Does a new year mean a new champion for the Kuskokwim 300?

2018 Kuskokwim 300 (Courtesy: Greg Lincoln)

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — The 40th Kuskokwim 300 is set to begin on Friday in Bethel. The K300 prides itself as being the premier mid-distance sled dog race running 300 miles from Bethel to Aniak and back.

Bethel’s Pete Kaiser has won the past four K300s, earning himself the nickname “Kusko King” in the process, but Kaiser’s path to a five-peat looks tough in 2019.

This year's race is deep in talent, including defending Iditarod champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Iditarod runner up Nic Petit.

A strong crop of young mushers from Western Alaska, including Aniak’s Richie Diehl and Akiak’s Mike Williams Jr., look to lean on knowledge of familiar trails for their best chance to win.

Other familiar faces in this year’s field are nine-time K300 champion Jeff King — the all-time winningest musher in K300 history, Aaron Burmeister, 1995 champion Ramey Smyth, and Wade Marrs.

The Kuskokwim 300 begins at 6:30 Friday in Bethel.