More than 60 mushers signed up for the 44th-annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race over the weekend, and a handful of western Alaska rookies and veterans are among them.
Nearly 40 mushers signed up in person at the race’s Wasilla headquarters during a Saturday event marking the official beginning of musher sign-ups for the 2016 race; the event also served to celebrate the volunteers that make the race possible each year.
Beyond the in-person registrations, another 25 mushers entered by mail.
Ten rookies have now officially entered the field for the 2016 race, including Nome musher Tom Jamgochian, who ran three races in the interior this past season (including the Copper Basin 300) to qualify for his rookie Iditarod run. Another Nomeite also in the race, but for the third time, is Noah Burmeister,brother of last year’s third-place finisher and perennial “front of the pack” musher Aaron Burmeister. Racing a puppy team from his brother’s kennel in past years, he’ll be racing the main team to Nome in 2016.
Veterans from western Alaska are also among the field of early registrants—including Akiak’s Mike Williams Jr., who is set to run his sixth Iditarod. Other western Alaska mushers include this past January’s Kuskokwim 300 champion Pete Kaiser, who went on to finish 14th in this past Iditarod. Aniak musher Richie Diehl is also returning to the Last Great Race—he was 23rd under the burled arch in Nome.
Mushers from Norway, Canada, Australia, Sweden, and New Zealand are all in the race—as are mushers from states well beyond Alaska, from Alabama and Oklahoma. Montana musher Jessie Royer—who placed a career-high fourth last year—will again be running to Nome.
Rounding out the mushers are familiar heavy hitters—defending champion Dallas Seavey and his father Mitch (who took second in March); another famous father-and-son duo in Martin and Rohn Buser; four-time race winner Jeff King; defending Yukon Quest champion Brent Sass; and fan favorites Dee Dee Jonrowe and Aliy Zirkle.
Representing the “graybeards” for the race is Chugiak mushers Jim Lanier, who at age 75 is preparing to run his 19th Iditarod. He scratched out of the race in March.
Jonrowe is one of several mushers still recovering from losses due to the Sockeye Fire earlier this month. She was able to save all 52 dogs in her kennel to register for this year’s event, and won her $3,000 entry fee back in a drawing at the weekend event at Iditarod headquarters.
The final deadline to enter for the 2016 Iditarod is Tuesday, Dec. 1.
The 2016 Last Great Race begins with its ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 5.
Editor’s note: a version of this story appeared online incorrectly stating the 2016 Iditarod would be Noah Burmeister’s rookie year, as well as mischaracterizing the type of team he would be running in the upcoming race. The above article reflects the changes and corrections.