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Duane Halverson Holds One-Minute Lead, Battles Halfway Jinx

March 14, 1987

IDITAROD, Alaska (AP) _ Duane Halverson held the lead early Friday in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, but he was battling a jinx as old as the race.

Only one musher - 1984 champion Dean Osmar - has led at the halfway mark and then gone on to win in the 15-year history of the Anchorage-to-Nome marathon, said race official Susan Carroll in Anchorage.

Halverson won $2,500 in silver Thursday by being the first to reach Iditarod, the gold mining ghost town for which the race is named.

Jerry Austin arrived in Iditarod one minute behind Halverson. He left at 11:45 p.m. Thursday, literally on Halverson’s heels.

Austin and Halverson said they were having a good time, although a tiring one.

″Boy, what a run,″ Halverson said after pulling in under bright sun and blue skies. He and Austin have been running together since early in the race, and they said they plan to stay together for awhile.

″We’re the best of friends,″ Halverson said. ″If he won I couldn’t be happier.″

Both agreed that Halverson’s team is faster, but Austin’s may be healthier. Halverson said the dogs were ″punch-drunk″ from running over soft snow that allowed their paws to punch through the packed trail.

Austin said their strategy consists of trying to shave off an hour here and there, in part by feeding and tending to the dogs more efficiently.

″We haven’t been pushing the dogs. We’ve been pushing ourselves,″ Austin said.

Two hours behind Halverson and Austin into Shageluk was 1986 champion Susan Butcher. Just four minutes behind her was four-time winner Rick Swenson. Tim Osmar of Clam Gulch arrived in fifth place, and Ted English of Chugiak was sixth. In seventh place was Joe Runyan of Nenana.