By: Michael Rogers
The last finisher of the Iditarod is in and the race is officially over. Rookie musher Victoria Hardwick of Bethel, Alaska crossed under the burled arch with a time of 14 days, 22 hours, and 51 minutes. After her crossing, the widow’s lamp was extinguished and the course was officially closed for the 2019 race. The Burled Arch will be taken down and stowed inside the museum, ready for next year’s race. The Red Lantern hearkens back to the Fur Rendezvous races of the 1950s and carried over to the Iditarod.
A couple of final moments of the race, Cindy Gallea scratched in a heartbreaking moment in Safety, just 22 miles from the finish. Her team simply sputtered out and it took her 22 hours to make it the 55 miles from White Mountain to Safety. Given Gallea’s historical pace, I doubt the team was exhausted and would suspect illness.
Also, sputtering was Sarah Stokey’s team. They were in good shape physically, but 150 miles from the finish she found herself in the lead dog position and walked them across the line herself for a 34th place finish. Good show Sarah!
Anja Radano finished despite injuries sustained in the Dalzell Gorge and finished in 35th place. Social media phenomenon
Blair Braverman finished her first Iditarod in 36th position. Her #Uglydog fan based raised thousands of dollars for schools in Alaska and abroad as she mushed her way to Nome. Leveraging the power of connecting with her following on social media, she’s brought thousands of new fans and interest to the sport.
The finisher’s banquet was held and knighted Lance Mackey with the Most Inspirational Musher Award. Even his competitors were rooting for the ill Mackey to finish this year’s race.
The Humanitarian Award was presented to Aliy Zirkle for her excellence in dog care during the race. The race veterinarians present the award, so they’re in a position to know dog care.
Rookie of the Year went to Ed Hopkins in 21st place as the highest finishing rookie.
The Sportsmanship Award went to Mats Petterson for helping Linwood Fielder recover his dogs earlier in the race.
The Herbie Nayokpuk Award for best attitude went to Aaron Peck for his upbeat approach to a hard race. Most Improved Musher award went to Paige Drobny who ran her “Squids” up in the standings from #44 in 2016 to #7 in 2019.
The Golden Harness Award went to Morrow, a 7 year old on Peter Kaiser’s winning team.
This year from a field of 52 mushers, 39 finished the race despite the challenging warm temperatures and all the attendant hardship that Alaska brings.
Author’s note- It’s been my pleasure to bring this coverage to you in installment form and hope that you have enjoyed our content for the 2019 Iditarod, The Last Great Race on Earth.