Race Tightens As End Nears

Mar 11, 2019

Pete Kaiser mushing behind Jessie Royer.
Credit Zachariah Hughes

The end of the Iditarod is looking like a two-man race, but it is also too early to count Jessie Royer out. The three teams are running close together, but Pete Kaiser was the first into Koyuk this morning with Joar Leifseth Ulsom following him an hour later. Their departure this afternoon was a repeat of their arrivals, with Kaiser leaving at 2:15 p.m. after dropping one dog and Leifseth Ulsom keeping pace: he left at 3:15 p.m. and also dropped a dog. Kaiser is running with nine in his team; Leifseth Ulsom with eight. But while Fairbanks musher Jessie Royer was a couple of hours behind them, she had the largest team coming into Koyuk. 

Closing in on Koyuk now are three other veteran teams: Jesse Holmes, Ally Zirkle, and Mitch Seavey. Seavey is spending part of the day resting on the sea ice.

Nicolas Petit’s dogs are still holed up near a shelter cabin over 30 miles back, where he’s spent the day after his team balked in the same area where they got lost last year. While he waits, another clump of mushers is closing on him from Shaktoolik, including Matt Hall, Travis Beals, and Matthew Failor. Aniak musher Richie Diehl is right outside of Shaktoolik, having made good time from Unalakleet.

Two of Bethel’s rookies, Jessica Klejka and Niklas Wikstrand, made it to Kaltag today and are resting their teams before setting off to the coast. Still working her way up to Eagle Island on the Yukon River is Victoria Hardwick, bringing up the rear. She and Ryan Santiago are the only two mushers left in the Iditarod with full teams.