Monday, March 13, 2023

Redington with four hour lead in White Mountain

For the first time in race history, there is a Redington sitting first (and alone) in White Mountain. At 4:12pm Alaska time, Ryan Redington and team checked into the checkpoint outside the village of White Mountain for their mandatory eight hour rest. The Beargrease champion came in looking tired after he and his team essentially ran the entire way from Koyuk to White Mountain in a gamble to put distance from his closest competitors of Peter Kaiser and Richie Diehl.

Leaving Koyuk, Ryan had a 35 minute lead running to Elim. While Pete ran close behind cutting the 6 mile gap from the run before to 3 miles, Ryan continued out of Elim on his way to While Mountain. Peter Kaiser stayed behind.

And stayed.

And stayed.

Then stayed some more.

In fact, Pete stayed so long that Richie Diehl came into Elim and rested a couple of hours before leaving again and THEN Pete left. Diehl's lead was short lived and Kaiser made his way in front of his "best friend"'s team. The Kusko Boys ran from Elim to White Mountain together coming in just a few minutes apart. Pete's run into Elim was an hour and seventeen minutes faster than Ryan's, but his team has a four hour and seventeen minutes deficit to make up on Ryan. With only 77 miles to the finish line there may not be enough time for that to happen. Richie Diehl is only eight minutes behind Peter Kaiser. We're looking at having a "mini Kusko" finish for second place.

That being said in the Iditarod Insider evening report out of White Mountain from Bruce Lee, Lee reported that in talking with Ryan Redington there may be a longer rest in store for the current first place team. Redington ran the 88ish miles from Koyuk to White Mountain in one shot with no significant rest. That was a monster run that is completely doable but it can be taxing this late in the race. It was gutsy, but as Ryan's team came into the checkpoint of White Mountain they were visibly exhausted mentally (and the musher physically). At one point the team kept trying to jump off the trail onto a snowmachine trail and Ryan had to stop and reroute them at least three times, after the third correction his lead dog gave the signal that they were done leading. That's not a good sign for how his race may go tomorrow morning, so it makes sense that with a four hour cushion the veteran musher allows his team a couple of hours "extra" rest. Two hours is still a big gap of time to make up in the roughly 10 hour run to the finish.

It should also be noted that Pete Kaiser had not planned on running the Iditarod this year. His name was noticeably absent from the roster for several months before he slipped in before the deadline. Sure, it wasn't last minute like Ramey Smyth who waited until February to throw his hat in the ring, but Kaiser let it be known that it wasn't something he'd seen himself doing until he did it. Now, here he is in second place with the possibility of winning his second Iditarod if Ryan's race goes to Hell.

And let's not forget Richie Diehl. He's been working for this for nearly a decade now and he's giving a former Iditarod Champion and a "legacy" musher a run for their money. If either one of them hiccups, he's poised to jump on them. He's no doubt excited to be having a magical run and challenging the favorites - plus his team just looks good (so does Kaisers).

In 50 runnings of Iditarod there's never been a Redington in first. In 50 runnings there's only been a handful of Alaska Native champions. In this, the 51st running of Iditarod - barring them all having their race blow up in their face - there will be a Native Alaskan champion (last done in 2019 by who else but Peter Kaiser the first Yup'ik champion). In the 51st running that Champion could be a Redington. In 1973 when Joe Redington's race first kicked off on its way to Nome, Joe hoped that it would inspire a new generation of Alaska Native mushers to keep with dogs and hold to their thousands of years old tradition. Sadly in the race's history that has been lost as sponsorships went for easy to access teams on the road system and it became increasingly more expensive and difficult to get to races from the villages. In 2011 John Baker ended a decades long drought and joined the small ranks of Alaska Native champions, in 2019 Pete Kaiser won and inspired a new generation of mushers in the Kuskokwim Delta, which has a healthy mushing community that holds an entire series of mushing competitions as well as a dog food co-op of sorts.

This is Joe's dream and legacy coming full circle 50 years and 51 races later. As Jeff King said at the start of Iditarod 51, here's to the next 50 years of Iditarod. Let's add to it - we made it, Joe. Your dream is realized. 

No matter who comes under that burled arch tomorrow, this is what Iditarod was made for. Yes the roster was small, and yes the legends of the last 50 years are all but retired, but it's in good hands.

*For those wanting to know when to expect the champion, Redington can leave out at 12:12am Tuesday, IF he leaves at that time it'll be an almost 10 hour run for most, last year he ran it in 9hours and 45ish minutes. So start checking in around 9:30am (this is all ALASKA time and yes we follow Daylight Savings). IF Ryan chooses to stay longer in White Mountain (not a bad idea) then it may be later in the morning or early afternoon. As always keep to social media and this blog and we'll keep it updated as we can.*

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