Eye on the Trail:  Mackey to Pettersson

Jason Mackey Earns His First Top 20 Finish (Photo: Insider Video)

Jason Mackey has broken into the top 20 for the first time in his nine year Iditarod career. Mackey made the burled arch in 16th place with a time of 10 days 8 hours and 16 minutes.  His personal best time for the northern route came in 2016 at 10 days 3 hours and 52 minutes.  The Mackey family has a rich mushing history.  Dick father to Rick, Lance and Jason won in 1978, Rick won in 1983 and the late Lance won 4 in a row beginning in 2007.  Jason has moved his kennel to Fairbanks to combine with Lance’s operation with is now known as Mackey’s Top Notch Comeback Kennel.  Five of Lance’s dogs were on Jason’s team for this race.  Upon setting his snow hook at the arch, Jason said, “There’s no place like Nome.”  Undoubtedly he was referring to the rough go in the blow hole.  He told folks he was pleased with his dogs and their run.  His goal was to finish in the top 20 – mission accomplished.  In 2023, Jason was the final team to cross the finish line where he earned Lynden’s Red Lantern award and extinguished the Widow’s Lamp.  He carried both his mother’s ashes and Lance’s ashes during that race.  He was honored by his peers as the Most Inspirational Musher of 2023.

Bailey Vitello Completes Second Iditarod (Photo: Insider Video)

Bailey Vitello of New Hampshire completed his second Iditarod  in 17th place in 10 days 10 hours and 2 minutes.  In 2023 he placed 23rd with a time of 11 days, 16 hours and 49 minutes.  Vitello is a veteran of the Jr. Iditarod and now calls Nenana his second home.  Back a few miles in Elim, Vitello’s team was side swiped by a snowmachiner in broad daylight.  Fortunately no dogs were injured and neither was Bailey.  In Nome Vitello told fans, “There were highs and lows but all the hard work paid off.  It was a great run, a great experience and I’ll be back for sure.”

Re-Rookie Gabe Dunham in Nome Earns Belt Buckle (Photo: Insider Video)

Re-Rookie Gabe Dunham has earned the coveted Iditarod finisher’s belt buckle.  It’s taken two tries to reach Nome.  Undoubtedly, Gabe will wear that belt buckle with pride.  She finished in 18th place, the sixth of seven women in the top 20 mushers.  In her first Iditarod attempt, Gabe decided to scratch in Unalakleet when her dogs caught a stomach bug.  The part of the race she was most looking forward to was the coastal run from Unalakleet to Nome.  Gabe covered the northern route in 10 days 13 hours and 49 minutes.  Born and raised in Fairbanks, she began mushing at about the time you’d get a driver’s license.  She ran her first race when she was 18.  While attending college in the lower 48, she had dogs and started a sled dog tour business, Evermore Adventures.  She was very successful racing in Idaho and Montana.  Now she calls Willow home.  Her team is made up ofl dogs that she’s raised from puppies.  She especially remembers the blow hole that was every bit as bad as forecasted.  He dogs were jazzed leaving White Mountain and handled it well.

Jessica Klejka (and Lucy) into Nome in 19th Place (Photo: Insider Video)

Jessica Klejka is the seventh of seven women in the top twenty teams of 2024.  Klejka completed her third Iditarod in 19th place with a time of 10 days 14 hours and 22 minutes.  Jessica’s previous northern route run was in 2020 where she finished in 21st place with an elapsed time of 11 days, 2 hours and 25.  Klejka is from Bethel and is the 2008 Jr. Iditarod champion.  Back in those days the family had a very animated dog named Piglet that also ran the Jr. with the younger Klejka kids.  Jessica took a little extra rest on the trail this year for her own sake as well as the dogs and the cold weather.  Lucy, Jessica and Sam’s daughter is soon to have a sibling.  Jessica said she’s seen worse than what the blow hole gave them today.  She also really likes the run between Koyuk and Elim.  She’s especially proud of her two nine year old leaders, one of which is Radar.  She has a pet dog turned racing dog that also did a fantastic job.  These dogs have all been with Jessica on her three Iditarod races.  Jessica is a veterinarian who serves animals in the Bethel, Naknek and Kotzebue.

Piglet, the Cheerleader of the Klejka Family Team, Ran Many Jr. iditarod Races With Jessica and Siblings (Photo: Terrie Hanke)

Matts PetterssonClaims 20th Place (Photo: Insider Video)

Matts Pettersson has completed his 8th Iditarod with a time of 10 days 14 hours and 54 minutes to claim 20th place.  Back in 2016 his run on the northern route took 9 days 20 hours and 44 minutes.  He’s enthusiastic about nature, dogs and the bond between humans and dogs.  He enjoys sharing those passions through his sled dog touring business in Kiruna, Sweden.   In 2019, Matts was honored by his peers with the Sportsmanship Award for helping Linwood Fiedler secure his team near the Post Glacier outside of Rohn.  At the arch, Matts said he loved this race and that’s what brings him back.  He was asked about an encounter with a tree on the trail.  His face had a few dings which suggested the tree might have won.  He didn’t think the blow hole was the worst he’s seen it but the race from the Yukon to Nome was cold.

Re-Rookie Gabe Dunham Posses With Leaders in Nome (Photo: Insider Video)

That’s the top twenty teams with two rookies and 18 veterans, a musher from Sweden and one from Denmark, thirteen male and 7 female mushers.  Rookie Bryce Mumford from Idaho scratched in Unalakleet late last night leaving 30 mushers in the race.  Of the ten teams making their way to Nome, Anna Berington is the sole veteran leading nine rookies.