Rookie of the Year!

It was a tight race for rookie of the year!  It was almost like a repeat of the Dallas Seavey and Aliy Zirkle finish with two teams in the chute at the same time!

I was awoken this morning by the siren going off…  I checked the tracker and realized that the siren must be for Richie Diehl.  While I was struggling to get myself out of bed, the siren went off again, this time for Matt Failor.  I decided that it was time to get going because those two were the front of a pretty big pack of mushers coming through.  I made it to the chute in time to catch Matt Failor finishing up his interview.  He looked great and happy to be there.  His dogs were still banging at their harnesses, jumping, and barking and seemed like they could turn around and run back to Anchorage!  Matt praised his lead dog, which is a borrowed dog from Martin Buser.  Matt has run Buser dogs in each of his first two Iditarods.  Two years ago he ran Martin’s puppy team and last year he stepped in and ran the “B” team when Rohn Buser decided not to run.  Matt has had this dog in his team before.  He said that the dog ran in single lead for the last 77 miles and he was glad to have him on the team!

There seemed to be a lull in the traffic, so I headed down to the end of town where the mushers actually come off the ice and onto Front Street.  I could see Wade Marrs’ light coming from a LONG way off.  I think I’ve told you before that I love to watch the teams come in at night.  Going down the the hill was the closest I could get here in Nome.  I was able to see Wade away from the lights of the town.  His headlight steadily grew closer and closer. The firehouse siren went off.  The station is right across the street from where the mushers come off the ice.   As he came off the ice and up the hill, you could see the steam rising off the dogs.  “Congratulations!”  “Welcome to Nome!”  we cheered!  There were four of down there and it was pretty cool to be the first people to welcome Wade to the finish.

I knew that after Wade coming in, things were going to get interesting.  I had checked the tracker and knew that Nathan Schroeder was ahead of Abbie West, but not by much.  It was really too close to call! I started getting flashbacks of the first night and wondering if it was going to be Aliy or Dallas!

I knew I wanted to be in the chute to see Nathan come in, so I walked back up to the finish line.  Wade was finishing up and taking his team to the Dog Lot.  I saw Nathan’s dad in the chute.  He was pacing.  I asked if his heart was pounding.  “Yep!” was his reply.  He shared a cool story.  He said a piece of history was coming across the finish line with Nathan.  Nathan was using Mark Nordman’s old sled bag for the race.  He had bought it at an auction.  Mark Nordman, the race marshall and Iditarod finisher, seemed really tickled to hear that news.

I thought we were in the clear to see Nathan crowned Rookie of the Year.  The siren went off. The announcer started talking, only she was talking about Abbie West.  What?  Nathan’s dad and I looked at each other.  People started buzzing. It could be Abbie or it could be Nathan.  The announcer was quickly told she may be wrong and she got a little flustered.

We literally had to wait until someone at the end of the chute with a really strong zoom lens on their camera confirmed it was Nathan!  “Yes!” hissed Nathan’s dad!  His face broke out into the biggest grin!

Now – Nathan’s team seemed a little surprised at the chute and they didn’t quite want to come into it.  In fact they steered to the left and missed the chute entirely.  They needed a little encouragement and assistance, but they finally made it into the chute and under the Burled Arch.  He did it!  Nathan Schroeder – Rookie of the Year!  What an amazing accomplishment!  He was, not surprisingly, quiet and calm and reserved.  “Good job guys!” he told the dogs as he gave them some pats and snacks.

Six minutes later, as Nathan was still in the chute, Abbie West arrived in Nome.  She kneeled down in front of her lead dogs and buried her head into theirs.  I can’t even imagine the feeling you must have after traveling nearly 1,000 miles and surviving the challenges these mushers faced.  How must it feel to finally reach the finish line?

We still have a long ways to go with this race.  John Baker and Michelle Phillips have arrived to round out our top twenty.  Rumor is that winds have died down, so maybe the next teams will have a bit of an easier time come around the cape.

They aren’t the greatest, but here are some pictures of Nathan coming in and finishing his first Iditarod:

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