Wednesday, January 31, 2024

2024 Yukon Quest Alaska musher roster

It's a big weekend. The Yukon Quest is still split in two with the two boards choosing to once again hold two separate races, one on each side of the border. Last year they were kind enough to mushers and fans to hold them on separate weekends. This year? Nope, we get them at the same time. Tracker lurkers be prepared! You'll need multiple screens for this one.

Rosters for the races are small. In fact the smallest rosters of all the mid-distance big races. In Alaska there's the YQA 300, YQA 200, and YQA 80. Because of the small rosters we'll keep them all in one place. As with all of the roster posts, this is a resource to have all of the web links in one place. As always this will be edited with bib numbers as soon as they are published.

YQA 300

Bib #MusherKennel NameLinkLinkLink
1Keaton LoebrichStar Gazer RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
2Deke NaatkgeborenNautique Sky KennelWebsiteFacebookInstagram
3Rohn BuserSusitna Sled Dog AdventuresWebsiteFacebookInstagram
4Josi ThyrThere & Back Again Sled DogsWebsiteFacebookInstagram
5Jonah BaconNautique Sky KennelWebsiteFacebookInstagram
6Sydnie BahlDream a Dream KennelWebsiteFacebook
7Kristy BeringtonSeeind Double Sled Dog RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
8Brent SassWild and Free MushingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
9Joey SabinVOA RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
10Jason MackeyMackey's TopNotch Comeback KennelWebsiteFacebook
11Benjamin GoodGood Alaska MushingFacebookInstagram
12Anna HennessyShameless HuskiesWebsiteFacebookInstagram
13Matthew SchmidtSawtooth RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
14Eddie BurkeOff the Rails RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram
15Steve HumesHardly Workin SleddogsFacebookInstagram

YQA 200

Bib #MusherKennelLinkLinkLink
18Abbey VandenBergCloudberry Kennl/Dew Claw KennelFacebookInstagram
21Ashley FranklinOrange Blossom KennelFacebookInstagram
22Jody Potts-JosephRaven Clan KennelsWebsiteFacebookInstagram

YQA 80

Bib #MusherKennelLinkLinkLink
24Jennifer NelsonATAO KennelFacebookInstagram
25Carolyn MillerDogs & BonesWebsiteFacebookInstagram
26Alyssa GilmourKennel on a HillFacebookInstagram
27Joe LaMagnaKennel BebopFacebookInstagram
28James ShawcroftSnowy Birch KennelFacebook
29Laura AllawayRunner Dance KennelFacebook
30Lane KeckMisfit KennelFacebookInstagram
31Blake MatrayAbide SiberiansFacebook
32Juliah DeLoachOilwell KennelFacebook
33Arien SandersonMidnight Howlers RacingFacebook
34Spencer Waddell IIIRyno KennelFacebook
35David McConnell-BooherKennel BebopFacebookInstagram
36Hannah WappettSnow Drift Kennel?
37AddieAnn RandallRock On RacingWebsiteFacebookInstagram

Edited Feb 2, 2024 @ 10:10pm. Emily Robinson, Lauro Eklund, and Joanna Weber have all withdrawn due to concerns about the extreme cold. Other mushers are also considering WDing.

Who are you excited to watch? Predictions on who comes in first? How about all of those junior mushers in the 80?! Comment below with your thoughts.

If you like what you see and want to support my addiction (I mean HOBBY) of following these races and stalking (I mean cheering on) the mushers, you can buy me a slice of pizza (that really goes to paying for my internet/web expenses).

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Another re-PETE champion

Pete Kaiser giving post race interview. 
Screenshot from KYUK Radio LIVEfeed.
The Kuskokwim 300 welcomed in its Champion a little before 9:30am Alaska time as Pete Kaiser and his team of 12 frosty Alaskan huskies came into the finish. Kaiser took over the lead late Saturday night and never looked back gaining miles on his friend and competitor Matt Failor from the last checkpoint into the finish. The two had traveled a lot of the race together and once again battled for the top spot in Bethel.

Kaiser is the only musher to have maintained all twelve dogs in the team from start to finish. With the hard, fast trail many mushers had concerns on sore wrists playing a main factor, but also with teh cold temperatures some teams just couldn't withstand the long hours in the cold (several teams scratched with concern of frostbite for either dog or musher). 

