Ryan Anderson wins Beargrease race in close finishRyan Anderson overcame a nearly 45-minute deficit to win the 28th John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon on Wednesday, beating defending champion Nathan Schroeder by just 20 seconds.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
Ryan Anderson overcame a nearly 45-minute deficit to win the 28th John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon on Wednesday, beating defending champion Nathan Schroeder by just 20 seconds.
Anderson, of Ray, Minn., watched Schroeder, of Chisholm, leave the Highway 2 checkpoint about 4:45 a.m. with 10 dogs. Schroeder’s team looked strong.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I would see him,” Anderson said.
Yet, 10 minutes after leaving the checkpoint at 5:30 a.m. with 11 dogs, Anderson saw a headlight and realized he had a chance to win the race. The two ran within sight of each other to the finish line, which
Anderson crossed at 9:26 a.m. Schroeder finished exactly 20 seconds later.
“(Wednesday) morning’s race was bananas,” said Terry Riessen, a Beargrease board member. “We were getting calls from road crossings that they were crossing neck and neck. Volunteers asked if they could do that. It was pretty exciting.”
Anderson said the two teams were so evenly matched that he couldn’t pull away from Schroeder, and Schroeder couldn’t pass him. So the two friends ran together for more than 30 miles to the finish at Billy’s bar and grill, visiting along the way. At one point, Schroeder suggested a photo finish.
“Let’s not do that,” Anderson said.
It had appeared that Schroeder probably had the race sewn up when he left the Highway 2 checkpoint, Riessen said.
Schroeder, who led much of the race with a team made up largely of Beargrease veterans, said his dogs “hesitated” after leaving Highway 2.
“I just started getting them motivated and he caught up with us,” Schroeder said.
It was at least the third time during the race that Schroeder had dogs balk. Leaving Sawbill upbound, he had to move a leader who sat down. Leaving Sawbill downbound, he was forced to drop two dogs that wouldn’t run.
“I just don’t know what was going on (with the dogs). There was no hesitation last year,” he said. “I’m baffled. I’ll have to go home and work on this. I’ll be back next year.”
This was Schroeder’s seventh Beargrease. Of the 14 dogs he started with, 12 ran with him last winter when he won Beargrease, took second in the U.P. 200 in Michigan and third in the Can Am Crown International Race.
“It’s disappointing, but second is satisfying,” he said of his finish. “Finishing second to Ryan doesn’t bother me.”
After seeing to his dogs’ immediate needs, Schroeder, carrying his 14-month-old son, Gavin, walked across Billy’s parking lot to congratulate Anderson with a handshake and a quick hug.
For Anderson’s part, the fact that he had won his first Beargrease Marathon didn’t sink in immediately.
“I had hoped to catch him,” he said. “I’m happy with the race.”
Anderson ran the race in 39 hours, 51 minutes, 4 seconds. Schroeder won last year with a time of 40:04:25.
This was Anderson’s fifth Beargrease, but only the second he finished. He placed fourth in 2008. He won this year’s White Oak Classic race in Deer River. He will receive $7,000 for winning the Beargrease; Schroeder will receive $5,000.
“I think we’re going to have some food,” Anderson said. “I might have a beer, maybe two.”
Four-time Beargrease champion Jamie Nelson finished third at 11:42 a.m. with 11 dogs. Her time on the trail was 42:02:40.
Seventeen marathon teams registered for the 390-mile race, which began Sunday just north of Duluth. One team scratched before the race started; six teams scratched along the trail.