Bethel’s own Pete Kaiser has claimed his fifth Kuskokwim 300 victory in the last six years, crossing the finish line just after 8:45am yesterday. KNOM’s Davis Hovey reports: for Kaiser and many others, this year’s race ended up being more than just a typical K300.
When Pete Kaiser completed another K300 in 1st place Sunday morning, he told KYUK reporters the only real tweak he had made this year was splitting his mandatory six-hour layover into two three-hour periods at Kalskag and Aniak.
Kaiser says his winning K300 team featured nine dogs who led him to victory in last year’s Iditarod. His total race time for the 2020 race came out to 38 hours and 16 minutes, according to K300 data.
So overall, Kaiser told KYUK Radio he got the win because of his team not because of anything he did.
“Kaiser: This is just a really special dog team, I think they’re above and beyond what most people get to drive and I’m very lucky and privileged to get to drive them.
KYUK: What’s special about them?
Kaiser: They’re perfect for this type of race, we have a really good bond with them, and they’re just world-class athletes. I’m lucky to get to stand on the runners.”
Kaiser wasn’t the only one feeling lucky at the end of this year’s race.
“Liz Raines: We’re engaged!…Matt Failor: I didn’t lose it (the ring), carried it the whole way.”
Last year’s K300 champion, Matthew Failor carried an engagement ring 300 miles along the trail so he could ask the question, on one knee, at the finish line to his girlfriend Liz Raines. Before he could enjoy that moment though, Failor had to beat out Richie Diehl of Aniak for 2nd place. The difference between second and third place was about two minutes.
“It’s been such an exciting morning, we’ve had a lot of close finishes. 2nd and 3rd was really close and I think 4thand 5th were really close.”– Paul Basile, K300 Race Manager
Even closer still, as Basile eluded to, was the finish for 4thand 5th place when Jeff King crossed the line by a nose ahead of Joar Ulsom.
The 2020 K300 was race manager Paul Basile’s first year organizing the mid-distance race, although he’s supported or participated in the race for many years. When KNOM spoke to Basile yesterday via phone, he said he couldn’t have asked for a smoother Kusko.
“We couldn’t have had any better conditions than we did, the weather too was absolutely perfect for dog mushing. Each of the mushers, as they were interviewed coming across the line this morning [Sunday], commented on how great the trail was. Especially veterans who have been coming out here for a long time, just really noted that it was exceptionally good for what we’re used to on our trails out here.”
Basile would go on to mention another unusual occurrence for the K300, having no scratches at the end of the race. All 21 mushers who started in Bethel on Friday finished before the end of the day Sunday, with red lantern Lance Mackey coming in after 10:30pm.
Having such a successful K300 would be impossible, Basile says, without the dedicated help from the many race volunteers at each checkpoint.
“In Aniak we had Erich Kuball who is a new race marshal this year and on the K300 board. In Kalskag the race marshal is Andy Angstmanand he’s been a race marshal, race official, for years. He’s of course the son of K300 co-founder Myron Angstman. And then in Tuluksak we had Bev Chmielarczyk who is also a K300 board member, and she lives here in Bethel.”
The 2020 K300 will officially conclude tonight with an awards banquet in Bethel. The musher meeting takes place at 4:30pm and the banquet begins at 5:30pm.
Image at top: 1st and 2nd place mushers in the 2020 K300, Pete Kaiser and Matt Failor. Photo taken by KYUK Public Media’s Katie Basile, used with permission. (2020)