There’s a new champion in this year’s Bogus Creek 150 sled dog race. Bethel musher Matt Scott edged out a narrow win on Saturday morning in a small but competitive field that included racers from some of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s mushing dynasties.
Color was just coming into the sky above the river at 10:11 a.m. as Scott pulled in, receiving a hero’s welcome. The 40-year-old has run the Bogus 150 before, but had never won.
“I’m not really sure it’s real at the moment. I didn’t expect to win, to be honest with you,” he said to KYUK News in a post-race interview.
Scott has one small child, and said before the race even began that this would be his last time competing in the Bogus Creek 150, at least for the foreseeable future. And even though poor weather made training this season particularly difficult, the recent cold and snow made for ideal race conditions.
“I’ve been mushing here for only seven years, and it’s been pretty rough going up until this point,” Scott said. “This is probably the nicest whole day of mushing I’ve had ever.”
Scott was conservative in the first part of the race, holding back to save his team’s strength for the second half. That strategy worked. He was the third musher out of Tuluksak on the way back to Bethel, and managed to speed into the lead. Three of the leaders he ran are from Pete Kaiser’s bloodline, and all nine of the dogs he finished with are females.
Just seven mushers entered the Bogus 150, which led organizers to increase the payout to each competitor by around $3,000. For winning, Scott takes home a prize of $11,946, but he didn’t let himself think about that while he was on the trail.
“Actually, the whole race, in the back of my mind, was 'even if I get last place I still get, like, almost seven grand!'” he said with a chuckle.
Just six minutes later came 63-year-old Ron Kaiser, father of local champion Pete, who pulled in with nine dogs and frosty white eyebrows.
“It was an excellent trail, beautiful night. It's just what we hope to have every year, but we only get once every 10 years,” Kaiser said, adding, “if we’re lucky.”
Late in the race, Kaiser leapfrogged ahead a few places, using a ski pole to help out his team around Akiak, and continuing all the way to Bethel. Kaiser was running his son’s champion leader, Palmer, for the first part of the race, but ran into trouble at the halfway resting point.
“Soon as we got to Bogus he slipped his little snap on his lead-tug, and we didn’t even know. All the sudden he was gone,” Kaiser said. “So they went out on the river and found him.”
Less than a minute behind Kaiser was last year’s winner, 16-year-old Jason Pavila from Kwethluk. Carrying a heavy dog in his sled-basket, he’d been kicking frantically for 10 miles to try and close the gap as he sped toward the finish line, finally collapsing over his handlebar and panting.
As Pavila caught his breath, he said that it had been a tightly bunched four-way race up until the very last stretch.
“Matt passed like lightning and went really far. Ron came blazing in really fast. I didn’t even know he was coming until my dad was like, ‘Ron’s coming! Kick harder!’”
Pavila’s father, Lewis, has won this same race four separate times and was on hand to welcome his son.
In fourth place was Father Alexander Larson, followed by John George, Ryan Jackson, and Maurice Andrews.
This story updated Saturday at 6:20 p.m.
Correction: A previous version of this story said Matt Scott has two small children. That error has been corrected to state he has one small child.