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Iditarod Reaches the Norton Sound, Soft Trail and More Snow Storms Ahead

Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner in the 2020 Iditarod. Photo from Zach Hughes, Alaska Public Media (2020).

Day 7 of the 2020 Iditarod saw the first musher check into Unalakleet about five and a half hours ahead of the next team. Thomas Waerner’s sizable lead heading into the Eastern Norton Sound grew when he left the checkpoint just after 3pm, before the next musher had even arrived.

KNOM’s Ben Matheson spoke with Waerner in Unalakleet just before he left. Hear the race leader describe how his dogs are doing after running 85 miles in from Kaltag without stopping.

As of 5:30pm, six teams, including Waerner, had reached Unalakleet and are within striking distance of the top position. The veteran Norwegian musher was first out of the Norton Sound checkpoint, however the 2020 Yukon Quest champion Brent Sass was the next one out, leaving about two hours behind Waerner.

These top teams can expect to see a soft, wet, snowy trail as they push forward. The latest weather forecast from Rick Thoman anticipates more snow storms will hit the Eastern Norton Sound between now and Tuesday night.

Looking to the bottom of the leaderboard, a couple more mushers decided to scratch from the race rather than continue into these storms. Linwood Fiedler for example made the tough decision to stop racing in Galena yesterday afternoon “in the best interest of his dog team.”

Linwood Fiedler’s team resting in Galena, shortly before he decided to scratch from the race. Photo from Zach Hughes, Alaska Public Media (2020).

KNOM’s trail reporter Ben Matheson spoke with Fiedler in Galena ahead of his decision to scratch, which gives some insights into how the veteran musher was calculating the next portion of the race.

In that same checkpoint, KNOM had the unique opportunity to highlight one dedicated Iditarod volunteer. If you’ve seen Jeff Schultz’s project on the “Faces of Iditarod” you know there are some special people involved with this Great Alaskan Race, and in that same spirit we would like to introduce you to Jackie Stark, a member of the “trail crew” in Galena.

Volunteer checker in Galena, Tim Bodony, waves in Bethel musher Jessica Klejka. Photo from Zach Hughes, Alaska Public Media (2020).

And book-ending the field of 51 mushers left in this year’s race, rookie Quince Mountain arrived into Ruby by 5:30pm tonight with all 14 of his dogs. After a long 70-mile run in from Cripple, which took Mountain slightly more than 21 hours, he may decide to take his eight hour mandatory layover before leaving that checkpoint.

Tune in to KNOM Radio locally tomorrow at 10am for your next race update, and keep an eye out for more coverage online from our trail reporters Ben Matheson and Emily Hofstaedter.

Image at top: Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner in the 2020 Iditarod. Photo from Zach Hughes, Alaska Public Media (2020).

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