Iditarod 2020 - March 18th

Episode 11- The Burled Arch

By Michael Rogers

At 12:37am on March 18, 2020, Thomas Waerner won the 2020 Iditarod with 10 dogs in harness. He ran a great race, had a great team and accomplished an Iditarod championship on his second attempt with a total race time of 9 days, 10 hours, and 37 minutes. He is the third Norwegian to win the Iditarod and he has established himself as one on the best mushers in the world. 

The New Iditarod Champ with his lead dogs.
Photo by: Albert Marquez (Planet Earth Adventures)

He was followed into Nome by three-time Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey. Seavey crossed under the Burled Arch at 6:15am with 10 dogs on the line.

Mitch Seavey with his lead dogs Tanner, left, and Taurus after arriving in Nome first and winning his second Iditarod in 2013.. Photo by Jeff Schultz/

Jessie Royer achieved a third-place finish with 12 dogs at 7:47am. Fourth went to this year’s Quest champion Brent Sass who finished with 13 dogs at 8:57am. Fifth was Aaron Burmeister with 9 dogs at 9:18am. Sixth place was former Iditarod champion Joar Ulsom at 9:48am with just 8 dogs in harness.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom runs in Ptarmigan Valley on his way to the summit Rainy Pass in the late afternoon on the way to Rohn in the Alaska Range during the 2019 Iditarod.
Photo by Jeff Schultz/ Consider becoming a patron of Jeff's photos at -

He narrowly edged out Paige Drobny in seventh at 9:54am with 9 dogs on the line. They switched positions several times on the run from White Mountain. An hour later, at 10:40am, Ryan Reddington seized eighth position with 8 dogs. Jessie Holmes managed to break into the top 10 at 11:09am with 8 dogs with a great finish after coming into White Mountain in 11th position, edging out Wade Marrs whose team lost steam. Travis Beals was tenth at 11:11am and 7 dogs. 

Paige Drobny ties an extra bag of straw onto her sled at the Kaltag checkpoint during the 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Photo by: Jeff Schultz/

Position 11 went to Raymie Smyth, twelfth went to Wade Marrs, thirteenth went to Michelle Philips and defending champ Pete Kaiser finished 14th. Mille Porsild captured rookie of the year in fifteenth with 6 dogs. Jeff Deeter and Kelly Maxiner pulled 16th and 17th positions. At this writing Aily Zirkle is four miles out and a lock for eighteenth position. Currently that is all mushers who have made it as far as Safety. 

Closeup of a smiling musher Aliy Zirkle during Iditarod 2006.
Photo by Jeff Schultz/ Consider becoming a patron of Jeff's photos at

The middle pack is scattered from White Mountain to Elim as a vicious windstorm pounds the coast. Nic Petit is hunkered down in Elim after attempting to leave this afternoon and meeting, in his words, “a wall of wind.” He’ll leave when the weather improves. Lance Mackey is resting in White Mountain and can leave at midnight. The current Red Lantern is rookie Kaci Murringer at mile 777 on the ice behind Dennis Kananowicz. 

A genuine, original " red lantern " glows in the finish chute at Nome with the burl arch finish line in the background. Photo by Jeff Schultz

Quince Mountain was withdrawn from the race at 11:37am in Unalakleet by race marshal Mark Nordman. Nordman cited Rule 36 that states that a race marshal can withdraw a competitor from the course if it is determined they are non-competitive. Given Quince’s rate of progress and combined with his nearly 50% run/rest ratio, was the evidence that Nordman needed to pull the plug. Today’s scratches were John Schandelmeier in Unalakleet whose team reportedly caught a virus and Meredith Mapes at 8:09am in Unalakleet for personal health reasons. Karen Hendrickson also scratched in Unalakleet at 1:09pm and Gabe Dunham scratched at 6:04pm. Robert Reddington pulled the plug in Elim last night at 10:30pm.

The mushers are arriving in an uncharacteristically quiet Nome and will return to a “real world” that is somewhat changed from the one they left on the trail 10 days ago. Many of the mushers will be subject to voluntary and involuntary quarantines as they return home. Iditarod champ Thomas Waerner will face a mandatory 14-day quarantine when he arrives back in Norway. Teams still on the trail will enjoy a respite from a world focused on COVID-19 for a few more days at least. 

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