Zirkle and King thank Nulato community after snowmachine incident

At the Iditarod Banquet in Nome Sunday night, mushers, fans, and race officials celebrated the 44th running of the Last Great Race. Before they announced awards, though, organizers presented Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King with a special donation from the community of Nulato.

Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle thank the community of Nulato at the Iditarod Banquet Sunday night. The checkpoint village raised money for the mushers after a drunk snowmachiner struck their teams on the trail. (Photo by Laura Kraegel, KNOM - Nome)
Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle thank the community of Nulato at the Iditarod Banquet Sunday night. The checkpoint village raised money for the mushers after a drunk snowmachiner struck their teams on the trail. (Photo by Laura Kraegel, KNOM – Nome)

A snowmachiner from the checkpoint village ran into both mushers on the trail, killing one of King’s dogs and injuring several others. Race officials say Nulato held a craft sale after the incident to raise money for the mushers and help them heal.

Zirkle and King thanked the community, which also won the Golden Clipboard Award as the most outstanding checkpoint.

“Thank you, Nulato,” Zirkle said. “You’re one of the most special villages on the trail. King: I’ve got a hunch that Aliy and I will come up with a good place to share the money that Nulato raised. If anything comes from our very scary and tragic accident, I hope it’s a continued and undying focus on the risks associated with driving motor vehicles while intoxicated.”

As awards got underway, Champion Dallas Seavey earned top honors, taking home 75-thousand dollars and a new truck for his first-place finish. Seavey’s dog Reef also received his second Golden Harness Award as the race’s most outstanding lead dog.

Kotzebue’s John Baker won the sportsmanship award. His fellow mushers selected him for stopping when a competitor called for help on the trail.

“He’s saying ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ Heck, the only reason I stopped was because he was blocking the trail. Otherwise, I’d have kept going,” Baker laughed.

Nome’s Noah Burmeister was named the most improved musher. Finishing 11th this year, he jumped 44 spots since his last race a decade ago. Meanwhile, race veterinarians voted Aliy Zirkle as the musher with the most outstanding dog care. And Geir Idar Hjelvik earned the Rookie of the Year Award. The Norwegian musher finished 26th overall.