Big Lake, Denali mushers go head-to-head to finish

Smyth dethrones King

Posted: Monday, January 28, 2002

As fresh snow continued to drift from the heavens, man and man's best friend closed out the second day of the Tustumena 200 Sunday.

Two-time winner Ramey Smyth was the first to the finish line after putting his team into overdrive to overtake Iditarod veteran Jeff King.

Smyth's team pulled into the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof at 6:40:37 Sunday evening. King finished at 6:42.47.

"The dogs really put on a performance," Smyth said. "Everything I asked for, they gave it to me."

Smyth asked for a lot from his team after being moved from starting position of eighth to last in the 26-team field Saturday. A mishap with his start caused him to miss his turn out of the chute, he said.

"There are no numbers on the back of the bibs," he said. "I got behind the wrong person."

Seward's Mitch Seavey finished third at 7:23.39, followed by Ray Redington Jr. at 7:29.13, Lance Mackey in fifth place at 7:55.41 and Tim Osmar at 8:08:59.

The mushers were racing for shares of a purse Tustumena 200 President Nancy Kitchen estimated at $25,000. She said the total would be confirmed later today.

Smyth took his team on an uphill climb to get back into the race, until he had only one man left to beat -- King.

Reports from the final checkpoint at Four Corners showed King leaving at 4:20 Sunday afternoon. Smyth left shortly after that, close on King's heels.

"We have a foot race going here," said Kitchen Sunday afternoon with about the last 25 miles of the race left.

King said he thought he was free and clear and was surprised by Smyth.

"My team had kind of idled down," King said. "I thought I could finish without any push. He flew past me about six or seven miles out."

King kidded Smyth about his finish.

"I kept looking for you," King laughed. "I figured you would be coming."

Smyth returned King's joke in kind.

"I figured I wouldn't," Smyth replied.

Smyth said the trail between Caribou Lake and Four Corners was the roughest.

"It was really warm, and the snow was kind of deep. There (had been) a lot of snowmachines out."

Clam Gulch's Tim Osmar was the first out of the chute Saturday afternoon from the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof and was in and out of the first stop at Four Corners by 5:21 Saturday afternoon.

But the lead changed after the stop at the Lost Creek checkpoint, where the staggered break times allowed for later starters to get onto an even footing with mushers who began the race earlier.

Kitchen said the two layovers at Lost Creek are part of a four-hour mandatory layover that mushers must take in increments of one hour. She said any combination of one-hour increments that add up to four can be taken either before or after the six-hour layover at the Clam Shell Lodge, the halfway point.

The second stop at Lost Creek, Kitchen said, is what sets the race.

"Because of the layover, we really don't know who the leader is until they leave Lost Creek."

King was the first to leave the lodge early Sunday afternoon at 12:31 with 13 dogs.

Kitchen said weather reports from Caribou Lake checkpoint said the conditions would remain good for the sledders, but there would be lots of snow.

"The last report we got was that the ceiling was coming down," she said. "They (Tustumena staff located between checkpoints) said the weather was good for mushing."

As the Clarion went to press Sunday night, complete results were not available. They, as well as the results for the Little T Sled Dog Race will be printed in Tuesday's paper.

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