Twenty-four-year-old Rohn Buser of Big Lake won the K300 Sled Dog Race on Sunday crossing the finish line in Bethel at 9:18 a.m.
Rohn beat out Jeff King by seven minutes after battling out for the last 100 miles. Buser took the lead when King had trouble finding the trail in the dark where some markers were missing.
“I figured he’d try to catch me so I had to push a little bit myself because I know his team has a lot of speed too but my guys….they went fast,” Buser said.
While looking for the trail, 58-year-old King says his dogs tangled up on glare ice. But he says that can be the way it goes when you’re leading the race.
“Because that’s where you find out where the problems are and I ran smack into one and by the time we got her fixed I was a big knot and my snaps were all covered with ice and I couldn’t get them untangled and Rohn zoomed right on by,” King said.
Conditions were everything but cold this year with temperatures mostly above freezing. Teams traversed bare tundra, glare ice, and over 100 miles of water-covered river. Nearly all mushers called it a tough race including third place finisher Cim Smyth who is 37.
“The biggest challenge was all that water going from Bogus to Kalskag that first night, it was just horrendous,” Smyth said. “You never knew how deep it was going to be and you just had to go find out by going in it.”
“My feet are all clean now, I don’t have to wash them (laughs),” 10th place finisher Tony Browning who is 56-years-old said. “It was a tough trail all the way around. Swam all the way up and most of the way back. And then bounced across the moguls the rest of the time.”
Fourth place finisher Paul Gebhart lost the back part of his sled going over bare tundra in the first 25 miles. The 57-year-old says he saw other musher’s sled-parts along the trail too.
“It was really bumpy,” Gebhart said. “Fortunately I salvaged my cooler before it broke off and then I drug it along up to Tuluksak.”
But Browning says it’s just what mushers expect when they sign up for the K300.
“This is the best race going. You don’t just race your competitors, you got to race the weather too, all the elements,” Browning said. “That’s what cross country, mid-distance is all about.”
Twenty-four teams competed this year.