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Iron Dog Leaders Reach Unalakleet; Morgan, Olds Maintain Strong Lead

Mike Morgan, Nome-Golovin 2015

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the fastest Iron Dog racers checked in for an 8-hour layover in Unalakleet. Still maintaining a strong lead are Nome’s own Mike Morgan and Chris Olds, who have about 250 miles from Unalakleet to reach the halfway point in Nome. They were followed minutes later by Casey Boylan/Bryan Leslie in second position and Adam Drinkhouse/Brad George in third.

As racers look to Nome, they are facing different conditions this year than in previous races. Sea ice conditions on the Golovin Bay are requiring racers to take the land route around the Bay for safety precautions. John Woodbury is the Iron Dog executive director:

“I don’t want to make any predictions — these guys are amazing athletes, and they’ll go as fast as they possibly can — but I think the overland route will be a little slower, if only because we’re adding mileage onto that stretch of the course.”

While the first thirteen teams have reached Unalakleet to take an 8-hour layover, that is still out of a significantly reduced pack. Seven teams have now scratched from the race, including two teams with Nome rookies. Michael Oliver/Jerrod Vaughn and Dietrich Nikolai/Nicholas Reader both scratched after leaving McGrath. There is no word from Iron Dog officials as to why those teams have had to scratch. There are now 17 teams left.

According to the Iron Dog website, the race’s first scratches, Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad, were due to a collision on the trail. Reportedly, Minnick ran into Tyler Acklestad’s sled outside of McGrath on Sunday, causing Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson to slow down for repairs in McGrath.

Current conditions in Unalakleet are partly cloudy with winds at 15 miles per hour. The first teams will be able to leave their layover just before 11am, potentially putting them at the halfway point in Nome by early this afternoon.

Excitement has already started in Nome as Trail Class finishers began to arrive yesterday afternoon (Monday). Nome team Brayden Bahnke and John Bahnke came in second at 1:13pm.

Tune into KNOM news (780 AM, 96.1 FM) for the latest Iron Dog coverage at 8am, 9am, noon and 5pm.

Image at top: file photo: Mike Morgan on his snowmachine during Nome-Golovin 2015. Morgan, along with teammate Chris Olds, currently leads the pack of Iron Dog 2019 and is expected to reach Nome on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.