In total, nine mushers made the burled arch on Wednesday March 15th. Mushers arriving later in the day experienced less wind between White Mountain and Nome than those arriving earlier. But Mother Nature didn’t spare them. These teams experienced the winds along the coast from Koyuk to White Mountain.
Dan Kaduce made Nome in 12th place with a time of 10 days 0 hours and 23 minutes. Kaduce and his wife Jody Bailey breed and train all of their own dogs at Dew Claw Kennel. Dan’s team stood under the arch barking, wagging tails and jumping up and down – there was an abundance of energy left in these dogs. Dan said the heat at the beginning of the race was difficult and he altered his schedule to rest during the sunny hours of the day. Once the temperatures dropped on the Yukon, his team really came to life. The hardest portion of the trail was in the wind and blowing snow from Elim to White Mountain. Dan and Jody are both Iditarod and Quest veterans with at least fifteen 1,000 mile races between them. Dan’s time from Safety to Nome was 2 hours and 39 minutes, the same as Jessie Holmes.
Australian musher Christian Turner finished in 13th place with a time of 10 days 1 hour and 16 minutes. Turner guided Mitch Seavey’s “A” team to Nome. It happened quite unexpectedly. Turner learned that Mitch would not be running this year due to shoulder issues. Turner contacted Mitch saying he’d run them and from there a plan came together. Turner came to Seward and began training with the team a month before the race. He was most worried about getting acclimated to the weather but Mother Nature helped with that as she offered warm days early in the race. Christians’ goal this race was to do better than last time which he did by two places – 15th to 13th. Christian expressed his thanks to his wife and daughter for letting him come and supporting him throughout the race. When asked if there was a special place on the trail he really enjoyed, with a smile he replied, “Right here, we don’t have to go any further.” Christian’s time Safety to Nome was 2 hours and 38 minutes which puts him in the lead for the Nome Kennel Club Award.
Jessie Royer covered the 998 mile route in 10 days 2 hours and 35 minutes claiming 14th position. This is Royer’s 20th Iditarod and she’s earned 8 top ten finishes. Her 2023 team was made up of 13 rookies and 1 Iditarod veteran dog. Her goal was to get as many as possible to the finish to build a good veteran base for next year. Her run/rest schedule allowed more rest for these younger dogs which also allowed her to get more sleep than she’s ever gotten in Iditarod before. When on the long runs like up the Yukon River, Jessie likes to listen to audiobooks. She had a series of 5 murder mysteries that keep her alert on the runs from Anvik to Kaltag this year. After taking a year off from Iditarod, Royer was especially pleased to be back in the villages and she really appreciated the all-out efforts of the checkpoint volunteers.
Canadian Musher Aaron Peck secured 15th place with a time of 10 days 3 hours and 15 minutes. Peck was completely surprised to see his wife and three children at the burled arch in Nome. They drove from Grand Prairie, Alberta to Anchorage then flew to Nome to surprise Aaron and indeed, they did. Aaron told insider that his team was a mix of young and also veteran dogs. That required him to balance his run/rest schedule to allow the younger dogs more rest. By nature, Peck is a competitor so he had to set that part of himself aside in favor of building his team for the future. Peck considered the trail to be epic Iditarod, including the winds along the coast. Alberta can be windy but Pack says he doesn’t really make it a point to train in it. The Pecks own a tour business and continue to explore the business side of running dogs. Coming back to Iditarod will be on a year to year basis. Peck’s personal best race was 2022 with a 10th place finish in 9 days, 12 hours and 20 minutes.
Next to the chute in 16th place and the final musher for March 15th was KattiJo Deeter. This is her second trip to the burled arch but her first official Iditarod finish. KattiJo was all smiles at earning the coveted finisher’s belt buckle. Last year the Deeters were caught in the infamous Blow Hole storm and were assisted by snowmachine to the Nome Kennel Club Safety Cabin where they sheltered themselves and their dogs until the storm blew itself out. Because of outside assistance, KattiJo and Jeff weren’t considered official finishers. KattiJo said she really didn’t think about the storm of last year until leaving Unalakleet. Then going from Koyuk to Elim and White Mountain, winds hit and made the miles along the coast extremely difficult. She added, “I wasn’t smiling along the coast.”
During the race, KattiJo had a number of sled issues but she always seemed to be smiling. When asked how she managed to keep such a positive attitude, Deeter replied that she was so lucky to be doing this and when you get to a checkpoint everyone is happy and does what ever possible to make you comfortable and warm. Deeter said, “You can’t have a bad attitude when you’re surrounded by people who are happy and excited to be doing what they are doing. KattiJo said that with the small field this year, there was more space between the teams and it did feel somewhat lonely. Last year, she and Jeff travelled together.
Deeter said she was very excited about being on the Southern route and getting to see Iditarod checkpoint. But the hardest run of the whole race was between Iditarod and Shageluk. Other mushers likened it to being a pinball and repeated bouncing from one side of the trail to the other. KattiJo described it as, “Being on a surfboard behind a 13 engine freight train.” Sounds like a pretty gnarly run with sled breaking potential!