Turning in a strong final run from Freddie’s Roadhouse to the finish line Sunday afternoon, Mitch Seavey took the top spot in this year’s Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race.
Thirty teams finished this year’s Tustumena 200, from a field of 37 that left Milepost 112 in Kasilof Saturday. It took Seward musher Mitch Seavey 17 hours, 25 minutes to complete the trek from Kasilof, through the Caribou Hills to Homer and back.
The teams began rolling into town Friday for pre-race check- ins and exams at the Soldotna Sports Complex, including the team led by Australian musher Christian Turner.
"This is actually my first season in Alaska, "said Turner. "I was very interested in it (so) I had to move to the northern hemisphere to compete."
While the teams are being examined outside by veterinarian Pam May, inside, there’s a relative calm among the race organizers who will be up for at least the next 36 hours making sure the race runs as smoothly as possible, including Race Marshall Kevin Foulton.
"(I'm) just kind of like the referee," said Foulton.
In addition to his marshalling duties, Foulton is also one of the trail builders, working with Gary Anders to provide the teams a suitable path, which he says never looks the same two years in a row.
About an hour before the race starts Saturday, you can begin to feel the energy build in the teams as they’re inspected one last time before hitting the trail.
And eighteen hours later, the teams begin returning back to Milepost 112 with Seward’s Mitch Seavey leading the way.
"I've never been a speedy, 200-mile racer," said Seavey. "But because it was warm and the trail was such as it was, I think my slower pace worked out for us ... and you get lucky sometimes."
Rounding out the top 5 were Ray Redington, Jeff King, Paul Gebhardt and Wade Marrs. The Seavey’s needed to make room for two trophies Saturday, as Mitch’s son Conway took the T-100 crown. He says the next race is the Denali Doubles this weekend before heading out on the Iditarod Trail March 2nd.