KENAI - Jessica Hendricks, a 22-year-old musher from Two Rivers, bested many Iditarod and Yukon Quest champions Sunday to become the first woman to win the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race.
This 21st running of the T-200 was filled with surprises that began shortly after the first few mushers left the starting chute Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof.
After a roughly 100-yard straightaway, the trail - which was incredibly fast for mushers from the hard-packed snow and ice - made an almost 90 degree turn left over the Sterling Highway then immediately turned nearly 90 degrees right while simultaneously dipping in elevation.
This feature of the trail combined with dog teams filled with vim and vigor having just started to race served as a hazard that gave mushers a taste of what they were in for over the next two days.
More than a dozen mushers came around the "suicide bend" at such high speeds that they tipped their sleds and hit the ground with rib-cracking force.
After falling, some mushers were dragged for yards as their sleds careened out of control. Others were fortunate in being swung out into the brush along the trail, slowing their teams to an eventual halt.