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Buser leads mushers out of Shaktoolik

Posted: Monday, March 11, 2002

ELIM, Alaska (AP) -- Big Lake musher Martin Buser maintained his record-breaking pace but barely held on to the lead Monday morning in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Runner-up Ramy Brooks of Healy was putting a tight squeeze on Buser, closely trailing him out of Elim late Monday morning.

Buser, going for his fourth Iditarod win, left Elim at 10:59 a.m. after resting his dogs nearly three hours. Brooks dashed out seven minutes later.

Race officials said Buser was running three hours ahead of the record pace that Montana musher Doug Swingley in Nome in nine days and 58 minutes in 2000.

Buser also was far ahead of runner-up Ramy Brooks of Healy. Buser left Koyuk -- the previous checkpoint -- at 2:30 a.m. with 10 dogs, more than three hours ahead of Brooks, who pulled out of Koyuk at 5:37 a.m. with nine dogs.

John Baker of Kotzebue was running third. He left Koyuk at 6:55 a.m. with 10 dogs. DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow held a solid fourth place, pulling out of Koyuk at 9:24 a.m. But she was down to seven dogs.

Jon Little of Kasilof and Vern Halter of Willow were running practically neck to neck.

Little initially held a sliver of a lead over Halter, pulling out of Shaktoolik at 3:08 a.m., followed by Halter a minute later. But Halter beat Little to Koyuk by one minute, arriving at 9:01 a.m.

Chalie Boulding of Manley was in seventh place, pulling out of Shaktoolik at 5:35 a.m., closely followed by Ramey Smyth at 5:50 a.m. and three-time Iditarod champion Jeff King of Denali Park at 5:56 a.m.

Elim is 123 miles from the Nome finish. The winning musher is expected to finish sometime Tuesday, collecting more than $60,000.

Six of the 64 mushers who started the race had scratched by Monday morning. The rest were on the trail, stretched out from Buser to rookie Rick Horstman, who was out of Cripple, 503 miles from Nome.

Swingley, the defending champion was in Ruby in 43rd place. Earlier in the race, Swingley declared that he was touring, not competing.

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