October 15, 2018

Eye on the Trail: Late Friday Finishers

The number of finishers for Iditarod 2018 will reach forty-seven before Thursday turns to Friday and St. Patrick’s Day is here. As of right now, fifteen mushers have scratched or withdrawn from Iditarod 2018. Yes, weather and difficult trail have played a part in that number. Forty-five mushers have arrived in Nome, all talking about the challenges of the trail, especially the deep snow, drifted trail and the beastly blowhole between White Mountain and Safety. That leaves two out of Safety, one out of White Mountain and four in White Mountain sitting out their eight hour required rest. We expect the two mushers who’ve departed from Safety to make the Burled Arch very shortly.

Peter Fleck claimed 42nd place with a time of 12 days, 3 hours and 27 minutes. Fleck is a rookie who has endured one of the toughest races in recent Iditarod history. Early in his mushing career, Fleck has trained with G.B. Jones. For the 2018 Iditarod, Peter was entrusted with the upcoming stars of Mitch Seavey’s Kennel. Peter is hopeful that the race will set these young athletes up for successful racing careers. At the finish Fleck told the Insider, It was awesome and an unbelievable privilege to be out there with these dogs.”

Jeff Deter stand under the Burled Arch today after a ten-year absence. Deeter completed his rookie Iditarod in 2008at the age of 19. He says, “The times of sweet and hard work are immediately when you watch a team of dogs do what they truly enjoy. Back in 2008, Deeter’s placed 59th with a time of 12 days, 13 hours and 11 minutes. Today he earned the 43rd spot with a time of 12 days, four hours and 50 minutes. Jeff and his wife, Kattie Jo own and operate Black Spruce Kennel, a business dedicated to introducing people to mushing and sled dogs and the unique life style that surrounds the sport of mushing. Deeter was thrilled to be in Nome and very proud of his Iditarod journey.

Bradley Farquhar said in the insider interview that finishing this race was the most difficult thing he’s ever done. Bradley was a happy guy on the way down Front Street as he pumped his fists and waved the red and white Canadian flag. It was the Disney movie, Iron Will that brought Farquhar to the sport of mushing. He contacted Iditarod and Quest veteran Sebastian Schnuelle. After a few training runs, Schnuelle recognized potential in Farquhar. Bradley was introduced to Ken Anderson who coached him through all his qualifiers. Farquhar earned 44th place with a time of 12 days, 4 hours and 58 minutes. He’s earned the finisher’s belt buckle and can wear it with pride.

Misha Wiljes is a Yukon Quest and Iditarod Veteran. Misha has wanted to run the Historic Iditarod Trail through the old mining towns of Ophir and Iditarod which she hoped to do in 2017 but the race started in Fairbanks for weather related reasons. When ITC announced they’d run the southern route, Misha felt it was her opportunity to visit the ghost towns. Wiljes was happy with her race and praised the dogs for their performance. Wiljes acquires dogs from other mushers and from the local pound and molds them into a team. She’s exactly the right person for that task as she has a great deal of patience. In 2017 Wiljes finished in 54th place with a time of 11 days, 9 hours and 37 minutes. She improved to 45th place with a time of 12 days, 5 hours and 37 minutes for 2018. Misha says she’s going back to the Yukon Quest.

Dave Delcourt has completed his second run to Nome, improving one place over his rookie finish in 2017. Delcourt brought a team of puppies from the kennel of Robert Redington and Jo March. Delcourt says, “I’ve been running dogs for six years and I can’t imagine doing anything else.” Dave said the race was far different from 2017 in that he had the technical sections of the trial to deal with – Happy River Steps and the Dalzell Gorge. Delcourt was thrilled to be in Nome with happy dogs.   Delcourt improved for 50th to 49th place in 2018 but his time from 2017 is about a day faster.

The final musher for Friday was Tim Muto. Muto has earned his finisher’s belt buckle. Tim grew up in Illinois and moved to Alaska after studying Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Western Illinois University. Seeking adventure, Muto moved to Alaska where he’s handled for Karin Hendrickson and Brent Sass. Muto ran a combination team with some of his own dogs and some of the Brent Sass Wild and Free Athletes. After training for the past four years, Muto was ready and excited to be in the wilderness with the dogs. Muto was tested by Mother Nature, as were all of the mushers in 2018. He has accomplished what he set out to do, bring a healthy happy dog team to Nome. Muto secured his Iditarod finisher’s belt buckle by claiming 47th place.