Bethel musher Matt Scott took home his first win during the Holiday Classic Sled Dog Race this weekend. The 45-mile trail ran overland from Bethel to Nunapitchuk and back.
Scott took the lead after the turnaround, during his second pass through Atmautluak.
“I was looking over my shoulder, I’ll say that, but we didn’t thankfully get re-passed at all after that," said Scott.
The musher finished the race in three and a half hours, taking home $2,700.
“I was surprised, actually," he said. "I’m not really expected or expecting myself to win, but I’m happy for my dogs.”
Especially because he has some dogs of an age not often seen on a winning team.
“I had two eight-year-olds and one 10-year-old on that team," said Scott, "and that makes me really proud."
Scott began mushing five years ago, and started building his own kennel two years ago. Last season he was finishing races in the mid- to the back of the pack. Since then, he’s learned a lot about building his own training program and caring for his team. During this race, the lessons that other mushers have been teaching him throughout his career settled in.
“Run your own race, which is something I’ve heard," Scott said. "So I’m finally starting to not just hear the advice; I’m starting to listen.”
Eighteen local teams finished the race, all within an hour of each other on Saturday. It was the warmest day of the year, with a high of 39 degrees.
It was also a new trail for the mushers. Overflow flooded the river and glare ice covered the race route used earlier in the season, so the sponsoring Kuskokwim 300 Race Committee designated its first race ever to the tundra villages northwest of Bethel. The trail was wide and well-marked, with some snow cover.
Villagers were excited. Many more than would normally attend a local race showed up to watch and cheer mushers on.
“It just made it feel like this is where we belong; this is what we’re supposed to be doing,” Scott said.
The next local race is the February 50 on Saturday, February 24 at 11 a.m. More details will be announced later.
Holiday Classic Race Results:
1st: Matt Scott, 3:30, $2,700
2nd: Mike Williams Jr., 3:32, $2,450
3rd: Maurice Andrews, 3:33, $2,250
4th: Cori Simon, 3:39, $2,050
5th: Will Voinot-Baron, 3:43, $1,850
6th Cameron Jackson, 3:45:12, $1,700
7th: Jason Pavila, 3:45:21, $1,450
8th: Jim George, 3:45:42, $1,250
9th: Joe Demantle, 3:47, $1,050
10th: Greg Larson, 3:49, $900
11th: Jason Larson, 3:54:17, $750
12th: Nicholas Ayapan, 3:54:21, $600
13th: Solomon Olick: 3:58, $450
14th: Tory Fitzpatrick, 3:59, $300
15th: Gilbert Phillip, 4:11, $250
16th: Nate DeHaan, 4:15
17th: Victoria Hardwick, 4:17
18th: Jonathan Simon, 4:19