GLENNALLEN -- Musher DeeDee Jonrowe won the Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race Monday with a team she's tuning up for the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in March.
The Willow musher crossed the finish line with 10 dogs at 2:28 p.m., to win a first-place prize of $12,000.
Dave Monson of Manley finished second with five dogs at 2:44 p.m. William Kleedehn of Carcross, Yukon Territories, finished third with nine dogs at 2:46 p.m., two minutes behind Monson. Thomas Tetz of Carcross was fourth at 3:40 p.m. John Schandelmeier of Paxson was fifth at 3:58 p.m.
Race organizers doubled this year's purse to $50,000 in an effort to make the 300-mile race the top mid-distance event in Alaska. Fifty-eight mushers began the race Saturday. Last year's winner Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof was among those who scratched.
Jonrowe said she and Monson exchanged the lead a few times.
''We were racing back and forth,'' she said.
She rested her dogs one hour more than that required by the race. Her team still had something to spare at the end, she said.
Jonrowe took a mandatory 8-hour layover at Chistochina, 54 miles into the race, and mandatory 6-hour rests at Meiers Lake, at mile 155, and at Wolverine, 49 miles from the finish. The rest taken close to the trail's end enabled her team to finish strong, she said.
Warm temperatures, which reached into the mid-40s on Monday, made for a tough trail. Water sat on top of ice in some places and there was an area of open water that Jonrowe had to get through.
''I had to stand in it and pull dogs through it,'' she said.
She dropped one of her lead dogs, ''Trotter,'' at the Tolsana Lake checkpoint because he was overheated and put ''Darcy'' in front to bring the team across the finish line.
Darcy was the leader of Jonrowe's Iditarod team last year that placed 20th. Jonrowe has just one complaint about her.
''She's too fast. You have to watch her because she will burn up the other dogs,'' she said.
Jonrowe, one of Alaska's most popular mushers, has competed in the Iditarod 18 times but never won. She has finished the Iditarod in the top 10 since 1988 and came in second in 1998 and 1993. She was in fourth place in 1999 when she was forced to scratch because her lead dog refused to continue.
Jonrowe, who has been building her dog team since, said she learned one thing from the 1999 Iditarod -- the importance of having more than one leader. She had three for the Copper Basin 300.
''These are my Iditarod dogs,'' Jonrowe said.
Kasilof musher Jon Little was the top peninsula finisher in the race, coming in sixth despite having to battle a lack of snow on the peninsula.
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