WILLOW, Alaska (KTUU) - Reigning champion Nic Petit has won his second consecutive Knik 200 with 11 dogs on the line and one riding in his sled bag. Petit beat out a competitive field that included four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey and Iditarod veterans Scott Janssen and Ray Redington.
Petit arrived in Deshka Landing at 7:55 a.m. Sunday followed seven minutes later by Brenda Mackey, Lance Mackey’s niece. Ray Redington came in fifth close to an hour behind with 11 dogs and Lance Mackey finished sixth with 12 dogs at 9:00 a.m.
The Knik 200 Joe Redington Sr. Memorial Sled Dog Race kicks off the 2018 dog mushing season acting as an Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier. Iditarod legend Deedee Jonrowe acted as a race judge and spoke to Channel 2 about the importance of the event. “This is usually the launch of the season, few teams choose to peak at this time of the year but many teams are starting to develop the core of their main race team.”
Jonrowe says she was interested in officiating the race for its potential to give teams a learning experience and expose them to the pressures of competitive racing. She says the mid-distance race allows newer mushers to “learn dog care, learn what dogs look like, learn about cold weather, learn about the gear they have, their harnesses and their cookers and their sleds, and some of them will learn that booties wear out sooner than they thought!”
Importantly, Jonrowe says the race is as much a physical challenge as a mental one: “It’s important to keep your spirits high so the dogs think they are winners.”
In terms of results, Jonrowe says she was excited to come down and congratulate all the mushers as they finished. “Some of them will be over the moon happy and some of them will think, my dogs did really well but I didn’t.” Jonrowe says her focus was to encourage everyone regardless of the result. “Even if a driver is wise enough to decide they don’t have enough training and they might want to pull out through the race, I want to encourage them, because that shows good judgement as well.”
The race was forced to move to Willow due to poor trail conditions after being scheduled to start on Knik Lake. The Knik 200 saw 38 teams run out to Yentna Station Roadhouse starting Saturday morning and back to Deshka Landing for a six hour mandatory rest. The teams then ran a similar loop before finishing again in Willow. Meanwhile, the Knik 100 was held at the same time with Iditarod veteran Lev Shvarts coming in first place with ten dogs. According to the Knik 200 Facebook page, Eric Kelly and Christina Rose have both scratched from the race.