Mushers make their way to Nome

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2003

NOME - One day after Robert Sørlie of Hurdal, Norway, claimed victory in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, mushers continued to make their way to Nome.

By midmorning today, 18 teams had crossed the finish line.

Among the top teams, John Baker of Kotzebue reached Nome at 5:33 p.m. Thursday to claim 8th place. Ed Iten of Kotzebue finished at 9:07 p.m. to claim ninth place and Sonny Lindner of Fairbanks reached Nome at 10:18 p.m. in 10th place.

Rick Swenson of Two Rivers, the race's only five-time champion, claimed 11th place, reaching Nome at 10:36 p.m. It was Swenson's 27th running of the Iditarod.

Mitch Seavey of Seward finished 12th, just after midnight; Jon Little of Kasilof finished in 13th place at 1 a.m. Friday; Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers finished 14th, at 3:17 a.m. and Ray Redington Jr. reached Nome at 5:04 a.m. to claim 15th place.

Aaron Burmeister of Nome reached home at 6:20 a.m. to claim 16th place and Bruce Lee of Denali Park reached Nome at 8:07 a.m. in 17th place.

DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow arrived in Nome at 9:45 a.m. to claim 18th place.

Jessica Hendricks of Copper Center appeared to have a lock on the top rookie award. Hendricks was in 19th place when she left White Mountain at 1:45 a.m.

Sørlie's final opponent was brutal weather, and he beat it Thursday to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race.

The 45-year-old firefighter from Hurdal battled blowing snow and bitterly cold temperatures on the last 77-mile leg of a nine-day race he controlled almost throughout.

"It was a tough trail between White Mountain and Nome - wind, cold, much wind-blown snow - but I'm feeling good now," Sørlie said. "It's good to come to Nome.

"It is for me, a dream come true."

Sørlie finished the event in 9 days, 15 hours, 47 minutes. He will take home $68,571 and a new truck.

Sørlie waved to hundreds of cheering spectators on Nome's Front Street as he led his eight-dog team to victory at 1:47 a.m.

Ramy Brooks of Healy finished second for the second year in a row, reaching Nome at 3:37 a.m. That was 1 hour, 49 minutes, 34 seconds behind Sørlie, who became only the second non-Alaskan to win the race.

"I'm feeling very well," Sørlie said, then hugged his wife, Elin Pedersen, waiting for him under the burled arch that marks the finish line of the race to this Gold Rush town on the Bering Sea.

The temperature hovered near zero as Sørlie's team trotted into town.

Brooks staged a late challenge to Sørlie, passing him along the coast Tuesday by cutting his rest time before falling back Wednesday.

Brooks already has his sights set on the 2004 Iditarod.

"I think that every time you do it, you run into things to improve on next year," he said.

He probably won't have Sørlie to contend with. The winner has promised his wife he won't enter the 1,100-mile race next year.

Last year, he finished as the top rookie and set a new record for a first-year musher.

Three-time champion Jeff King of Denali Park was third, followed by four-time winner Martin Buser of Big Lake. King reached this town of 3,500 at 9:17 a.m., and Buser came in at 1:40 p.m.

"Third's not bad at all, especially when you're beaten by two good teams like those guys had," King said. "Robert in particular had everything very well figured out and managed his team perfectly."

Buser kissed and hugged his dogs after completing his 20th Iditarod. Sørlie and Brooks greeted him at the finish.

"There's no place like Nome!" Buser said.

"Yes, of course," Sørlie agreed.

Ken Anderson of Fairbanks was fifth, followed by Linwood Fiedler of Willow, Ramey Smyth of Big Lake, John Baker of Kotzebue, Ed Iten of Kotzebue and Sonny Lindner of Fairbanks. Fiedler runs sled dog tours on Norton Glacier near Juneau during the summer.

Sørlie also became only the second foreign-born winner.

"This is now a world race, thanks to you," said Gov. Frank Murkowski, on hand to congratulate Sørlie at the finish line.

Buser is from Switzerland, but has lived in Alaska more than 20 years and became a U.S. citizen after winning last year.

The first non-Alaskan winner was four-time champion Doug Swingley of Lincoln, Mont.

Sørlie also is a three-time champion of Norway's premier long-distance sled dog race, the 600-mile Finnmarksløpet.

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