It may have been 1:40 a.m., but there was still an enthusiastic crowd to greet Aniak musher Richie Diehl when he crossed the Iditarod finish line in Nome Thursday morning in 11th position with nine dogs.
The mob of fans included family and friends from Aniak and Bethel. His close friend, and this year’s Iditarod champion, Pete Kaiser embraced Diehl with a big hug. Second place Iditarod finisher Joar Leifseth Ulsom was also there and shook Diehl's hand.
While fans chanted, "Richie! Richie!" race officals annouced Diehl's elapsed time of 10 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes, and 14 seconds.
The Aniak musher was glad to be in Nome following a rough race. Early along the trail, he ran face first into a tree, giving him a gnarly black eye, but he wiped the blood away and continued on, running with the front of the pack. Then, halfway through the race, his dogs picked up a bug and got sick, requiring the team to take unexpected rests. That setback pushed him out of the top 10.
“It was probably one of the toughest races I’ve been a part of," Diehl told reporters at the finish line. "It seemed like every run was something new, some new challenge, and then when you think it’s all said and done, you do this last run and it’s just 70 miles of battling. Just really soft snow and stuff, so it made it interesting.”
Despite these challenges, Diehl finished in a respectable 11th position. Friends and family marked the occasion with a group photo, shouting, “Everybody, come on over here!” while gathering around the exhausted, smiling musher.
Congratulations Richie Diehl on another Iditarod finish!