Eye on the Trail: Ryan Redington 51st Champion

Ryan Redington 51st Iditarod Champion (Photo: David Poyzer)

It’s taken fifty-one races for the Joe Redington Trophy to come home to the Redington family.  Today, Ryan Redington, age 40, accomplished what he’s been dreaming about since his childhood.  Likely his father Raymie has been dreaming of doing just that since the inception of the race.  Perhaps the late Joe, Sr and Raymie’s brother Joee also deceased, had their hearts set on winning the race that brought the sled dog back to Alaska.  Ryan’s brothers, Ray, Jr. and Robert likely shared the same dream.  The family dream has become reality!

Ryan Redington, Ghost (R), Sven (L) Enter the Chute (Photo:David Poyzer)

Ryan made the burled arch in Nome at 12:13 on Tuesday March 14th.  His official time for the 998 mile southern route was 8 days, 21 hours and 12 minutes.  He wore bib number 5 and finished with 6 dogs in harness.  Insiders Bruce Lee and Greg Heister commented on how fifty years ago Joe Redington, Sr. launched the Iditarod and now in it’s 51st running, a Redington has triumphed and set the next 50 years in motion.

Ryan Redington 2023 Iditarod Champion with Ghost (R) and Sven (L) (Photo: David Poyzer)

Bringing his grandfather’s trophy home to the family means everything to Ryan.  Together six members of the Redington family have run in seventy-one Iditarod races, completing fifty-four.  Joe, Sr has 19 races to his credit with four 5th place finishes.  Raymie, Ryan’s father, has run in 12 races with 7th being his best finish.  Joee, Raymie’s brother finished two races claiming 9th and 3rd place.  Ryan’s brother Ray, Jr. has completed 17 Iditarod runs with 4th being his best finish.  Ryan’s brother Robert has finished 1 of 5 attempts.  Ryan has four top ten finishes including the 2023 championship.  Back in 2017 Ryan received the Most Improved Musher Award improving from 36th place in his previous run to 14th place.

As the champion Redington received the winner’s check for $51,550.  Other awards he won on his run to Nome include the Alaska Air Transit Spirit of Alaska Award in McGrath, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Fish First award in Kaltag, the Ryan Air Gold Coast Award in Unalakleet and the Northrim Bank Achieve More Award in White Mountain adding $5,000 in cash, $1,500 in gold nuggets, 25 pounds  of Bristol Bay Salmon, handcrafted beaver mitts, a handcrafted beaver hat and a hand carved ivory sled dog team to his purse. 

Prior to the race starting, Ryan was enjoying Chinese cuisine and popped the fortune cookie in his mouth without breaking it open first.  While chewing, he realized he’d forgotten the little strip of paper his fortune was written upon.  He recovered the fortune to read – your lucky number for this week is the number five.  Someone at the table said, “Maybe you’ll draw bib five.”  He did and it was VERY lucky!

Redington said he really appreciated the encouragement from his brothers and his family along the way, “They pushed me and it helped a lot.  My brothers and the whole  family have all worked for this.  I made a big move going through Elim and it paid off.”   Ryan credited his leaders Sven, age 4, and Ghost, age 6, with being steady, dependable and wonderful.  The two leaders seemed to enjoy the recognition of the yellow rose garland.

The Iditarod is 51 years old.  The Jr. Iditarod is 46 years old.  Ryan is the first Jr. Iditarod champion to be crowned as an Iditarod champion.   Ryan won the Jr. Iditarod in 1999 and 2000.

Alaska Natives claimed the top three spots in this Iditarod competition.  Ryan Redington as Champion, Peter Kaiser of Bethel claimed runner up honors and Richie Diehl of Aniak placed third.  This is a memorable day for the Alaska Native community and the Iditarod Nation.