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In Unalakleet, Mackey’s Excited for a New Champion; Haltmann, Williams, Kaiser Survey the Trail Ahead

audio by Laureli Kinneen; text by David Dodman

Lance Mackey’s excited about this year’s champion: even though it won’t be him (and even though no one knows, for sure, who it will be).

In the Unalakleet checkpoint, Mackey caught up with KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen (in her hometown!). The four-in-a-row champion talked about his outlook on his 2011 run: where the race changed for him, the strengths and weaknesses of his 2011 team, and when he felt the pressure come off to win this year’s race.

Mackey also said he was full of excitement for this year’s winner, who – John Baker, Ramey Smyth, or otherwise – will be a big deal for the state, for Western Alaska, and, not least, Unalakleet itself. (We’d have to agree.)

Laureli also talked with Mike Williams, Jr., who’s feeling pretty good about his sophomore run in Iditarod. The Akiak musher says he’s learning a lot about how to mush and maintain his dogs, and he talked to Laureli about his hopes for the trail ahead:

In Unalakleet, Sven Haltmann took heart from a good luck sign he spied on the trail: a ptarmigan (a white bird common to Western Alaska). Haltmann was feeling happy and fairly optimistic – if he died right now, the musher said, he’d die a happy man – and hopes to remain competitive and focused for the rest of the trail. Ideally, he’d like to finish in the top ten and feels he still has a shot to do so:

Bethel’s Pete Kaiser says he wants to “get to Nome in one piece.” In Unalakleet, he seemed well-poised to do so, with dogs eating “ravenously”: “they’ll take your fingers off,” Kaiser says. The musher talked with KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen about some minor issues within his dog team and his outlook for his current position – and his prospects of keeping it:

As of lunchtime Monday, Lance Mackey is in 17th position; he departed Shaktoolik at 9:40am with 8 dogs.

Mike Williams, Jr. is 14th, having left Shaktoolik with 9 dogs at 5:44am.

Sven Haltmann is in 11th position; he arrived into Koyuk with 9 dogs at 10:55am and is not yet reported out.

Pete Kaiser arrived into Koyuk right behind Haltmann, at 10:56am; he’s in 12th position and is resting in Koyuk with his 12 dogs.