Love of mushing was in the air as the 2017 Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race crowned its Champion and first two runners-up this Valentine’s day in Fairbanks.
Twenty-five year-old Matt Hall (bib #20, sponsored by Trailside Mail) and his team of 10 barrelled out of Two Rivers one minute after his eligibility to leave at 00:29, giving him a seven-hour cushion between him and second place Hugh Neff. When Hall crossed the finish line at 12:04 he was greeted by his parents, who made the trip in from Eagle to see their son win his first Quest, along with his legendary lead dog, Keeper. Finishing with a total time of 10 days, 1hour, 7 minutes, Hall credited the “puppy power” of his young team for his convincing win.
Second place Hugh Neff (bib #9, sponsored by Boatel Bar) left Two Rivers with 11 dogs on the line at 07:47, crossing the finish line at 1900 for a total time of 10 days, 8 hours, 36 minutes. Neff credited this year’s champion for his standout performance and said he knows Hall has a bright future in the sport.
Allen Moore (bib #8, sponsored by Ivory Jack’s) started for the finish at 10:05 with 12 dogs, hitting the Fairbanks line to take third place at 22:05. Asked for his most memorable experiences from this year’s race Moore wryly pointed to getting over Eagle Summit without any problems and not getting wet from overflow once the entire 1,000 miles.
Despite Ed Hopkins leaving Mile 101 first, Paige Drobny overtook him and reached Two Rivers with a 48 minute lead. Drobny departed Two Rivers at 17:29 with 11 dogs, Hopkins at 18:19 with 10, and as of midnight Drobny looks set to take fourth place, with only 21 miles to the finish line to Hopkins’ 34.
Torsten Kohnert began the 11th day of his Quest with a 03:28 departure from Mile 101. By 14:59 he was starting his 8-hour layover in Two Rivers, eligible to depart 22:59. By midnight Kohnert and his 12-dog team were 60 miles from the finish.
After an early departure from Central, Katherine Keith reached Two Rivers at 1700, eligible to leave at 0100.
Taking advantage of the last of the favourable weather atop Eagle Summit and eight hours rest in Central, Jessie Royer made a sub-four-hour run to Mile 101. She rested in 101 for five hours before pointing her sled toward Two Rivers at 18:31, reaching the checkpoint at the stroke of midnight.
Ryne Olson’s first stop of the day was the Central checkpoint just after 0400. She departed at 11:05 for a windy trip over Eagle Summit, checking into Mile 101 at 15:27. Olson would take a recuperative five and a half hours rest before heading outbound for Two Rivers at 20:57. By midnight she was 20 miles outside of the race’s penultimate checkpoint.
Brian Wilmshurst’s Valentine’s began with a midnight departure from Circle, chasing Rob Cooke and Dave Dalton who had already been into their run through the Birch Creek section of the Quest Trail for over an hour. Dalton broke away from the pack when Cooke and Wilmshurst stopped to rest, arriving in Central 12:32, where he remains as of midnight. Cooke (16:07) beat Wilmshurst (16:37) into Central by 30 minutes, and they, too, are still resting there at day’s end.
At the back of the pack, Ben Good reached Circle at 01:52, where Gaetan Pierrard and Sébastien Dos Santos Borges were already resting, but was scarcely there an hour before heading back out on the trail. Pierrard and Dos Santos Borges were off in pursuit at 04:14 and 06:24, respectively. The three traded the lead throughout the run through Birch Creek, Good ultimately prevailing with check-in time to Central of 23:03. Dos Santos Borges made the checkpoint as the midnight hour struck, while Pierrard was camped at 16 miles out.
Standings as of 11:59PM:
1. Matt Hall
2. Hugh Neff
3. Allen Moore
4. Paige Drobny
5. Ed Hopkins
6. Torsten Kohnert
7. Katherine Keith
8. Jessie Royer
9. Ryne Olson
10. Dave Dalton
11. Rob Cooke
12. Brian Wilmshurst
13. Ben Good
14. Sébastien Dos Santos Borges
15. Gaetan Pierrard