Morgan takes last in Last Great Race

Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2005

NOME, Alaska (AP) — A man who normally captains jet airliners for Alaska Airlines was awarded the Red Lantern for being the last musher to get his dog team across the finish line in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

It took Phil Morgan, 44, of Anchorage, 15 days, 6 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds to make the 1,100-mile trek. He reached the end of the Iditarod trail at 8:02 p.m. Monday with eight dogs.

The Red Lantern Award recognizes the determination needed by the last musher to tough it out and finish the race.

The 33rd Iditarod began March 5 with 79 mushers taking off from downtown Anchorage. Only 63 mushers finished this year with numerous teams scratching on a trail where unusually warm conditions left it punchy and soft, sometimes slushy.

Winner Robert Sorlie of Norway, a 47-year-old firefighter, finished in 9 days, 18 hours, 39 minutes and 31 seconds, getting his second victory in three tries.

Ed Iten, 51, of Kotzebue, came in second 34 minutes later, followed seven minutes after that by defending champion Mitch Seavey, 45, of Seward, to take third.

Sorlie was at the finish to greet his 26-year-old nephew, Norwegian Bjornar Andersen, who finished fourth — the best rookie showing ever — at 9:50 a.m., 81 minutes behind his uncle.

Sorlie won $72,066.67 and a pickup truck for his victory. The top 30 finishers share most of the $750,000 total purse.

Sorlie's dogs were chosen from a small kennel of 50 owned by himself, Andersen and fellow Norwegian Kjetil Backen, who placed third in '04 and served as an Iditarod handler this year.

Sorlie plans to sit out the 2006 race, but said his nephew will be back.

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