Iditarod Rookies – First Time Runners of the Last Great Race
Rookies in any major sport aren’t favored to win. Iditarod rookies are a great example. Competition breeds immense strategy that one can only truly learn with experience.
The 2017 Iditarod has a field of 17 rookies. Is there an expectation to see one of them win? No. To place in the top 5? Not really. Top 10? Maybe.
2017 may be a slight exception since the start of the race will be out of Fairbanks. The course out of Fairbanks is a new trail for many, and that new trail could help level the playing field, just a bit.
Veterans of the Iditarod have the advantage of years communicating with their teams and developing chemistry. They also know the ins and outs of racing and how to manage teams on the trail as well as during their mandatory 8, 12, and 24 hour layovers at checkpoints.
The first Iditarod race, in 1973, included a field full of rookies. Dick Wilmarth of Red Devil, Alaska, won and brought home $12,000.
Year two of the Iditarod saw another rookie winner, Carl Huntington of Galena, Alaska. Carl finished the race 15 hours behind Dick’s time, taking 20 days and 15 hours.
In the third year of the Iditarod 19 of the 25 finishers were rookies. The rookie who won, Emmitt Peters of Ruby, Alaska, shaved off about 6 days from the previous record time. The first place purse grew to $15,000 that year.
Iditarod veteran, Jerry Riley of Nenana, Alaska, won in 1976, the fourth Iditarod. Harry Sutherland of Trapper Creek, Alaska, was the highest placing rookie, finishing third that year. Since 1975, no rookie has won the race.
The seasoned mushers adapted and effectively surged ahead of the less experienced mushers. Finish times increasingly dropped throughout the years.
Skip ahead to more recent years — the probability of a rookie winning has become even less. In the past five years, the average placement of the top rookie has been 16th. In 2016 the first rookie across the finish line was Geir Idar Hjelvik. He placed 26th and came in approximately 30 hours behind the winner, Dallas Seavey.
Here’s a list of the 2017 Iditarod rookies.
(Bib #, Name, Sex, State, Country)
3 | Otto Balogh | M | Budapest | HUNGARY
4 | Misha Wiljes | F | Prague | CZECH REPUBLIC
7 | Laura Neese | F | McMillan | MI | USA
8 | Ryan Anderson | M | Ray | MN | USA
10 | Roger Lee | M | Birkenhead | ENGLAND
12 | Joe Carson | M | McGrath | AK | USA
13 | Sebastien Vergnaud | M | Rioux | FRANCE
26 | Nicolas Vanier | M | Paris | FRANCE
40 | Thomas Rosenbloom | M | Cantwell | AK | USA
43 | Jimmy Lebling | M | Willow | AK | USA
47 | Paul Hansen | M | Kotzebue | AK | USA
48 | Justin High | M | Willow | AK | USA
49 | Justin Stielstra | M | Seward | AK | USA
53 | Peter Reuter | M | Bloomingdale | NY | USA
61 | Michael Baker | M | Willow | AK | USA
70 | Robert Redington | M | Willow | AK | USA
72 | Dave Delcourt | M | Wasilla | AK | USA
Who do you think the top placing Iditarod rookie will be this year?
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2017 Iditarod Reroute | The Original Iditarod Trail | A Winning Strategy
Dog Races – The Fastest Dogs Don’t Always Win | Why Moving the Iditarod Trail is a Good Idea