Third generation musher Dallas Seavey has become the youngest winner ever of the "Last Great Race," the grueling 1,160 mile Iditarod dog-sled race across the Alaskan wilderness.
"I had five lead dogs on this team, and I had to have every single one of them to do their parts of the race," Seavey said, reported the Associated Press, shortly after crossing the finish line in Nome.
Seavey, who turned 25 on March 4, the day the race officially started, travelled for nine grueling days, four hours, 29 minutes and 26 seconds with nine dogs pulling his sled to the finish line approximately 7:29 p.m. Tuesday. At 18, Seavey was the youngest musher to run the race. The oldest musher to ever compete was Col. Norman Vaughan who will turn 88 in December. Col. Vaughan completed the race four times.
There was speculation that Zirkle, 41, would be the next woman to win the Iditarod. She finished 11th last year and was ahead for much of this year's race. Sixteen of the mushers this year were women including the Iditarod's first set of twins, 28-year-old Anna and Kristy Berington.
Zirkle seems an unlikely Itidarod champion. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Biology and came to Alaska in 1990, where she lived in a wall tent on the Alaskan Peninsula and worked for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
The last female Iditarod champion was four-time champion Susan Butcher who dominated the race with wins from 1986-88 and again in 1990. Butcher retired from racing and died of leukemia in 2006.
The race is really a reconstruction of the freight route to Nome and commemorates the part that sled dogs played in the settlement of Alaska. The mushers travel from checkpoint to checkpoint much as the freight mushers did eighty years ago—although many modern dog drivers - including Seavey and Butcher - move at a pace that would have been incomprehensible to their old-time counterparts, making the trip in under ten days.
Congrats to all of this year's finishers.
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