An unusual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ended early Monday with a familiar champion.
Talkeetna’s Dallas Seavey and his 10 sled dogs dashed to the finish line near Willow at 5:09 a.m. Wearing an orange parka, Seavey kicked to the finish behind a perky string of sled dogs.
This is Seavey’s fifth Iditarod win, tying him with Rick Swenson for the most Iditarod victories ever. Swenson has held the record alone since 1991.
Asked to summarize how he felt about his fifth win, Seavey said, “Comes after four, I guess.”
It’s a big deal, the 34-year-old Seavey admitted.
Since becoming the youngest Iditarod musher to win in 2012 at the age of 25, people had predicted he might go on to win five.
“I’ve always said, ‘I’m going to get the next one. And someday five might be the next one,’ and that’s today,” Seavey said. “We got it, and that’s huge, man. I’ve looked up to Iditarod champions my whole life, and I’ve dreamed about this my whole life. Now, to see it happen, that’s pretty cool.”
Sled dog racing is something Seavey has always known. His grandpa, Dan, competed in the first Iditarod, nearly 50 years ago, and his dad, Mitch, has won it three times, and is sitting out this year.
Dan and Mitch Seavey, as well as other family members, including Dallas Seavey’s mom, greeted him early Monday. Seavey gave his parents a big hug as soon as he crossed the finish line.
This year is Seavey’s first Iditarod since 2017, when a dog-doping scandal turned his mushing career upside down. Before this year’s competition, Seavey said he was returning to the Iditarod with a new perspective and ready to race.
“This is where I belong, racing the Iditarod,” he said in an interview last month.
Seavey dominated much of the 2021 competition, though at times, the race was neck-and-neck. Seavey had about an hour lead on his closest competitor, Nome’s Aaron Burmeister, Sunday night, and he widened that lead by early Monday. When Seavey crossed the finish line, Burmeister was roughly 20 miles behind, according to the race tracker.
Seavey claimed his fifth victory in an Iditarod that was unlike any other.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to avoid potentially spreading the illness in villages, race officials shortened the trail this year, making it an out-and back-route. Instead of the usual 1,000-mile race to Nome, teams traveled about 830 miles from Deshka Landing out to the ghost town of Iditarod and back.
This year’s Iditarod also featured COVID-19 testing, face masks, cold weather and hardly any indoor space to rest. The coronavirus protocols also meant crowds of people could not line the finish chute as they normally would in Nome.
Instead, Seavey and his team raced in to a smaller gathering after just over seven days on the trail. He also was tested for COVID-19 soon after his win.
For his victory, Seavey wins about $40,000 — the exact total depending on how many other teams finish the race.