By Mike Bissonette for SCN –
The 2016 Iditarod’s roster of mushers are rich with multiple local inspirations. From the current Iditarod champion, Dallas Seavey, his father, Mitch Seavey, to the Seward couple, Travis Beals and Sarah Stokey, and Girdwood favorite, Nicholas Petit. The Seward community is well represented this year.
Dallas Seavey, has already crossed the finish line at Nome, with his fourth Iditarod win. His time: 8 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes and 16 seconds, the fastest in Iditarod history, breaking his own record by 1 hour an 44 minutes. This is his fourth Iditarod win. His father Mitch finished 45 minutes later at 3:05 AM this morning. Both are descendants of Iditarod pioneer Dan Seavey of Seward.
Dallas ran a custom-built thirty-four pound sled made largely of repurposed Reebok composite hockey sticks. Dallas was first to reach Cripple, the half way point, with fourteen dogs. In Cripple, he was awarded the GCI Dorothy Page Halfway Award and presented with $3,000 in gold nuggets and a trophy.
Mitch Seavey ran his twelve dog team and averaged less than a mile per hour behind Dallas’s nine dog team.
On the heels of the Seavey’s, Aliy Zirkle and her thirteen dog team has yet to finish (at checkpoint Safety during this writing), but still inspires fans after surviving and rebounding from Saturday’s snow machine attack.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, Zirkle and Jeff King’s teams were repeatedly targeted by 26 year old Arnold Demoski of Nulato, Alaska on his snowmachine. Demoski has been charged in the Fairbanks district court with assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and criminal mischief.
Accord to Zirkle, Domoski came at her several times and she fended his return attack with a wooden checkpoint marker.
When Jeff King approached the area he experienced a similar attack that left his 3 year old dog Nash dead and other dogs injured. Fairbanks District Court Magistrate Dominick DiBenedetto was quoted by KTVA CBS news as saying “If these allegations – and I’m not even talking about the class B misdemeanors – but if these allegations are proven to a jury, [they] could amount to be an act of terrorism, quite frankly.”
According to the FBI’s website Title 18 of the US code defines terrorism as acts that “Appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population to influence the policy of a government” by use of violence or the threat of violence. No evidence has as of yet come to light that Domoski has any greater political or cultural objective beyond a violent and hateful act done by a self-identified drunk driver.
Jeff King, the four-time Iditarod winner and former Yukon Quest winner, pushed on with his eleven dog team. Having been first into Ruby on Thursday Jeff’s standing may arguably have been hurt by the loss of 3 dogs after the attack.
Seward’s Travis Beals is currently running in fourteenth place running a nine dog team behind his lead dog Fidget. Beals finished in 11th place last year and received the ‘Most Improved’ award. He finished 37th in the 2013 and 2014 Iditarod. Between races Travis runs the Turning Heads Kennel is Seward with his wife, Stokey.
Stokey is currently running 62nd with a 15 dog team.
Girdwood’s favorite Normandy transplant 36 year old Nicolas Petit is running in 9th place with a 12 dog team. In past Iditarods Petit has placed 28th, 29th, 6th and 10th as well as 31st, 4th and 2nd in the Copper Basin.
Four time Iditarod champ Lance Mackey scratched in Galena, but his brother Jason Mackey is running 34th. The Mackey brother famously crossed the finish line together in last year’s race when Lance was stricken with frost bite and Jason set aside his push for victory to help his brother see the race through. Finishing twenty seconds apart at 42nd and 43rd in 2015 the Mackey brothers showed the Iditarod spirit shown again this years as mushers and fans support one another in getting past the ugliness of this year’s attack and returning to the race where fellow mushers have encouraged Zirkle and King to ‘hang in there’.
As competitive as all the mushers are the spirit of the Iditarod seems to also be one of camaraderie in the facing the challenge of the race and the 1,000 miles of Alaskan wilderness that should inspire us all.