Pete reported at the finish line that the trail was good and fast and sections they expected to be difficult were "the best [he] had ever seen". The champion musher was also grateful that the winds predicted never hit. "I'm looking forward to some warmth," Kaiser said when asked how he felt coming in first. With air temps at -35 this morning in Bethel the team was covered in a good layer of frost, and the musher had ice buildup on his fur ruff.

Matt Failor will be the next team in followed by Travis Beals and Hunter Keefe in third and fourth respectively. KattiJo Deeter passed Ryan Redington earlier this morning and has pulled away looking to claim a fifth place finish. Keefe slingshotted his way into fourth and should be ROTY for the Kusko. 

Bethel's about to get busy. You can follow all the action LIVE on KYUK Radio's facebook page.

Pete Kaiser racing for 8

We're looking at a musher solidly in position to re-PETE his win for an 8th time in just under an hour as Pete Kaiser is running with a strong team of 12 dogs. Kaiser has grown his lead on Matt Failor all night and into this morning and it looks like Failor is solidly in 2nd.

KYUK will go live for the finish so keep your eye and ear out for that. Kaiser is reported to be on the GWEEK river so it won't be long now. Temp is reportedly at -37 this morning so they may have technical difficulties, be gracious and understanding folks.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Kaiser passes Failor to lead Kusko

In a surprising turn that even caught race officials off guard, Peter Kaiser slipped into Kalskag Inbound checkpoint ahead of Matt Failor Saturday night. Kaiser, with all 12 dogs still on the line, spent just five minutes in the checkpoint before taking off down the trail. Matthew Failor was right behind Kaiser, clocking into the checkpoint came in two minutes behind the 2019 Iditarod Champion. Both Kaiser and Failor have finished their mandatory rest on the outbound trail and just have one final four hour mandatory rest to complete. 

Meanwhile the front runners from Aniak to Kalskag, Ryan Redington and KattiJo Deeter, are completing their mandatory rests with Redington getting ready to leave 47 minutes after Kaiser's departure. Kaiser ran the leg from Aniak to Kalskag about 90 minutes faster than Redington. The run from Aniak to Tuluksak (where the final mandatory rest of four hours must be taken by all teams) is about an 80 mile run. It may well be that Kaiser and Failor will choose to make this their big push and hope there's more than enough gas in the tank to keep Redington behind them and that their teams bounce back after 4 hours rest. 

Travis Beals ran Aniak to Kalskag just 10 minutes slower than Kaiser. He is also finished with his mandatory rest and is now chasing down Kaiser and Failor. Beals, like Redington, has 9 dogs in harness.

This is still anyone's dog race, and as promised the finish is going to be an exciting one. Will we have a repeat champion or will we have a new champion this year?

Redington leads, chase pack several hours behind

Ryan Redington was lone man on the trail for most of Saturday as he blew through Aniak to complete the loop before planning to rest in Kalskag inbound. The Iditarod Champion is known for running fast and aggressively out of the gate and with the trail reports of hard packed icy trails it was no surprise to see Ryan blast off down the trail. 

KattiJo Deeter blew through Aniak two hours behind Redington and is not really running to win. The chase pack behind Deeter, however, have a lot of teams that plan on racing down Redington -if they have to- to the finish. 

Matthew Failor and Pete Kaiser have both completed their 6 hour mandatory rest (while in the loop) and can now run straight on into their mandatory 4 hour at the final checkpoint. Redington and Deeter (both Deeters, actually) still need to take 3 hours in the Kalskag checkpoint.

Travis Beals is also in the mix, completing his rest and is using the highly successful strategy of resting dogs in the sled/trailer while running. It seems to be paying off as he has had very strong runs thus far. 

Redington is about 4 miles to Kalskag and his three hour rest. Kaiser and Failor look to be about two hours behind Redington at this stage. There's still plenty of race left and it's anyone's guess who will take the lead out of Kalskag.

Friday, January 26, 2024

23 teams are on the trail

8pm on the dot teams began leaving the starting chute with the help of snowmachines playing the part of tag sleds at the start of the 45th Kuskokwim 300. Some of the state's top teams along with local heroes are on their way dealing with hard, icy trails and frigid temperatures. 

The bright side of the start was that the predicted winds seemed to stay away and so the fans stood in -20F temps and not -40. With the cold snap the river froze over solid making for a safe trek into the Kusko Delta for the teams (and cars could once again park along the trail to wish the teams well.

