Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta mushers didn’t have to choose between running the Bogus Creek 150 and the K300 this year. That means a higher percentage of local mushers, and more local rookies in the longer race. The three local rookies competing in this year’s K300 have all been running dogs for years, but this weekend will be their first time running a 300-miler.
K300 Board President and race founder Myron Angstman said that he can think of one reason why more rookies signed up this year: “With a small field, the temptation to get in the 300 is higher because the purse money pays out to  and there's only 16 teams, so they're assured of winning a decent purse if they go around the trail, no matter how long it takes them.”
Angstman said that there haven’t been as many local mushers in recent years because of the kind of resources it takes to run a longer race and the monetary stakes involved. When local mushers have to pick between the K300, the Bogus Creek 150, or the 65-mile Akiak Dash, they’ll often opt for the shorter races where they’ll be more competitive. Local mushers have been given the gift of choice this year, and they’ve also gotten more training time. Not only did winter come earlier this season, but the K300 is happening later.
“It was a lot more snow this year, and that's good for training,” said Lewis Pavila of Kwethluk, who's one of the three local rookies competing in the K300. Pavila is the father of 17-year-old local wunderkind Jason Pavila. Jason’s mostly been the one running their dogs the last few years, and he’s good. He won the 2021 Season Opener and 2019 Bogus Creek, but Pavila said that his son isn’t quite ready for a 300-mile race. He said that he hopes that by running the race himself, he can gain some insights to help his son train for it in the future. Pavila has decades of experience. He’s a four-time Bogus Creek 150 champion, but this is still his first 300-miler.
“Oh, I am nervous. I've been nervous for the past since I applied for the race,” laughed Pavila.
K300 rookie, but lifetime mushing veteran, Fr. Alexander Larson of Napaskiak said that he’s nervous too: “Excited, nervous, and some days I'm like, 'What am I doing?'” laughed Larson.
Larson said that he doesn’t expect to win, but that’s okay. “I'm not going to be competitive to run this. I'm just going to go around and try my best,” he said.
He was in first position for much of the 2021 Bogus Creek 150 sled dog race, but was ultimately defeated by experienced longer-distance racers, including both Pete and Ron Kaiser and race champ Richie Diehl. His chance at doing well may hinge on his ability to rein in his dogs. “I know when to sprint, how to sprint dogs. I did that and I won all the local races. But, you know, you gotta have patience to do long runs,” explained Larson.
The third local rookie, Nate DeHaan, may just have the patience to go slow and steady. Why? Because “our dogs are not very fast,” answerd DeHaan.
He said that the longer the race, the better they’ve done. And his strategy will be to take a lot of breaks. He’s not hoping to win; he just wants to finish. “My goal is just to get around on the course, and not necessarily very fast. So we'll probably be taking breaks at every checkpoint,” said DeHaan.
None of the local rookies have ever run anything longer than 150 miles, but most of them have been thinking about the K300 for a long time.
“That's nice to see some teams that we've expected to take part for many years, some of them, and they're finally in it now. And I hope they stay in in the future,” said Angstman.
Angstman also said that it was the original intention of the K300 to keep up the mushing tradition in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. And with seven out of the 16 competitors being locals, that tradition would seem to be alive and well.