It’s over: The last Iditarod musher reaches Nome

Iditarod musher Hans Gatt's lead dog Big Girl eats a fish head on Front Street in Nome, Alaska, the finish of the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NOME, Alaska — The last musher in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has crossed the finish line in Nome on Alaska’s western coast.

Ellen Halverson of Wasilla finished the 1,150-mile race at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, five days after winner John Baker of Kotzebue.

Halverson’s race from Anchorage to Nome took 13 days, 19 hours and 45 minutes.

Halverson wins the Red Lantern award for being the last of 47 mushers to finish. She also won the Red Lantern as a rookie in 2007.

Race officials say the 50-year-old is the only musher ever to earn two Red Lantern awards.

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School’s first Iditarod a hit with kids

By TOM HINTGEN
Fergus Falls Daily Journal, Minn., (MCT)

A taste of Alaska sled dog racing came last week to Cleveland School in Fergus Falls, Minn. Three third grade classes entered 15 teams in Iditarod competition, with five teams from each class. Teachers are Vicki Hanneman, Kim Kamrowski and Karen Schneck.

“The kids are having fun, so are we adults watching them,” said Lisa Pelletier while watching her daughter, Leslie, on the snow-covered hill just south of the elementary school.

Also on hand to watch the competition were Leslie’s great-grandmother, Rosann Sauck, and her grandfather, Paul Jaros. Standing nearby was Jade Goulet, watching her daughter, Atlanta.

“The kids have been excited about this (Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race) for many weeks,” said Goulet. “They couldn’t have picked a better day than today to have the competition.”

Each team included a musher and four dogs. Volunteers held
Willow and Nome signs. The four dogs on each team had special
positions determined by the team. One was the lead dog, another the swing dog, a third was the team dog and the fourth, which was nearest to the sled, was the wheel dog.

In the real races in Alaska, teams frequently race through blizzards. A ceremonial start occurs in the city of Anchorage and is followed by the official restart in Willow, a city in the south central region of the state.
The trail runs from Willow up the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range into the sparsely populated interior, and then along the shore of the Bering Sea, finally reaching Nome in western Alaska. The trail is through a harsh landscape of tundra and spruce forests, over hills and mountain passes, and across rivers.

While the start in Anchorage is in the middle of a large urban center, most of the route passes through widely separated towns and villages. The Iditarod is regarded as a symbolic link to the early history of the state and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.

“It’s great that the kids can not only have some fun today, but also learn more about what the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is all about,” said Pelletier.

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Iditarod Photo Gallery (Part 4)

These 21 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race images include the arrival of musher John Baker into Nome, Alaska. He was the first to cross the finish line in the epic race across the Alaska wilderness. Baker completed the race in eight days 19 hours 46 minutes, a new record.

Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle, from Two Rivers, Alaska, mushes into into the Unalakleet, Alaska checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Sunday, March 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Andri Gristlvowsky of Unalakleet, Alaska photographs Iditarod musher Ken Anderson, from Fairbanks, as he mushes along the Unalakleet River on his way into the Unalakleet checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Sunday, March 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Native drummers including including Allison Warden, members of Pamyua and Sheldon Katchatag and dancer Mary Huntington greet John Baker on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 in Nome, Alaska. Baker, 48, of Kotzebue, Alaska, is the first Alaska Native musher to win the world's longest sled dog race since Jerry Riley did it in 1976. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

ditarod musher Hugh Neff, from Tok, AK, works with his dog Tolliver as he gets ready to leave the Anvik, Alaska, checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Friday, March 11, 2011. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

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Baker 230 miles from Iditarod finish

RACHEL D’ORO,Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Veteran musher John Baker was holding on to his lead Sunday in the 1,150-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, at least three hours ahead of his closest rivals.

Baker was the first to reach the village of Shaktoolik on Alaska’s wind-scoured western coast on Norton Sound. He arrived with 11 dogs at 2:44 p.m., now about 230 miles away from the finish line in the old gold rush town of Nome.

Earlier Sunday, Baker was the first to leave the village of Unalakleet for the 40-mile stretch to the Shaktoolik checkpoint. For being the first to reach Unalakleet, Baker won $2,500 in gold nuggets.