Joe Taylor and Pete Kaiser were first out of the chute with Kaiser leaving no doubt he was going to run an aggressive race on his home turf - taking the very early lead. The final team of Travis Beals - who chose Bib #23 in honor of the late Paul Gebhardt who passed away late last year after a long battle with cancer - bookended a roster of highly competitive teams.

Kale Casey Live reported that at some point in the start two dogs seemed to break off the line and were running without a team down the trail - it was uncertain whose dogs they are. Most likely they pups were connected to the team until another dog or two chewed their tuglines. No report yet on which dogs they were or if they've been caught.

With the icy fast first leg of the trail teams are flying up the river and will likely get into the first checkpoint sometime after Midnight. At last glance it appears Kaiser's tracker stopped reporting about 25 minutes ago, he had about a mile and a half lead on the next teams before his tracker went dark. Dang aliens.

You can follow all of the tracker action here.

Monday, January 22, 2024

2024 Kuskokwim 300 race preview

As teams make their way to Bethel, Alaska excitement mounts as some of the sports greatest descend on the highly anticipated Kuskokwim 300. The Western Alaskan race boasts a robust purse, is considered one of the best organized of any sled dog race, and consistently a favorite of mushers and fans alike. This year is no exception with the race seeing the roster full and overflowing in record time. 

This year's race is composed mostly of veterans, with only six? rookies in the mix. It boasts four Kusko champions, and two Iditarod Champions (one of which is a rookie in the race). Eight teams are "local" to the Kusko-Delta area. Three women are going to give the men a run for their money.

Alaska has finally entered the cold snap portion of our winter with the Interior dropping to temps anywhere from -40F to -60F. South Central saw temps as low as -20F. For Western Alaska (where our race will take place) the negative temperatures will be intensified by strong winds. Bethel, Alaska, had winds up to 25mph Monday. A quick look at the weekend forecast has winds between 15 and 25mph during the race. For the evening start it's a forecasted -23F but with the wind it could feel/act more like -45F. Looks like the Kusko and the Copper Basin 300 swapped temps this year.

Registration has already opened for Fantasy Mushing's K300, and how anyone will pick just seven teams for their fantasy roster is a head scratcher. There are so many heavy hitters heading out on the trail this weekend! Let's try to at least take a look at some safe bets for your fantasy team.

Who to watch

Aaron Burmeister - Burmeister sat out last season, spending time being dad at home. Aaron sent his team down the trail with Tony Browning and Eddie Burke Jr. in different races, and fans worried 2022 was the final year they'd see him on the runners. However, like a couple of other well known mushers through the years, Burmeister's hiatus was short lived and he's back racing not only the Kusko this weekend, but he'll race to Nome in the Iditarod as well. Aaron grew up on the West Coast of Alaska, look for him to have a solid run - don't expect him to be rusty. Aaron last raced the Kusko in 2022 and came 7th. Aaron has withdrawn.

Cim Smyth - We all know that with a Smyth in the race the other mushers get a crick in their neck with how often they look back to see if the Smyth boys are catching them. It's even rumored that Cim changes out his boots for running shoes when it comes down to the final stretch. In seven races on the Kusko, he's only been out of the top ten once. The last two Kuskos he's come in 9th and 6th. Cim has withdrawn.

Dave Turner - The hybrid sprint and mid distance mushing kennel is always a shoo in for fast times into a checkpoint, which bodes well for the scoring of fantasy mushing. Turner is a top placement finisher once he gets the hang of a race - and it doesn't take him long to figure it out. If Dave makes it to Bethel watch for him to challenge for a top placement. Turner has never placed outside the top 10 when he's run. Last year he came 8th.

Matthew Failor - The 2019 Kusko champion is back once again! Matt surprised a lot of folks with his win 5 years ago, but has been pretty dang consistent in challenging for the first place spot since then (we'll ignore that one 7th place finish in there). The new dad will most likely keep that tradition up in the 2024 race.

Nicolas Petit - Petit is having a rough season. Everything behind the scenes have been a little sideways and Petit has been vocal that the beef shortage and financial concerns have made him have to re-evaluate his goals during the races. That being said, Petit is a dark horse one should probably not count out. He does have a pattern, though, of placements on the Kusko (ie one year in the top five, one year in the teens) and we're on a low placement year if he sticks with his pattern. Petit announced via facebook this morning that due to forecasted weather and trail conditions he's making the difficult decision to forfeit his entry fee and will not head to Bethel this week.

