Sass Stakes His Claim on Dawson

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Brent Sass took the lead as he left Eagle early Tuesday morning, and he maintained it over the next 100 miles of Yukon Quest trail, arriving in Dawson City at around 11:30 pm PST.

Speaking to the crowd that had gathered to welcome him in, Sass admitted, “I am a little out of it!” He said it had been a long day…or a couple days, making two 100-mile runs in a row.

Asked if he had been looking back at all during the run, he laughed that his neck was sore from looking over this shoulder for Allen Moore so many times.

“I figured he’d have his headlamp off and sneak up on me!”

After confirming that he was, in fact, the first musher into Dawson, Sass said he’s super excited and that his team really deserves it.

As the first to arrive in Dawson, he will receive the four ounces of gold donated by Joe and Wendy Fellers from Fell-Hawk Placers. The Dawson Award is given to the first musher who arrives in Dawson who then goes on to complete the race.

Moore was approximately two hours behind Brent, expected time into Dawson 1:37am local time on Wednesday, while Hugh Neff was in third place, two hours back of Moore.

All mushers will server a mandatory 36-hour layover in Dawson.

Cody Strathe remained in Eagle as of late Tuesday night, while rookie Matt Hall and former champion John Schandelmeier also arrived in Eagle for their mandatory layover.

‘Historic Moment for Eagle’

Hall grew up in Eagle and returning to his hometown as a musher in the Yukon Quest was certainly a nice moment for both him and the large crowd of residents who gathered to cheer him on.

“This is a historic moment for Eagle,” said a family friend watching his arrival.

A bit shy with all of the attention, Hall said it felt very different to be on the other side of things, after many years as a volunteer for the race.

“This is actually the first year since I’m old enough to remember that I have no been a checker…right here, right now. It feels a little different, that’s for sure. Even last year, which was my first year being out of Eagle, me and a few other teams still mushed in to visit my folks during the Quest. Came in on the trail, stayed here, and still volunteered here, watched the teams come through.”

Of course his dog team also remembers Eagle quite fondly, but Hall says he didn’t have much of a problem bringing them in to the checkpoint.

“They’re cruising along. We just passed home and I said ‘gee’ once and they jumped away from home – even sped up, heading in towards town.”

Currently sitting in fifth place overall, Hall is the top rookie in this year’s race. If he can keep the pace up over the second half, he has a good shot at Rookie of the Year. Those in Eagle are confident he will be bringing that title home.

“I didn’t have too much of a plan coming into the Quest this year,” sayd Hall. “I was just going to do it run-to-run and see where we ended up. I’m really happy with where we’re at and how the dogs are looking, so I’d say everything’s way ahead of schedule.”

One big adjustment with running the race, he admitted, has been the sleep patterns.

“Well the longest rest I’ve had is two hours and ten minutes. When I first started I took a three-hour rest – four hours into the start date. I sort of freaked out at this and felt really behind, but now that I think about it I’m really glad I took that time then. So I’m doing alright!”

Hall arrived in Eagle at 8:23 pm AKST, and while he was eligible to leave at 12:23 am, planned to stat over the mandatory four hours.

“The dogs are looking so good, I want to keep ‘em looking that way. I’m really happy with how they’re doing.”

Elsewhere on the trail…

Dave Dalton continued to rest at Trout Creek Hospitality Stop and was joined late Tuesday by Torsten Kohnert. Curt Perano blew by Trout Creek on his way to Eagle.

Three mushers – Mandy Nauman, Brian Wilmshurst and Hank DeBruin – were travelling together  towards Trout Creek from Slaven’s. Jerry Joinson also left Slaven’s, after picking up a two-hour time penalty for not providing adequate food for a dropped dog. The penalty will be served in Dawson City.

Tony Angelo, the last musher in the 1,000 mile race, was getting some well-deserved rest at Slaven’s.