Halverson; Austin Battle for Lead
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Musher Jerry Austin pulled into the Rohn Roadhouse checkpoint Monday just three minutes ahead of Duane Halverson to grab the lead 270 miles into the 1,157-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Both mushers said they would take their mandatory 24-hour rest stop at Rohn, a remote cabin at the western edge of the Alaska Range.
They led a pack of 61 mushers competing for $250,000 in prize money in the 15th annual race from Anchorage to Nome.
Austin, of St. Michael, checked into the Rohn checkpoint with 17 dogs at 8:07 a.m. Halverson, of Ambler, pulled in at 8:10 a.m. with 15 dogs.
A group of five mushers straggled in starting about two hours later. They were Tim Osmar of Clam Gulch, 1986 Iditarod champion Susan Butcher, Ted English of Chugiak, four-time Iditarod champion Rick Swenson and Sue Firmin of Flathorn Lake.
All said they would take their 24-hour rest, though they were free to leave sooner if they decided to take their 24-hour layover farther along the trail.
Rohn is a favorite point for mushers to take the mandatory layover. The dog teams are tired from crossing the rugged Alaska Range, where they mush through windswept Rainy Pass, 3,400 feet in elevation and the highest point on the trail.
Other mushers into Rohn by late Monday afternoon were Joe Runyan of Nenana, Terry Adkins of Sand Coulee, Mont., DeeDee Jonrowe of Bethel and Burt Bomhoff of Anchorage.
The world’s longest dog sled race, named after a turn-of-the century gold rush town in the interior, climbs over the Alaska Range, across windswept tundra and up the frozen Yukon River. It ends on the coast of the Bering Sea in Nome.
With the race barely 3 days old, the trail was beginning to take a toll. Two mushers - Joe LeFaive of Skwentna and David Aisenbrey of Montana Creek - had dropped out.
Several of Joe Garnie’s dogs were stricken with a virus, causing the perennial top finisher to take his 24-hour layover at Finger Lake, just 193 miles from the start. He ended the layover Monday afternoon and pushed on.
Earlier Sunday, one of Butcher’s dogs dropped dead as the team approached the Skwentna checkpoint.
The death, caused by internal bleeding from lesions on its liver, could not have been foreseen or prevented, race veterinarian Jim Leach said. The lesions probably were inherited, he said.
Dick Mackey, the 1978 champion, was 17th. His son, 1983 Iditarod champion Rick Mackey, was in 20th, while 1985 champion Libby Riddles was 22nd. Joe Redington, known as the father of the Iditarod, was 55th, having taken his 24- hour rest at Skwentna, 148 miles into the race.
Among the foreign mushers, Bruce Johnson of Atlin, British Columbia, was 24th. Kazuo Kojima of Japan was in 30th position and Claire and Jacques Philip of Thonery, France, were running 42nd and 43rd.
Peter R.F. Thoman of Tagish, Yukon Territory, was 44th. Andre Monnier of Phalsbourg, France, was 51st.
Among the American mushers from outside Alaska, Robin Jacobson of Minnetonka, Minn., was 14th; David J. Olesen of Ely, Minn., 29th; Dan McEachen of Snowmass Village, Colo., 39th; and Carolyn Muegge of Marietta, Ga., was 59th.