On Feb. 15, KYUK was at the finish line to welcome the 2021 K300’s last place finisher and winner of the prestigious Red Lantern Award, Reese Madden. He came in at 6:22 p.m., about a day and a half after first place finisher Richie Diehl. Madden’s team zigged and zagged its way to the end.
The team of dogs appeared distracted by the large crowd that had gathered to welcome Madden back to Bethel. Among them were Diehl, runner-up Pete Kaiser, and Kaiser's entire family.
With about 75 feet left to go, the dogs paused near some enthusiastic onlookers. Madden stepped off the runners, pulled another dog off the line, and stuck it in the sled with its compatriot. He steered his team back on track and headed towards the finish line. As he crossed the finish line of his first nearly 300 mile long race, his status changed from rookie to veteran and he heaved a huge sigh of relief.
When KYUK asked him how he was feeling, he said that he felt good, but disappointed in a few mistakes that he had made along the route. And his dogs had some harrowing moments out on the trail.
“After Akiachak, I missed a corner and ran into a pack of village dogs. Ever since then they just kind of lost it. And I tried to regroup them and rest them and feed them, but it’s so warm out that I gave them some too soft fish, or bad fish, so then they got the runs,” said Madden.
Madden said that he took a long rest. And after that, “we just kind of slowed her down and kind of gathered ourselves up and tried to finish.”
“And you did! And you win the money!” interjected an excited onlooker.
“I’m trying to qualify for the Iditarod for next year,” Madden explained, saying that it wasn’t about the money.
Madden said that he had to switch leaders during the race, and promoted a big, fluffy, beautiful brown and black dog. “This big guy right here, if it wasn’t for him...,” said Madden.
Madden couldn’t stop talking about plans for the future, including a race in his hometown of Nome next week, next year’s K300, and plans to compete in an Iditarod. “I'm really excited for next year; I'm definitely more prepared. And now I know kind of what to expect and how to go about in checkpoints, you know? What to snack them and what not,” said Madden, looking ahead.
He also said that he’s training up seven new pups, and that we should be on the lookout for his new and improved team at next year’s K300.