N O M E, Alaska, March 13, 2001 -- Montana's Doug Swingley won the IditarodTrail Sled Dog Race Tuesday proving with his third consecutivevictory that he is the reigning king of long-distance dog mushing.
The Lincoln musher drove his dog team 1,100-miles through theAlaska wilderness to reach the finish in Nome at 6:55 a.m.,finishing the race in 9 days, 19 hours, 55 minutes.
He beat a field that includes six previous champions.
He won $62,857 and a new quad-cab pickup truck. The first 30finishers share in the race's $550,000 purse.
Fiedler Challenged Swingley
Swingley, who finished first in 1995 and now has equaled SusanButcher's four victories, said he would welcome a real challenge inyears to come. Only five-time champion Rick Swenson has won more.
"Linwood did a great job … in shaking it up," Swingley saidof this year's race in which Linwood Fiedler of Willow challengedhim for the lead early in the second half.
The Iditarod is held each year to commemorate a 1925 mad-dash toNome in which sled dogs and mushers delivered lifesaving diphtheriaserum to this historic Gold Rush town. Sixty-eight teams startedthe race in Anchorage on March 3.
Swingley ran nearly the same race he did in 2000 and 1999. Hepositioned himself in the first half to take the lead early in thesecond half and then extended his lead until it was insurmountable.
Swingley reached the halfway point first as he normally does,but Fiedler pushed further down the trail than any other musherbefore taking his 24-hour rest and took the lead.
While Fiedler was soon forced to relinquish the lead toSwingley, he received $3,500 in cash for being the first musher toreach the Yukon River. He donated $500 each to four villages to buyschool books.
Credits Good Breeding and Training
While competitors have said Swingley doesn't have to rest hisdogs as long as they do, he said that isn't the case. Swingley saidhe rests his team at least as long as his competitors and perhapsmore.
He credits his three-year streak to good dog breeding andtraining. His breeding goes back to a 12-year-old foundation dognamed Elmer.
"Elmer had a tremendous personal desire to achieve," Swingleysaid. "No matter how tired out he was he was eager to drive theteam."
Elmer sired Peppy and Stormy, two of Swingley's leaders thatwere on his winning teams this year and last.
Swingley said his winning formula hinges on the relationship hehas with his dogs.
"I raise all my pups," Swingley said.
Swingley also benefitted from good conditions where he trains onthe logging roads near his home in Montana. An unusually warmwinter left Alaska mushers traveling far and wide to find goodconditions to train.
Two Dogs Died in Race
A rough trail kept Swingley from breaking the record race timeof nine days and 58 minutes he set last year.
The trail also was hard on the more than 1,000 dogs entered inthis year's race. Some had to be dropped at race checkpoints forshipment home because of sore feet, wrists and shoulders. Two dogsdied during the race, one from a rare bacterial infection and theother from fluid in the lungs.
Eleven teams scratched, including Chuck King of Tempe, Arizona,who has AIDS and was competing as an inspiration to others, andMichael Nosko of Willow whose lead dogs were injured after beinghit by a snowmachine.