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Quest leaders reach Dawson

Skagway musher is first to race's midway point

Posted: Friday, February 18, 2005

While his fellow Yukon Quest mushers slept along the trail, Skagway's Hugh Neff slipped by and was the first musher to arrive in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, on Thursday.

Dawson City is the unofficial midway point of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race - 466 miles from the start in Whitehorse, and 560 miles from the finish line in Fairbanks. Neff pulled into town at 12:21 p.m. Yukon time (11:21 a.m. Alaska time), and if he reaches Fairbanks - in any place - he'll receive four ounces of placer gold for being the first to Dawson. The value is estimated at $2,100 Canadian.

"It seems a lot of my competition was sleeping last night," Neff told race officials, as reported on the Yukon Quest Web site. "Every time I went by a musher, they were all sleeping. I can't figure it out."

Neff said the run into Dawson went well, including the traverse of King Solomon's Dome - at nearly 4,000 feet, it's the highest point on the 1,026-mile Quest trail.

"It was beautiful. Good weather," said Neff, a Quest veteran who will also run the Iditarod in March from Anchorage to Nome. "It got really cold once you got close to Dawson."

This year marks Neff's fifth try at the Quest. Neff, who lives in Skagway during the summer and operates dogsled rides for tourists, finished 22nd in last year's Iditarod and was named rookie of the year.

Neff - and all the mushers who reach Dawson - are required to take a 36-hour layover. After resting and caring for his dogs, Neff will be eligible to leave Dawson early Saturday morning.

Kasilof's Jon Little - an Iditarod veteran, but Quest rookie - was the second to reach Dawson, at 1:12 p.m. Yukon time Thursday, followed by Quest veterans and Yukoners William Kleedehn and Gerry Willomitzer, both at 2:20 p.m. Kasilof's Lance Mackey arrived at 3:13 p.m.

Five more mushers - David Dalton, Sebastian Schnuelle, Frank Turner, Blake Freking and John Schandelmeier - had reached Dawson City as of 12:30 a.m. Yukon time today (11:30 p.m. Alaska time Thursday). For updates on the race, look on the Web at www.yukonquest.com.

Web links

For more on this year's yukon quest international sled dog race, visit http://www.yukonquest.com.

From Dawson City, it is 150 miles to the next checkpoint at Eagle, located across the international boundary in Alaska.

Two more mushers scratched from the race Thursday, bring the total number of scratches to four and dropping the remaining Quest field to 17 mushers. Musher Catherine Pinard pulled out at Stepping Stone cabin, and Marcelle Fressineau dropped out at Pelly Crossing.

• The Juneau Empire sports department can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com.



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