith, an Iditarod veteran, have both signed on for the K300 and the 2015 Iditarod.
Kotzebue's Chuck Schaeffer is also on the list for both races and though he lives in Willow these days, he has spent the bulk of his winter training his team in the Northwest Arctic?
Schaeffer, who has run many long trips and races in his 60 years, has been training his best 16 dogs around Kotzebue in good, but windy conditions, he said recently in a written response.
The team looks good so far, he said. And the Kusko 300 will be a good test before taking on the 1,000-miler once again. March will mark Schaeffer's third Iditarod attempt.
Schaeffer added that while his love of dog mushing doesn't have anything to do with the paycheck at the finish line, the increase in both the 2015 K300 and Iditarod is a nice bonus. Just getting to the starting line of any race can see a musher deplete their bank account in no time.
"Everything is so doggone expensive, from the entry fee to booties," Schaeffer said.
The 2015 winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will get a prize of $70,000 — nearly $20,000 more than last year's champion. Overall, the Last Great Race raised its winnings by a total of $50,000. Mushers finishing in the top 30 earn prize money down to $1,900 for 30th place. Mushers who manage to cross under the burled arch in Nome after 30th place get $1,049 in prize money.
Schaffer said he was pleased to hear about the improvements on the Iditarod trail as well. This fall, a 20-mile section of trail between Rohn and Nikolai was smoothed out, with stumps and other obstacles removed. The $260,000 project will make the trail safer for dogs and mushers?
"It is one less problem area to worry about," Schaeffer said. "Nothing really worries me about dog mushing: the (Happy River) Steps, the (Dalzell) Gorge, etc ... everyone has to do those sections anyways and I've done them twice, before any improvements were ever thought of.
"I am still excited about racing mainly because I am driving such a wonderful group of dogs."
During last year's mostly-snowless Iditarod, mushers were injured and sleds destroyed in that section, forcing several to scratch. Though even in the best years, it is a notoriously treacherous section of trail?
While organizers of the Kuskokwim 300 don't expect any spectacularly dangerous conditions, the race is known to be challenging for its terrain and weather?
"We're going to have to wait until this warm spell goes away and then take stock and evaluate from there," Fansler said of the race trail.
For more information on the Kuskokwim 300 go to k300.org or call Fansler at 545-3300.
Here is the complete K300 roster as of Tuesday: Joar Ulsom, Ken Anderson, DeeDee Jonrowe, Paul Gebhardt, Emily Thiem, Aaron Burmeister, Tony Browning, Brent Sass, Martin Buser, Rohn Buser, Kelly Maixner, Jake Leingang, Lance Mackey, Mike Williams, Jr., Mike Williams, Sr., Isaac Underwood, Nathan Underwood, Jeff King, Richie Diehl, Pato Geron, Rolland Trowbridge, Tara Cicatello, Scott Janssen, Chuck Schaeffer, Kristin Bacon, Pete Kaiser, Katherine Keith, John Baker, Raelyn Shover, Cim Smyth and Donald Towarak
Jackie Larson wins second Holiday Classic
Napaskiak musher Jackie Larson beat out 15 others in the 46-mile Holiday Classic on Saturday in Bethel. Larson took top spot with a time of 3 hours, 47 minutes and 23 seconds and took home $2,000 in prize money. Mike Williams Jr. of Akiak came in 2nd in 3 hours, 54 minutes and 20 seconds and took home $1,700 for his efforts. Cukayuk Olick of Kwethluk finished in third place with a time of 3 hours, 55 minutes and 43 seconds and came out with $1,500. The total purse was $10,100. Here are the full results:
1) Jackie Larson, 3:47:23, $2,000
2) Mike Williams, Jr., 3:54:20, $1,700
3) Cukayuk Olick, 3:55:43, $1,500
4) Brian Berube, 3:59:16, $1,300
5) Bill Eisenbart, 4:04:17, $1,100
6) Anthony Olick, 4:08:53, $900
7) Joan Klejka, 4:14:23, $700
8) Johnnie Evan, 4:15:34, $500
9) Alex Chaney, 4:20:20, $300
10) Thomas Carl, 4:21:59, $100
11) Nick Berres, 4:26:19
12) Jacob Napoka, 4:27:34
13) Pa't Evan, 4:28:16
14) John George, 4:28:48
15) Jessica Klejka, 4:29:02
16) Alexie Jacob, 5:15:52