'My dog team didn't want to go.' Tearful, hopeful Sass falls to 20th place

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ANCHORAGE - ORIGINALLY POSTED: 12:40 AM AKDT Mar 15, 2016

11:45 p.m. UPDATE:

After challenging Dallas and Mitch Seavey on their record-setting Iditarod runs across Alaska, Brent Sass found himself with a dog team that did not want to return to the trail late in the race.

The Eureka musher, a former Yukon Quest winner, was in third place when he was unable to leave the White Mountain checkpoint just 77 miles from Nome. Tonight, he arrived at the burled arch in 20th place, saying he learned countless lessons in his third Iditarod finish.

"That was the most embarrassing moment of my life, sitting out there in that checkpoint," Sass said in an emotion-charged interview. The dogs had temporarily quit after long runs up the coast.

Sass said that he was proud that the he didn't try to drag them into action.

"I looked back at ten of my best friends and they're saying, 'I don't think we want to go anywhere dad. I think we just want to hang out here.' That's a pretty powerful force," Sass said.

Sass had trailed Dallas Seavey, the eventual winner, by less than two hours Monday morning. By the time he appeared at the burled arch at 11:08 p.m. today, he was almost 21 hours off of Seavey's finish.

"I knew I was on the edge, but I came to play the game," said Sass, who hugged his lead dog Celia upon arriving.

Last year, following his 1,000-mile Quest win, Sass was disqualified from the Iditarod for carrying an iPod touch along the trail. The 36-year-old is relatively new to the sport.

"This is only the third time I've been over this trail -- it's length," Sass said. "Give me 10 more years and it's going to be amazing."

6:00 p.m. UPDATE:

Rounding out the top 10 Iditarod finishers is Willow musher Scott Smith, who crossed the finish line in Nome just after 4:30 p.m. in a time 9 days 1 hour and 33 minutes, according to Iditarod race standings.

Smith was followed shortly by Noah Burmeister, who crossed the finish line in 11th place just before 4:40 p.m.

The top ten finishers in this year's race are as follows:

1. Dallas Seavey

2. Mitch Seavey

3. Aliy Zirkle

4. Wade Marrs

5. Peter Kaiser

6. Joar Leifseth Ulsom

7. Nicolas Petit

8. Ralph Johannessen

9. Jeff King

10. Scott Smith

...

3:20 p.m. UPDATE:

Mushers Nicolas Petit, Ralph Johannessen, and Jeff King have all completed the Iditarod, taking 7th, 8th, and 9th places respectively.

King became briefly emotional under the burled arch as he talked to reporters and well-wishers, recalling the snowmachine crash that killed his dog Nash and injured two others.

"It's probably the closest call I've had with a drunk driver that could have killed me and the whole team," he said.

...

King said that at his own race, the Denali Doubles, he recently included a tribute to a young girl killed by a drunk driver.

"Who would have believed you would have to worry about it on a dog team," King said. "Let it be another lesson for the sanctity of life and responsible driving."

2:20 p.m. UPDATE:

Joar Leifseth Ulsom has crossed the finish line in Nome, taking sixth place in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Ulsom's team included 12 dogs. They passed under the burled arch at 1:12 p.m., according to Iditarod race standings.

11:53 a.m. UPDATE:

With less than three minutes between them, Wade Marrs and Peter Kaiser have finished the Iditarod in fourth and fifth place.

Both racers are among the top prospects in the sport, with Marrs fending off Kaiser by running, ski-poling and kicking across the final miles of trail to Nome.

"Pete was close and had a little bit faster team than me coming in here. So, in order to stay in front of him I had to work hard," said Marrs, his jacket soaked with sweat.

Marrs said he saw Kaiser's headlamp chasing in the distance early in the morning, but lost sight of the Bethel racer as the sun rose behind him.

Marrs finished the nearly 1,000-mile sled dog race at 11:22 a.m. with 9 dogs, according to Iditarod race standings. Kaiser followed closely behind, pulling across the finish line to cheering crowds at 11:24 a.m. with 11 dogs.

Winner Dallas Seavey is Marrs' neighbor in Willow. Asked what it would take to unseat the Seaveys as the reigning Iditarod dynasty, Marrs said he doesn't know yet.

"We're trying," he said.

10:35 a.m. UPDATE:

Two Rivers musher Aliy Zirkle has captured third place in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, arriving under the burled arch at 9:42 a.m. with 13 dogs.

Competing for four and fifth place are Wade Marrs and Peter Kaiser respectively.

Marrs left the Safety checkpoint at 8:49 a.m. with 9 dogs in harness. Following closely behind was Kaiser who pulled out of Safety eight minutes after Marrs, at 8:57 a.m. with 11 dogs.

Iditarod 2016 was a particularly tough race for Zirkle, whose team was hit by a 26-year-old Nulato snowmachiner, Arnold Demoski.

Demoski faces multiple charges of assault, reckless driving, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief -- for crashing into Zirkle and four-time Jeff King, killing one dog and hurting several more.

ORIGINAL STORY:

NOME -- Dallas Seavey broke his own speed record Tuesday to win his third-straight Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The 29-year-old Willow musher outpaced his father, Mitch, arriving under the burled arch at 2:20 a.m. His time: 8 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes and 16 seconds. That's an hour and 44 minutes faster than Dallas's previous record, set in 2014.

The younger Seavey finished with just six dogs in harness. He said eh had worried that his shrinking team might not be able to compete with Mitch's powerful, larger roster. Mitch placed second, arriving 45 minutes after his son.

Dallas wins $75,000 and a new Dodge truck.

This is the second year in a row that the father-son duo have taken the top two spots in Iditarod and the fifth year that the Iditarod title has gone to a Seavey.

"Dallas, he's undoubtedly the best dog racer there is, and I'm proud to be here with him," Mitch said moments after finishing the 975-mile trek. "He's outstanding, and he's an outstanding person as well."

Dallas's dash from White Mountain started at 5:48 p.m. Monday and he blazed into Safety in just about six hours. Dallas credited the competition from his father with pushing him to the new record.

"We pushed it to the point where something's gotta break. Luckily it was the record," he said.

How did Dallas do it? Patience, the young musher said Monday while resting in White Mountain.

Seavey said he was unconcerned when he trailed leader Brent Sass into Unalakleet, where the race hits the Norton Sound coast, because he had conserved energy along the Yukon River. He was ready to pounce. In White Mountain, Seavey seemed to predict that another frontrunner would begin to flag.

Sure enough, Sass, then in third place, had to return to the checkpoint to gain extra rest for his dogs.

Aliy Zirkle who was in fourth place out of White Mountain has now swung into third because of Sass' return to the checkpoint Monday evening. Zirkle remains several hours behind the Seaveys.