2018 brought a fresh face to the roster of Iditarod champions.
After 9.5 days on the trail, 31-year-old Norwegian musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom [YOUR LEAF-seth ULL-some] crossed under Nome’s historic “Burled Arch” in the wee morning hours of Wednesday, March 14. This was Ulsom’s sixth Iditarod; he first ran the race in 2013, when he took Rookie of the Year honors for finishing in 7th place.
Ulsom’s 2018 victory came after an exciting, surprising upset on the trail. Along the Norton Sound Coast, past the checkpoint of Shaktoolik, first-position musher Nicolas Petit ventured 1.5 hours off course. The error allowed Ulsom to take the lead, which he maintained for the remaining 200+ miles to Nome.
This year’s heavy snow and slower trail conditions forced many top contenders to slow down and adjust their race strategies. In the end, the winner, Ulsom, had trained his team for the deeper, softer trail.
KNOM news director Davis Hovey and former KNOM reporter Zachariah Hughes flew from checkpoint to checkpoint and sent trail dispatches to keep listeners informed on the race. Meanwhile, KNOM reporter alumnus Ben Matheson volunteered dozens of hours during a working vacation, helping the staff cover the race from the station in Nome.
This year’s Iditarod was doubly special because its roster of competing mushers included another former KNOM volunteer: Tara Cicatello, who served as producer during the 2013-2014 service term. In her years after KNOM, Tara remained in Alaska and became increasingly involved in professional, competitive sled dog mushing. After successful runs in shorter, qualifying sled dog races in 2017, Tara registered for the 2018 Iditarod, running a team from the kennel of Iditarod veteran musher Kristin Bacon.
Your support made possible multiple race updates each day and feature stories and interviews from mushers, whom listeners follow closely.
You’ll find many stories and photos from the 2018 Iditarod right here at knom.org.
Image at top: 2018 Iditarod champ Joar Ulsom. Photo courtesy of Lia Nydes.