ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Veteran musher Richie Diehl, of Aniak, scratched from the 48th running of the Iditarod after deciding to leave the race at the Unalakleet checkpoint on Monday.
Diehl, wearing bib no. 16, was consistently on the top-ten leaderboard throughout the duration of the race thus far. He was in as high as second place starting with the McGrath checkpoint, but had dropped to 23rd at the time of his departure, which came after a nearly 12-hour rest in Nulato and a seven-hour break in Kaltag ahead of arriving to the coast.
Veteran musher and special correspondent DeeDee Jonrowe said Monday that Diehl had told her five of his dogs began coughing sometime after their arrival to Unalakleet at around 1:30 in the morning Monday. Diehl made the difficult decision to scratch after already dropping one dog at a Yukon checkpoint.
Besides expressing his disappointment, Diehl did not want to comment further.
The public relations firm for the Iditarod said in an emailed release Monday afternoon that Diehl scratched "in the best interest of his race team." He had 11 dogs in harness when he scratched.
This is Diehl's first scratch since he first ran the Iditarod in 2013. He's raced and finished every year since then, boasting a sixth-place finish in 2018.
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