February 23, 2014
Arleigh Reynolds won the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship Sled Dog Race for the second time on Sunday, then announced that it would be his last Rondy race.
He picked up the first-place gold pan award with his 7-year-old lead dog, Guts, who ran her fifth Rondy. “She’s the reason we won,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said his duties as associate dean at the new school of veterinary medicine at the University of Alaska Fairbanks were among the reasons behind his decision to make this his final Rondy run.
The school is just starting. “We’re getting staff this year and taking students in 2015,” he said.
Mali, the lanky lead dog for five-time Rondy champ Egil Ellis, looked like she planned to give Guts a run for her money at the start, loping down Fourth Avenue so fast that Ellis lost his footing for a moment in front of the White Spot Cafe before quickly getting back on the runners.
The misstep didn’t do him any harm; Ellis turned in his fastest day time in the race and the fastest day time of any musher on Sunday. But it wasn’t enough to boost him out of third place. Kevin Cook beat him to the second-place gold pan trophy by 45 seconds.
Ken Chezik, the 2012 champ, improved on his Saturday time by more than seven minutes. He said his goal in this race was to finish in the top five, and with his Sunday performance, he was able to do just that, edging out Greg Taylor, who had held fifth place on the first and second day. Even though Taylor was five minutes faster than he’d been on Saturday, he wound up in 10th place for the day and sixth overall.
Most of the field ran notably faster on Sunday than on Saturday. James Wheeler, Bill Kornmuller and Dave Turner all posted their fastest day times of the race.
For Turner, it made a difference. He bested his Saturday time by 11 minutes and took 13th place back from Lance Mackey, the only musher to chalk up the slowest of his three day times on Sunday.
Mackey had said he was in the race to enjoy the fans.There seemed to be a special cheer when he crossed the finish line, arms in the air and smiling at the crowd. Before the race, he predicted that he would finish last, but that slot went to Jack Berry, who had the slowest times on both Saturday and Sunday.
The 2014 race will be remembered for its field of expert racers. The two rookies on the list were Mackey, who has won the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races four times apiece, and Turner, who earlier this month earned third place in brutal conditions in the International Pedigree State Stop Sled Dog Race in Wyoming.
It will also be remembered for the fact that not a single team scratched. There were relatively few incidents — moose encounters, tangles, loose dogs — that can cost precious minutes. Trail conditions, excellent from the start, remained very good on Sunday, with little wind on a brilliantly clear, sunny day. It was warm but temperatures remained below freezing.
The weather made for happy viewing as the crowd soaked in the sun on Fourth Avenue. The reverse-start procedure, by which the fastest mushers left last, meant the finish came quickly, with two and three teams often running together in the final blocks, in full view of those who lined the street.
Unlike long-distance races, it’s easy to catch both the start and finish of Fur Rondy. Between the time the mushers left and returned, hundreds of people were milling at the food kiosks and vendor booths on the street and at the Rondy carnival a block away.
And, as Mackey noted, mushing is the only major sport you can watch for free.
Fur Rendezvous Open World Championships
Times for day one / day two / day three / total
1. Arleigh Reynolds, Salcha, 1:30:57 / 1:33:02 / 132:14 / 4:36:13
2. Kevin Cook, Preeceville, Saskatchewan, 1:32:43 / 1:33:43 / 1:32:21 / 4:38:47
3. Egil Ellis, Willow, 1:32:26 / 1:35:31 / 1:31:31 / 4:39:28
4. Jason Dunlap, Salcha, 1:32:55 / 1:35:34 / 1:33:28 / 4:41:57
5. Ken Chezik, Fife Lake, Mich., 1:34:42 / 1:42:36 / 1:35:14 / 4:52:32
6. Greg Taylor, Fairbanks, 1:33:40 / 1:43:07 / 1:38:20 / 4:55:07
7. John Erhart, (Tanana), 1:36:11 / 1:45:00 / 1:36:28 / 4:57:39
8. Marvin Kokrine, North Pole, 1:35:44 / 1:48:16 / 1:37:44 / 5:01:44
9. Donald Cousins, Crooked Creek, Alberta, 1:37:39 / 1:47:50 / 1:37:46 / 5:03:15
10. James Wheeler, Clam Gulch, 1:40:56 / 1:48:44 / 1:38:15 / 5:07:55
11. Bill Kornmuller, Willow, 1:42:59 / 1:46:57 /1:42:46 / 5:12:42
12. John Hanson, Jr., New Stuyahok, 1:41:21 / 1:50:14 / 1:43:58 / 5:15:33
13. Dave Turner, Sandy, Ore., 1:45:58 / 1:52:22 / 1:40:57 / 5:19:17
14. Lance Mackey, Fairbanks, 1:47:31 / 1:47:28 / 1:49:55 / 5:24:54
15. Jack Berry, Homer, 1:39:32 / 2:07:27 / 1:52:31 / 5:39:30
Reach Mike Dunham at email@example.com or 257-4332.