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25-year-old Dallas Seavey wins Iditarod

Posted: March 13, 2012 - 11:06pm
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Iditarod front-runner Dallas Seavey makes his final drive toward Nome, Alaska, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Marc Lester)  Marc Lester
Marc Lester
Iditarod front-runner Dallas Seavey makes his final drive toward Nome, Alaska, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Marc Lester)

NOME, Alaska — Dallas Seavey won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday evening, becoming the youngest musher to win the nearly 1,000-mile race across Alaska.

Seavey turned 25 on March 4, the day the race officially started north of Anchorage. He was the first musher to reach Nome, his nine dogs trotting into the Bering Sea coastal community at 7:29 p.m. Tuesday.

The winner greeted family and friends briefly, then turned to hug his dogs.

“They mean the world to me,” said Seavey, of Willow, about 50 miles north of Anchorage.

He finished in nine days, four hours and 29 minutes.

The previous youngest winner was the race’s only five-time champion, Rick Swenson, who won his first Iditarod at the age of 26 in 1977. Swenson, now 61, is in this year’s race, and was running in the middle of the pack.

Asked about his record-breaking victory, Seavey said it’s been a goal since he started racing competitively in 2009.

“When you put your mind on something ... good things will happen,” he told the crowd under Nome’s burled arch finish line.

“Dream big!” he said as he sat with an arm around each of his two lead dogs, who wore their own yellow floral garlands. “Go for it! Why not?”

Seavey said his race strategy was to build position carefully.

“We built a monster that couldn’t be stopped,” he said, adding there was “no reason to let it out of the cage early.”

It’s a family affair for the Seaveys. Dallas’ father, Mitch, 52, won the race in 2004. He was racing in seventh place when Dallas crossed the finish line.

This year, Dallas’ 74-year-old grandfather, Dan, is running in his fifth Iditarod to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Iditarod Trail. His trip to Nome is being sponsored by the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance to highlight the rich history of the trail.

“It’s kind of what we do,” Dallas Seavey said when asked about that legacy.

Two of 1978 winner Dick Mackey’s sons have also won, Rick Mackey in 1983 and Lance Mackey from 2007-2010.

Dallas Seavey was the first musher to leave White Mountain after completing a mandatory eight-hour layover to rest his dogs. The second musher out was Aliy Zirkle, and Seavey maintained his lead for the last 77 miles of the trail from White Mountain to the finish line in Nome.

Dallas Seavey has been described by his father as “fiercely competitive.” The former Alaska high school wrestling champion, who also spent a year at the U.S. Olympic Training Center before turning his attention back to dogs, was the first musher to reach the White Mountain checkpoint at 12:14 a.m. Alaska time.

Sixty-six teams began the race on March 4. Eleven mushers have scratched, including the latest, Tom Thurston of Oak Creek, Colo. He left the race Tuesday afternoon in Unalakleet over concern for his dogs. He was down to eight dogs when he scratched.

Among the 55 mushers left on the trail are 12 rookies. Brent Sass is doing the best among the rookies, at 13th place on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old is originally from Excelsior, Minn., but moved to Fairbanks, where he operates Wild and Free Mushing, his kennel and guiding business.

Sass got a surprise when he arrived at the Unalakleet checkpoint on Sunday. His high school friend, Mike Coumbe of Minneapolis, flew to Alaska to cheer on his friend — with an unusual twist. He attempted to dye his naturally dark brown hair to match the black and yellow team colors of Sass’s kennel.

It didn’t go that well, and instead he wound up with mostly yellow and green patches, in varying patterns.

“It turned it into a zebra and a seal, I guess, from what I’m hearing,” Coumbe said Monday after arriving in Nome for the finish. “We tried to do black and yellow and it turned out into a bunch of different colors with stripes and polka dots, but so far, everybody’s liking it,” said Coumbe, who is also a co-host of the satellite television show “Bowhunting Addiction, TV.”

Brent’s dad, Mark Sass, has spent the last three months cheering on his son at various checkpoints in several races, including the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. He’s taken three months off from his remodeling contracting business in Minneapolis, and said he’s put 5,500 miles on his truck in that time following races. Mark Sass is a recreational musher, and loves to celebrate his son’s accomplishments.

“He just loves doing it, and he’s not going to do it at the expense of his dogs,” he said. “He’s a true lover of the sport. And he loves what he does; that’s pretty neat. I’m proud to be his dad when I can say that.”

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