BETHEL, Alaska — A Bethel man is the first local musher in nearly 30 years to win the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race.
Pete Kaiser and his team of nine dogs crossed the finish line in Bethel at 5:31 a.m. Sunday with an elapsed time of 35 hours, 1 minute, 25 seconds.
"It's kind of crazy, it's like a dream come true," he said after fans, friends and family greeted him at the finish line. "I don't really know what to say."
Kaiser, who began mushing as a kid and grew up watching the Kuskokwim 300, earns $25,000 for his first place performance. This was Kaiser's seventh Kuskokwim 300.
The last local musher to win the race was Myron Angstman in 1986.
"It's taken a long time for that come around, and it's cool it finally happened," Kaiser said.
The race started Friday in Bethel, with mushers traveling to Aniak and then back to Bethel. This was the 36th running of the race.
Defending champion Rohn Buser led nearly the entire race until Kaiser passed him with about 45 minutes left. Buser then took a wrong turn about 12 miles from the finish.
The 300-mile race was about 30 miles shorter this year, KYUK reported (http://ow.ly/HAAK6 ). A lack of snow prevented the race from using any trails off the Kuskokwim River.
Kaiser trained in Nenana due to lack of snow and warm temperatures in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
Racers battled rain and icy conditions on the way up to Aniak. Snow fell at the start of the race, with about an inch and a half blanketing the icy trail, improving conditions back to Bethel.
Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org