Early Tuesday morning, Mitch Seavey and Aliy Zirkle arrived into White Mountain, close enough to each other to keep things very interesting for the next 12 hours.
Their arrival times were close, but the moods of the two mushers were, seemingly, more distinct.
Moments after arriving into the checkpoint, four-time Iditarod champ Seavey said “I’m thinking about food, and sleeping.”
He had held onto first position, arriving at 5:11am with 10 dogs, but he was hesitant to make any predictions for the finish line, now just 77 miles away. “Being here first isn’t any guarantee… I’m not over-confident; the dogs are tired,” Seavey told KNOM trail reporter Laureli Kinneen.
Aliy Zirkle, at 5:24am, arrived with a team of the same size – 10 dogs – and seemed in an upbeat mood.
Her dogs, Zirkle said, were “fantastic. They could not have performed better.”
Her deficit behind Mitch Seavey had shrunk: from 2 hours out of the Koyuk checkpoint and 48 minutes out of Elim to just 13 minutes into White Mountain.
It’s a differential that could, potentially, make the championship finish a toss-up between Seavey and Zirkle.
As of 10:45am Tuesday, 8 mushers are now in White Mountain, taking their mandatory, 8-hour layovers there. Behind Mitch Seavey and Aliy Zirkle, they are: Jeff King (arrived 6:52am), Dallas Seavey (8:09), Ray Redington, Jr. (8:11), Joar Leifseth Ulsom (9:17), Nicolas Petit (9:21), and Jake Berkowitz (9:25).