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Iditarod Photo Gallery (Part 3)

Check out these 25 pictures from the trail of the 2011 Iditarod sled dog race. These images were sent from the middle area of the course around Takotna area.
You can see more Iditarod action at the race website or by visiting the Anchorage Daily News website.

The aurora borealis, or northern lights, fill the sky above the Takotna, Alaska checkpoint as Ed Stielstra's dogs rest during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday, March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Takotna, Alaska, resident Rosalie Perkins works on a beaded lighter case at the Takotna checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Thursday, night March 10, 2011. (AP Photo/BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News)

Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe from Willow, AK feeds her sled dogs at the Takotna checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday, afternoon March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Fiddle one of Iditarod musher Ed Stielstra's sled dogs rests at the Takotna, Alaska checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Thursday March 10, 2011. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

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Halfway point for Iditarod racers

By MARY ANNA GENTLEMAN, The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

Trent Herbst and his 14 dogs were the first team to arrive at the midway checkpoint of Iditarod at 5:29 a.m. Alaska time on Thursday, March 11. For being first to arrive at the halfway stop, Herbst received the Dorothy Page Halfway Award and $3,000 in gold nuggets.

The next team to arrive was Kelley Griffin’s, checking in at 6:41 a.m.

The more than 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome began on Saturday, March 5. The race is expected to be completed by Sunday, March 20, when the Iditarod Awards Banquet is scheduled at the Nome Recreation Center.

The historic race commemorates the heroic efforts of Balto, the Siberian husky that led the final dog team that brought desperately needed diphtheria antitoxin serum into Nome in 1925.

You can keep up with race reports at the official website of the Iditarod or the Anchorage Daily News.

JUNIOR DISPATCH ASKS: What would you do with $3,000 in gold nuggets? Write your answer in the comments below or email them to juniordispatch@yorkdispatch.com!

The aurora borealis, or northern lights, fill the sky above the Takotna, Alaska checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday, March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

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After tangle, Buser in the Iditarod lead

ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS  (MCT)

NIKOLAI — The blur doubling as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race continued to threaten race records on Tuesday, and it was no surprise who’s leading the speedsters.

Big Lake’s Martin Buser, the fastest musher in Iditarod history, checked into McGrath at 5:55 p.m. Tuesday behind 16 dogs. Nome is still more than 700 miles away, but Buser was off to the next checkpoint of Takotna a minute later.

“This is his baby to win or lose,” declared Hugh Neff of Tok earlier in Nikolai.
“I saw him out there, dude, and he came flying by both times. So right now he’s the one to watch. But you know, it’s early. Sometimes if you go too fast, it can wear dogs out.

“He’s got genetically faster dogs than the rest of us. Martin’s got the record for this race and he’s going to be tough to beat.”

Four-time defending champion Lance Mackey of Fairbanks reached McGrath at 7:27 p.m., with Sebastian Schnuelle of Whitehorse arriving 10 minutes later. Both were quickly back on the trail.

Ken Anderson comes into the Rainy Pass checkpoint with dogs three abreast during the 2011 Iditarod sled dog race on Monday March 7, 2011. Anderson caught 3 of the five dogs Martin Buser lost and hooked them to his team. (AP Photo/BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News)

Ken Anderson comes into the Rainy Pass checkpoint with dogs three abreast during the 2011 Iditarod sled dog race on Monday March 7, 2011. Anderson caught 3 of the five dogs Martin Buser lost and hooked them to his team. (AP Photo/BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News)

Nine years ago, Buser set the Iditarod record with the race’s first sub-nine-day finish — 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes — to notch his fourth victory. That year he reached McGrath at 7:37 p.m. Tuesday, so he’s more than two hours ahead of record pace.

Hans Gatt of Whitehorse, the runner-up last year, agreed that Buser is rolling.
“I don’t think with that team he can do much wrong.”

A day ago, it looked like plenty could go wrong. As Buser passed Jamaican musher Newton Marshall between Finger Lake and Rainy Pass, the teams tangled and Buser had to turn some dogs loose to fix the mess. Fellow musher Ken Anderson caught two of them and hooked them into his team until he caught up to a waiting Buser at the checkpoint. Even that mishap, which could have forced a scratch had Buser’s dog not been recovered, didn’t hurt him much.

“It was not really lost time,” Buser said. “I fed and watered the dogs while I was waiting.”

