Nome Finishers’ Banquet marks end of Iditarod 45

A trophy of Joe Redington, Sr. — known as the father of the Iditarod — awaits the 2017 champion at the finisher’s banquet in Nome on Sunday afternoon. (Photo: David Dodman, KNOM)

The 2017 Iditarod Sled Dog Race is over. The 45th running, rerouted from Fairbanks to Nome, came to an end Sunday night with the Finishers’ Banquet held at the Nome Rec Center.

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Each musher was recognized individually starting with this year’s Red Lantern, Cindy Abbott.

“Two years ago, I was still out on the trail during the banquet,” Abbott said. “This year, I came in 32 hours faster. I still get the red lantern, so now, I have a pair.”

Before all 64 mushers took to the podium to share stories from the trail and thank family and sponsors, special awards were handed out. Mitch Seavey’s lead dog, Pilot, received the City of Nome Lolly Medley Memorial Golden Harness Award, presented by Mayor Richard Beneville.

Nicolas Petit received the Nome Kennel Club Award for Fastest Time from Safety to Nome in two hours and 27 minutes. In a short speech, Petit stated “fast dogs are fun to drive.”

But after Petit’s show of sportsmanship for handing over Dallas Seavey’s dropped vet book at the finish line, it was Allen Moore that was selected by fellow mushers for the 2017 Sportsmanship Award. During his acceptance speech, he recalled the original sled dog race to Nome. “When I think about this award, I think about the diphtheria happening, so long ago. People were helping people, and, when I see someone out there in distress or trouble, I like to help them. So thank you very much.”

Other special awards handed out Sunday night include Rookie of the Year that went to Frenchman Sebastian Vergnaud, who placed 23rd, as well as most improved musher, Ryan Redington, who jumped up 22 places since his last Iditarod finish in 2009.

Jessie Royer — who finished the 1,000-mile race with all sixteen of the sled dogs she mushed from the Fairbanks starting line — took home two awards: the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award and the Most Inspirational Musher Award, chosen by fellow mushers. Michelle Phillips took the Herbie Nayokpuk Memorial Award.

Western Alaska mushers stretched across the field this year. Bethel’s Pete Kaiser placed 9th, while fiancés John Baker and Katherine Keith of Kotzebue crossed the finish line in 18th and 19th place, after attempting to cross the line at the same time – which Keith joked about Sunday night.

Richie Diehl of Aniak finished in 24th place, while Nome’s Noah Burmeister arrived under the burled arch in 29th. Melissa Stewart, originally from Nome, took 33rd behind Martin Buser. And Paul Hansen, a rookie from Kotzebue, rounded out the group of Western Alaska mushers finishing 61st.

A total of eight mushers scratched in the 2017 race.