King takes lead in Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2001

ANVIK, Alaska (AP) -- Three-time champion Jeff King took the lead Friday in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race but defending champion Doug Swingley was not far behind.

King got out in front by spending just 3 minutes in the Anvik checkpoint before pushing on to Grayling 18 miles away where he was expected to take a mandatory 8-hour rest.

King left the checkpoint at 6:16 p.m. Swingley, who completed the requirement at Anvik, left the checkpoint about an hour later at 7:19 p.m.

King said he was one of the teams that could win this year's race but Nome was still a long ways away. The race is about half over.

''They're fast and I like going fast,'' King said of his team, which was traveling more than 1 mph faster than the competition.

Swingley said even though he would follow King out of the checkpoint he still had the advantage because King had yet to satisfy his mandatory 8-hour rest.

Jerry Riley, who had been in third place, fell to sixth and remained in Shageluk.

In third place Friday night was Linwood Fiedler, who arrived first in Anvik and was completing a mandatory 24-hour rest at the checkpoint. He was expected to leave Anvik shortly after 11 p.m.

Five-time champion Rick Swenson was in fourth place and left Shageluk at 4:16 p.m. He was followed about two hours later by Paul Gebhart of Kasilof, who finished second last year.

Race officials said a sled dog belonging to Kasilof musher Jon Little died Friday three days after it was dropped at the Nikolai checkpoint because it had no appetite. Little, who competed the last two years, was allowed to continue.

Iditarod Trail Committee Executive Director Stan Hooley said trail veterinarians checked the dog and found no serious problem. A necropsy was to be performed to determine the cause of death. The dog death was the first in this year's race.

Margery Glickman, founder of the Sled Dog Action Coalition in Miami, a group opposed to competitive sled dog racing, said it was an outrage the dog died ''because people are trying to make money.''

Fielder, by being the first musher to reach the Yukon River, was rewarded with a seven-course gourmet dinner of lobster and smoked duck and $3,500.

''I am so ready for this,'' said Fiedler as he sat down at a table covered with a white linen cloth and adorned with fresh flowers and silver candlesticks.

''These chefs are tired of cooking for Doug. They want to cook for someone new this time,'' Fiedler said, referring to Swingley who has won the gourmet meal in the past two races.

When presented with the main entree of poached lobster tail, in this village where moose meat is a staple, Fiedler invited those in the crowd of 50 who had never eaten lobster to take a taste.

Fiedler said his team of 13 dogs handled the trip to Anvik well, though two of his less experienced dogs seemed surprised when he didn't stop to rest in the village of Shageluk.

No other musher has pushed his team farther before taking the mandatory 24-hour rest.

Swingley predicted Fiedler would pay the price with a tired dog team farther down the trail.

''I tried to talk him out of it,'' Swingley said. ''I thought he was in a real good position.''

But Fiedler said it's important to try new things. In the past few years, mushers have been waiting until later in the race to take their break.

He enjoyed the run, particularly his arrival in Anvik, which was heralded by church bells.

''Whoever rang that bell, they sure rang my bell,'' he said.

Fiedler has decided to donate $500 to Anvik and three other villages that serve as Iditarod checkpoints to buy school books.

''It means a lot. We are a bare bones library,'' said Denise Brottem, principal of the Blackwell School in Anvik.

Fifty-nine mushers remained in the 1,100-mile race to Nome Friday. Eight have scratched, and one was officially withdrawn for having a non-competitive team.


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