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Meet the mushing mortician

By MARY PEMBERTON,Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Scott Janssen — “The Mushing Mortician” — is foregoing ice cream and cake this year to celebrate his 50th birthday on the Iditarod Trail, but some of his best friends are still going to sing him a birthday song.

“It is going to be me and 16 dogs and they are going to be howling at the moon,” said Janssen, an undertaker competing in his first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race rookie Scott Janssen of Anchorage, Alaska, packs his sled before heading out on the 1,100-mile trail. Scott Janssen _ "The Mushing Mortician" _ is foregoing ice cream and cake this year to celebrate his 50th birthday on the Iditarod Trail, but some of his best friends are still going to sing him a birthday song. Janssen is taking a hiatus from his funeral service business to run the 1,150-mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. The dog is not part of his racing team. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

Janssen is taking a hiatus from his funeral service business to compete in the 1,150-mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. On Monday, he was in 48th place in the 62-team field.

“One of the reasons I became a funeral director, even as a youngster, I wanted to do things that were a little bit different,” he said.

Five-time champion Rick Swenson was injured Monday in a fall in rugged terrain between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints. Swenson reported he believes he broke a collarbone, but race spokesman Chas St. George says a doctor hasn’t looked at it yet. Communication between Rainy Pass and Anchorage was iffy, and St. George was waiting word on any decision from Swenson, including scratching.

Defending four-time champion Lance Mackey was in the lead late Monday, leaving the Rohn checkpoint just after 6 p.m., followed by Hugh Neff and Sebastian Schnuelle. Rohn is 272 miles from Anchorage.

Janssen is president and owner of Janssen Funeral Homes Inc. He said his interest in becoming an undertaker began in high school when he worked two summers digging and filling in graves and mowing grass at the Oakdale Cemetery in Crookston, Minn. His best friend’s dad ran the cemetery.

“I developed a bit of fascination with death,” said Janssen, an acknowledged horror movie buff.

After graduating high school and marrying his high school sweetheart, Debbie, he thought he would go into the printing business but then hosted a housewarming party and invited all his neighbors, including a funeral home director who lived two houses away.

The funeral home director asked the 20-year-old what he was going to do with his life. Janssen told him he wanted to buy the print shop where he worked. But the funeral home director told Janssen he should learn to be a mortician.

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2 mushers drop out of Iditarod at Rainy Pass

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Two mushers have dropped out of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race at the Rainy Pass checkpoint.

The race website reported Tuesday that 21-year-old Melissa Owens from Nome scratched because she reinjured a sore leg. Race spokesman Chas St. George said Zoya DeNure also scratched, but he did not give a reason why the 34-year-old from Gakona stopped racing.

St. George said earlier that five-time champion Rick Swenson may have broken a collarbone in a fall Monday. There was no word on whether he would scratch.

The leaders Tuesday are defending four-time champion Lance Mackey, followed by Hugh Neff and Sebastian Schnuelle.

The upcoming checkpoint is McGrath, about 290 miles into the 1,150-mile race that began Saturday.

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Online:

http://www.iditarod.com/

JUNIOR DISPATCH ASKS: Have you ever had an injury that meant you couldn’t play sports? Tell us about it in the comments or e-mail us at juniordispatch@yorkdispatch.com.

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Pennsylvania businesses sponsor Iditarod dogs

By BRAD RHEN, Lebanon Daily News, Pa. (MCT)

Two Lebanon County businesses are sponsoring dogs in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska.

Glenn’s Guns in North Annville Township and Funck’s Family Restaurants, which has locations in Palmyra and East Hanover Township, are sponsoring dogs on musher Ken Anderson’s team.

This is the ninth year Glenn’s Guns is sponsoring at least one dog on Anderson’s team, said owner Glenn Blantz.

“He’s capable of winning it, but everything has to go perfect,” Blantz said of Anderson. “One bad thing and you’re behind. We’re hoping one year everything goes right. Maybe it will be this year.”

Ironically, the dog Blantz is sponsoring is named “Mackey,” after four-time defending champion Lance Mackey.

Ruth Funck, who along with her husband, Ray, owns Funck’s restaurants as well as three Funck’s Mini Markets, said this is the fifth year they are sponsoring a dog on Anderson’s team.

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