Pete Kaiser - While the 2019 Iditarod title is nothing to sneeze at, for those on the Kusko it might be an even bigger deal that Pete Kaiser is also a seven time Kusko Champion. Kaiser is once again the reigning champ of the race, and there are a whole lot of people waiting for him to win it an eighth time to keep his historic hold on the race going. Since his first win back in 2015 if he isn't first, he's second. Don't expect that to change.

Ramey Smyth - We could just say "see Cim Smyth" for the whole run down (pun only slightly intended) of why one doesn't count out a musher with the last name Smyth. Ramey is the 1995 Kusko champion, has been second a couple times, and is kind all over the map with placements, but this former champion is always a good choice to have on a fantasy team - expect him to have solid, fast runs throughout.

Raymond Alexie - This local musher has lit the trails of the Kusko-Delta on fire the last two seasons. Alexie has won just about every race he's entered since making waves last season in the Delta Championship Series. He's beaten several of the teams running the Kusko this weekend. This will be his rookie run on the Kusko, but don't expect him to just sit back and take in the learning experience. Raymond is THE ONE to watch in this race. 

Richie Diehl - The 2021 Kusko Champ is not running the Iditarod this year, so the Kusko 300 may be his biggest race of the season. With not having a thousand mile race to prepare for later in the season, Diehl can focus all of his attention on the Kusko. This isn't just a training run/test for his team. This is the final exam for the 2024 season. Expect the champ to contend for that top spot.

Travis Beals - The last time Beals ran the Kusko, he came 4th. That was in 2022. Travis has had a solid season thus far, and while the Iditarod is the ultimate goal don't expect this to be a camping trip for Beals. Travis is another good bet to have a top ten finish in the race.

(No, Ryan Redington wasn't forgotten... he could definitely be a major spoiler in his rookie run.) 

So now that you have at least some idea of who to add to your Fantasy team, just how will you be able to keep up with the action sitting at home warm and toasty (and not too sleep deprived)? Glad you asked.

How to follow

While many of the other mid distance races rely on fan videos and Kale Casey LIVE to cover their races, the Kusko is unique in that the local grade school runs a program where they film the start and finish of the races. They go live on Facebook with race coverage done mainly by the students. It's fantastic and well worth a watch. However THIS year Kale Casey WILL be LIVE at the race beginning Thursday! You'll want to keep an eye on both social media pages to make sure you don't miss any of the action.

Official Website

The Kusko's website is pretty slick. You can follow all of the races, fundraising and news from their site. It's easy to navigate and they have great musher bios. And this is where you will find those ever important in and out times from the checkpoints. Be sure to check it out.

GPS Tracker

Real time updates will come through the trackers as always. With the cold there may be more glitches than we'd like (I blame the aliens!) but there's not much we can do. Cold and technology don't get along. The link for trackleaders hasn't gone live yet, so this will get edited once it does. Trackers are live! View them here.

Radio Broadcast

KYUK Radio will broadcast the start which begins at 8:00pm (start listening at 7:30pm for pre-race info). You can listen to the broadcast online through this link.

Social Media

Updates will most likely be posted on the race's Facebook page, and possibly their twitter account. Photo updates should come from Instagram. They typically try to have a Facebook live feed. If you are tweeting, instagramming, etc. the traditional hashtag is #K300.

KYUK is also plans to post updates on their Facebook page, including Facebook interviews with the mushers from the last week or so.

Schedule of Events

Wednesday, January 25
Vet Checks

Thursday, January 26
Vet Checks
5pm - Musher Meeting
7pm - Bib Draw 

Friday, January 27
8:00pm - Kuskokwim 300 START
8:40pm - FIREWORKS

Saturday, January 28
NOON - Akiak Dash Mass Start

Monday, January 29
6pm - Musher Awards

Who do you think will cross the finish line first? Who do you expect to beat every expectation? Can Pete Kaiser win his 8th title? Comment below with your thoughts!

If you like what you see and want to support my addiction (I mean HOBBY) of following these races and stalking (I mean cheering on) the mushers, you can buy me a slice of pizza (that really goes to paying for my internet/web expenses).