Iditarod 2020 - March 16th

Episode 9- Shaktoolik to Elim

By Michael Rogers

Monday morning was all about catching Thomas Waerner. He slid first into the Shaktoolik at 9:50pm Sunday night and rested about four and a half hours. Pulling another ghost maneuver, he left Shak 15 minutes before 2nd place Jessie Royer pulled in at 2:20am followed closely by Aaron Burmeister at 2:40am and Mitch Seavey came in hot at 3:20am. Wade Marrs and Brent Sass made it in by 4:00am. Sass shunned the checkpoint and headed north to Koyuk, 2nd out of the checkpoint. Royer and Burmeister were out at 5:50am. Reddington and Drobny were in by 6:00am. Drobny blasted through checkpoint and was 5th headed for Koyuk.

Wade Marrs runs up the hill as he arrives in first place at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2017 Iditarod. Photo by: Jeff Schultz.

Waerner made the crossing to Koyuk by 9:30am and banked 4 hours of rest. He ghosted Jessie and Aaron yet again, pulling out for Elim just as they made the checkpoint at 1:30 this afternoon. Seavey moved up to 4th place and arrived in Koyuk at 2:22pm.

Thomas Waerner followed by Dallas Seavey in a race in Norway.
PC: Sebastian Schnuelle

Brent Sass made it at 3:13pm followed by Wade Marrs, Ryan Reddington, Paige Droby, Joar Ulsom and Travis Beals, Michelle Phillips, and Jesse Holmes. At this writing, that’s all that’s arrived in Koyuk and frankly, if you’re not in Koyuk by now, you’ve got no hope of a catching Wearner or the person who will. 

Travis Beals has a sled full of gear as he leaves the Kaltag checkpoint on his 90 mile run to Unalakleet in Iditarod 2015. PC Jeff Schultz see more of work at:

At this moment, Waerner is in Elim at mile 852 and a solid 20 miles in front of Royer. She’s followed by Mitch Seavey who’s apparently held something in the tank for the end and his team is easily the fastest on the course right now. Aaron Burmeister is still chasing from 4th position running neck and neck with Seavey Another team to watch is Paige Drobny, she’s come from all the way in the back to running in the chase pack in 5th. Her team looks positively nuclear powered and has energy to burn. She is currently in Koyuk since 5:10pm and will take the trail soon. She has 48 miles to make up with her team of “Squiddoes”. Mathematically improbable, but it’s happened.

Paige Drobny and team run past spectators on the trail during the Anchorage start during the 2013 Iditarod race. Photo by Britt Coon.

The chase pack is making their way to Koyuk over warm, slow trail. Earlier teams reported that there is a lot of caribou and snowmachine traffic just outside Koyuk and Waerner’s team ignored him and followed a local dog. Waerner and his team are visibly tired after an all-night run breaking trail and the dogs were distractible. Nic Petit is currently on the sea ice, a section of trail that’s proven his nemesis the last two years. He’s hoped to overcome it by racing and training on the sea ice and this year he’s making the crossing between Kaiser and Mackey making good time. Porsild and Zirkle are just reaching the ice and should be in Koyuk in the morning. 

Lance Mackey receives the *Spirit of Iditarod* award for being the first musher to reach the McGrath checkpoint from Penair's President, Danny Seybert, during Iditarod 2008.
Photo by Jeff Schultz/

The remaining teams are stretching from Unalakleet to nearly Galena with Quince Mountain still in Red Lantern position without having done his Yukon 8. He’s apparently slept 10 hours on the Yukon but not in a checkpoint. He’s been between Galena and Nulato since 11:00am. Today’s scratches are Aaron Peck in Unalakleet with 11 dogs and Richie Diehl at Unalakleet with 11 dogs also. Diehl reported that his team had developed a cough and he’s scratching to preserve their health. The storm system that’s been a player for the last few days has moved off with no warning currently posted until the likely end of the race.

Four year old Anita Jemewouk of Elim watches veterinarian Emi Berger of New York examine a Colleen Robertia dog at the Elim checkpoint during the 2010 Iditarod.

About the end. Waerner has 123 miles to the Burled Arch. He’s just come into Elim and will need 4 or 5 hours of rest for his team. He has a mandatory 8 hours in White Mountain. Using his pace out of Koyuk to Elim of 6.37 miles per hour that’s almost 20 hours of time on the trail and 12 hours resting in checkpoints. That number would put him in Nome early Wednesday morning. If the teams pursuing him have held anything in reserve, now is the time to let the genie out of the bottle.

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