Jackie Larson won his first Akiak Dash Sled Dog Race on Saturday, Feb. 13, outpacing a deep field of past champions over 65 miles on the Kuskokwim River.
The Napaskiak musher arrived at the finish line in Bethel Saturday evening at 7:28 p.m. with a team of seven dogs. Jackie won his first Akiak Dash title on his fifth running of the race. At the finish line Jackie celebrated his victory, which was years in the making.
“I finally did it!," said Jackie.
The victory comes 16 years after his first Akiak Dash race in 2005. He is a three-time winner of the Bogus Creek 150. Napaskiak musher Greg Larson held a small edge at the turnaround point just below Akiak, but was chased by a dynamic pack of Jackie Larson, Raymond Alexie, and Matt Scott.
Jackie told KYUK at the finish that he passed four mushers on the way up, and then kept picking off his competitors.
As the race pushed downriver, Jackie held off challengers in the front pack and passed Greg Larson at about 10 miles from the finish. “I thought I wasn’t going to do it,” said Jackie. “But at the turnaround it was very punchy, and that’s when I got the advantage of the two leaders in front of me."
Jackie held on to win by six minutes over second place finisher Matt Scott. For his first place finish, Jackie won $4,700 from the $30,000 race purse.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, there was no required rest during this year’s race; traditionally mushers take a one-hour break at the halfway mark. Mushers could not drop any dogs throughout the race, and there was no official checkpoint at Akiak. Mushers faced mild temperatures and plentiful snow upriver.
Bethel musher Matt Scott had a fast downriver run and finished his first Akiak Dash in second place at 7:34 p.m. on Feb. 13. He said that his second half improved once the sun went down and temperatures cooled.
“I was just trying to go as fast as I could. I kept seeing guys, and it was nice. I kept catching people. I was really happy, ” said Scott.
Greg Larson finished in third place, followed by 17-year-old Kwethluk musher Raymond Alexie, who finished fourth in his second Akiak Dash. He carried a dog on the run into Bethel.
“Coming back it was slow, having a dog in my sled,” said Alexie.
Bethel musher Jen Peeks drove a team from the Kaiser Racing Kennel to a fifth place finish.
“It was pretty soft, kind of sugary. It was a beautiful day. The dogs got a little hot in the sun, but once the sun went down the dogs picked up and we had a great run home,” said Peeks.
Seventeen mushers competed in the 2021 Akiak Dash.