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At the finisher’s banquet, a final toast to Iditarod 42’s highs and lows (photos and audio)

Dallas Seavey at the podium

With ample stories from this year’s superlative trail – and perhaps even more ample servings of prime rib, mashed potatoes, carrot cake, and chocolate-covered strawberries – Iditarod officials, competitors, and fans bid farewell to this year’s Last Great Race during Sunday night’s finisher’s banquet in Nome.

Before a large crowd, seated in tight, shoulder-to-shoulder proximity in the Nome Recreation Center – a venue that seemed barely large enough to contain all the attendees – each of the mushers who completed the race was awarded a finisher’s cup and had the chance to address the audience.

But before the long cavalcade of Iditarod finishers’ speeches – and before many of the attendees’ “food comas” had had a chance to set in – select mushers received special awards.

As the first-year competitor who finished highest, Minnesota musher Nathan Schroeder took home Rookie of the Year. With awards decided-upon by their fellow competitors, Michael Williams, Jr. won the Sportsmanship Award, while Nome-raised Aaron Burmeister took home the Mushers Choice Award (given to that year’s most “inspirational” competitor). Jamaican musher Newton Marshall won the Herbie Nayokpuk Award, while longtime musher Martin Buser was chosen for the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award (for outstanding dog care).

(A PDF press release from the Iditarod Trail Committee contains the full list of awards.)

Below, you’ll find audio of the full banquet addresses from Iditarod 42’s top three finishers: 1st-place Dallas Seavey, 2nd-place Aliy Zirkle, and 3rd-place Mitch Seavey.

Mitch Seavey told the audience that he “had an awesome ride,” despite a trail that sometimes seemed like “icy concrete” and that left him “shell-shocked” heading into the Rohn checkpoint:

Aliy Zirkle, by her own description, “was THAT close to not making it to Safety (checkpoint)” on the night of her Iditarod finish. After a warm reception from the audience, she detailed the hours spent struggling with ferocious winds near Safety and the final leg of the race that came after: “the last 22 miles of my race,” she says, were “fun.”

Dallas Seavey concluded the night with his champion’s address, in which he described the challenges of the 2014 Iditarod as a fitting culmination of the “toughest year of training sled dogs I have ever had.” He also emphasized a claim that some had found hard to believe: that he really didn’t realize he’d won the Iditarod until he arrived at the finish line. “My only focus was getting me and my team to the finish line,” Seavey said. “I think I may be the first person to make it to Nome first and be the last person to know that I (had) won the Iditarod.”

With the end of Iditarod 42, we’ve come to the finish line, also, of KNOM’s coverage of this year’s Last Great Race.

Thanks so much for following our station, both on the air and on the web. As always, we’re Yours for Western Alaska – and yours for race season. See you in 2015 for Iditarod 43!