All eyes in Nome are looking for Bib #19. Sled dog musher Aily Zirkle is running to the Iditarod finish line with nothing in her way but wind and snow. She should be in early this evening, sealing a fourth-place Iditarod finish.
Her team left White Mountain at 3:47 a.m. and is on the way from Safety to Nome. Matt Hall, who started the same run a couple of hours behind Zirkle, is the first in a parade of sled dog teams that should be coming into Nome all night; each about an hour apart. That group includes Travis Beals, Paige Drobny, Ramey Smith, Mitch Seavey, and Aaron Burmeister. All are positioned to be in the top 10.
Aniak musher Richie Diehl is just outside of the top 10 this year. He left White Mountain at 1:46 p.m., an hour and a half behind Mitch Seavey. Seavey, who has won the Iditarod three times, is gaining ground on the mushers in front of him. Last year Diehl finished 6th, right behind this year’s champion Peter Kaiser. Is it possible Diehl could pick up a tailwind and sneak into the top 10? His team is a contender.
There are two Bethel rookies still on the trail. Jessica Klejka has cleared the ice on Norton Sound and is on the way to Koyuk. Victoria Hardwick is currently resting with her 14 dogs about halfway along the 85-mile section of trail between Kaltag and Unalakleet. At this rate, Hardwick won’t make it to Nome in time for Friday night’s Iditarod Musher’s Banquet. This would not be the first time someone at the rear end of the race missed that dinner.