Front Iditarod Mushers Reach Race Midpoint

Mar 7, 2019

Musher Aliy Zirkle arrives first into the Iditarod checkpoint on March 7, 2019.
Credit Ben Matheson

The sprint between Nicholas Petit and Joar Leifseth Ulsom ended at 12:13 p.m. on Thursday, when Petit arrived in Iditarod 15 minutes ahead of Leifseth Ulsom. Petit wasn’t there when Leifseth Ulsom checked in, because he had gone on down the trail to camp about 10 miles outside of town. Leifseth Ulsom spent most of the afternoon in Iditarod as Martin Buser arrived to take his mandatory 24-hour rest, followed by Jessie Royer, Pete Kaiser, and Richie Diehl, who have all completed their mandatory 24s.

This afternoon, more than half the teams in the race were on the 80-mile stretch from Ophir to Iditarod. Some were camped and resting, while others made time. There has been some recent snowfall, and that may explain why some teams were paired up this afternoon, helping each other break trail. Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta mushers Pete Kaiser and Richie Diehl were racing close to one another, as were Mitch Seavy and Ryan Redington.

Thirty-two teams have completed their 24-hour layovers, including Bethel rookie Jessica Klejka, who left McGrath this morning to mush to Ophir and join the parade to Iditarod. The “Iditarod Insider,” which caught sight of her team earlier today, says that hers was the strongest they’ve seen running through the Takotna checkpoint, predicting that Klejka could easily move up in the rankings.

Rookie Niklas Wikstrand is expected to leave McGrath this evening when he completes his mandatory 24-hour rest. Bethel’s Victoria Hardwick‘s mandatory rest will end in the wee hours of Friday morning.