Mushers neck-and-neck as Beargrease finish nearsUPDATE: Ryan Anderson and defending champion Nathan Schroeder are side-by-side as the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon winds to a finish. The two were neck-and-neck on Normanna Road at 8:14 a.m. today.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
Ryan Anderson and defending champion Nathan Schroeder are side-by-side this morning as the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon winds to a finish.
The two were side-by-side on Normanna Road at 8:14 a.m.
Anderson briefly had pulled ahead of Schroeder at Fox Farm Road.
Schroeder left the Highway 2 checkpoint at 4:46 a.m. today for the roughly four-hour trip to the finish line.
Schroeder left with 10 dogs. Anderson left the checkpoint north of Two Harbors at 5:31 a.m. with 11 dogs.
Schroeder and Anderson earlier had left the Finland checkpoint within minutes of each other. Schroeder of Chisholm left Finland with 11 dogs headed toward Highway 2 and a mandatory six-hour rest period just six minutes ahead of Anderson. While Anderson of Ray still had 12 dogs, he also had 22 minutes more mandatory rest time to take than Schroeder.
At earlier checkpoints along the course, racers commented on how fast the trail has been.
“Last night from Trail Center to Devil Track Landing was a fantastic run,” Schroeder said Tuesday after arriving at the Sawbill checkpoint ahead of everyone. “The trail was fast.”
Schroeder’s dogs are running well, but “we still have 110 miles to go,” he said at that stage.
Peter McClelland of Ely, in fourth place, also had 11 dogs in harness when he arrived at the Finland checkpoint about 9:23 p.m. Earlier in the day he said he was happy with his race so far.
“We have a lot of young dogs, so I am really pleased,” McClelland said shortly before leaving Devil Track Resort checkpoint Tuesday morning. “It’s been a good trail, a couple of soft spots, but it set up well. My plan is to finish.”
In addition to allowing for fast travel, the trail condition seems to have reduced the number of wrist and shoulder injuries suffered by the dogs this year.
“I would say it’s been better,” said Bill Marlatt, a vet who is working his third Beargrease. “We’ve had some odds and ends, but the dogs have been coming in pretty good.”
Still, most mushers have had to drop a number of dogs for various reasons — injury, illness, exhaustion. As of Tuesday afternoon only one musher, Shawn McCarty, still had 14 dogs running. Tuesday evening at Sawbill he was down to 13.
“This is the point of the race where you can go faster by dropping dogs — you can only go as fast as your slowest dog,” said Odin Jorgenson after arriving at Devil Track Resort checkpoint Tuesday morning. He left the checkpoint for Sawbill with 10 dogs.
News Tribune staff writer Rick Weegman contributed to this report.