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Three Teams Scratch: Owens, DeNure, Gebhardt

by David Dodman

Tuesday saw the first three scratches in Iditarod 2011; all three are race veterans.

The first scratch likely came as sad news to many in Nome. According to Iditarod’s official Eye on the Trail blog, Nome-raised Melissa Owens withdrew from the race at 2am Tuesday morning in the Rainy Pass checkpoint. Eye says that Owens’ scratch was due to a prior leg injury that worsened on the trail from Willow. Owens scratched with 14 dogs.

A few hours later, Gakona, Alaska musher Zoya DeNure also exited Iditarod 39 in Rainy Pass. DeNure officially scratched at 6am with 15 dogs, based, according to Eye on the Trail, “on the best interest of her team.”

Almost certainly the most surprising scratch of the day, however, came from Nikolai, where longtime Iditarod musher Paul Gebhardt scratched with 14 dogs at 1:35pm, according to Eye on the Trail. The Kasilof, Alaska veteran has finished 2nd in two different Iditarods, and he’s run the race 15 times, including 2011. Iditarod’s Eye says that Gebhardt based his decision “on the best interest of his team.”

As of 9:26pm Tuesday, 59 mushers remain on the trail. Race leader Martin Buser arrived in Takotna at 8:16pm with 15 dogs, while Red Lantern (last-position musher) Bob Storey, a rookie, arrived in Rainy Pass at 6:52pm with a full team of 16.