Eye on the Trail: Tuesday Finishers

Before diving into all the activity  on Front Street in Nome, there is news from the back of the pack.  Eric Kelly is the fourth musher to scratch from Iditarod 2023.  Kelly decided to scratch in Shaktoolik saying it was the best decision for his dogs.  Eric had 10 dogs in harness when he scratched, all in good health.

Six mushers are in Shaktoolik including rookies Gerhardt Thiart, Bridgett Watkins, Bailey Vitello and Jed Stephensen.  They are joined by Iditarod finishers, Jason Mackey and Joanna Jagow.  A weather advisory is in effect for Norton Sound and Bering Sea coast from Unalakleet to Nome indicating the likelihood of high winds and blowing snow.  Every single musher that has arrived in Nome has confirmed that the winds along the way from White Mountain were gnarly.  The infamous Blow hole was calm compared to winds and ground blizzards along the rest of the run.   Forecasts say the winds will diminish throughout the day on Wednesday.

Up ahead, Mike Williams, Jr. is out of Koyuk heading to Elim.  The Berington twins and Deke Naaktgeboren are waiting it out in Elim.  Nicolas Petit and KattiJo Deeter are sitting in White Mountain.  Mushers 11 thru 15 – Keefe, Royer, Kaduce, Turner and Peck are on the trail to Safety. 

Back to Front Street to recognize the Mushers who followed Ryan Redington into Nome on Tuesday, March 14th.  Seven teams finished behind Ryan before Midnight including Rookie of the Year,  Eddie Burke, Jr.  Insider provides video  captured interviews of the mushers at the finish line.  Clearly the mushers are delighted to be in Nome but at the same time somewhat sad the journey across Alaska with their dogs has reached the end of the trail.

Peter Kaiser – Bethel – Runner Up (Photo:David Poyzer)

Former champion Peter Kaiser, of Bethel,  earned runner up honors behind Redington in 8 days, 22 hours and 36 minutes.  Pete’s best Iditarod time came in 2016 – 8 days, 20 hours and 34 minutes for 5th place.  Kaiser said he enjoyed the competitive race between himself, Ryan and Richie Diehl.   The year Kaiser won gold, 2019, he ran the Southern route in 9 days, 12 hours and 31 minutes.  This is his 8th top ten finish in 13 finishes.

Richie Diehl – Aniak – 3rd Place (Photo:David Poyzer)

Richie Diehl of Aniak finished in third place with a time of 8 days, 23 hours and 40 minutes.  His previous best was 9 days, 2 hours and 42 minutes.  Richie has placed in the top ten now 4 times with a previous best of 6th place.  Diehl was happy to race with close friends who he admires and respects.  He also said that rural Alaska mushers like himself and Kaiser are very fortunate to have strong support from family and sponsors. place. 

Matt Hall – Two Rivers – 4th Place (Photo:David Poyzer)

Matt Hall of Two Rivers completed the race in 9 days 2 hours and 21 minutes for 4th place.  This is Halls second top ten finish and first in the top five which was his goal for the 2023 Iditarod.  When he was leaving Eagle Island, he realized that he was driving a very strong dog team and that 5th or better was within reach.   Hall talked about how difficult the trek along the coast was with the high winds and blowing snow that caused the trail to drift over.  He praised his leader for accomplishing the very difficult task of staying on the drifted trail. 

Jessie Holmes – Brushkana – 5th Place (Photo:David Poyzer)

Jessie Holmes was a happy man as he stood under the burled arch, perhaps even somewhat amazed to have just travelled 998 miles by dog sled.  Last fall after the remnants of Hurricane Murbok hit and devasted so many of the villages along the Bering Sea, Holmes accompanying by Richie Beattie, Jeff Deeter and Brent Sass went to Golovin to help out.  Holmes was injured during clean up when a portion of a house collapsed on him.  He had surgery for his injuries and has been working hard to regain his strength for the past several months and credits his positive attitude for getting him ready to race.  Jessie said the most gratifying part of the 2023 Iditarod was going through Golovin last night with all the villagers that came out to cheer him on.  Holmes finished in 9 days 4 hours and 8 minutes for 5th place, a new personal best time for him.  This is his 4th top ten finish with third being his highest finish in 2022.

Kelly Maixner – Big Lake – 6th Place (Photo:David Poyzer)

Kelly Maixner achieved his first career top ten Iditarod finish with a time of 9 days 5 hours and 0 minutes.  His previous best finish was 17th.  He also established a new personal best time over his 2016 finish of 9 days 8 hours and 38 minutes.  Kelly ran a team of Dallas Seavey dogs.  He said it is really hard to balance a family life of five children with his pediatric dental practice and training dogs but when he saw such a talented team, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity Dallas offered him.   He was quick to add he wouldn’t be running next year but would again in the future.  One of the Maixner children sang Hobo Jim’s Iditarod Trail Song for the fans, friends and family that were gathered to welcome Kelly to Nome.  Insider caught that very fun and quite excellent performance.

Eddie Burke, Jr. – Anchorage – 7th Place Rookie of the Year (Photo:David Poyzer)

Eddie Burke, Jr., the first rookie to cross the finish line of the 2023 Iditarod, is the Rookie of the Year.  He and rookie Hunter Keefe ran within one or two places of each other for the majority of the race.  They left Unalakleet seven minutes apart and from there Burke extended his lead.  Burke finished in 7th place with a time of 9 days 8 hours and 37 minutes.  Eddie was greeted by his daughter at the finish and she immediately teased him about falling asleep during the race.  Burke did nod off and last his dog team on the Yukon River.  As dogs do, they followed the trail to the next checkpoint, stopped and waited for Eddie to catch up.  Eddie took rides from both Christian Turner and Hunter Keefe before a snowmachiner from the checkpoint picked him up and brought him to his team.  The question for Eddie was – what’s it like to see your team going down the trail and knowing there’s no way to catch them or stop them.  Eddie replied that he’d tone down his remarks to PG saying, “Oh Crap!”