Public Media for Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Schouviller Wassillie Jr. scores rookie victory in 2024 Akiak Dash

Schouviller Wassilie Jr. wins the Akiak Dash on Jan. 27, 2024. Wassilie is 16 years old and hails from Akiachak, Alaska.
Katie Baldwin Basile
Schouviller Wassilie Jr. wins the Akiak Dash on Jan. 27, 2024. Wassilie is 16 years old and hails from Akiachak, Alaska.

Sixteen-year-old rookie Schouviller Wassillie Jr. won the 2024 Akiak Dash on Jan. 27, narrowly beating out veteran musher Mike Williams Jr. by two minutes. The Akiachak musher outpaced Williams Jr. and a field of a dozen other racers on an icy trail, covering the course in 4 hours and 52 minutes.

“My main leader was dragging, so I switched him to a swing leader,” Wassillie Jr. said, describing changes made to his dog team with racers close on his heels.

The roughly 65-mile course from Bethel to Akiak and back had no rest and no official checkpoints. The field of 14 mushers was particularly tight along the first half of the race as temperatures hovered near 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit on the cold, fast trail. On the return trip, Wassillie Jr. held onto his lead, but a handful of mushers gave him a run for his money – namely the first-place prize of $5,500 out of a $40,000 total race purse.

Second-place finisher Mike Williams Jr. of Akiak, who also took second in the 2023 Akiak Dash, said that he was happy to race after dropping out of the Kuskokwim 300 just a few days before the race start.

Williams Jr. carried one of his seven dogs in his sled bag across the finish line due to what he said was a pulled muscle.

“Other than that, I’m happy with how the dogs did. They kept me in the race,” Williams Jr. said.

Third-place finisher Charlie Chingliak of Akiachak was the youngest musher in the field at 15 years old, returning for his second Akiak Dash after also placing third in last year’s race.

After falling back in the field on a very icy Straight Slough, Chingliak was able to take back the third-place position and hold on until the end.

“I didn’t expect to get third this year,” Chingliak said.

Fourth-place musher Darren George of Akiachak was able to hold tight to the front of the pack throughout the race, seeing a repeat of his fourth-place finish in the 2023 Akiak Dash.

In fifth was Byron Pasitnak Sr. of Akiachak, who took first place in the 2009 race. He ended up taking a serious spill in this year’s race.

“When I crashed, I think I broke my collarbone or my shoulder,” Pasitnak Sr. said.

Pasitnak Sr. spent the first hour of the race neck and neck with Williams Jr. and Wassillie Jr. But as he was dropping onto the main stem of the Kuskokwim River from an overland trail, he took a hard fall.

At some point, Pasitnak Sr.’s GPS tracker came detached from his sled, leaving many back at the finish line guessing about his whereabouts for the remainder of the race.

Pasitnak Sr. managed to power through the injury to a fifth place finish, coming in three minutes behind fourth-place Darren George.

“[I] just kept going,” Pasitnak Sr. said.

All but one of the top five Akiak Dash finishers hail from Akiachak, including winner Wassilie Jr.

When Wasillie Jr. passed in front of his hometown at the head of the pack just after 3 p.m., spectators stepped out of their trucks to cheer him onward to victory.

With his first place finish, Wassillie Jr. follows in the footsteps of his father, Schouviller Wassillie Sr., who won the Akiak Dash in 1996.

Original Story:

Schouviller Wassillie Jr. won the 2024 Akiak Dash in his very first attempt. Wassillie Jr. crossed the Bethel finish line on Jan. 27, shortly before 5:00 p.m.

The 16-year-old Akiachak musher outpaced a fast field of 14 mushers on the run from Bethel to Akiak and back. The approximately 65-mile course had no rest and no official checkpoints.

To secure the win, Wassillie Jr. had to outpace last year’s second place finisher, Mike WIlliams Jr., who closed a gap in the final miles and notched a consecutive second-place finish.

Wassillie Jr.’s 2024 title adds to his home kennel’s accomplishments. His father, Schouviller Wassillie Sr., won the Akiak Dash in 1996.

Wassillie Jr. wins $5,500 out of a $40,000 race purse. Following Williams Jr. in third was Akiachak musher Charlie Chingliak, who arrived in third place.

Evan Erickson is a reporter at KYUK who has previously worked as a copy editor, audio engineer and freelance journalist.
Related Content