MISSOULA — Jessie Royer of Seeley Lake finished 14th in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Wednesday in Alaska.
The 46-year-old gradually moved up every day since Sunday and at one point Wednesday was in 12th place. She was traveling at an average speed of 4.09 miles per hour on the final leg to the finish line on Nome’s main street.
Royer placed 13th in 2021. She did not participate in 2022.
Ryan Redington of Knik, Alaska, won the event Tuesday afternoon. The 40-year-old is the grandson of Joe Redington Sr., who helped co-found the arduous race across Alaska that was first held in 1973 and is known as the “Father of the Iditarod.”
Redington, who is Inupiat, became the sixth Alaska Native musher to win the world’s most famous sled dog race. After crossing the finish in Nome around 12:15 p.m., he said it has been a goal of his since he was “a very small child to win the Iditarod, and I can’t believe it. It finally happened.
“It took a lot work, took a lot of patience. And we failed quite a few times, you know? But we kept our head up high and stuck with the dream," he said.
Redington won the Iditarod in his 16th try. He scratched from seven of those races, but his performance this decade has been the best of his career. He finished ninth last year, seventh in 2021 and eighth in 2020 — his only other top 10 finishes before this year’s race.
The nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race started March 5 in Willow for 33 mushers, who traveled over two mountain ranges, the frozen Yukon River and on the Bering Sea ice. Since then, four mushers scratched.
It was the smallest field ever to start a race, one short of the first race run.
Among those who scratched was defending champion Brent Sass, who was leading when he withdrew Saturday over concerns for his health. because of periodontal issues.
He was doing OK and resting in the community of Unalakleet, he posted on Instagram Sunday. The Iditarod was caring for his dogs, he said.
Sass said he had been sick the entire race with a bad cold. Then on Friday “some cracked teeth started giving me issues and over a 12-hour period turned into nearly unbearable pain," he said. "My body basically shut down and for two runs I just hung on. Ultimately I couldn’t care for the dogs.“
—Associated Press contributed
Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 16 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.