May 26, 2018

Eye on the Trail: Konno to Casillo

Michi Konno completed his rookie Iditarod on Thursday afternoon in 23rd place with a time of 11 days, 0 hours and 35 minutes. Run Iditarod was something Joe Redington Sr. told Michi he must do. Twenty years ago as a sprint musher, Michi trained with Joee Redington, Jr. Joee was a celebrated sprint man and Michi claimed his share of sprint gold, including the 1998 North American in Fairbanks. Michi ran a team of Raymie Redington dogs for Iditarod 2018. The Redington’s as well as Nicolas Petit were in the chute to welcome Michi. Raymie was proud of Michi for his dog care and racing.

Jeff King followed Michi to the finish, claiming 24th place with a time of 11 days, 1 hour and 36 minutes. King’s speed on Front Street was probably the fastest he’d moved on the entire trail. His dogs were really jazzed and sprinted from the sea ice to the Burled Arch. If there were an award for fastest time on Front Street, it would go to King and his speedsters. Jeff talked about his race, about his innovations and his future plans during the Insider interview under the arch.

King had several young dogs on his team that matured throughout the race. He was proud of the whole team but especially of those younger dogs. Jeff, who’s known for mushing innovations, pointed out the foot rests on his sled that allow him to sit down and put his feet up. He also pointed out the full-length 4-inch runner skins. Others used the skins on the front half of the ski. King felt the additional width was invaluable in navigating the soft punchy trail.

As for future plans, he spoke of racing with his daughter Ellen in 2019. Ellen needs one more qualifier and will likely take this Iditarod team to the Kobuk 440 to meet the requirement. King says, the last time one of his daughters raced, he was still focused on winning one more Iditarod. If Ellen runs in 2019, he plans to run a father-daughter race. Perhaps he liked what he saw a couple years back when Martin and Rohn Buser split the Happy Trails athletes into two even teams and finished in Nome together.

Mike Williams,Jr. said he was happy to finish with such a tough trail. Mike Jr. said, “There were times I thought I might not make it. The dogs stayed healthy and bounced back from the slow hard runs after resting. They were always ready to go.” Earlier in the race at Unalakleet, Mike also mentioned he didn’t get to train the team as he had hoped but he was happy with how they were running for the training they’d had.

Mike is the father of four children including 3 year-old twins. Mike’s father has run Iditarod and many mid-distance races. Mike has helped his father train when he had to attend meetings. This is Mike Jr.’s fourth Iditarod. He finished in 25th place with a time of 11 days, 3 hours and 16 minutes.  Both of the Mikes ran Iditarod in 2013. Mike Jr. consider that race to be a very special privilege to be on the trail with his father.

Claiming 26th place in Iditarod XLVI was Katherine Keith of Kotzebue. Keith has now completed four runs to Nome. Her best finish was in 2017 at 19th place. Having completed six Ironman triathlons, she’s no stranger to endurance events. Her next goal is to qualify for the Ironman World championship in Kona, Hawaii. Katherine along with her fiancée, John Baker, raise and train Team Baker dogs with the goal of having the best dog kennel in the world.

Rick Casillo who claimed 27th place. Casillo runs Battle Dawgs Racing with the goal of racing Iditarod and raising awareness for combat veterans. Rick and his wife, Jennifer, a combat veteran, have a non-profit organization called Battle Dawgs. Battle Dawgs focus is providing year round camps for warriors. Activities include Iditarod, dog mushing, rafting, hunting and hiking. Our motto is “Helping our Warriors one step at a time.” 2018 marks Rick’s eighth Iditarod finish. His best finish was in 2014 at 26th place. His best time was 9 days, 11 hours and 56 minutes. It was only a few years ago when Cassilo came to the finish line in Nome and had a huge surprise waiting – a SKYPE call with his wife who was stationed in Afghanistan. The Insiders guys followed Rick with an iPad as he snacked his dogs, finally he realized the voice he was hearing was Jennifer’s half a world away. What a great moment at the finish line!