Mitch Seavey claims Iditarod victory

Mitch and Dallas Seavey congratulate one another.

Mitch and Dallas Seavey congratulate one another. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC)

Last night Mitch Seavey emerged as the winner of the Iditarod Trail  Sled Dog Race. It was his second win and the second time Aliy Zirkle came in second behind a Seavey.

The top five Iditarod teams crossed under Nome’s burled  arch overnight. This year’s was one of the most competitive and closest races in Iditarod  history.

A crowd in Nome cheered as 53 year old Mitch Seavey drove his ten dog team into Nome under  the burled arch to become the Iditarod’s oldest champion. Seavey made a tough final push to  Nome from White Mountain with Aliy Zirkle chasing close behind.

“I hate to do that to Aliy, but you know there’s only room for one winner this year, so it had to be me.”

This is Seavey’s 18th finish and second win. He says he was pleased with how he ran his dogs in  the first half of the race.

“The main key about the whole Iditarod is the run rest ratio, run enough to be in  position and rest enough to keep your speed. I think I did a pretty good job of that in the  early part of the race.”

But Seavey fretted over the amount of rest is team had as they got closer and closer to Nome.

“I tried to make a couple of big jumps and it took away my speed and so then you get  into the wrong kind of a cycle, where you can’t rest enough to get your speed back  without losing out on a top position so you get stuck back in the crawling mode and  having turtle races out there.”

The top ten teams spent most of the 936 mile race leap frogging each other.

Second place  finisher Aliy Zirkle pulled into Nome less than an hour behind Seavey, as the crowd chanted her  name.

Zirkle worked her way up to second in the last few runs, but was unable to finally catch the team in front. This is the second time in as many years that Zirkle has finished in second place.

It’s also her second loss to a Seavey. Last year she trailed Mitch Seavey’s son Dallas coming into  Nome. The Two Rivers musher took a deep breath as she checked her gear and gave her final  signature to race officials.

“Yeah, I was glad to be done for sure.”

Zirkle had a frustrating run into Nome. At times both she and Mitch Seavey could see each  other. But Zirkle’s leader, Quito, who ran the entire race up front ,just wasn’t feeling up to the  chase.

“She had a belly ache. She did and I did and she wouldn’t lope at all today.”

An hour and a half after Zirkle’s team had left the finish chute, a delighted Jeff King pulled his  team across the finish line. The four-time champion and 23 time finisher, from Healy, went up  the line greeting each of his dogs on the way.

When he got to his leader, Skeeter, he laid down, lifted the dog on his chest and took a deep  breath. King says he’s very proud of his team.

“This team is here in spite of me. I made a couple of really big mistakes. You never  really know until you have things play out a bit. In retrospect, I did a couple things I  really wish I hadn’t but I can’t complain. An awesome finish with an awesome team and  great competitors.”

King made a big move out of Koyuk to take the lead late in the race, but a soft trail and the hot  sun worked against him.

“It takes a lot of confidence. The dogs need to know you’re on their side and you’re in  this together. It was getting so difficult to travel after such a long run after Unalakleet,  basically, such a long run that we just stopped until they had the energy to do it again.”

King will take home a portion of this year’s 600-thousand dollar purse, which is split among the  top 30 finishers. More than $50,000 of it goes to winner Mitch Seavey. Seavey also  wins a brand new Dodge Ram pickup truck.

With Dee Dee Jonrowe’s arrival at the burled arch at 4:24 this  morning, there were ten teams in Nome. Between Dallas Seavey and her  were Ray Redington Junior, Nicholas Petit, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Jake  Berkowitz and Sunny Lindner. Next in will be Aaron Burmeister.

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