NOME, Alaska (KTUU) — Whether having been mushing for a couple of years or for decades, the unpredictable conditions of the Iditarod pose a new challenge to those who are attempting the Last Great Race for the first time.
With nine first-time Iditarod racers remaining in the this year's race, eight of them are chasing down 2006 Yukon Quest Rookie of the Year Richie Beattie, who at last check was a full checkpoint ahead of every one of them, though Ed Hopkins did start closing in after leaving Shaktoolik a little less than two hours after him.
As for the award for Rookie of the Year, it is of course not the focus of the race, though Beattie seems to have set himself up decently well for it: Running the Iditarod for the first time, Beattie told Channel 2 at the Unalakleet checkpoint that his team is doing well, "as expected." Part of that, he said, can be credited to being patient on the trail.
"I mean, there's a bunch of people who start racing way back in Willow - first day or two," Beattie said. "There's a long ways to go. A dog team only has so much in it."
Beattie was born and raised in Michigan. The "mountains called him to Alaska," according to his Iditiarod biography. He arrived to the state in 2000 with a dozen huskies in tow, chasing a dream, and barely more than a decade later, he was named Yukon Quest Rookie of the Year.
In terms of the big picture, Beattie sits in 25th place right now. High teens to low twenties is pretty typical for a Rookie of the Year finish, though there have been numerous outliers. In the past decade alone, Jessie Holmes claimed those accolades with a seventh-place finish in 2018, while just five years earlier, then-rookie and future champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom also placed 7th, his lowest position of all the Iditarods since he's started running in it.
Iditarod rookies Jessica Klejka, Martin Apayauq Reitan, Ryan Santiago, Sebastien Dos Santos Borges, Blair Braverman, Alison Lifka, and Victoria Hardwick all remain in this year's race as of publishing time. Rookie Niklas Wikstrand scratched in Kaltag on Monday.