Jeff King wins Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race

Posted: Monday, February 05, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Musher Jeff King has twice entered the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race, and twice won.

''That's a pretty good record,'' King said, after the Tustumena 200 defending champion and three-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race crossed the finish line in Kasilof at 2:01 p.m. Sunday to win $10,000 of the $25,000 purse. King finished the race in 26 hours and 46 minutes.

Rick Swenson of Two Rivers, the Iditarod's only five-time winner, came in second at 27 hours and 9 minutes to win $5,000 in what was a replay of the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race two weekends ago. Tim Osmar of Clam Gulch was third to win $3,000. Lance Mackey of Kasilof came in fourth. Peter Bartlett of Willow was fifth.

Top mushers use the mid-distance races to size up their dogs for Alaska's premier sled dog race, the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in early March.

Twenty-four dog teams were entered in the Tustumena 200, which began on the Kenai Peninsula on Saturday. Three rookies withdrew and one musher, Wendy Smith of Leominster, England, scratched after injuring her hand with a knife while cutting the lines to her team, a race volunteer said.

The Tustumena 200 trail goes from the Tustumena Lodge through the Caribou Hills and back out onto the road system at Clam Shell Lodge, which serves as the race's midway point. The trail, which crosses a frozen lake and goes up a 3,000 foot hill, can be treacherous.

King said it was snowing at Saturday's start but soon the weather cleared, the sun came out and he put on sunglasses for a nice ride and an even better finish. He took the lead 28 miles into the 200-mile course and didn't see another dog team after that. When one of his dogs tired toward the very end of the race, King carried him in his sled across the finish.

King described his team as having, ''speed, speed, speed.''

King has not yet decided on his Iditarod team. He said the tricky part will be meshing his proven Iditarod dogs with the faster, smaller dogs now being favored by mushers for the long race to Nome.

''I am going to be real careful putting this together,'' he said.

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