Eye on the Trail: Savidis, Bejna & Barnes


Justin Savidis with his Snow Hook Kennel Team into Nome

The skies in Nome were overcast and judging by the amount of melting on the streets it had to be a few degrees above freezing.  Three mushers arrived from mid-morning to mid-afternoon on Friday, March 21.

Justin Savidis was behind a very spirited dog team as they headed into the chute and under the burled arch.  Heads were high and tails were flagging, such a beautiful sight in Nome.  Race Marshal, Mark Nordman commented on the effect of the cold weather early in the race saying, “Dogs rest better in the cold.  that’s why we’re seeing such high energy in these teams coming into Nome.  Perhaps the coastal storm that held mushers up in Shaktoolik and Unalakleet for a few extra has also contributed to the sprightliness that has been typical of the finishers.

Savidis finished in 31st place with a time of 11 days 0 hours and 35 minutes.  He’s completed the race five times.  In his first rookie year a dog by the name of Whitey escaped the team between Nikolai and McGrath.  After spending 24 hours searching for Whitey, Savidis scratched from the race in McGrath.  Justin and the white dog were reunited.  When He completed his first Iditarod in 2011, Whitey was on the team.  Justin has a practice of recognizing his MVP at the burled arch.  He selects a dog who has done an outstanding job and lifts to dog to hit five the burled arch.  Good thing Justin is tall, such a practice wouldn’t work for your average sized musher.  Justin’s MVP (most valuable pup) was Louisa Mae.  She’s had the honor two years running.

Charley Bejna who operates Charley’s Landscaping in Addison Illinois crossed the finish line in 32nd place with a time of 11 days 2 hours and 7 minutes.  Charley has come to Iditarod through participating as a non-musher in the ceremonial start.  He was an Idita-rider in Bruce Linton’s sled in 2007.  He returned to ride Linton’s tag sled in 2008.  Charlie worked as a handler for GB Jones and rode his tag sled in 2011.  His desire to become a dog man was ignited when he first drove a small dog team with GB Jones.  Charlie earned the coveted finisher’s belt buckle in 2014 and has made Nome two consecutive years.   He’s bested his time from last year by 16 hours and 9 places.  Benja is please with the performance of his dogs.  They really worked hard, especially on the last few miles of the race coming up over cape Nome.  It’s a long climb and Bejna was helping the whole way.


Seth Barnes signs off the trail

Seth Barnes is working for Mitch Seavey, running his puppy team to Nome.  Seth knew Mitch’s expectation of getting to Nome with healthy happy dogs, never mind how long it takes.  Barnes came in with 11 dogs.  They were peppy and looked like they’d been having the time of their lives over the past 11 days.  Some of the dogs with Seth will be Mitch’s superstars in the near future.  Barnes commented on the extremes of the trail.  In the early going it was bitter cold.  The run between the yukon river and the coast was marked with blowing and drifting snow.  Weather conditions at Shaktoolik held mushers up, more drifting and soft snow.  Seth called it a slush fest.  Good job Seth earning the status of a veteran Iditarod musher.

When mushers arrive in Nome, their highest priority is taking care of their dogs and their second priority is to get some sleep for themselves and then continue caring for their dogs until they are shipped to Anchorage via Alaska Airlines.  Many mushers come down to welcome their friends and comrades to the finish line.  This afternoon we saw Aaron Burmeister, the Twins, Mitch Seavey and Jessie Royer.