Buser in lead, losing ground to Brooks

Posted: Monday, March 11, 2002

SHAKTOOLIK, Alaska -- Martin Buser, who is moving along at a record pace in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, reaching Shaltoolik at 11:42 a.m. Sunday after pushing through gusts to 48 mph along the coast of Norton Sound.

Buser, a three-time race winner, made the 42-mile run from Unalakleet in five hours and 25 minutes, but still lost a little ground to second-place musher Ramy Brooks, who did the trail eight minutes faster. Brooks also rested a bit less in Unalakleet.

At Unalakleet, Buser was three hours ahead of the pace set by Montana musher Doug Swingley in 2000, when he finished the 1,100-miles race in just over nine days.

Buser, the Swiss-born musher from Big Lake, had 12 dogs in his team at Shaktoolik to nine for Brooks, who lives in Healy.

John Baker of Kotzebue was running third. He left Unalakleet at 12:19 p.m., six hours behind the leader. Dee Dee Jonrowe of Willow was out less than an hour later, at 1:14 p.m., after resting just a little over four hours, half an hour less than Baker.

Baker has a dozen dogs in his team. Jonrowe has just eight left.

Behind the leaders is a tight pack of four mushers who arrived within two and a half hours. Vern Halter of Willow was fifth into Unalakleet, arriving at 12:05 p.m., roughly three hours behind Jonrowe. Just a minute behind Halter was Jon Little of Kasilof.

Charlie Boulding of Manley, another veteran racer, came in at 1:15 p.m., followed by Ramey Smyth, who lives in Big Lake, at 2:35.

Jerry Riley, the 65-year-old Nenana musher, was in ninth place, but not in Unalakleet yet. He was followed by three-time champion Jeff King of Denali Park and Mitch Seavey, who lives in Seward.

Harald Tunheim of Norway was the first non-Alaskan, running in 12th place.

Shaktoolik, where Buser was resting, is 219 miles from the finish in Nome. The winning musher should finish sometime Tuesday, collecting more than $60,000.

Five of the 64 mushers who started the race had scratched by Sunday afternoon. The rest were on the trail, stretched out from Buser in Shaktoolik to rookie Rick Horstman in Ophir. Defending champion Doug Swingley, who declared earlier that he was touring, not racing, was out of Cripple, in 46th place.

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